In March 2020, at the onset of the pandemic health crisis, businesses were grappling with what the ensuing economic downturn would mean for them and wondering how to navigate the unknown territory that lay ahead for all of us.
At Victorious, we were inundated with questions from prospects and customers that we’d never had to answer before.
- Should I cancel my annual SEO budget to mitigate potential cash flow issues?
- Should I start an SEO campaign if I’m not sure my company can survive a long-term economic downturn?
- Should I wait for the dust to settle before committing to an SEO budget?
Your situation might be unique – or you might have been asking the very same questions.
Like so many other business leaders, you were likely tasked with making decisions that would have far-reaching implications on your company’s short- and long-term success.
Even in the midst of crushing uncertainty, Victorious held fast to these three truths.
1 – There will be a recovery.
The health crisis will eventually end, and an economic upturn will follow.
2 – The world might never look the same again.
Consumer habits and business practices will undergo a revolutionary quantum leap.
3 – Where there is change, there is opportunity.
Shakeups loosen fixed systems and challenge long-held assumptions — making fertile ground for new growth.
From within that framework, we asked our clients and prospects one clarifying question:
What will happen in your industry – regardless of your company’s situation – when things turn upwards?
Understanding that we will each be left with a drastically different market of competitors and customers that will restructure and reshape the business as we know it, we expected that:
- Some companies would lose momentum due to changing regulations or supply chain disruptions.
- Consumers would seek alternatives to meet their needs that could provide the most value.
- Public health recommendations would shift purchasing habits, and customers would turn to search engines, like Google, more than ever to find what they need.
- Companies would have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be seen as an alternative for a massive portion of the total addressable market.
- It would be critical to be in the right place at the right time to make the most of new opportunities.
- Well-timed investments will position businesses at the crossroads of consumer needs and the ability to deliver quality goods and services.
What did this mean?
Whoever decided to invest, especially in marketing channels like content and SEO, would come out on top in a recovery.
At the beginning of the pandemic, it was tough to do much beyond triage for survival. Now, with a distant light at the end of the tunnel, you can take a moment to dream into a future where your company hasn’t merely survived but is thriving.
The right strategies create resilience and buoy your business to ride the wave of economic recovery.
What might recovery look like?
How about capturing new customers, overtaking your competitors, hiring exceptional talent, and innovating new products and offerings?
Even if you weren’t able to commit to an SEO campaign in March, with the light dawning on the horizon, now’s the time to double down on strategies that will position your business to make the most of new opportunities.
Let’s break this down.
Your Competitors Have Lost Momentum
During the third week of March, over 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment, shattering previous records. After a short summer dip in joblessness, there are still nearly 8 million people without work.
Competitors have slowed operations due to impacts on the supply chain and the inevitable drops in demand that come with an economic crisis. Any difficulty your business is experiencing, you can bet your competitors are feeling it too.
If you’ve historically struggled to keep pace with the market leaders in your space, this is a unique opportunity. Economic slowdowns offer the chance for realignment across industries, creating space for smart business leaders to leverage all of their resources to generate a lasting advantage.
Your competitors are likely to have slashed budgets at the pandemic’s onset, and the marketing budget is always the first on the chopping block.
Henry Ford is famously quoted as saying:
“A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.”
By taking your cue from Mr. Ford, you can get even more bang for every buck in your marketing budget because of the vacuum left behind by your competitors who cut their spending.
If you had no choice but to cut your budget back in the spring, now’s the time to bring it back full force — even if it means belt-tightening in other areas of your businesses. Now’s the opportunity to achieve higher ROI than ever before on marketing and advertising.
Victorious has increased our marketing budget since the beginning of March. As a matter of fact, we invested in an entirely new marketing department, and we’re actively investing in new areas to develop our brand strategy.
Because when everyone else cut back, it left the marketplace wide open — an opportunity we were not about to squander.
Your Competitors Will Be Going Out of Business
Unfortunately, small and medium-sized companies are most vulnerable to shuttering during an economic downturn. During the 2008-2009 housing crisis, 60% of the total businesses closed were small and medium-sized companies.
After a mid-summer rally, a fall surge in COVID-19 infection rates might be the deathblow for many businesses left vulnerable by the first wave of the pandemic.
As a result, there will continue to be an active culling of the industry across virtually all sectors.
- Competitors who stressed cash flow to drive expansion suddenly have no cash to cover overhead. Competitors who overspent on unnecessary expenses and under-saved for a possible recession can no longer make rent or payroll.
What does this mean for you?
Fewer suppliers to compete in the market.
