Research illustrates that businesses that don’t let up on their branding and communications during a recession come out the other side far better off than those that do. In fact, International of Business and Social Science found how companies treated marketing during downturns had drastically varying results.
- Companies that decreased marketing experienced a 0.8% decrease in market share.
- Brands that maintained marketing investment grew market share 0.6%.
- Businesses that increased marketing during downturn increased market share by 4.3%!
Very often in times of economic distress, marketing is the first budget to take the heat, which is very short sighted. Marketing is an investment in growth and reach. Marketing is what we do to create greater impacts in communities, whether in the credit union community or a field of membership of a credit union.
Credit unions’ not-for-profit status allows them to function counter-cyclically; they tend to grow during times of distress. By association, this principal also applies to their business partners, like CUSOs and other service providers. Here are some tips to ensure you’re sending the right message at the right time and in the right way:
- Maintain brand marketing (or even increase it!) to increase your share of voice.
Consider Reckitt Benckiser, which includes known brands like Mucinex and Durex, and states its mission as: We exist to protect, heal and nurture in the relentless pursuit of a cleaner and healthier world. According to Forbes, the company launched a campaign to persuade consumers to keep using its more expensive brands during the 2008 economic crisis. It increased its marketing budget by 25%, which resulted in increased revenues by 8% and increased profits by 14% while its competitors were reporting declines of 10% or more. Let people know you’re there for them during the bad times, and it can improve your market share, income and bottom line exponentially.
- Take a lesson from the Fight Club Rule.
First rule in marketing your business is don’t talk about your business. Most businesses’ communications focus on themselves rather than the end user or outcome. Many companies put out messaging like, “We’re great!” Instead, focus on the story you’re creating for clients. Ask yourself: How do users benefit from our new gadget? How does our contribution to this charity support the community? Ask yourself again to reach more nuanced responses: Why does this matter in the big picture? That’s your story and the focus of your messaging. Check out Your Marketing Co.’s CUInsight blogs and press releases for one example of how it’s done right.
- Demonstrate empathy.
Not the buzzword. Real empathy. What are people going through? Are they concerned for their jobs? Do they have an opportunity to advance their career to a dream position by using your product or service? Are members feeling nervous about depleting their savings or running up their credit card debt to deal with inflation? Careers and money seem like very black and white logical things, but people are human, and they are having some very strong feelings right now about both. Gather all the research and data you can to glean insights and turn them into messaging that shows you understand.
- Take advantage of low-hanging fruit.
This is easier when you already have a brand built on trust, so focus on existing clients and members who already understand your value. Having the data to be highly targeted in your segmentation is critical, particularly when demonstrating ROI.
For those who’ve left for whatever reason, perhaps a re-engagement campaign makes sense. Especially in the B2B market which experiences longer sales cycles, this can help speed up the process if they’re already familiar with your offerings.
Finally, because advertising generally dips during a recession, so does pricing. You can leverage that for some really great deals for the quick hits you need to prove marketing ROI while demonstrating the strength of your business (trust).
- Emphasize value-based marketing and selling.
During tough economic times, everyone appreciates value. Key in on the value you provide when marketing and selling, whether it’s providing an excellent partnership (not just selling your latest gadget!), efficiencies and cost savings, new, strategic revenue generating opportunities or increased brand recognition during the rough patches.
- Share your story everywhere.
Client and member testimonials are essential for demonstrating real-life examples of how people and organizations have found success by using your products and services. Share them in press releases and pitch stories to media outlets, social media posts, on your website, in blogs and case studies, talk about it at events and on podcasts, in your marketing and anywhere else you can – observing the Fight Club Rule. Stories evoke emotions, and as Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
To sum up these 6 points, build and maintain trust: trust in your brand’s technology, in your service, in your products, in how the company does business and in your people. If credit unions or consumers are going to spend money when money’s tight, they want to know your business is going to fulfill the promises your brand has made in its messaging. No amount of marketing will overcome a lack of trust. That must be your corporate brand, so your marketing is authentic during a financial downturn or anytime.