What’s the shape of your recessionary curve? In crisis, we focused on flattening. Emerging from lockdown in stages, businesses have new curves to conquer. It’s hard to predict the course of recovery, especially as consumers and categories will be affected differently. A free summary report from WARC – Marketing in the COVID-19 Recession – forecasts a 10-20 per cent reduction in demand. The founder of the world’s largest ad agency suggests a sharp downturn, a bit of a bounce, then a plateau.
Focus on customer engagement during a recession
In reality, we’ll plot our own curves, based on category demand and company supply. Brands should stay close to consumer behavioural data and note discretionary spending changes by core customers. Most marketers will need to focus on the short-to-mid term and avoid cuts to costs or quality that sacrifice margin and reputation. Acquisition or retention? In a modern brand ecosystem, you can accomplish both by focusing on engagement – where the two meet at the intersection of attraction and amplification.
Engage customers to acquire and retain them
Customer engagement blurs the lines between acquisition and retention. Engagement is needed to acquire and keep customers. It focuses on creating renewable value throughout the customer journey by being active and relevant at all times.
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Emphasize your brand’s value and relevance to hold customer attention
As expectations rise, customers constantly re-evaluate brands for what’s valuable in the moment. Marketers need to renew relevance continuously and fluidly. B2B engagement is particularly critical because renewing value is often more important than asking for a sale.
Focus on brand attraction to create users rather than buyers
Create users not buyers by walking in their shoes. Market holistically, placing content, events, experiences, products and services in the lives of your customers (The Most Successful Brands Focus on Users not Buyers is an excellent read). Focus on brand attraction by engaging emotions, mindsets and belief systems through paid and earned media. Amplify earned efforts into owned and paid media for acquisition and retention. Turn targeted paid efforts into earned media by making your marketing worth spreading. Be more relevant through personalization to engage customer preferences and interests.
Seek inspiration from brands that actively engage their customers
We love these engaging brands who are treating customers like users:
- Dillon’s, the Beamsville, Ontario small-batch distiller, knows how to engage and manage customer expectations – from hand sanitizer donations and sales during a crisis to the recent small release of its navy-strength gin to inspire our at-home cocktails.
- Luxury brand Dyptyque positions itself in the lives of users and keeps them engaged with novel, wearable perfume formats.
- Swedish menswear brand Uniforms for the Dedicated creates a virtuous loop with its buy-something-new-donate-something-old program, keeping users connected, looking good and feeling even better.
Use direct mail to amplify your engagement efforts
Direct mail used to be the call-to-action channel. Now it plays in the middle. In an interactive customer journey, where context matters, direct mail can attract and amplify users at every touchpoint. Above-the-line activities no longer set the stage for direct communications. In fact, direct mail can lead mass media, seamlessly connecting to out-of-home and digital channels. Double down by targeting digital interest with direct mail marketing. With mail in the mix you engage people at home using a tangible format that earns attention and time. Letters and cards connect authentically and emotionally, while treating direct mail more like content and less like an ad increases engagement.
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