Should you cancel your annual SEO budget to mitigate potential cash flow issues?

Should you start an SEO campaign if you’re afraid that your company might not survive the downturn long term?

Should you wait for the dust to settle before committing to an SEO budget?

When COVID-19 hit, we were inundated with questions we’ve never encountered from prospects and customers.

Your situation might be unique – or you might be asking the same questions.

You’re probably making decisions that have far-reaching implications on the short- and long-term success of your company. These are hard decisions that come with a lot of responsibility.

But let me ask you a different question: 

What is going to happen in your industry – regardless of your company’s situation – when things turn upwards?  

It’s my opinion that we will each be left with a drastically different market of competitors and customers that will restructure and reshape the order of business as we know it. 

Here’s what I expect to happen in the next 3-6-12 months:

  1. Your competition will lose momentum due to closure or regulation or supply chain fractures.
  2. Your customers will seek alternatives that can provide the most value and meet their needs. 
  3. Your customers – because of necessity and because of changed purchasing habits – will use search engines, like Google search, more than ever before to find these alternatives.
  4. Your company will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prove it is that alternative for a massive portion of your total addressable market. 
  5. To do this, your company will need to be in the right place at the right time. 
  6. How you invest right now will determine your ability to get exposure to your market when people are looking for you.

The point being: 

Whoever decides to invest right now, especially in marketing channels like content and SEO, will be who comes out on top in the future.

We know It takes a little more effort to imagine what the future might look like while dealing with the present crisis. But take a second to dream of a future in which your company is truly thriving. 

What does it look like? Capturing new customers, overtaking your competitors, hiring amazing new talent, investing more in innovative new offerings? 

You can start working towards attracting and delighting new customers, while leading your competition, if you make the right decisions now. It’s time!

Let’s break this down.

 

Your Competitors Will Lose Their Momentum

This week, over 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment, shattering previous records.

Competitors are halting their operations due to impacts on the supply chain, government orders, and drops in demand. If you’re experiencing it, your competitors are also. 

This varies widely from industry to industry. Invariably, this is causing a slowdown of whatever momentum was being built by your competition. 

If you’ve felt like you are one of those people who is behind the 8-ball and struggling to keep pace with the market leaders in your space, this is a unique opportunity

By slowing down the industry, there is a realignment and a change for smart business leaders to use this advantageously.

Competitors are slashing budgets. Marketing budget is always the first to go. Henry Ford was famously quoted:

“A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.”

Your competitors likely disagree with Mr. Ford. 

Why marketing and advertising are considered dispensable in an economic downturn is anyone’s best guess – but to me, it’s asinine. 

Victorious increased our marketing budgets in the last three weeks. We hired a new director of marketing. We’re actively investing in new areas to develop our brand strategy. 

Why? 

Because everyone else is cutting back, leaving a wide-open marketplace for us.

 

Your Competitors Will Be Going Out Of Business

60% of the total businesses closed during the 2008-2009 housing crisis were small and medium-sized companies.

An unfortunate reality is there is 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 the inevitable recession can no longer make rent or payroll. 

What does this mean for you? Less suppliers to compete in the market. 

While you have a temporary reduction in buyers, they will return with the lift on restrictions. The suppliers will take time – a business cannot be built overnight. This is an opportunity for us.

Your competitors are not planning for what happens after the economy re-opens. Most are only focused on what’s right in front of them. 

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 you.

 

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. With an expected 25% contraction in GDP in Q2 of 2020, this will be a heightened area of sensitivity for your – and your competitors’ – buyers.

Customers will actively reconsider what other providers are available that can better serve their needs. 

As discussed, supply chains might be fractured or online support and service staff might be reduced. Customers do not like paying the same amount of money for a reduction in value or experience. 

This means a company like yours can differentiate and attract these customers when they start looking for alternatives.

Customers will be reevaluating if their current provider meets their future needs. Customers might be weathering the storm right now by maintaining relationships with their current vendors or suppliers. 

But when the “dust settles”, they’ll be on the lookout for who’s offering better pricing, better service plans, or better products.

 

Your Company Will Inevitably Be Repositioned

Are you truly great at what you do? Now is the time to let the market know. 

  • The limitations on your business due to competitors’ budgets is erased (frozen budgets)
  • The white noise of a saturated market is getting lower and lower (competitors are closing)
  • The customer is looking more intently than ever for a possible alternative (re-evaluating their needs)

Your industry will be culled – and a shift will occur. The economy will turn around – it always does. 

When it inevitably happens, will your company think strategically to prepare for this? 

Are you preparing to take advantage of the huge influx of new customers when the time comes? 

Or will you decide to keep your focus solely on the short term, acknowledging you might be ignoring the largest economic opportunity for your company in the last 20 years?

 

Organic Search Will Be The Primary Driver Of Acquisition

Now – because of necessity due to shelter in place – and in the future –  because of changed purchasing habits as a result of this season – the customer is going to the search engine more than ever before. 

Even before COVID-19, search engines were used in 89%+ of all purchase decisions and 3 trillion searches per year. Habits and circumstances will continue to drive businesses and consumers to search engines to find an alternative. 

