Weathering the storm: how will you innovate in the face of a recession?

24 min read by Charles Craik 19 Dec 2022

With experts predicting a financial slow-down in the face of rising costs for businesses and households across the globe, the race is on to find more effective tactics around marketing and customer engagement.

How does technology help, and what innovations could you make to bring new value and efficiency to your marketing and sales?

We expanded on our ideas around nurturing relationships as well as fulfilling promises, and talked to our friends at Klaviyo, Gorgias and Lead Forensics to get an idea of the bigger picture for better marketing in 2023.

Customer retention over acquisition?

There continues to be a notable and justifiable shift in focus from ‘Acquire!’ to ‘Nurture!’, with brands working harder to make the most of the customers they already have. Acquisition should never go away, but retaining and pitching to current customers will always be more cost-effective than trying to win over new ones.

CRM and CX/customer journey tech and analytics are key in supporting your efforts to nurture and retain customers, turning data into meaningful and impactful decisions that either accelerate the buying journey or increase customer value.

It’s really important to create a coordinated, joined-up approach to customer messaging and experience, so how do we approach this?

Leverage automation

It’s easy to think that automation, while saving you and your team a lot of time, will make communications with customers seem cold, impersonal and perhaps a little sleazy. Nobody enjoys a generic message.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you have the appropriate CRM and CX platform, you’ll have vital insights into your customers’ experience and where they are on their journey. This means you can set triggers for your automated messages to coincide with certain circumstances and tailor them to be entirely relevant to what customers are doing, feeling and thinking at the time. Automation also creates many opportunities for measurement, so CMOs can more easily prove the results of their marketing efforts to the board.

Automation will be most useful at peak times of the year. A good example is January, when ecommerce brands usually see a huge spike in emails and chat messages around orders and returns – placing an additional burden on teams at this time. It’s also worth noting that, typically, ⅓ of emails from customers are received pre-sale, with ⅔ being post-sale, emphasising the importance of effective after-sales care or support. So, what does a good use of automation look like?

Case study: Loop Earplugs

Loop Earplugs was scaling very quickly as a business, and were having trouble matching customer expectations when it came to the time taken to respond and resolve incoming queries (around 1,500 tickets per week). As customer experience was vital to a company selling a product that is by its nature very personal, this was a problem they needed to solve fast.

They knew they needed more than a customer help facility, and turned to CRM platform Gorgias to handle all their interactions through email, chat and SMS. Gorgias were able to quickly identify where Loop could make quick gains in streamlining their messages with customers, chiefly by targeting the “Where is my order?” segment, which was responsible for 17% of their ticket volume.

Introducing an order tracking chat flow deflected 5% of enquiries through that channel, with total “Where is my order?” enquiries falling to 5% of their ticket volume. By analysing visitor data and FAQs, Gorgias were also able to turn 25% of all chat interactions into automated pre-sales flows that answered customer questions and created a satisfying experience. This resulted in a significant 43% increase in revenue since automation was introduced.

Make A.I. your friend (but don’t rely on it entirely)

A key factor in the Loop Earplugs example above was the role played by machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) in live chat. Chat is now an important part of engagement with customers, and Gorgias built up several valuable chat flows by drawing on both analytics data on their client’s reviews page as well as analogue customer language from chat logs. Combining these data in live chat created naturally-flowing, automated AI-driven responses.

Using a CRM platform to answer customer questions pre-purchase is this way creates a very smooth journey and satisfied post-purchase customers. They think, “That was great. I’ll buy again.”

“The machine learning side of messaging is pretty accurate – around 88% – and we can respond in 95 different languages. Other platforms will claim to use AI, but usually this means having to spend long hours training it on phrases, terms and words. Gorgias does this automatically.”

Neil Forrest, Gorgias

Did you know?

  • Email makes up 80% of the messages managed on Gorgias. It’s still, by a long way, the predominant channel for customer engagement.
  • Live chat accounts for 10% of message volume, with social media and SMS coming third. However, the latter is the fastest growing of all the channels.

Personalisation at scale

It’s no use setting up triggered messages and automated responses unless you are creating messages that customers will strongly relate to. We all know that an emotional motive will bring about a closer relationship with customers and create more sales than messages purely based on opportunities or features.

The first stage must always be research into what people are thinking and feeling. It’s a good idea to start with a broad view across the landscape of your business – what’s going on in the wider sector or industry? What are the general current trends and pain points? But, more importantly, what are customers saying and doing?

“First and foremost, focus on reducing your reliance on third party data, and instead gather first party data: ask your customers to provide the information that you’ll use to tailor your comms…in other words: less stalking, more talking!”

