Whether you are starting a business now or weathering the current recessionary storm, a slowdown can feel scary; but being on the front foot with your marketing can make sure the revenue keeps coming in.
I started my business in 2010, when the great recession of 2008 was still very much with us. Was it a good time to start? My reasoning was that it might be tough, but things were going to get better and optimism is a key part of any success. What I did realise straightaway was that a reliable sales & marketing machine would be key, as less customers would be around and I wanted to stand out from the ones that were there.
Running a business is beyond exhilarating, frightening and crazy, often all in the same moment. There are so many things to work through. At the start, you cannot imagine getting into a rhythm of staff, sales and actually looking around with a satisfied smile, marvelling at what you have created. To see your first employees and trade happening daily is truly one of life’s great experiences. Adapting to changing times is the key to longevity; knowing when to allocate resources to capture extra revenue is tough to get right, but crucial for success.
Recession makes you that bit more careful and conservative with your growth projections. This can be hugely beneficial because underestimating targets is a significant problem to have. However, you must double your efforts on sales and marketing; the revenue is harder to get, but it is out there for those who have built a trustworthy brand.
How do you go beyond securing today and tomorrow, and really start securing future demand in a systemised way that can be relied upon to deliver? The reality of any business is that unless you have a reliable pipeline of new business, you don’t have a business. If you can solve this pipeline in these trying times you will see phenomenal success as we climb out of recession.
What we are really talking about here is systemising your business identity and marketing so that potential customers know what you stand for, why they should buy from you, and for you to be where your customers are when they are considering buying your particular product or service.
Phase 1 - Who are you? What do you stand for? Why should people trust you?
Human behavior, if analysed, is wonderfully predictable; with this predictability comes the ability for businesses to make informed choices in how to set up their ‘marketing identity’. The biggest, single factor in getting potential customers to buy from you is trust. They must trust you in the first interaction with your ‘brand’ or it is a lost opportunity/sale. The biggest factor in trust is consistency, so you need a system to make sure your brand is consistently compelling wherever people are interacting with it.
Think about your business as a person you have created, that you want people to really buy into; it is a brand, just like you. This person needs to have a great way of speaking, they must look right, be charming, know their stuff and be able to close the sale. To get your brand to this level you need to work out the detail: What is your brand built upon? What is its competitive edge? On your best day, why do people love you? How should you sound, look and feel? By thoroughly documenting this, and making sure it is compelling, you can create the best representation of you and what your business stands for 24/7, 365 days a year – it is the salesperson that never sleeps.
Phase 2 – Creating the shop window that the world can buy into from anywhere
It doesn’t matter how strong the economy is, you will always need to be seen and to be appealing to customers, especially in a downturn. Now is the time to take the best representation of your brand to reach customers beyond the geographical confines of the physical operation. We are, of course, talking about a top-notch website that makes you irresistible to buy, or in other words your new ‘store front’. People visit your site, find it easy to navigate and get to know you, think you know your stuff and are likeable, and they want to either proceed to check out online or pick up the phone to do business. While this is an extremely simple representation of the user journey online, the mechanics remain sound. As your store matures, refining the information and journey becomes key to ensure you’re ahead of your competitors, and what you offer is a true reflection of what your customers want. There are only two roles for a website: creating revenue and ongoing loyalty. Done right, a website will be the best investment you ever make.
Phase 3 – Fishing where the fish are
When you have created such a good website, it makes sense to get it in front of as many people as possible; this is where digital media and a performance strategy are your new best friends. In recessionary times it is even more important to get this right, because you want to be where the customers are; there may be less of them, but they are still spending. You want to make sure that when people are searching for products in your category, or even your competitor’s product, that you come up first. You are front and centre whenever anybody is in the market to secure the sale. We can do this through a mixture of digital ads, social media and SEO, which is simply making sure you are at the top of the Google search results.
Phase 4 – Reaping the benefits
The key to an effective performance strategy is ongoing refinement. Dashboarding of results provides real-time access to performance, and the ability to isolate the effectiveness of individual advertising platforms, different target audience segments and different creative messages. A test-and-learn mentality is crucial – a testing framework should be developed to test different platforms, audience or messaging variables, with clear hypotheses, and clear benchmarks for measuring what success looks like in order to learn effectively. This should also be continued on your website, ensuring that the user journey online is constantly being improved and optimising the rate at which we convert site visitors to purchasers. There are many levers we can pull, and it’s all about developing the knowledge of how these will assist sales and then applying them to drive sales and revenue growth.