Even right now, the immediate need is high. 

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 providing the level of service/value that they expect. 

A great example? Amazon just changed their shipping policies for non-essential goods. It can now take as long as a month to receive these items. This is a harbinger for purchasing habit reformation – customers will now look to alternatives to buy these products that won’t take upwards of 30 days. 

Where will they look first? The search engine. That is where you need to be.

 

You Will Grab New Market Share With SEO

I believe the shifting of suppliers will happen on a monumental scale that most industries have never seen. 

Swaths of qualified customers will be switching their provider of goods or services out of either necessity or convenience. If you are positioned properly, 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 opportunistically placing yourself where the customer will be. 

Frankly, Victorious is already investing more $$$ into our own SEO and content than ever before to prepare for this in the next 3-6-12 months.

If you’re asking why the time is right now – the answer is: SEO takes 3-6 months to fully ramp up. It takes 3-6 months to get your website positioned correctly in search engines to drive results. 

You need to give your website adequate time to get positioned, otherwise, you’re going to show up late to the party.

 

Make Decisions That Will Impact The Business 6+ Months From Now

Do what’s necessary to keep the business functioning today. Please don’t sign an SEO contract (or any other contract) if you don’t have cash flow mechanisms to keep the next 90 days going.

Determine if you want to survive or thrive once the economy re-opens. 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 3-6-12 months. While your competitors are focused on the here-and-now, you have an opportunity. Those who look 3-6-12 months down the road and begin to strategize for it are the ones who will lead the market. Be that leader.

Invest your resources right now to determine where the business will be in 3-6-12 months. If you have the ability, invest in digital marketing activities that will yield massive future results. Consider how you can pivot your messaging or 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, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share and return on investment at lower cost than during good economic times.

Position yourself where the customers will be when they want to buy. Purchasing habits will make a drastic pivot to online. More than ever your customers will be using search engines to begin their journey. Be there, and be ready! 

 

Historical Proof and Why This Works

When things are precipitous, it’s helpful to look to history for examples of companies who used a difficult economy to their advantage

The Great Depression was trying for virtually every company. However, there was one consumer products company that made the smart leadership decisions to make the company successful even in the most difficult circumstance – Procter & Gamble.

When P&G’s retailers started cutting their orders and inventories piled up, P&G made a strategic decision to invest money where their competitors were slashing.

Instead of shutting down its social media and marketing efforts to cut costs, the company actively invested in a new marketing channel they knew would reach its target market – radio.

One of these tactics involved sponsoring daily radio serials aimed at homemakers, the company’s core market. In 1933 P&G debuted its first serial, Oxydol’s Own Ma Perkins, and homemakers quickly fell in love. 

The program was so successful that P&G started cranking out similar programs to help its other brands, and by 1939, the company was producing 21 of these so-called “soap operas.”

Fast forward, and P&G not only survives the Great Depression but goes on to capture wide swaths of market share. 

Procter & Gamble now owns 23 “billion-dollar brands” and a leader in seven of the 12 categories it competes in globally. Its closest competitor leads in just two. 

Competitors lose their momentum. Smart leaders take advantage of strategic investments in content marketing & advertising. And the rest is history.

 

Author
Michael Transon

Michael Transon is the CEO of Victorious. He's a big fan of ASU football, his cat Tux, and dinner parties. He lives at Ocean Beach in the Outer Sunset Neighborhood.

Additional articles

SEO Agencies vs. Digital Marketing Agencies

What does it really mean when you see “SEO” in the dropdown menu of an agency’s services? What’s included in that umbrella term, and how can you assess before you commit, exactly what you’re going to get out of it? When you’re looking for an SEO agency, learning about how to best outsource SEO, and trying to assess who to go with, you don’t always get a lot of clarity from the agencies in question about the differences in their services. I actually (spoiler) selected Victorious to be my SEO agency in a previous role at a software company in …

Read Article
6 Min Read
SEO Value: What It Is, How to Determine It, and More

Let’s talk about the value of SEO. It might sound too-good-to-be-true to be able to invest in a marketing channel that can both build brand awareness AND drive high-intent visitors to convert on your website. And if you are trying to make the case to an executive, perhaps, who is questioning how that’s even possible, then you’ve come to the right place. The value of SEO is, of course, tied to organic search traffic. But why do you want it? Why is it so important to the business? The value of growing your organic search traffic is intrinsically tied to …

Read Article
10 Min Read
How to Unlock Google Analytics Keyword ‘Not Provided’

A show of hands for all the marketers constantly frustrated with Google Analytics reports saying ‘not provided?’ Don’t worry, that’s completely normal. And yes, there’s a way around it. As annoying as it is, there was a lot of intention behind Google launching ‘not provided’ reporting, starting in 2011. It doesn’t mean you’re shit out of luck, it just calls for a little extra effort to “unlock” and access this data.  As a marketing professional, having access to the organic search keyword ‘not provided’ will give you a huge leg up on the competition.  By unlocking ‘not provided’ keywords  you’ll …

Read Article
6 Min Read
Let's give your business the attention it deserves