While you have a temporary reduction in buyers, they will return with the economic recovery. There will be a gap between increased supply and demand as hobbled businesses try to ramp up. That needs-offer gap represents an opportunity for nimble business leaders.
Your competitors haven’t been thinking long-term.
Most are only focused on getting through the current crisis without considering preparations for economic recovery.
They may think their content marketing and advertising campaigns can pick back up right where they left off. But marketing, particularly SEO, is all about building momentum.
Lost momentum means competitors will need even more time and money in the future to catch up with companies like yours.
Customers Will Look for an Alternative
According to Harvard Business Review, customers are acutely aware of the needs-offer gap from suppliers during a recession. Even with a rally of the GDP in Q3 2020, which the Brookings Institute warns isn’t the end of the recession, customers will actively reconsider what other providers can better serve their needs.
When the dust settles, prospective customers will be on the lookout for who’s offering better pricing, better service plans, or better products. A company like yours can differentiate and attract these customers when they start looking for alternatives.
Lean Into Repositioning
In the shifting sands of the current business landscape, no business will escape unchanged. Embrace the new reality and take the opportunity to ask yourself what makes your business truly great.
Now is the time to let the market know.
- Your competition has lost its budgetary advantage.
- The market has become less saturated, with the din of white noise falling to a dull roar.
- Customers are reevaluating their needs and are more willing than ever to consider alternatives to their tried and true suppliers.
Are you preparing to take advantage of the massive influx of new customers when the time comes? The current economic challenge and inevitable recovery could represent your company’s most significant growth opportunity in the last two decades.
Organic Search Will Drive New Customer Acquisition
The pandemic has changed the buying habits of millions of Americans. In greater numbers than ever, customers are using search engines to find what they need.
Even before COVID-19, search engines were used in 89%+ of all purchase decisions resulting in 3 trillion searches per year. Existing habits and new circumstances will conspire to drive businesses and consumers to search engines as they look for what they need.
People are using organic search to find goods and services that:
- they can no longer buy from their previous supplier; or
- their current supplier isn’t able to provide at the level of service/value that they expect.
Here’s just one example: At the onset of the pandemic, Amazon changed their shipping policies for non-essential goods. For several months, it was taking as long as 30 days to receive these items. This was a harbinger of things to come. Frustrated customers reformed their purchasing habits to satisfy their need for prompt delivery, and now, Amazon can no longer assume zero challenge for their business.
Where newly unmoored customers look first? The search engine. That is where you need to be.
Grab New Market Share Now With SEO
Swaths of qualified customers will be switching their provider of goods or services out of either necessity or convenience. If you are properly positioned, I guarantee you will see a significant increase in market share.
You may have the opportunity to multiply your market presence in less than a year by putting yourself where the customers will be.
Why are we urging you to act now?
It takes 3-6 months to get your website positioned correctly in search engines to drive results. You need to allow adequate time to position your website in search. Otherwise, you’ll be showing up to the party unfashionably late.
It’s Time to Plan for 2021
1 – Do what’s necessary to keep the business functioning today. Don’t sign an SEO contract (or any other contract) if you don’t have cash flow mechanisms to see you through the first quarter of 2021.
2 – Decide if you want to survive or thrive in the coming year. Assuming you have the appropriate cash flow mechanisms, right now, it’s more important than ever to decide where you want to be in the next 12 months. While your competitors are focused on the here-and-now, you have an opportunity to seize market share. Those who strategize for economic recovery are the ones who will lead the market. Be that leader.
3 – Invest your resources right now to determine how your business will grow. Invest in digital marketing activities that will yield tremendous future results. Consider how you can pivot your SEO and content strategy to target the consumers who will be re-entering the open market. It is well documented that brands that increase advertising during a recession, as their competitors cut back, can improve market share and return on investment at a lower cost than during good economic times.
4 – Position yourself where the customers will be when they want to buy. Purchasing habits will make a drastic pivot to online shopping. More than ever, your customers will be using search engines to begin their journey. Be there, and be ready!
What History Has to Teach Us
During the Great Depression, when most American companies were gutting their marketing programs to stay afloat, Procter & Gamble made a strategic decision to double down on the wide-open airwaves. The company started sponsoring daily radio serials to reach its target market. P&G’s “soap operas” were so successful that it not only survived the Great Depression but went on to own 23 “billion-dollar brands” and is a leader in seven of the 12 categories where it competes globally.
What will history say about your next move?
Tough times call for tough decisions, but forward-thinking leaders position their businesses for future success by making smart marketing investments.