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Marketing techniques to keep your business afloat during a recession

Small businesses have weathered a lot of storms in recent years, from the COVID pandemic to a series of natural disasters that greatly impacted supply chains and delivery experiences to now facing inflation and the probability of a recession.

According to Vista’s 2022 Small Business Owner (SBO) Sentiment Tracker, SBOs are concerned by the economic landscape, namely rising inflation (86 per cent), the threat of recession (79 per cent) and energy costs (79 per cent), with respondents citing that they have had to cut back on things they normally would do, due to high costs. 

In times like these, you might wonder what exactly these costs are that SBOs are cutting back on and automatically assume that it’s the ‘discretionary’ stuff, like a planned re-brand or marketing or digital spend, except that’s not true. 

Most SBOs are focused on stability and solvency to prepare for the recession ahead. And to achieve this, marketing efforts are in the top five things SBOs are doing to make it through.  Not only are SBOs planning to maintain their marketing spending, they expect to increase it. 

SBOs don’t see marketing as a ‘nice to have’ but as a necessary tactic to drive growth – and luckily, SBOs don’t generally have to spend a lot of money on marketing for it to be effective.

Here are some things SBOs should focus on from a marketing perspective in 2023.

Customer acquisition 

With so many things to do, don’t lose sight of the goal for your marketing activity. Customer acquisition (45 per cent) is the top marketing priority among small business owners, followed by awareness building (27 per cent) and getting customers to recommend their business (26 per cent). Whatever you’re doing, ask yourself – is this effort geared at attracting new customers? If so, go for it. If not, reconsider. 

Pump social media

Social media is the most popular marketing channel among small business owners (65 per cent). Channels like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest and LinkedIn allow SBOs to take a targeted approach to reach the right customer and build a brand identity in a very cost-effective way.

Make sure your website is in tip-top shape 

Following social media, an SBOs website is the second most popular marketing channel amongst small businesses (56 per cent). A separate research study found that 70-80 per cent of people research a small business online before visiting or making a purchase – make sure it’s in good shape, so you can wow potential customers. 

Go old school

Following social media and your website, in-person/face-to-face (49 per cent) was the third most popular method of marketing for SBOs. What does this mean? PRINT. Posters, stickers, packaging.

It’s easy and low-cost, and the print run size is flexible, which will be a relief. There’s a real opportunity to personalize, localize, tailor your promotions for different seasons like Christmas and Easter and capitalize on shop-front real estate with stand-out print branding. 

What do all these things have in common? Branding. 

Branding has always been a vital part of business, but it’s now more important than ever as businesses compete in an incredibly busy climate for customers that are more strapped for discretionary spending than ever before.

You need to make it count. An SBO branding is more important than you might think. On the outside, your brand might look like a series of colours and logos, but it represents the identity of your business. 

Your branding will span your entire online presence and into the physical realm with things like packaging and artwork if you are in a store. With the right branding, you have an opportunity to stand out in the crowd and get customers’ attention. With a distinct logo and attractive colours – there’s a good chance they won’t forget it, even if they don’t purchase it straight away. 

While there are nuances in how small businesses from different countries prioritise channels, most are taking a 360-degree approach to marketing, showing that print and digital play complementary roles in attracting and retaining customers – and it’s never too late to join in the journey.

Use VistaCreate to create eye-catching visual content for social media or print in minutes.

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Marcus Marchant

Marcus Marchant

As an expert in digital transformation with a focus on companies that service and optimize the experience of small business, Marcus Marchant’s career to date has spanned industries from banking, telco and insurance. Prior to his role at Vista, Marcus held roles including Head of Customer Strategy at Citibank, Director of Digital & Onboarding at Optus, and Group Chief Digital & Innovation Officer at QBE insurance. In addition to his role at Vista, Marcus has seen success with his own small business, founding men’s swimwear brand, Bondi Joe. In addition, Marcus sits on the board of RESULTS, a not-for-profit that influences government foreign aid towards health projects that reduce poverty. This passion to aid others sits at the core of his philosophy and remains a key component of his leadership at Vista.

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