July 28, 2020
First things first, before you read one moment further, my people: I am in no way an economist.
In fact, I think my economics teacher back in high school pity-passed my bff and I. Got it? Great, good, now let’s carry on.
It’s currently July 2020. We’re in the height of the global COVID-19 pandemic right now. Businesses are bleeding, people are terrified, illness is rampant, the economy is a little bonkers, no one knows what the future, let alone next week, may look like.
I wrote the below article a year ago.
It’s been sitting in my drafts ever since.
I had no idea a global pandemic was going to hit. I had no idea we would be quarantined inside our homes. I had absolutely no idea the unemployment rate in America would reach terrifying new heights. I had no idea so many people would lose their lives and become wildly ill to a new disease.
I did, however, in terms of our economy, know something was on the horizon.
I was repeatedly saying things like:
“I think a recession is coming…”
“I can feel it, something’s going to happen soon… There’s gonna be a recession.”
I think my friends and family were starting to think I was crazy with all this looming recession talk I kept droning on about. I tried to theorize what would happen, and why, and when.
I never figured out the what, the why, or the when, clearly, but I always knew one wildly crucial thing:
As a small business owner, your marketing budget should be one of the very last, if not THE, last things to go during a recession.
I know it feels counterintuitive. I know it feels like one of the easiest, quickest, and at the time, least painful ways to free up the cash flow and the anxiety.
But if you nix your marketing department, your marketing team, your marketing intern, your marketing resources, etc. etc. etc., you’re nixing your business. You aren’t even giving it a fighting chance.
So before you start to think “maybe I should cut back on ad spend, or nix my marketing intern…” consider these three things:
In a recession a few notable things happen in the business world. Maybe most importantly, it can often mean that your competition either just got steeper or wildly less.
It’s up to you to run with this.
People get scrappy and creative when the economy forces them to. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant ideas and products are born out of downturns. (eh em – Warby Parker, Airbnb, Trader Joes, Mailchimp… shall I go on?)
Businesses, and their small biz owners specifically, also feel the weight of the world on their exhausted shoulders. The idea of a steadier paycheck and almost-guaranteed health insurance can scream louder than the “passion” to keep pursuing their business.
So for you, this means you have two choices. And both include realizing your place in the market amongst your competition, the one that just bowed out, or the one that just got a renewed sense of energy and is about to do massive things with it.
I guarantee you the competition that’s about to do the massive thing isn’t nixing their marketing.
Every item is weighed and measured and measured again before purchasing, “add to cart” becomes less instant, and “just because” trips to Target get less and less frequent.
People are much more hesitant to spend their money. Which means the things they do spend their money on need to mean A LOT to them.
It’s either the necessities or the things they absolutely love love love and feel massive brand loyalty to. This is where your messaging is vitally important.
Every single piece of content you put out needs to speak directly to your customer. I mean, duh. It always should, but especially so during a recession.
You can’t count on their guaranteed support or orders anymore. Instead, you have to count on that relationship between you and them… the one that you nurture every week in their inboxes, where your subject line and your headlines within that email made them feel so seen, so known.
The relationship where they land on your website to consider reordering their favorite soap, and feel an instant sigh of relief from a breath they didn’t even know they were holding. Your website and shop remind them of home, of relaxing, of forgetting about the stress at their doorstep.
You cannot afford to have sucky messaging. Not ever, but especially during a recession.
Your words can set you apart. Don’t skimp on this, ever.
Hear me loud and clear here: YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL ON YOUR OWN.
You can’t create product, nurture wholesale relationships, process orders and fulfillment, reorder necessary supplies, take stunning and scroll stopping imagery for your brand (cause this is what you need as a product based business, you know this, right?), update your website consistently, create high-quality marketing materials for Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, email newsletters and more, take care of yourself and your family, catch up with friends, read things beside Instagram, enjoy the sunshine, home school your kids, eat three healthy meals a day, exercise each day, laugh, and keep dreaming up great things for yourself, your life, your business if you’re stressed the heck out doing it all on your own.
You simply can’t.
You know this. It’s been proven time and again.
And when everything needs your attention and you’re the only one to work on it all, your marketing is often the first thing that gets pushed to the side.
“Ugh, I’ll post on Instagram tomorrow. I don’t have anything for today.”
“Crap, my website is still promoting Father’s Day. It’s August. AH! How did I forget about that”
“Shoot, I forgot about Instagram again! Uggghhhhh. I suck.”
“I need to create new product, I need to create new product, I need to create new product, I need to create new product. It needs to be the best.”
“Look what Becky is doing over there. Ugh. She’s so good. How?”
^ Sound like the inside of your brain much?
When you try to do it all on your own, you can’t. Something gives.
And that something should not be your marketing.
Good marketing and great messaging is what’s going to get your through a recession. Not even through it, but through it with GROWTH, and EASE, and JOY.
Yes, owning and running a small business during a recession CAN mean those things – growth and ease and joy.
But not if you let your marketing go.
Please prioritize the things in business that matter. Not the “best hashtags.” Not “the secret to 10k.” But the things that matter.
Your Heart of Why, your messaging and copywriting, your visuals (they can help sell your products before an Instagram user even reads your caption), your marketing. These things matter, and they matter even more in a recession.