How to market your business responsibly during the cost-of-living crisis

At times of financial uncertainty, such as with the current cost-of-living crisis, which is expected to get worse before it gets better, both consumers and businesses tend to behave differently, with changes to how they spend their money and what their financial priorities are.

For businesses, there are many considerations too. Your own running costs and how to keep money coming into the company when people are being much more cautious with spending will be a major concern. These may be areas in which decisions need to be made to try and ensure the business is as profitable as possible during this challenging period of time.

When it comes to marketing and the messages that you’re giving to customer and potential customers, the choices that you make can have an impact on your reputation and sentiment towards your brand as well as on the revenue you generate. We’ve compiled some tips on how to help ensure you market responsibly at such a time as this.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes to help with empathetic marketing

It’s likely that you’ll already have marketing personas or have a really good idea of who your main customer segments are, along with the kind of things they value and their attitudes to shopping for products or services like yours. If your primary audience is consumers, you might want to ask yourself how the current financial situation is likely to be affecting them and their priorities. This isn’t just a practical consideration though, you’ll also need to take into account how they might be feeling as well as how they have changed or are planning to change their spending habits.

Speaking to real customers, whether through a survey or on the phone/in person, can also really help you to better understand them and their motivations/barriers to sale at this time.

If your audience is other businesses, the chances are that they are also feeling the pinch of the current situation and would value empathy from you in how you market to them. Everyone wants to feel seen and understood, whether your audience is B2B or B2C.

Be authentic

While everyone likes to feel noticed and understood, no one likes to feel patronised, or that a business is making a token gesture to look good, but doesn’t really mean it. It’s important that brands are authentic in their marketing communications and practice what they preach.

For example, a brand who clearly cares about their staff is more likely to get positive sentiment from customers too, and the same is very much true in reverse. Think back to some of the ‘tone deaf’ examples of brands during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, such as Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin’s advice to his staff to go and work at a supermarket during the first UK lockdown and telling them that they might not be paid properly whilst furloughed. Sports Direct were also criticised at a similar time for deciding that they were a self-professed ‘essential’ retailer despite this not being in line with government guidelines. A U-turn was quick to follow but both businesses suffered further damage to their reputation and public perception as a result.

Value-focused messaging

For many retailers, empathetic and authentic messaging could well be based around value for money, savings or discounts and ways to help customers make the most of their budget. This can be more difficult for so called ‘luxury’ brands, but isn’t impossible. M&S food manage to find a good balance with their Dine-in deals offering value alongside their range of what is generally considered on the luxury end of the food market. Let’s be honest, their incredible food photography and descriptions don’t exactly hurt either!

Image source: https://www.marksandspencer.com/c/food-to-order/dine-in#intid=foodandwine_dlp_circlenav_dine-in

Be transparent

Acknowledging that times are tough for everyone is one thing, but something that customers often appreciate is some transparency if you do have to increase prices, for example. German-based fashion brand, The Slow Label, break down their product costs in detail for customers, so they can see why the brand charges what they do. They have a price breakdown on every product page, in fact, so that customers can see exactly what makes up the price they pay for any given garment.

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