Being in business is challenging at the best of times. But when faced with economic turbulence, it’s natural to become anxious about what the future holds.
With Brexit, numerous UK elections, and now Coronavirus, the past few years have been a rollercoaster – economically, politically, emotionally. And that’s putting it lightly. In having to deal with these twists and turns, businesses are entering ever wilder uncharted waters. Public worry and uncertainty often gives way to economic turbulence – potentially devastating to private consumers and businesses alike.
As a business owner and marketer, I felt compelled to write about how best to approach marketing through uncertain times. I’ve identified 3 elements of maintaining a strong promotional presence through bewildering economic upheaval.
Aim for Clarity in Your Comms
When you switch on the news – especially news that relates to Brexit or Coronavirus coverage – you’ll notice a theme. A concerning lack of clarity.
Looking at Brexit as an example – does anyone actually know what’s going on? Problems are piling up and politicians don’t seem to agree for one reason or another, but it’s all getting a bit brain-fryingly complicated. It’s largely left to the media to decipher what’s going on for the masses – a problematic concept in itself.
And moving to the Coronavirus coverage, think of all of the opinions and hot air that are being plastered across the airwaves. Social media is aflame. There’s just been so much conflicting information out there that people feel swamped. Though I don’t envy their job, many see the government’s numerous, floundering attempts at clear guidance as having backfired. Mix vaccine rollout logistics with a dash of Brexit and you’ve got ultimate confusion.
So what can companies learn from this?
Companies need to aim for lean clarity in all of their comms – especially their marketing. Clearly state the benefits of your offer, don’t bloat your copy with unnecessary fluff, and don’t leave readers to work things out for themselves. This is especially important in times of hardship.
Uncertain times are stressful. Unstable markets create worries for all of us – worries which take up valuable mental bandwidth. With this in mind, your marketing needs to focus being easy to understand and act on.
And if you’re dealing with a current, ongoing, unstable situation – focus on what you do know, and communicate clearly what you don’t know just yet. If you can let people know when you expect to see more clarity, then say so.
The broad strokes of clarity in copywriting can be boiled down to three factors:
- Craft your copy with the aim of helping the reader immediately qualify whether what’s on offer genuinely resounds with them. Would they be a good fit in working with you? Or would they be better off looking elsewhere?
- Use persuasive, clear language that’s not too taxing to understand. Even if you’re writing B2B communications, aim to write in a way that the average person in their mid-teens could easily comprehend.
- Always end on a single, crystal clear CTA (call-to-action) that states in no uncertain terms what the reader needs to do next. Don’t leave anything down to assumptions or guesswork.
A Consistent Message in Turbulent Waters
Some companies may feel that new, challenging times call for new, challenging branding. But in my opinion, it’s probably not a great idea to make major changes to an existing brand during economic turbulence. Build upon your brand’s established awareness and equity rather than scrapping a persona that you’ve operated under for years.
Changing a familiar, established brand identity can be a gamble at the best of times. But if you decide to change things up during times of potential hardship, you may damage your brand’s recognisability when you need it most. Also, rebranding can take resources away from more direct revenue-generating tasks you should focus on in the here and now.
So build on the brand recognition you do have for the time being. Once the market stabilises, that may be a better time to give your brand a significant facelift.
Now, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t try new things at all during turbulent times. Modern marketing is all about experimenting and building on behavioural data. As the market changes in response to economic wobbles, it’s likely that your audience’s behaviour will also change, so it’s important to keep your ear to the ground as to whether older practices are still working.
There are a few exceptions to this rule of course. If you’re battling a PR disaster that has irreparably damaged your brand, you may want to make significant changes – regardless of what the economy is doing. You’d also be forgiven for making significant changes to your online presence to comply with new data protection or SEO developments – these are also unavoidable.
It basically boils down to the standard business advice of avoiding unnecessary risks during difficult times. Keep on keeping on with what’s working well, and maintain a strong and unwavering front in the face of adversity.
Don’t Slash Your Marketing Budget!
OK, OK, as a marketer I admit I’m biased here. But I do find it troubling when I see companies slash their marketing budgets at the first sign of economic uncertainty. When companies need to tighten their belts, marketing generally doesn’t end up particularly well-off.
My mentor (hi Neil) said it best – “marketing is the fuel to the sales department’s fire”. Your sales operations can’t maintain a steady flow of paying customers unless marketing keeps reeling in fresh leads.
So take an even and measured approach when you reevaluate your business’s costs; impartially look at how all of your business expenses come together to form your entire money-making picture. Chances are at least some of your marketing functions will turn out to be indispensable.
A consistent and clear marketing message is always important, but in times of potential hardship it’s downright essential. Sadly, all too many companies panic in times of uncertainty – making vast changes to their brand identity, hacking away at their marketing spend, and cutting corners on clarity.
However, when you resist these common knee-jerk reactions, you give your brand the best chance of standing tall as a strong, dependable contender within your market during tough times. When those around you fall afoul of the above three missteps, a strong, consistent approach is what will set you apart.
Though I do own a crystal ball, it’s unfortunately not the clairvoyant kind (more’s the pity). But if you’re navigating through tough times and foresee a need for copywriting or content marketing assistance, please get in touch!
Note: This post was first published on the 12th March 2019 and has since been edited.