In times of an economic downturn, it can feel like your business’ future is out of your control. Some of that may be true; however, there are some things that you can do right now — today even — to get ahead. The key to navigating a recession as a small business owner is to create more opportunity with less resources, to expand the reach of your brand with less money. It may sound difficult to do — but by following these six quick tips for communicating during a recession, you’ll be on your way to saving your business and feeling more confident and empowered in the process.
Here’s how you can get started:
Tip #1: Be Present
When times are tough, it’s important for you to communicate — and even over-communicate — to your customer base. They need to know how the reality of the times we are living in are actually affecting your business. This can have a positive effect on your customer base, who may develop empathy and interest in your efforts to stay relevant and afloat during the recession.
So don’t forget to share your own personal business story. Keep your customers updated on how you are navigating this time via email and on your website. Ask them to share their story with you — and better yet, if your business is helping them during the recession, ask them if you can feature that as a customer testimonial throughout your marketing.
Keeping the lines of communication open and frequent during this time is critical to helping your loyal, regular customers (and potential new customers) remember that you are there and have something to offer them.
Tip #2: Go Social
If you’re not already on social media, now is the time to try it out. Starting social media accounts on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are free. The harder part is making social media a regular part of your marketing strategy. So if you’re a novice, then start with one channel and go from there. Post once a day and slowly start building your following. For example, you can alert your customers that you have started an account whenever you send out an email. Ask them to follow you and to spread the word.
One other note on social media: Use your channels appropriately. Facebook and Twitter are terrific channels to give short news updates and to share interesting photos about your business and/or products and services during a recession. Instagram should be used only if you have high-quality or interesting photos to share, as it is a photography-dependent social account.
At the end of the day, however, have fun with social media. This is a small business marketing playground — and if you build your audience day by day, you’ll have a loyal base that is ready to hear or read what you have to say!
Tip #3: Get Rid of Your Stamps
In a recession, you want to keep an eye on your budget — but it’s Okay to put a little money behind a few strategic marketing projects. For example, instead of inundating your customer base with emails (as most small businesses will be doing throughout this time), try to get their captive attention by sending them direct mail. Direct mail offers a respite to clogged email inboxes and a surprise for the recipient. Consider mailing a creative and compassionate postcard that reminds your customers that you are there, working hard during the recession, this can influence them to buy from you, maybe not right now but considerate gestures go a long way to help you stick in someone’s mind for a long time. For example, you might send a postcard that lets them know that during the recession you are open for business, understand they also are facing difficult times and because of that, you’re offering them a discount. That’s a win for everyone!
Tip #4: Build Your Community
Small businesses are built on the relationships and loyalties of the community surrounding them, so don’t forget to rely on your local community during this time. Spend time talking to other local businesses about ways they can help you with marketing. Put up promotional flyers at frequented places and show up at local events — volunteer, community and charity events. This is not only a great opportunity for you to network and meet people who can help you in the journey, but it’s also a way to build your brand via word of mouth. At the end of the day, you don’t know who will need something you have to offer. In addition, consider becoming the local event yourself! Leverage your small business by holding an open house to raise money for a local cause. You can donate a certain percentage of your sales to the local charity. This is great business for you and it shows you that you are part of the recession solution. Give back to get back.
Tip #5: Send a Care Package
If you have a little more wiggle room in your budget, consider sending a small care package to your most loyal customers. These should be the clients who are statically proven to bring in the most money for your business. You might consider sending them something delightful to eat — like a package of snacks — or something that symbolizes your company. For example, how fun would it be for a dentist to send a candy bar with a note that during a recession, we all need a treat but don’t neglect your teeth. Give your clients a smile by being extra thoughtful during the recession, and you’ll build their affinity to you.
Tip #6: Partner Up
Finally, find partners among other small business owners and work on service or product packaging that benefits both your businesses. For example, a lawn company and a hardware store could partner up to offer a “toolbox” of yard maintenance essentials and a discount for a yard cleanup. By being creative and strategic with your fellow business owners, you’ll be on your way to inciting regular and new customers to take advantage of great deals on things they need to maintain normalcy and sanity in their everyday lives. Customers are willing to spend money — even in a recession — on products and services that help them get through the day’s volatility.
Are You Ready to Ride the Recession Wave?
Remember, a recession can be a tumultuous and uncertain time — but your business doesn’t always have to suffer. You can make it out on the other side and be in a good place, if you start thinking about your marketing and communications approach right now. Your goal needs to always be to spend the least amount of money to get the biggest return. After all, you don’t know how your finances will turn out as the recession goes on. However, if you can spare some expenses for a little bit of strategic marketing, you’ll be building your brand and your client base along the way — and that is something that will pay off in the longer run.
Try one of our six tips each week until you’ve tried out all of them. If one is too expensive, skip it for the free option. These tips are designed to build upon one another, but use them as if they were part of a toolkit of options!