Preparing Your Website and Digital Strategy for a Slowing Economy
By Lisa Hirst Carnes | October 2019
As every business owner and executive is keenly aware, there is a lot of chatter out there about the state of the economy. Some experts say a recession or slowdown is almost certainly right around the corner; others think these fears are overblown and that many financial forecasters are guilty of crying “wolf.”
We aren’t in the business of analyzing employment reports, interest rates, and yield curve so we won’t make any predictions one way or another. What we will do, though, is note that your website is likely to be an extremely important marketing tool for your organization in the event of a slowdown.
While we can’t predict what will happen in the next few months or so, history tells us that all parties eventually come to an end and there will be a recession at some point in the future. When that happens, some sales and marketers are going to be prepared while others will find themselves scrambling to simultaneously increase sales while decreasing costs.
We want all of our clients and readers to be prepared for any eventuality. And, we know that some of the most important steps you can take to prepare your website for a slow economy also happen to be the things you should do to sharpen your marketing edge even when times are good.
With that in mind, let’s look at six ways you can prepare your website in anticipation of a slowing economy in 2020 or beyond.
#1 Make Your Website Customizable
While most of the advice in this article is going to be geared around your marketing to ensure you can play offense (and grow your sales) in a stagnant economy, we need to say a word about your website first.
The last thing you want, in a time of economic uncertainty, is to find yourself making unplanned investments in your website. However, that’s exactly what can happen if your current web presence is out of date or doesn’t have the flexibility to be adapted to changing conditions.
Ideally, you’ll want your business website to be created with a robust content management system like WordPress. That way you and your team can add pages, change details like prices, and perform other functions without having to call your website developer for minor updates. In other words, you can decide what you want on your site without having to incur hourly invoices.
If your current website lacks this functionality, then it’s a problem you want to correct before things are tight and the market is moving fast.
#2 Focus on a Core Group of Customers
There is a certain “Catch-22” that comes with thinking big in your online marketing campaigns.
On the one hand, the web allows you to present your products and services to virtually anyone. You can reach out to search engine and social media users who have never heard of you on the other end of the globe if you think they are a good fit for what you sell, which opens your business up to endless possibilities.
On the other hand, though, sales and marketers often make the mistake of thinking too big. They have a tendency to tilt at windmills, chasing prospects that aren’t a good match for what they have to offer just because it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to do so. As a result, the overall effectiveness of their campaigns suffer because they aren’t devoting their time and energy to the best sales opportunities that are in front of them.
That’s a mistake you might be able to make when times are good, but you certainly can’t afford to waste your energy or marketing budgets when things are slow. Take some time to think about whom your very best prospects are. Create personas that include details like age, job title, location, education, income or budget. Consider the job they need you to do, what type of messaging resonates with them, and so on. Then, promise yourself that you will tailor your efforts to their specific wants and needs.
#3 Adapt Your Web Content Messaging
Now that you have thought quite a bit about your base of customers, it’s time to consider what they are looking for when the economy gets tight. Chances are they will be more focused on value, price, and deliverables then they were in the past.
By simply being aware of that, you can give yourself a leg up on your competition. Tweak the content of your website – and in particular, your product and service pages – to reflect this added emphasis on bottom line value and ROI. Make sure to spell out exactly what it is they’ll be getting for the money they spend with your organization. Don’t leave anything to the imagination.
Once you’ve taken that step, you can continue by building future content updates (such as blog articles and social media posts) in the same way. When you’re crafting an email or video clip that needs to draw in potential buyers, get straight to the point. Speak in terms of dollars, percentages, and hard outcomes. These are likely to be on your customers’ minds, so it only makes sense to address them directly.
Your sales strategy is probably different in a slow economy than it is a rising one. It only makes sense that your website reflects this, given that it’s likely to be your most powerful marketing tool.
#4 Optimize Your Site for Easy SEO
When the economy is soft, it only makes sense to concentrate on internet marketing tactics that combine low effort and expense with a high rate of return. In other words, you should be looking for easy wins that won’t cost you much.
With those parameters in mind, it’s hard to do better than a specialized search engine optimization (SEO) campaign. By gearing your site up to rank highly for certain brand names, long tail keywords, or geographic locations, you are essentially cutting in line in front of your competitors. You’re arranging things so that your best potential customers are going to see your website first under certain conditions.
