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How to Connect with Your Customers in an Economic Downturn

Due to the global pandemic advertising and marketing industries are in a strange place, one where over-promoting to consumers can feel out of touch or inappropriate. But amid the uncertainty and the expected economic downturn, brands can — and should — remain part of consumers’ lives by making the appropriate shifts in strategy and messaging.

The key right now is not to emphasize on acquisition, but instead invest in simply staying in touch with your existing customers, maintaining a strong relationship that will survive.

A Time to Nurture, Not Recruit

Staying engaged with existing customers during a downturn, past or present, is exceptionally valuable at times like this. Think of your consumers as your friends. You can’t ignore — or ghost — your consumers during a tough time. Marketing to them will improve the situation in the long run, even if you’re not making a hard sell. If you neglect your consumer relationships by suspending communication altogether, it will be very expensive, if not impossible, to win them back during better circumstances.

Learn From the Past

While our current situation is unprecedented for nearly everyone alive right now, the aftereffects — namely, an economic downturn — are not. We can learn how to move forward from fairly recent events. Marketing took a strong downturn following both the September 11 attacks and the 2008 recession, but in both instances, some companies recovered faster and had more resources to invest back into their business because they continued to market during the downturns.

Unlike in 2008, there are more channels to keep the conversation going, so there is really little excuse for dropping consumer communication. Companies need to strategically reach their customers directly, which requires more than just a branded social channel. Using direct mail, paid social, display, and email, companies can focus on their customer base. Building a comprehensive multi-channel strategy lets customers know you are there, no matter how they engage with media right now.

Use Your database

While this tactic is all about lessening acquisition campaigns, it doesn’t mean only engaging with active customers. Communicating with inactive customers is a more affordable way to bring in revenue, compared to acquiring new customers. It will require a smaller investment to convert them, and ultimately will yield a higher ROI.

As a general rule, aim to devote 80% of your budget to existing and inactive customers from your database, and the remaining 20% on acquisition. For all efforts with your customer file or prospect audiences for acquisition, take advantage of every opportunity to optimize your multi-channel strategy.

If you are using social media, fine tune a look-alike model for audience targeting. If you are using direct mail, customize your prospect lists and mail only those with the highest index. Don’t forget to carefully review the quality of audience data. A lot of business offices are closed right now and their employees are working from home. So sending mail to an office may not be the most effective marketing strategy.

Beyond audience optimization, re-craft your messaging. Don’t simply blanket message your audience about how your brand is responding to the current climate; instead, create messaging that is reflective of the situation but also relates to their past purchases, creating value and ease for the consumer.

Most importantly, remember that now is not the time to give up on your customers. The times ahead will be difficult for all of us. Special offers that can make life easier for consumers have the ability to create deep company loyalty well past this economic downturn, and possibly through any that come in the future. A company’s decisions to invest in their customer base will not only speed their recovery from a recession, but set them up for long-term success.


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