I like the term ‘cost of doing business crisis.’ Not because of what it means but because it perfectly encapsulates one of the key concerns businesses have right now. At the time of publication, the UK Government has produced a budget (v2.0) that attempts to close some of the shortfalls in the public finances and which is putting citizens and business alike under pressure. While not the silver bullet that provides the answers for business, this article attempts to put forward some actions businesses can do in response to the downturn in the economy and the prospect of recession.
Before getting into any ideas, I’d like to have a bit of a whinge about the idea that you can ‘recession-proof your business.’ I’ve seen several companies (including marketing agencies) talk about how you can recession-proof your business like you can purchase a big roll of tin foil and wrap it around your organisation to stop the recession from penetrating. It’s very unlikely you can recession-proof everything. Some parts of your business are likely to be affected, even if that’s from contagion of your customers’ spending power.
Contagion is, in my view, the biggest threat to a business because there is a certain amount of loss of control about it. If your client loses a big contract or a customer of theirs, the impact of that may be so huge that they simply go out of business. In turn, you lose a customer.
What we may be able to do, however, is consider whether what we are doing as an organisation can adapt to changing circumstances. You may need advice and guidance on the parts of your business to adapt – I recommend talking to a business advisor for that.
Marketing is an area that often gets cut in times of difficulty. I don’t like this, but it’s the reality. We’re seeing it already in this downturn. Now, obviously, I’m going to say that this is a mistake. But it’s too simple to say you shouldn’t cut marketing; you may have to include a reduction in marketing to survive. What’s more pragmatic is reviewing what marketing you are currently doing, its contribution to the success of your business and what may be worth changing in a tricky time. What follows are ideas – some may be more relevant to your business than others.
Data is your friend. If you’re going to take some big decisions, do it with knowledge. Seek out the metrics that tell you what’s working and what isn’t. Revisit your overall company objectives – which activities contribute to their success? Your follower count on Instagram probably isn’t the metric that’s going to save your marketing budget. Sure, it may suggest audience growth, but if sales are what the business needs, establish which activities can trace through to the sale.
If you can’t find the proof you need because you weren’t tracking the right things, start now. Even a few weeks’ worth of data can help you make better decisions about what to focus your future efforts on.
If you’re responsible for marketing, but are not in control of the business, you’ll need to show that what you’re doing is generating results. So, concentrate your efforts on those activities that contribute the most to those demonstrable results. For example, if email is the channel that generates more leads and enquiries, consider increasing the activity on email. Maybe send out more emails, or just don’t cut that part of your plan.
In a squeeze, you must be ruthless. There’s an emphasis on the word ‘know’ here. If you know it doesn’t contribute, it’s time to go. If you don’t know, find out (see above).
Is your customer going through the mill a bit? What’s changed for them? Be mindful that they may be struggling with everything. If they are, consider altering your language and tone in your marketing to be more mindful of that. You can see how big brands are adapting their tone from many of the 2022 Christmas commercials that are out there. It’s less ‘buy everything and buy it from us’ to ‘we’re here to help make Christmas easier’.
I’m all for producing high-value creative content as part of an effective marketing strategy. That may not be possible right now. One of the things we learned from the pandemic was that, in challenging times, email is a great channel to stay in touch with people and build relationships in a way that is more challenging on social media. Email has the added benefit of being extremely trackable, even if you are sending emails manually and getting replies.
My suggestion is to consider how your recipient may be feeling and lean in to how you can help. Take the time to explain and offer solutions. It is fine to add calls to action, sales messages – your customers understand you have a business to run – just don’t be badgering them every five minutes.
Ultimately, humanise the heck out of any email you send. Sign off the email with a person’s info/signature. Never from ‘the team’ and never send from a ‘no-reply@’ account.
Can you get more from what you produce? Videos can become blog posts, podcasts, TikToks/Reels and social media snippets. There are plenty of tools on the market to help you do this quickly:
Lumen5 for taking a blog and turning it into a video
Adobe Express for resizing social posts in the numerous assorted sizes
Audio Extractor is a quick way to extract audio, but most video editors will allow you to do this, so if you already pay for a video editor, use that
This one is pertinent if you are having to reduce the size of your team. I’m not looking to replace anyone’s jobs, but the reality is that you may need to reduce staff numbers while trying to deliver the same outcomes. Outsourcing can be an efficient way of achieving this. Clearly a big benefit of outsourcing is that your organisation is not then responsible for salary and other costs associated with being an employer. Contracts with outsourced companies or freelancers can be used temporarily and, potentially, terminated quickly.
Another key benefit of outsourcing is utilising specific expertise that may be difficult to gain internally. In an economic downturn, speed and agility can be helpful to react to an ever-changing situation. You may not have the time it takes to upskill. Bringing the skills in can get you where you need to be faster.
These next few months may involve a lot of paying attention to the state of the economy and responding quickly to the constant changes the environment brings. I’m not advocating watching hours of news coverage every day – that would quickly get depressing – but a regular review of what you’re doing, what you can learn from your data and consideration of what you can amend, should see you through.
I know it can be tough. Whether you already work with us, want to or have no intention of doing so, if we can be of any help at all, please do get in touch with us. We’re all in it together.