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Spend now so you don’t have to later
So nobody likes to say the ‘R’ word. But, they are a fact of life. Arecession seems to hit at least once a decade. In America, the trend has been once every 5 years since 1945 — they were more common before. Even in the UK, we are coming close to overdue. It is time to prepare.
Marketing is one of the first functions to take a budgetary hit in a downturn. Although this is understandable, it can also make matters worse. Just like buying stocks right after a crash, maintaining a strong marketing presence throughout a recession will put you on a strong footing to take advantage of the eventual recovery.
The choice to maintain ad-spend during a recession, however, isn’t always up to the marketing team. It can be hard to justify expenditures if it isn’t directly resulting in conversions. If it can be put off until better times, few people make luxury, expensive or long-term purchases during a recession. And, sometimes the budget really isn’t there. If forced to choose between maintaining services or promoting products, companies have to choose the former.
What you need is an advertising strategy that doesn’t disappear right when you stop actively spending money on it. What you need is inbound content marketing!
Luckily, this is a strategy that will help you gain business in ‘bear’ and ‘bull’ markets. It is part of any serious marketer’s playbook. It just so turns out that proper investment in a content marketing strategy will help you weather a recession more easily than your competitors. This article will explain why content marketing is the strategy you should adopt to prepare for future market downturns. It will then provide resources on how to get started if you are new to the content marketing game.
The market staying power of quality content
‘Content is King’ is a phrase that gets bandied about in inbound circles. There are a lot of reasons for this — content fits into the changing demands of buyers liberated by the internet, it helps and informs, it positions your firm positively in the minds of customers.
The secret weapon of content, however, is that it doesn’t go away — in fact, it gets stronger. The longer content is online, the higher it drifts in SEO ranking. The more site visits, external links, likes, shares and comments you garner, the more likely it becomes that other people will find your work. A genuine content marketing strategy will be ongoing, posting regularly keeps your site ‘active’ and helps SEO. But, content is the gift that keeps on giving. You only pay for it once. A few quality articles can create the backbone of a self-sustaining web of content that will generate leads for years to come.
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The key to this is quality. You need content that speaks to your buyers and delivers valuable and relevant information. When planning for a recession, this is the most valuable move you can make right now.
A substructure of quality content won’t go anywhere even if budgetary cuts means you have to stop posting temporarily. Unlike pay-per-click (PPC) ad-buy, content generates its own organic footprint that you don’t have to pay for. It will keep you front of mind and ready for prospect customers whatever the circumstances. Investing now will give you the luxury of spending less later while keeping you ‘front and centre’ in the eyes of your target market audience.
A home for content in any market (recession or not)
Although content marketing will prepare you for a recession and marketing budget shortfalls, it is not, fundamentally, a worst-case scenario fall-back plan. Content should be part of your marketing strategy already. During boom times, content can be paired with paid advertising (like PPC) to give you an edge on competitors and help build up the traffic needed for organic ranking. Any effective content strategy will be paired with social media posting, and content can even be used to spearhead drip email campaigns, or other account-based marketing/ outbound tactics.
Content lets you expand your web presence and attract buyers who are seeking to educate themselves about complex products prior to purchase. According to research by CEB and Google, B2B buyers have already completed 57% of their purchase journey before ever contacting a supplier. Think about the last time you bought anything, did you go rushing to speak with a salesperson? Without content, you are nearly excluded from the modern buyer’s journey.
Every conceivable question a prospective buyer might have about your product should be answered in detail on your website. FAQ and product pages are part of that delivery. But, blogs often provide a better medium through which to deliver answers. In order to cast a wide net, you need to go beyond answering direct questions about your product and provide answers about your industry. If you can help people do things for themselves, it will only improve your company’s standing in the eyes of prospect buyers. You might lose a few customers to DIY, but anyone looking for real expertise will be able to see that you are the real deal. That is who you want as a client anyway.
Blogs remove the pressure associated with sales and the contrivance of product pages. They are a long-form platform to dive into the depth required to really supply added value to the reader. Your ability to deliver that will not only draw in traffic, it will improve conversions. The fact that quality content is an investment in the future is an added benefit that turns content marketing from a tactic into a long-term strategy.
Recession-proof your content marketing strategy ahead of time
The basics of content marketing come down to understanding your products and your customers. You have to think about what you sell, what people want to know about that service or product and how they are likely to search for those answers.
You should subdivide your target market audience into distinct ‘personas’, all of whom are potential buyers or influencers that can help you make a sale. For B2B businesses, this should be done in the context of a broader account-based marketing (ABM) strategy. However, in order to get even more precise about personas, think about these questions in the context of the ‘buyer’s journey’. This is the process that buyers go through as they become aware of, evaluate and then purchase a product or service. This is generally subdivided into three stages:
- Awareness: is when a customer is first investigating an issue. They are looking to solve a problem, find answers or meet a need. They want high-level information that can get them pointed in the right direction.
- Consideration: is when a customer has defined their problem and is looking for specific information to solve it. They want more detailed information roadmapping actionable solutions.
- Decision: is when a customer has made a decision and is looking to confirm that they have made the right choice.
You need to craft content marketing targeted at each persona for each stage of the buyer’s journey. There will be some crossover, just as there will be a crossover between personas. For example, what you are reading right now is content marketing. As the reader (particularly if you found this blog organically) you are likely to be a marketing executive or small to medium sized business owner (two different personas) who is looking to safeguard their brand awareness in the event of a recession. You are looking to solve a problem and I am providing a high-level answer to that issue — placing you in the awareness stage of the journey.
However, the article has crossed over into providing some detail on how to create an actionable solution and could act to confirm a decision that you have already made. I will now also provide you with access to two resources fully targeted at the consideration phase that will help you:
- Use premium and gated content to generate leads and maximise inbound results; and,
- A more substantial guide to writing content marketing.
In summary, content marketing delivers value long after you stop paying for it
Quality content marketing expands its visibility the longer it sits online. Unlike paid advertisements, it sticks around and grows in value. Content is critical to any serious marketing strategy. This is particularly true for complex B2B businesses, but it is increasingly the case in every market. Buyers expect information online, you have to provide that information to remain part of the modern buyer’s journey. Content is one of your most valuable assets to do that.
The added benefit of content is that it creates a bedrock of advertising with its own self-sustaining visibility. In fact, popular content boosts your entire web presence SEO, making it more likely that buyers find your website organically — not to mention their ability to link off to product pages from your blog. This allows you to develop a baseline marketing presence that you can count on even if you have to slash marketing budgets. It is an investment that will last into the future. Like all long-term investments, it is a good thing to think about now, just in case we have rainy days in the future.