I’m no economist, and I don’t own a crystal ball. But, like you probably are, I am seeing a lot of media chat about impending tough times.
As a business owner, it can be kinda stressy hearing these reports. You’re rejigging budgets, cutting back and wondering whether every quiet patch is the start of the end.
‘Riding it out’ is not a game plan, and it’s definitely not wise to pull back on your own marketing efforts. After all, the world doesn’t stop spinning; people still spend money on the things that are important to them. You’ll still need to sell.
I’m certainly not saying it’s a time to freak out (don’t ever freak out), but it could be a good time to put some plans in place now that help to recession-proof your brand and ease the pressure later. Here are some principles to keep in mind when it comes to your content marketing:
Be the helpful brand
When everyone is tightening belts, they go looking for some free advice first. Focus on high-value, helpful content, but make it distinct. Don’t be afraid to share what you know. Trust is a hot commodity in uncertain times (and geewhiz haven’t times been uncertain for a while now). You build trust by sharing authoritative perspectives. Are there colab opportunities with others within similar industries where you could leverage each other's expertise to expand your reach? Who has a podcast that needs your voice added in the mix? What free, value-rich downloadable resources are going to earn you an email address and therefore an inbox to nurture? And hey, even if they’re not spending now, I can guarantee that when their budget is looking healthier, you’ll be the first one they reach out to.
Be the familiar brand
Focus on brand-building and values-based messaging. When we do spend our money, we’ll want to give it to the brand we feel good about - the one we know, like and trust. Showcase the person(s) behind the brand, share your story, create relatable content. Double-down on messaging that aligns with what’s important to your brand, who you work with, the values that drive you, how you contribute to your community - all the human things that make you more than a business. Go lighter on the automated sales-funnel messaging that people tend to ignore and actually take a more personal approach to your comms - we all appreciate the personal touch.
Be the agile brand
I’m all for having a plan (take a look at my workshop on messaging pillars / content themes) but be ready to ‘pivot’ (oof there’s that word we love to hate again) if you need. Customer buying habits will change; their priorities will change. It’s your job to flex to the sentiment of your audience. Make sure your messaging is sensitive to the realities of your customers. Position your offering in a supportive, not salesy way. Listen a lot, and adjust your content plan to what they need most.
Be the smarter-not-harder brand
Work with what you’ve got. Identify good performing content (ie. good lead generating content or high converting pages). Optimise existing content (update old but good performing content with refreshed perspectives. Make it easy for yourself - repurpose what you’ve got by creating different assets with existing content. It might feel familiar to you, but for a lot of your audience it will be the first time they are seeing your message.
Be the future-proofed brand
Learn how to get the best out of AI tools. Yeah, this is a rogue one from a professional copywriter and I could be doing myself out of a job here, but leveraging technology to make your life easier is not a bad idea right now. I’m not going to lie, you can get some pretty good outputs by knowing the right inputs, and if it frees up your time (and money) to focus on work, without slowing down on your content efforts, then it’s worth a shot. I want to emphasise here though, that it’s really worth understanding how to get the best results. Mediocre prompts in will get less than mediocre content out. I’ve been experimenting with ChatGPT more and more, and can attest that it’s a helpful assistant to have (but still not quite replacing me just yet).
My personal two cents from someone who came out the back of the last downturn: slow and steady wins the race in a recession. Knuckle down on supporting long-time loyal customers. Keep showing up - and don’t give up on keeping your content machine cranking.
Organic content remains one of your best assets in attracting new customers. Search engines love fresh, helpful content, but more importantly, so do the people who need your help. But an ad-hoc approach to creating content can leave people feeling confused about what you do, and how you can support them. That's why defining your brand message - who you are, what you do, what you know, how you're different and how you work - is so important for reaching the right people and defining your position in your industry. Having a good structure around what you want to share online helps you be consistent (and avoid those blank-screen-cursor-blinking moments). If you haven’t got a good content plan in place, have a look at my 1-hour content planning workshop.