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Advertising In Uncertain Times

As a digital marketer in these volatile past few months, I’ve had to take a step back from everything, breathe and get a bigger picture. I needed to put my 20 years of industry experience to work and put some things out there to not only help myself, but to help my customers and other businesses with a resource they could use to gain a little perspective.

Let’s face it, when Americans are summoned to deal with overwhelming odds, we “fight”, we “hold the line”, and we prevail. This corona virus is different than what we are accustomed to. Most of the other major viruses of the past didn’t affect our shores as much as this one. This is not a war against a huge military foe, but instead a minute, invisible virus. We have to accept our vulnerability and listen to the advice of experts. We are being called to sit on the couch (if I hear the word “hunker” one more time, I’m gonna scream).

So what can you do to help your business SURVIVE during an economic slowdown? What can you do to GET AHEAD in a slow-growth recovery? And what can you do to prepare your small business to WIN when the good old days return?

The answers to these questions are NOT easy to answer and will differ from business to business. However, the best answer is to be pragmatic. Nobody knows your small business better than you. But getting advice from other people is smart. I TAKE advice from wherever I can get it…the difference is whether I CHOOSE to internalize that advice and implement it. If it makes good sense, I’ll put it in my pocket. If it appears irrational, I’ll probably disregard it.

Over the many years I’ve been a digital marketer, I used to hear my colleagues spout the old adage “In good times, you SHOULD advertise. In bad times, you MUST advertise”. The theory behind this adage is pretty simple. You are used to a certain segment of the pie in your market. When the economy constricts, so does your piece of the pie, so you need to advertise more to gain the same amount of customers that fueled your previous revenue and growth levels. While this ‘oldie but goodie’ has some truth, there is a bigger picture here. This is where is gets hairy, and I should just stop here and tell you CONTACT me to discuss YOUR individual business and customize a program that fits your needs. But I’ll go on for a little while longer to provide some insights.

Regarding the “Should/must” adage above, there are a lot of studies that prove the value of this. And there is definitely truth to it. You really need to step up your advertising level or at minimum, continue your previous advertising spending to survive, grow and flourish. However, blindly throwing more money at a poorly designed or managed advertising campaign is not going to make you a post-recession winner. You may need to change your advertising strategy and place your budget into the mediums that best fit your SHORT and LONG term needs.

For example, with the corona virus leading people to stay home, Connected TV is more popular than ever. Netflix and other streaming services are growing immensely. Youtube viewership is growing as well. This COULD be a good medium for your business. If your business is highly visual, like a kitchen remodeler, landscaper, car detailer or furniture dealer, targeted videos showing before/after pictures or showrooms is ideal. The nice thing about Connected TV advertising is you can CHOOSE who to target your message to. For instance, a home remodeler targeting their video to single family dwelling homeowners (not renters) with incomes over $75,000 within a 15-mile radius of Bethlehem, PA. You stand a better chance of converting this targeting audience than with a ‘anybody with a TV’ approach like traditional TV advertising. An added bonus is you aren’t wasting your money serving messages to people that can’t buy…like renters for the home remodeling example above.

If you have an immediate message you would like to get out (like a newsletter or a coupon offer), Direct Email could benefit you. Think of it as direct mail, but in a digital format (and you are the only ad – not a packet of ads). Direct email is a great medium that generates a lot of leads and lift to your website in a short period of time. And the cost is attractive as well – typically about 3-4 cents per email. And, just like Connected TV, you can target it to your audience that has the highest propensity to buy your product or service. Many agencies like mine have guaranteed open rates and click through rates for your peace of mind.

Do you want to create awareness of your business? Have an event coming up or a holiday sale? Have a scandalous offer you would like people to see? Display Advertising COULD be the medium for you. Display advertising allows you to target your ideal client by serving them ads on thousands of the websites they visit every day like Fox News or The Weather Channel or Good Housekeeping (and the answer is NO, they are not ‘pop-ups’). We can also employ other tactics to your display ad campaign such as Retargeting (serving your ad to people who have recently visited your website) or Geofencing (serving your ads to people who visit preset geographic locations where your audience might gather such as a mortgage office, a ballgame (when they exist again), a home show, or even your competitors location). The cost per thousand impressions is very low and it does help create awareness and bring back potentially lost visitors to your website.

There are many other examples I could use here (Social Media, Search Engine Marketing), but blogs are supposed to be short. I’m not even touching on all of your other business decisions you need to make (reducing headcount, investing in new assets, preserving cash, etc).

A few things that you should do FIRST are:

  1. Make sure your website is presentable (mobile device optimized, easy to navigate, up-to-date info, brands carried, good call to action and accurate contact info, etc.). Your website is the backbone of any online marketing campaign and is where the audience is usually forwarded to. Don’t throw money at an advertising campaign if your website is not up to the job.
  2. Get your Google My Business Listing up to speed. This is a powerful lead source that can help you get found and chosen. You can use our Grader Tool to start.
  3. Make sure the people answering your phones are knowledgeable and have good speaking skills. I can’t stress how important this is. Leads are more valuable than ever before. We can deliver the lead on our end, but it’s up to you on your end to convert that lead into a customer.

In conclusion, please feel free to reach out to me if you need any help. I work very closely with all of my clients to help them achieve their business goals.


Jim Banks – Digital Marketing Consultant