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Focus your marketing budget on ROI to stay up through a downturn


Most economists agree the global economy will shrink moderately in 2023, taking inflation and interest rates down with it, and bumping unemployment up. We’re not economists, but we know that news of an economic downturn can cause concern for small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs).


The good news for SMBs is that hiring will be a bit easier, borrowing money will cost less, and consumers will pay less for consumables, freeing up money for services and other priorities. And for B2B companies such as commercial printers, a slight downturn may not make much difference at all.


It’s still not clear which way the economy is headed. Yet, it’s common for brands and businesses to shrink their marketing budgets in a downturn—or even at the whiff of one. Experts across industries say this isn’t a sound practice, especially for small-to-medium-sized businesses. Instead, it’s better to stay top-of-mind through a downturn, adjust your messaging, and play to your strengths. Here are some simple ways to do that:


Play to your strengths.


Assuming you have an omni-channel marketing mix, take stock of which channels have the best ROI. Does your monthly email campaign bring in leads and new business inquiries? Do your social media channels have heavy traffic or high engagement? Does your print catalog drive interest and sales to your website? Double down on the marketing assets that offer more bang for your buck.


Conversely, put less energy and money into channels you feel obligated to use but aren’t all that lucrative. Are in-person events and promotions bloating your payroll and driving down margin, yet not resulting in sales? Are you spending too much time and money making videos for Tik Tok and YouTube when your customers would be more engaged by a story with images such as in a blog or LinkedIn posts? Move your marketing spend to the places where your customers and prospects already are.


Automate, analyze, adjust.


The best marketing plans are, well, planned. As you create your plan for the quarter think about how you want to get your message out in an organized way, track results through web and social media tools, and adjust as you learn. The simple rule is to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.


If you have a lot of content (blog posts, social media posts, white papers, case studies, etc.), focus on repurposing and repackaging it, so you reach more customers with less effort. It’s also important to refeed content to people who have already seen it, as it reinforces your message and may land differently this month than it did last month. A good adage to remember:

Focus on customer service.


When consumers and business customers are spending less, they need good reasons to try out or stick with a company—especially one with tight competition or premium pricing. One of the most productive ways to add value to your offers is to polish your customer service.


Stand-out customer service is a strong market differentiator and makes customers feel heard and valued. Set goals for how quickly you pick up the phone, return a call, and respond to emails or social media inquiries. Apologize for mistakes quickly and make things right from the customer’s perspective. If customers come to your business, greet them promptly and helpfully, and make the waiting area a unique and comfortable place to be. Whatever your brand is projecting externally needs to be consistent internally as well. When employees are on board with your company’s story, customer service shines.


And remember, 87% of consumers read online reviews before choosing a local company. Create a plan for reading and responding to online reviews. A little attention to your reputation goes a long way in an economic downturn.


Shift your message.


Shift your main message from “What can we sell you?” to “How can we help you?” Create resources for your customers that help them make sound decisions for their business. (Hey, you could forward this very blog post!) Focus on the benefits of your product or service, rather than the features. Connect your customers to supportive communities and industry organizations. Consider referring prospects that are not a good fit to colleagues in the marketplace that can help them better than you can. Both the prospect and the competitor will remember this and are more likely to send business your way in the future.


Check out this helpful list of downturn tips for marketing, sales, and messaging.


While it’s tempting to shrink your marketing budget and media buys in a downturn, studies show that companies that do “can expect to lose 2% of their long-term revenue each quarter and, when they resume media efforts, it will take 3-5 years to recover equity losses resulting from that downtime,” according to a recent Nielsen analysis. We can help you align your marketing budget for the best ROI and customer engagement that will keep you ahead of the game during boom or bust.


When it comes to growing your business, we don’t cluck around. Contact Bubble and Hatch today for a marketing plan with wings.


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