The target audiences you knew before the recession have changed. While they may be the same people, their needs, motivations and fears have likely been modified or at least intensified as a result of this recession. Because budgets are smaller, there is greater scrutiny over every expense. Their purchase decision process is probably longer and more people may now be involved. Many behaviors that were once taken as truths are changing as well. Everyone is affected. Even people/companies who are financially stable are altering behaviors.
It’s more important than ever to reinforce and maintain trust for your brand. In a world where the b2b agency is now more focused on holding onto and growing share with exiting customers, how should messaging be adjusted to respond to current dynamics? Here are a few tips:
1. Gather new insights. Customer behaviors are in flux. Many experts believe that the behaviors we will learn during this downturn will stay with us as consumers for life. Seek to understand their current pain points and particularly their fears. According to Steve McKee, a business consultant and author of When Growth Stalls, “You start with overcoming fear. A lot of people over the last few months have just been operating out of fear. Challenge No. 1 for marketers both in their own minds and in dealing with their senior management is to get over this culture of fear we’ve all been dealing with.”
2. Protect and live your brand promise. Make sure your short-term efforts to drive sales are consistent with your overall brand strategy and do not diminish the value of your brand. Determine how best to communicate the value that your brand represents in this current climate. Make sure you remain distinctly and favorably differentiated to take advantage of competitive opportunities. Keep communicating and delivering on your brand promise at all touchpoints to build trust.
3. Sensitize your messaging. A key emotional driver of business-to-business purchase decisions is typically risk. The perception of risk is heightened in this tough economic climate. Use new audience insights to target messaging to key audiences in ways that empathetically address their needs, help to solve for fears, clearly demonstrate the value of your offering in these tough times and, as necessary, provide justification that minimizes perceived purchase risk.
4. Drive warranty effect, build loyalty, drive advocacy. Shore up your loyal customers, reinforce their decision to work with your brand. Even if they have not made a purchase recently, affirm their decision to have chosen to work with your brand in the past. Make your brand relevant and become a part of your audience’s conversation to fuel positive chatter.
A quote from the December 2008 Forrester Report on recession marketing sums up the situation nicely: “Recession marketing is about retention and connection … How do brands build loyalty? Not with a loyalty program, but by offering a good brand experience, trust and reliable service…. Shift budgets from product launches to innovation in the firm’s culture to improve customer service and employee brand advocacy … Money spent on brand advocates is money invested in brand equity.”
Judy Begehr, Senior Vice President – Brand Consulting, at gyro in North America