We’re going through a challenging time. While our first concern is the health and safety of all members of our communities and abroad, we also need to be cognizant of the rapid change in our economic climate.

Our role as a strategic consultant with a range of businesses has led to many conversations about how to market in a difficult time. While there is no one-solution-fits-all in any market, we want to share some general marketing principles endorsed by many leading economists.

For many businesses, it’s time to cut expenses. As revenues decrease due to shutdowns and consumer panic, that is an obvious, and necessary, reaction. But, as we’ve learned from the dotcom crash in 2000, the real estate crash in 2008, and other recessions, an economic downturn also provides opportunity.

The opportunity in an economic downturn is created by diminishing competition. It is well documented that brands that maintain or increase advertising when competitors are cutting back can improve their market share and return on investment at a lower cost. You may not see the biggest return right away, but in the long term, you will.

Maintaining and growing brand awareness is especially important in times where trust in the market has eroded. People still need to sell their homes, finish their kitchen renovation, and repair their vehicles. When consumers regain confidence in the market, they are more likely to turn to the brands they readily remember.

Following government orders, our day-to-day working environment has changed. Many have traded brick and mortar offices for at-home workstations. This transition increases screen time and the opportunity to intercept consumers as Canadians are plugged in at an unprecedented rate.

We recognize that not all businesses have the opportunity to maintain or increase their advertising spend during an economic downturn. We respect and support whatever direction each of our customers must take in this difficult time. But if you are able to take advantage of this opportunity, here are a few tips:

  • Consider how your customer needs, expectations and purchasing decisions have evolved.

    Many customers will be held in a research phase versus being ready for action. Deliver compelling content that helps direct their purchase decision appropriately and makes your brand memorable.

  • Focus on digital interactions.

    Much personal contact has been replaced by digital delivery. Provide your customers with an easy way to interact with you for any questions they may have. Consider adding text chat to your website, creating webinars, and holding social media contests.

  • Watch your tone.

    People are being bombarded with a high-volume of negative news updates regarding COVID-19 and may not appreciate a sales push at this time. To counteract the perpetual negativity, brands have an opportunity to become an attention oasis that allows users to immerse themselves in an idea, a goal, or a potential project.

  • Use remarketing.

    While customers may not be driven to action right now, engaging with them at this point may allow you to remarket to them when they are ready.

  • Use “downtime” to be proactive with tasks you may not always have time for.

    These tasks may include improving internal processes, revising brand platforms or creating new brand assets. With a boost in discretionary spending projected following this crisis, tackling these tasks now will place you in a better position to take advantage of a market rebound.

We’re in a time where consumers are spending more time online with more time to research for future purchases. Through careful positioning and thoughtful messaging, the COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity to drive engagement (and potentially online sales) amongst many audience groups. In this state of flux, there are opportunities to pivot and benefit from new societal norms and needs. We can help you identify and stay up-to-date with user trends and identify short-term and long term opportunities that will benefit your business.

Investing in your marketing now is an opportunity to increase your brand awareness. Your investment should ultimately lead to more conversions, at a lower cost, both now and when the tide changes.