A recession is a bad time for you as well as for your customers. It’s natural to want to hold back and not contact your customers, because it’s uncomfortable to ask them to spend money on your product or service when their finances might not be in good shape. However, there are good ways to maintain your brand and cultivate your relationship with your customers even during recessions. So we are going to go through six concepts to keep in mind for marketing in a recession.

Leverage Social Media

Social media is your best tool for directly communicating with customers. The platforms give you the opportunity for a really personal touch. During a recession, emotional messaging can be a really effective way for you to convey empathy and unity with your potential customers. Not every post or update needs to be a sales pitch– you can engage and just start conversations to learn how people are feeling about the current situation. Not only will this help you keep your business and your presence in the minds of your customers, but it will also help you expand your social media presence and expertise. Getting involved with social media is a key skill for marketing, and a recession is the perfect opportunity to start developing a tone, style, and presence. You also don’t need to spend any money on social media– just time. You can always try out spending money to promote posts or place ads, but it’s unlikely to be effective during a recession anyway. Think of social media as a way to kick off word-of-mouth reputation-building as well as a way to create two-way conversations with customers. There’s a surprising amount of depth to learning how to make good use of social media and building up the habit of using it frequently enough for it to be useful.

Send Thoughtful Postcards

The more communication takes place online, the more rewarding and surprising it can feel to receive a nice piece of physical mail. You can take advantage of this by sending out postcards with a kind message. As with social media, your messages do not need to be a sales pitch, call or action, or any other traditional marketing message– they can simply express some empathy to show that you understand times are hard. A nice template can help you frame your tone and incorporate some nice design elements as well. When the economy is doing poorly, customers don’t need to hear about sales and deals. They need to know that someone is thinking of them. The classical relationship between people and brands has been distant and abstract. In a recession, you can reframe that relationship as emotional, close, and comfortable, establishing yourself as less of a business and more of a peer. Emphasizing the shared experience of the recession and offering support is a great way to connect. It’s important to put a personal touch on these postcards. If they are too generic, then they will just look like more spam mail.

Send Care Packages

Care packages are a step up from postcards. They provide a lot more potential value to the past customers that you send them to, but you need to be careful about their cost. It won’t be enough to just send out discounts or certificates for your business. Depending on what service you provide, it could be a long time before your customers need to use it and can feel impersonal and out of touch during a recession. A care package should make the customer feel supported, not obligated to spend money. It’s also important to stay practical. For anything that you are sending through the mail, be prepared for it to go through the shipping and delivery process and to potentially sit in a mailbox or a shipment center– that means be careful about sending food or anything that could be sensitive to temperature changes, drops, bumps, and anything else that might happen to a package. Think about something that can make your customer feel special, something that can take their mind off their circumstances. It may or may not have something to do with your business. For example, samplers of beauty products or a small, nice item for the home like incense can be a welcome gift without having any direct connection to your service as long as you include a nice message.

Join Community Events

An important part of becoming successful as a small to medium-sized business is incorporating yourself into the community. During a recession, that becomes even more crucial because a recession is a time for your community to come together for mutual assistance and morale-raising. It’s a good idea to participate in community events during good times, so if you are already doing that, make sure you are in the loop with what events are taking place in the recession as well. If you aren’t already out in the community this is a good moment to build your reputation by getting involved. Depending on where you are and what kind of business you run, your community might be anything from the size of a town down to the size of a city block. Look out for mailing lists, bulletin boards, local Facebook pages, and Nextdoor pages. You need to find the most active hotspot because that’s where you will find information and opportunities regarding events.

Charity Drives

With recessions and hard times comes an increase in charitable spirit. The good thing about charity drives is that if there don’t appear to be any notable events happening near you, then you can start your own. This obviously comes in close parallel with community events during a recession. The more involved you are with your community, the better you will be able to find and serve community needs. You’ll also know community members to help you coordinate, organize, and communicate. If you are newer, then it is better to try to find an existing charity event and get involved with that. It is easier because there’s less startup, but you can still see how it works and participate. You can expand your brand presence while doing some good work for the community.

Coadvertise with Partner Businesses

Marketing is expensive at the best of times, but during recessions it can feel really draining to spend money on marketing when you are getting reduced revenue. A good way to reduce those costs while improving the value of your marketing is through coadvertising. Combine forces with another local business that overlaps with your customer base, but is in a different industry. You can refer customers, offer cross promotions, and price-shop on behalf of your customers to get good deals. You can help each other get exposure to a wider array of customers and reduce your marketing costs at the same time, so this is a fairly straightforward way to get more out of your marketing at a time when you need that extra value.

The bottom line is that during a recession, the elements of marketing that involve making human connections and building emotional bridges are key, and localizing your efforts can make a big difference. Find opportunities to let the people around you know you care and empathize with them, and they’ll remember you when the recession is over.

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Lauren Sanchez - Author

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