Marketing to Thrive in a High Cost of Living Scenario

Marketing to Thrive in a High Cost of Living Scenario

The high cost of living is a frequent topic of discussion and concern amongst Canadians, and for a good reason: the rising prices of basic items like food are making more people have to depend on food banks; the well-known housing crisis shows no signs of improving, putting more pressure on landlords, tenants, and people wanting to buy a home; and the overall sentiment towards the economy and financial stability is filled with uncertainty. A recent IPSOS report indicates 69% of the Canadians surveyed stated their concerns about their capability to absorb any unexpected costs of $1,000 or more.

How does this gloom-and-doom scenario affect small businesses? Well, the degree of impact will vary according to the industry, but there’s a general concern: lower sales, combined with increasing costs in operating expenses such as taxes, wages, fuel and electricity translate into many small businesses struggling to stay afloat and cutting back on critical expenses. Often, one of the first cuts is marketing, which many consider a disposable element.

If you’re a small business owner trying to survive in this high-cost-of-living scenario, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) cut marketing entirely from your budget. We have some ideas for keeping promoting your business and thriving even in the toughest of times.

Why Small Businesses Shouldn’t Give Up On Marketing

Cutting back marketing in an economically challenging scenario seems like a smart idea at first because it will save you money in the short run, but in reality you’re shooting yourself in the foot. 

Without promotion, you reduce your leads, which means you’re limiting your potential buyers. In the hypothetical case that your competitors manage to keep their marketing efforts going, they will have an easier time attracting buyers, which isn’t ideal for you. 

The slower the economy, the more work for businesses to fill their pipeline. When buyers are more cautious about how they spend their money, marketing is more expensive because it requires more time invested in the sales process. 

You don’t need to ditch marketing, you just have to be more judicious about it. Many marketing strategies won’t cost you a single extra dollar, and some of them are technically free and will keep your business competitive and on top of your audience’s minds. 

5 Marketing Strategies to Face Economically Tough Times

1 – Emphasize Value

In a high-cost living scenario, consumers seek products and services that provide tangible value, convenience, and quality for the best price possible. Tailoring your marketing to address these needs will help you stand out in the competitive landscape. 

However, a value-driven approach to your marketing is only possible if you have a clear idea of your business offer. Having a defined offer will make your life easier when pitching to your audience in any marketing channel you may use because they need to understand the benefits of what you’re selling almost immediately to leave little room for doubt that could make them hesitate and consider the competition instead. If you think your offer may need some adjustments, we have a free guide to make it easy.

2 – Don’t Give Up On SEO

SEO is a race for the long haul, but it can be your small business lifesaver if you’re consistent with it. Compared with other marketing methods, SEO is often more cost-effective in the long run. Once a website is optimized and begins ranking well in search engines, the organic (and free) traffic can be especially beneficial for small businesses with limited marketing budgets or in a high-cost-of-living scenario. Although SEO indeed takes time, the hard work will pay off: the efforts you put into SEO will continue to benefit your small business for months and years.

So don’t quit on SEO efforts: verify your website is ranking (in both written and voice search queries) for the keywords that align the most with your goals and what your audience searches for online whenever they need services like yours, update your blog regularly with valuable and helpful information, and keep your Google Business Profile updated. Being easy to find when there are potential clients ready to buy (regardless of the economic situation) is invaluable.

3 – Leverage Referrals

Think about referrals as influencers before they were a thing. Your previous or existing clients can be the best way to promote your business when you’re not getting enough potential buyers. According to a study by Nielsen, nine out of 10 consumers trust referrals from family and friends above any other form of advertising. On top of that, it’s very effective: referrals can have a 3 to 5 times higher conversion rate than other marketing tactics.

Offering a special discount or another attractive incentive to clients who successfully get you referrals is a win-win strategy that will not only get you new potential clients who have a first good impression of you for little effort but also bring your business name back on top of your existing clients’ minds and with an extra push to make them do business with you again, fostering brand loyalty, a competitive advantage that can make your business thrive regardless of the economy.

4 – Rely On Email Marketing

Similar to referrals, if you have a list of previous clients or people who once showed interest in your offering, you have a goldmine on your hands. Email marketing is a tactic that can bring results even when budgets are down: on average, brands can make $42 for every dollar they spend on email marketing. 

The even better news is that you don’t have to allocate much money to your email efforts because you just need a list of emails from people who have bought from you or have shown interest in your business and a dedicated email platform to start a campaign. Many of these platforms offer different tiers of service that suit different budgets, including free tiers. 

However, email marketing has to be done right to succeed. We have other blogs dedicated to this tactic that you can check out to help you get started:

5 – Appear on Podcasts

Even though it seems that everyone has a podcast and could be seen as a saturated channel in 2024, it’s worth adding it to your marketing strategy because it’s still effective: online audio consumption is constantly reaching all-time highs, and projections are indicating that monthly podcast listeners will reach over 1.7 billion by the end of 2024, and 68% of consumers are more likely to consider a product or service if they hear about it in a podcast.

Another advantage of podcasts is that they allow businesses to target specific niches and audiences. Since listeners choose podcasts based on their interests, you can aim to be featured in podcasts with listeners within your target demographic, ensuring a more receptive audience. The podcast industry has a wide variety of genres that your target audience may cater to, from pop culture to finances and true crime; you will definitely find the right podcast for your business to be featured in.

Now, how you want your brand to appear will depend on your goals, the type of podcast, and your personal preferences: You can pitch your appearance as a guest to share your expertise and let people know more about your business or get an advertisement deal offering an exclusive discount to listeners; either way, it is worth investing in being featured in a podcast, even if there is an upfront cost involved. 

Adapt to Thrive

Knowing how to adapt to economic shifts is necessary for any business wanting long-term success. Adapting their marketing strategy is the best way to respond agilely to these changes in an environment that increases competition amongst brands trying to stay relevant when customers are more selective than ever.