5 marketing strategies that work even in uncertain times

Opinions of contributing entrepreneurs are their own.

The startup world is in disarray as I write this, and the economic outlook isn’t great. Many companies are conducting mass layoffs, scaling back initiatives and rethinking their entire approach to sales and marketing. It won’t always be like this – it’s a cycle – but that doesn’t make it much easier as you go through it. The big question every marketer seems to have is “What can we do?”

Start with these five startup marketing moves. They make a great foundation for any marketing strategy, even in the best of times, but they are especially prudent in the worst of times. Implement these, and when the cycle comes around again, you might be head and shoulders above your competitors.

Related: 5 marketing mistakes startups must avoid to survive

1. Talk to your customers!

When in doubt, talk to your customers. What are they going through, what do they need and what do they expect to happen in the next three, six, 12 months? What’s bothering them may be news to you, and what’s bothering you may not matter at all. Here are a few questions to get the conversation started:

  • How are things now compared to this time a year ago?

  • Do you want to spend more, less or about the same in this area?

  • What is your biggest challenge right now?

  • What do you think will be the biggest challenge six months from now? 12?

  • Why should you buy this thing or upgrade your account?

  • What would stop you from spending money on this?

  • What do we do that you particularly like? You do not do that?

Use these customer interviews to shape your marketing.

2. Create frictionless shopping experiences

The best customer experiences remove everything that gets in the way between the customer and making a purchase. “Frictionless” is always a good target, but in uncertain times like these, you need to look for exaggerated ways to eliminate friction.

A few ideas to get your gears spinning:

  • Build a migration tool that allows customers to transfer their data from competitors to you.

  • Offer something incredible for free or at a huge discount to get people in – your lowest plan, onboarding, shipping, a managed service, etc. Hubspot did this incredibly well during the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Show the product or price and put control in the hands of the buyer.

  • Do the work for clients: create templates, packs, widgets, or anything that would normally require them to invest time and energy.

This allows you to turn a dismal landscape into a great opportunity for both you and your clients.

Related: 7 Free Steps to Getting Your Bootstrapped Startup to Market

3. Communicate clearly and consistently

The companies that attend are the ones that are remembered. Especially in times of uncertainty, volatility and crisis. The caveat is that you can’t just repeat what everyone else is saying. You must lead.

Take a position on a topic, elaborate your positioning and messaging, and communicate it. If there’s so much volatility that you don’t know your position yet or don’t have the data to make a decision, share it. Notify people. Become the go-to brand or opinion leader. When all eyes are on you, you create significant leverage for your sales and marketing.

4. Bet bigger where you can

A knee-jerk response in uncertain times is to cut back, but think about it: all your competitors are cutting back. Now is the perfect time to double down on what works. You can widen the gap between yourself and your competitors. Then, when the cycle straightens itself out, you are so far ahead with such momentum that no one will be able to catch you.

You still need to be responsible with your resources. If you can invest real dollars in projects and channels that are already working or that you know your customers need, great. If you don’t have the money, invest your time.

Options that take more time than money are:

  • Build your presence and brand on social media

  • Content creation for your blog and other channels

  • Public Relations and Earned Media — Find outlets and ways to tell your story

  • Refresh your existing content, website and workflows

  • Searchmachine optimalisation

  • Strengthening your customer or follower community

Note: If you were under pressure to increase your earnings yesterday, account upgrades and repeat purchases are probably your low-hanging fruit. Otherwise, invest in creating a bigger gap between you and competitors.

Related: 7 paid marketing steps to boost your startup’s growth

5. Monitor your activities

Surgeries often fall into the “we’ll worry about that later” category. You usually have enough fires to put out by trying to create demand and maintain operations being sidelined, among other things. But these times when everyone pauses and reevaluates are perfect opportunities to review your activities and stats, such as:

  • Cost to acquire a customer

  • Customer retention and repeat purchases

  • Annual contract value or annual expenses

  • Workflows

  • Automations

  • Customer personas and buying journeys (see section 1)

  • Quarterly targets and key performance indicators

“What is measured is improved.” Review your activities and other metrics to determine how good or bad the situation is you are really in, where you can improve and where you can afford to bet more (see section 4). Use this data to inform your marketing strategy.

Don’t react too quickly

All things come in cycles. As discouraging as the current situation may be, sunny days will come when your business can flourish. Be careful not to make such hasty decisions – you don’t want prolonged suffering in exchange for temporary relief. Watch your stats, take care of your customers, communicate clearly and consistently, and take some big bets. You might be surprised how well things can work out for you.

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Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.