Marketing Your Way Through a (Online) Recession

Cruising here at 35,000 feet, the recession continues to loom in my mind. I feel fortunate to be in a vertical that it is fairly recession proof. That being said, I will still feel the recession’s effects, especially as consumers continuously feel the pinch. As a reader of this blog you know that I have been focusing much of my time on articles about advertising online during a recession Recession and Depression Proof Advertising and Recession Proof Online Advertising: Best Practices both tackle this topic and provide perspective.

Yesterday, I came across an article by John Quelch. John writes a blog on marketing, called Marketing KnowHow for Harvard Business online. I learned about the article from Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge For Business Leaders email newsletter. This is a free newsletter and I encourage you to subscribe to it here.

In John’s article, Marketing Your Way Through a Recession, John pointed out eight factors that marketers should keep in mind. I found the article particularly interesting as John presents us with a quick road map coupled with low-cost suggestions that can, in most organizations, be readily implemented. Below are a few pointers that I found relevant to online marketing.

First, know your customer. Now is not the time to cut your research budget, now is the time to dig further to learn more about your users. Online marketers should earn about what their users do during a typical session. Do they log in and check their email on your site? What, as an online marketer, are you doing to provide value to keep the user intrigued? Better yet, once the user hits your site, what are you going to do to keep them there? Perhaps more importantly, what are you doing to bring them back? If you don’t have something where users have opted in to continuously pull them back, such as a newsletter and strong re-marketing efforts you are not marketing online to your full potential.

Secondly, maintain your marketing spending. John points out that “It is well documented that brands that increase advertising during a recession, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share and return on investment at lower cost than during good economic times.” Further to this point, it is a great time to get the most competitive rates. I pointed out in a recent post that publishers are also looking to close deals and will be willing to discount their inventory. John points out the importance in maintaining frequency, which can be attained by shifting from a 30-second spot to a 15-second spot. For online advertising, this means lowering the frequency cap from say 4-per-24 to 2-per-24.

Third, you can adjust your pricing tactics. You don’t need to cut prices, but you may need to offer temporary price promotions or price more aggressively. Sweepstakes in particular will give any online campaign a lift. The further you incentivize your users to engage in your message, the bigger the lift you will see. Just be careful not to over-incentivize or mislead your users, as they will churn out at a rate higher than your current constant. Another promotion if you offer a subscription service would be to offer three months for the price of six or buy one month get one month free. Sometimes all it takes is a little incentive.

A forth point, which is arguably an extension of the third, is to create a sense of urgency. For example, use statements such as “Sign up now for this limited time offer” or “Offer valid this month only.” By conveying this message to the user, it will provide many with needed qualification to convert.

Regardless of what tactic you use as an online marketer, you need to know your users better than ever. Users are increasingly looking for you to provide better value.

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