Well Calgary, just when we thought we were climbing our way out of a recession, COVID-19 hit! 

…And it hit hard. 

While Canada’s front line staff continue to amaze us with their dedication and contributions to keeping our nation safe, fed and healthy, the rest of us, considered “non-essential services,” are still trying to figure out the new norm. 

But, the big question remains: “how do you stay relevant and keep your business going when times get tough?”

Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to give yourself a leg up. We have five steps to recession-proof your marketing plan so you can bring more customers to your metaphorical “door” and retain their loyalty. 

 

How to Adjust Your Marketing Strategies Through Thick and Thin

1. Keep Your Marketing Budget, but Adjust Your Spend-to-Revenue Ratio

Keeping your marketing budget doesn’t mean it needs to remain at the same spend. Take a look at what you would spend in your high times and adjust it to the same ratio based on what you predict you’ll bring in for revenue during the low times. 

Because (and this is a BIG because) when you do away with your budget altogether, especially with online advertising, you’re setting yourself up to start from the beginning. 

Most display and search campaigns take between 3–6 months for the “machine learning” to fully optimize your ads and landing pages. Google and other ad platforms automatically improve your results, but only while your ads are running. So when you pause/stop your ads, you’re essentially losing all of that traction and starting from scratch. 

And, just like the stock market, pulling out your investments when there’s a downturn does you more harm than good. Plus, when markets drop, ad spends can end up going even further as cost per click drops.

 2. Start with Strategy

Now that you’ve adjusted (not killed) your ad budget, let’s look at your marketing strategy.

Start with your current marketing funnel and see if there are any gaps where you could be losing people, and consider if this has changed since the coronavirus began. If your client touchpoints were typically over a cup of coffee or visiting your storefront, those behaviours have most certainly been altered.

To find these gaps, you need to understand how your clients are moving through your marketing funnel and cut anything that no longer aligns.

 

Look at 3 key areas of your funnel and see how you can improve them with new consumer behaviour in mind:

  1. What are you doing to reach new audiences? (Who haven’t heard of you)
  2. How are searching users finding you and how are you converting them to buyers?
  3. How can you improve the customer experience to close more sales and encourage more referrals?

 

Find which areas have the largest gaps, as well as the areas that could show the biggest potential gains. Once you know where to focus, develop tactics that improve that portion of the funnel.

Do you need to add a chat function to your website to give them an easy way to ask a quick question

Do you need to set up an eCommerce store to allow them to buy online?

Do you need to market your proprietary technology to North America and not just Northern Alberta?

 

Then take the tactics you’ll use to reach your goal and set your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure your success, including how long you expect it to take before you would see results (hint about timelines — round up!).

Now that you’ve identified how you’re closing your gaps (or maximizing gains), create an implementation plan with pre-set milestones to look back on the performance of your campaign. If you don’t keep yourself accountable for executing these changes, none of this will make a difference. Setting dates helps make those commitments concrete.

3. Build the Right Team

Find the A-Team that will work in collaboration with your internal team as you identify what you can handle internally and what you need additional support to pull off. You’ll want an external marketing team that will consult on your goals and offer advice on whether they’re realistic and if they’ll address your gaps, given your budget, sales funnel and timelines. 

Anyone can candy coat the situation and make it sound unbelievably optimistic, but digging into your current numbers, projections and industry trends will help inform the viability of your plan — and point you towards specific tactics. 

Together your internal and external teams can assess your strategy and refine the plan to make it stronger. This can often unveil a larger pain point for your clientele that you can correct before you make massive changes to your website, social, or sales cycle. Don’t be afraid of issues and objections to the strategy, as long as you’re receiving an equal share of options and affirmations.

As you vet your new team, get to know how often they review your results and make suggestions on how to pivot your campaigns to make the most of your spend. This does not mean your team should be coming up with new strategies every month! Instead, they should be showing you how to tweak your tactics along the way, testing them with your market and making suggestions on how to best move forward. 

4. Focus on Tracking ROI

How much is a sale worth to you? Would you spend $5 to get someone to buy your $40 product and $20,000 to get them to buy your $200,000 product? Stop tracking costs and start tracking ROI.

 

Don’t be afraid to set expectations and tell people your budget. A $200K marketing campaign is a great investment if you can pull in $2M in sales (and $400K in profit) out of it. It leaves you wondering why you cut yourself short at a $20K budget…

Decide what a lead or a sale is worth in relation to your revenue. This reframes your marketing costs as an investment which achieves ROI for your business. One caution with this — make sure to match this against your goals as you do. Even a loss-leader can be worthwhile, but this needs to be tracked.

For example, if you need more people to enter your funnel, you should focus on awareness-building tactics like Google Display ads, social media advertising or direct mail-outs. To track ROI on awareness tactics, you will measure things like impressions (# of people who see your ads) and click-through rate (% of people who click the ads) to see how your ads are performing. You can go a step further by measuring your bounce rate (% of people who leave your site as soon as they see it) and average session duration (how long they stay on your site) and pages per session (are people browsing after landing) to see how well the landing pages for your ads are performing.  

As you can guess, your marketing team will likely need to advise on all of this. Your biggest job is making sure that they tell you WHY these measurements matter, and how they relate to sales and ROI.

As easy as it is to put all of your eggs in one basket or to focus on digital because of its ability to instantly track results, just don’t forget to measure tactics against each other. If a mail out has worked for you in the past and you’ve proven that with a promo code, don’t stop just because you found another tactic that also works.

No matter what you choose, find the best ways to track your results and continually test your strategies and tactics against each other. 

 

5. Stand out, When Everyone Else is Retreating

When the same old strategy has your competitors closing their doors, take a look at how you can differentiate your business from them. If you take a risk and try something new you can fill the gaps your competitors are leaving behind — taking your lion’s share of the market. 

Think of it this way, if you don’t do anything new, will your business still be here in 6 months? But what if you try new tactics that develop new audiences, and creates momentum that repays 10x once we work our way out of this recession? 

Wouldn’t that just be something!