Driving Revenue in a Recession

John Buckley Hero Shot

When the chips are down and costs are up, what should marketers do?? Stuff’s Director of Digital Revenue and Strategy and veteran digital agency expert John Buckley has five key steps for brands navigating New Zealand’s cost of living crisis.

It is the eternal, cyclical, marketer’s challenge: a recession has been called, consumers are ruthlessly careful about what they spend and the brands they choose, marketing budgets are back. 

Recession marketing is in, in Aotearoa this autumn, and price sensitivity is everywhere as seen in Google’s travel searches where in recent times “cheap” has closed the gap on ‘best’.

But you can drive revenue in a recession and the clever will brand-build now while others will suffer short-termism over the longer term. There are, however, a few tricks and strategies to successfully navigating such a challenging time, ensuring that once the sun returns this spring or summer, your customers will too.

So what can you do during this challenging time?

1. Get your data in order and make sure you know your customer.

This is, of course, easier for large customer-direct businesses but the rule applies across the spectrum. Look at your customer lists, investigate their order history and wherever you capture their feedback, consider how it impacts on the product and service you provide.

2. When it comes to activation in paid channels, find your people

For data-rich advertisers, there are more and more ways to find your audiences on platforms such as stuff.co.nz that don't rely on 3rd party advertising cookies.  The technology is complex (with acronyms like PPID and UID2.0) but the customer matching experience is safe and smooth. It allows you to talk to customers based on their needs rather than guesswork.

For brands that don't have big databases, large scale news sites like Stuff can provide campaigns with many facets to improve targeting efficiency to make your spend go further - location targeting, contextual cues or insights into the best placements to stimulate action can all be provided by advertising consultants on the publisher side.

3. Be human and empathetic - customers want to know you care

The best question brands can ask themselves when navigating a recession is: how can we help? Ensuring your messaging and storytelling is warm, empathetic and matches the mood of the times is critical for continuing to build your brand even when times are tough.

4. Measure appropriately and consistently.

We are seeing a trend of advertisers pumping money into so-called performance channels that mark their own homework (or Self Attributing Networks to give them their ad jargon acronym).  The problem with automated buying platforms, whether they are built on search or social networks, is that they often have such broad reach they will claim actions such as conversions as theirs alone.  The truth is rarely that simple.  

With digital advertising it is important to consider the layers of your campaign.  One channel rarely works on its own, as consumers need to be nurtured through the classic stages of marketing, from becoming aware of a product, to identifying the need, to deciding to act (in-store or online).  When you carry out your campaigns consider the user journey and apply decisions for measurement at each layer, not just at the end. 

5. Finally, test and learn.

When you review your campaign performance, take a helicopter view and look at what worked and what didn't, but mainly consider the why:

  • Were competitors in or out of the market at the time?
  • Did you have a compelling call to action?
  • Did your investment provide enough visibility and share of voice?
  • If you are promoting an online purchase were the products available and visible at all times?

There are many stages to digital marketing maturity that brands small and large can follow but the principles are the same.

  • Know your customer and the role your product plays in their life.
  • Use the data at your disposal to increase efficiency.
  • Plan your media buy not only on efficient reach, but also effectiveness, to get your story across.
  • Measure and adapt to constantly find ways to improve.
  • Choose scale partners to deliver high reach to valuable audiences.
  • And get your tone right for the times while remembering better times are almost always ahead.

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