I’m not the most organised person I know.

I’m definitely not the most naturally hard-working person I know, either. If anything, my life is just a series of mechanisms that I use to trick myself into actually getting stuff done.

But if there’s one thing I’m always organised about and extremely hard working on it’s the way I plan stuff out, especially to run our business.

In the words of Alan Weiss, “organisation is more important than action at the outset”. Get your stuff together before you attempt to execute.

You can afford to take it easy in some aspects of life, but you can’t afford to miss out on planning for the success of your business, no matter what that success looks like.

Define success for 2023

For some, success is measured in what’s on the bottom line at the end of the year. For others, it’s measured in the happiness of the people who make up the organisation, and for others yet, success is measured in benefit for society at large.

Whatever you value the most, you must have something to measure against if you want to define whether your year has been a success or not.

You should take that success and split it into business goals that can be then turned into marketing goals, but I’d suggest reading more about this in my post on this site from last year: Luck is what happens when planning encounters opportunity.

The issue with success, and the reason I want to tackle it again, is because 2023 will probably see Malta (and the rest of Europe) hit or narrowly miss a recession. I certainly hope this won’t happen – it’s the last thing we need after COVID, however there’s no harm in having some fallback positions ready and stocked up.

Marketing in a recession

The great thing about a recession is that it tends to even the playing field. Most companies will go the ‘safe’ route and cut their marketing budgets the minute they feel the rumblings of a recession. This is an excellent opportunity for the rest.

Henry Ford once said: “Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time”. The more people get this, the harder it is to benefit from a recession, but luckily enough, many companies tend to be run by bureaucrats, not by entrepreneurs, so their natural instinct would be to save on advertising (and marketing/brand).

Overall, a recession gives us access to cheaper media buys and less noise, which gives us:

  • Lower cost for advertising
  • Greater opportunities to take over brand recollection.

As your competitors stop spending, they’re batoning the hatches for the storm – instead, we’ll set the sails to take them over.

It’s been proven that companies that kept their spend in a recession came out 20 per cent stronger, whereas companies who reduced (or stopped) marketing came out seven per cent weaker.

How do I market in a recession?

I’m not crazy (even though my wife would challenge that statement), so I’m not suggesting that you approach a recession as if nothing has changed.

Your product, pricing and positioning should all change as the zeitgeist changes, tackling a set of issues that consumers in a recession would care about. Here are some simple tips and tricks that you can apply to your plan for the year.

Adapt your messaging – Don’t be tone-deaf. Adjust your messaging to show that you’re aware of what’s happening in the world. And think about the generations you’re targeting, they’ll react to a recession differently.

Offer more value (or highlight it more) – If you can afford to offer more value, then this is the time to do it. At most, if you’re concerned about finding it harder to push your prices up again later, then make it extremely clear that this is just a recession discount. You can also help offer more value by creating lower tiers of your services or by re-adjusting packages to give more bang for your buck.

Focus on what people want – People’s wants and needs change in recessions. There’s a big psychological element to it, but some lower-value luxury items might actually be in more demand as people save on larger purchases but still want the thrill of a luxury purchase. On the other end of the spectrum, this might be the best time to push your cheapest ranges, some people will be in a pinch and they’ll be hunting for value wherever they can get it.

Allocate more money to long term brand building – In some cases you’re just going to have to accept that some sales might go down because your purchase is seen as something completely frivolous, however this is the perfect time to spend money on long-term brand building efforts since you can gain much more traction here.

And in the end…

We’re just scratching the surface here, and there’s much more to cover if we could have a conversation about your industry in particular, but I have a parting message for all: Don’t reduce your marketing efforts if we do hit a recession, work with your team to tell a better set of stories instead. You’ll reap the rewards in the long term.

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