19th October 2020: An ever-shrinking corpus of capital. Rising scrutiny and demand for short-term profitability from investors. Dropping morale among employees and a declining appetite for spending among customers. This is the stuff that nightmares are made of, for for startups. And if you’re like most startup founders, you’re probably living it right now. Consequently, long-term strategies have been pushed to the back burner, and focus has shifted towards two fundamental questions: how do we get more customers and how do we not lose the ones we have?

So if you want to ensure your business’s longevity, you need to recession- or pandemic-proof your marketing. You can do so by adhering to three basic — and rather common-sense — ideas that can help you acquire more customers and retain those you already have.

1.   Focus your messaging on safety

With the world dealing with a generation-defining pandemic, safety and survival have become top-of-mind for most people. And not just physical safety, even financial security and contingency planning have gained preponderance, as is evident from the recent spike in demand for insurance. As a startup with limited resources, it would then make perfect sense to address these changing needs through your offerings and of course your communications. Eg. One my clients, Freight walla, a digital freight forwarder did announce and share how it can be logistics and business as usual, in a traditional service such as supply chain, with its end to end digital platform where its customers can log in anytime from anywhere.

Tamanna Gupta

Most people have become averse to spending on non-essentials, it can help to tweak your messaging more towards the cost-saving and convenience-enhancing aspects of your offerings. More than anything, it is important to acknowledge the reality your customers are finding themselves in and show them that you’re doing everything you can to address their biggest concerns. While empathy is important, don’t be afraid to experiment with a dash of creativity to stand out!

2.   Out of sight is out of mind

Let’s face it — during a pandemic, there will be some products and services that see unprecedented spikes in demand and others that won’t sell a lot, no matter how much you try. If you know a product won’t sell, it would be wise to stop investing time and money in activities that

are aimed at generating immediate sales like PPC ads and sales calls. Instead, you can invest your resources in broader marketing initiatives aimed at relationship-building and branding.

One of the things you can do during these times is to build up a repository of thought leadership content and share it to establish authority, stay relevant, and maintain top-of-mind awareness. You can also use this time to gain traction using organic means like SEO and strengthen the top and middle of your sales funnel to gain more awareness and credibility. This will not only help you to save valuable resources but also give your sales team a springboard for when the market recovers.

3.   Prepare to pivot rapidly

We helped lot of startup/ SME clients go digital and direct to customer during the lockdown. In fact just the thought/ strategy of going digital wasn’t enough. It required rehauling of the way organisation and more importantly the employees thought and functioned. Hence marketing started inwards by aligning internal stakeholders first.

Agility in marketing is becoming increasingly critical due to rapidly changing economic trends, social norms, and customer sentiments that have become characteristic of the current epoch. Businesses must be able to change their marketing direction, be it in individual communications, campaign themes, or brand positioning, at the speed of thought.

While doing all of this may seem like a daunting and unmanageable task, it actually isn’t, if you effectively leverage digital marketing platforms and data analytics. Varying and adapting your marketing approach based on the context and the customer will maximize the returns on every rupee you put into marketing. And as a startup or SME owner, you know the value of every rupee invested in your business more than anyone else.

And guess what, all the above may show desired results for your startup or may just fail. But then as they say, there isn’t a definite formula for success. The key is to keep trying and figuring out various permutations until you hit upon a jackpot. And as the founder of the startup/ SME, I would encourage you to go out and seek professional/ senior level help who is an expert in this domain. Because your time is far more precious to wear multiple hats and indulge into all possible activities across the organisation.

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