Any veteran marketer can tell you that good organic SEO takes time, planning, and content creation. In addition, you have to optimize your website for technical factors while keeping a close eye on your web analytics. All of these are smart things to do in any economy, but you’ll get faster, more reliable results by narrowing your efforts down.
Earlier we advised you to think about whom your very best customers might be and what sort of messaging they’ll be looking for on the web when the economy is slow. Now, you should take that a step further and use the insights you’ve gained to shape your search visibility strategy. It won’t eat much of your budget or take a lot of time, but the gains you’ll make can pay for themselves again and again.
#5 Build Your Email Subscriber List
Email is the ultimate low-expense, high-reward online marketing channel. You can send out a regular newsletter for next to nothing and receive dozens of orders, appointments, or phone calls as a result. The only catch? You have to have a subscriber list in place before your email campaigns will pay off.
That means this is the perfect time to start collecting email addresses. There are a number of ways to get them, but a few of our favorites include event registration, newsletter sign-ups, premium content downloads, and social media advertising. None of these is likely to cost you a fortune and they all have the benefit of increasing buyer loyalty while helping you to expand your email marketing reach.
Once the economic slowdown does come, you can use your newsletter to stay on top of your subscribers’ minds and tell them about any specials you might be offering. You can also take the opportunity to inform them about the value you provide or even detail case studies that show why they should be buying from you instead of a competitor (more on this in a moment).
Building a strong email subscriber list is one of those tasks that can seem like busy work until you start to generate real momentum. We can promise you, though, that if a recession does happen, you’ll be very glad you took the time to sign up your customers and prospects and have the opportunity to reach them directly for very little cost.
#6 Highlight Your Value with Detailed Case Studies
The one certainty that comes with a slowing economy is that buyers are going to be more careful about their purchasing decisions. Even if they themselves aren’t affected by the recession, you can be sure they’ll be more aware of the cost-cutting happening around them.
One way to protect yourself from being a line item deletion is to highlight the value and results you can provide. There are a lot of ways to accomplish that, of course, but few are as effective as detailed case studies.
Note that these don’t have to be long volumes with footnotes and detailed research. They just have to outline a challenge one of your customers is facing, the steps you took to help them overcome it, and the ultimate outcomes. It’s better, of course, if you can get a few positive quotes from the customer along with some hard amounts or percentages that help tell the story. Go a step further and create a video testimonial.
Nothing sells like results, especially when your customers are under pressure to make tough decisions about the money they spend. You want to remove any uncertainty they feel by showing them verifiable data that it’s in their best interests to either keep working with you or give you a try for the first time.
Being able to provide bottom line value is the ultimate differentiator in any economy, and it’s especially important in a recession. Don’t wait for things to get slow – start compiling your customer success stories today.
Are You Ready for a Possible Downturn?
As we’ve already noted, we can’t predict the next economic slowdown with any accuracy. It could be a few days away, or years from actually occurring. However, history says that patterns repeat themselves and recessionary fears tend to be self-fulfilling.
In other words, the fact that so many people are worried about the economy now suggests that we might be on the verge of some tough times. In a certain sense, though, whether or when the next recession comes doesn’t really matter. For one thing, the smartest marketers out there are already following most of the advice we’ve already given. They’re making the most of their opportunities today while at the same time positioning themselves to keep profiting if there’s a slowdown tomorrow.
We could go one step further and tell you that certain savvy business leaders are probably looking forward to the next economic downturn. If that sounds crazy, then consider this: when things get tight, they have an unprecedented opportunity to pull even farther ahead of their competitors, and possibly even put them out of business. For them, a recession is a chance to gobble up more customers while spending less money.
If you’re feeling more fearful than greedy or worry that you haven’t done enough to prepare your business for the inevitable, there is still time to take action. Contact our team so we can schedule a free consultation and review both your website and strategy.
It only takes an hour to sit down with us, but it could be the one decision that positions you for a brighter future, regardless of what’s happening to the economy as a whole. So, don’t let another day or chance pass you by. Contact us now so we can provide you some free advice and a marketing blueprint to rise above the competition no matter what happens in 2020.
Topics: Digital Marketing
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