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Now’s the time to grow your reputation, not abandon your marketing

Firms are watching their client bases shrink and, anticipating a battering on their fee income, have legitimate concerns about their futures. Under these pressures, Jason Ball encourages firms to use marketing to their advantage.

5th May 2020
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“Marketing person tells firms to market through a global crisis.” Hardly a surprising angle from me. And yet, history, and numerous studies like this one based on lessons from the 2008-9 recession by Peter Field, show businesses that do so reap the rewards through increased sales and market share both during the downturn and after.

The logic is this: in the midst of a crisis such as the one we find ourselves in, businesses protect their coffers and tend not to buy anything that’s not critical. But, in a recession – which is what we have to look forward to next – companies do still buy. However, they are more risk-averse. So, when they do make an investment, they'll buy from the brands they know and trust, that are distinctive and the most visible in the market. 

The simple truth is that those firms that continue marketing and advertising now will remain visible, and grow their brands, building a lead on rivals who fail to adapt.

There are also plenty of good reasons businesses will still invest in accountancy services during economically tough times: to be guided through the Job Retention Scheme or Bounce Back Loan Scheme application processes, or to figure out how to protect cashflow and reduce overheads, or to create actionable financial forecasts.

Far from being a frivolous or luxurious investment, accountancy firms add value, bring a much-needed third-party perspective and even soften the blow in times of crisis – a message that your marketing should get across.

Switching your marketing strategy from one probably focused on near-term lead generation to one more focused on building reputation, demonstrating empathy and addressing new and emerging pain points requires agility and creativity, as well as extreme care and understanding, but we’re already seeing some strong examples.

Firms Kreston Reeves and ArmstrongWatson, for instance, have created well-written and regularly updated coronavirus advisory hubs to house their related articles, guides, news and insights.

Some firms, to increase cash reserves, will have wiped their marketing and advertising budgets and disappeared from view altogether. I appreciate that, for some, the survival of their firm depends on it – but there are many more who are simply overreacting. 

Others will be pressing on with their usual strategy of generating leads in a bid to ‘growth hack’ their way out of the crisis. But previous recessions have shown us that neither of these approaches will work.

It is those firms that take a more long-term view, and who take advantage of lower-cost advertising and communications opportunities now, that stand to thrive both during and beyond the recession.

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