Kerri Barnes, Klaviyo

You can glean a goldmine of data from reviews pages (on your own website or on Amazon, for both you and your competitors), Reddit threads, social media comments and more. And all of this will be direct, from the horse’s mouth, showing you what people are thinking about your product or service, as well as the exact language or terminology they are using around their issues.

In the current economic climate, you may also need to establish yourself differently, or at least re-frame how your brand sits in the public eye with reference to a tightening of purse strings in the face of rising costs. You’ll need to adjust your messaging to be relevant to your audience’s needs, and this can only come about through research into what they are saying and thinking.

You’ll need to consider: what can we do to create messages that target customers at the right time, about the right topic? The most straightforward approach is to create emails and messages triggered by certain behaviours – for example, visiting a particular web page, reading a certain article or using certain phrases in a chat message – that speak directly to what they are likely thinking about or want to do at that point in their customer journey.

Further to this you can use tagging and segmentation in your CRM and email marketing software to ensure you continue to send relevant messages to people according to their circumstances, preference and stage in their experience. And the best way to do this is to have your tech stack completely integrated, so you have an all-encompassing picture of your customer and their priorities. Which brings us nicely onto…

How can you best leverage a customer service platform?

An effective customer service platform’s biggest strength is in its integrations. Gorgias’s Neil Forrest says: “We encourage a CMO to integrate all their channels with their customer service platform. This means you can increase efficiency and personalise messages very quickly.”

Neil’s top tip

Set up a 2-way integration between Gorgias and Klaviyo. This means you’ll be able to pull all the data from Klaviyo and use this to directly market to people according to a defined experience or purchase.

You’ll also be able to exclude them from certain automated messages for offers, sales or review requests – particularly useful if they have a complaint or issue you are in the process of addressing.

These capabilities all derive from the full list of data available for you to use for segmentation, something you can do to several layers, if desired. For example, you may wish to set up a tag for VIP customers who in the last 30 days have raised a ticket with negative sentiment. When a subscriber or known customer is tagged in this way, you can set up rules that notify the team to deal with the issue, send reply messages (automatically or not) and other response options.

But be careful not to use this kind of tagging excessively with Facebook messages, as you risk getting your business account disabled. Facebook is known to frown at consistently automated messaging.

The case for acquisition and how to leverage your owned media

While the general focus has so far been on nurturing your existing customers, no business should shy away entirely from trying to acquire new ones. Yes, it does cost more, but you’re not only paying to attract prospects – you’re also maintaining (and growing) your presence in the marketplace. If you continue to advertise while your competitors cut back on their marketing, you’ll gain ground over them in terms of visibility. When we bounce back out of recession, you’ll be at the forefront of people’s minds, while others will not.

If you are driving traffic to your website through social media posts, PR campaigns and paid ads, what can you do to ensure you get the most return on your investment? We posed a few ‘leading’ questions to our friends at Lead Forensics to get the inside track on optimising your promotional activity.

How can CMOs capitalise on website visits?

Lilah Waite, CMO at Lead Forensics, says: “A website visit is a strong buying signal, so knowing who’s browsing your site is a valuable superpower. Unfortunately, only about 2% of them will make an enquiry, leaving 98% of your web traffic untapped.

“With website visitor tracking, using tools like Lead Forensics, you can identify that other 98% of website visitors, giving your marketing team a whole new source of data for their campaigns – data on prospects that are already familiar with your company and in the market for what you offer.”

Marketing teams can also make use of information like the pages on your site that your visitors have looked at – and where they clicked through from to get to your site – to further personalise campaigns and deliver a message that truly resonates.

How can CMOs maximise their chances of converting a lead through multi-channel communication?

“The best way to convert a lead through multi-channel communication will depend on a number of factors, such as the nature of your product, the target audience and the overall marketing strategy.”

Lilah Waite, Lead Forensics

Bearing that in mind, here are some tips Lilah recommends:

  • Make use of the additional data multi-channel marketing offers – collating your data from a range of channels offers a higher quality of data and a clearer picture of your prospect, which should be used to your advantage.
  • Investing time in customer research will pay off in the long run – the better understanding you have of your target audience, the better positioned you are to deliver a campaign that resonates with them.
  • Personalise your messaging for each customer persona you target to reflect their pain points and priorities.
  • Be consistent in your messaging and calls to action across all channels – be clear on what you want your prospects to do and what you want them to know about your business.

How can CMOs easily identify the leads worth pursuing?

We’ve come a long way from simply chasing up every contact in the same way. The beauty of some modern marketing tools like Lead Forensics is that CMOs can invest in an automated lead-scoring system. This will assign a score to each lead based on factors such as their demographics, behaviour and engagement level. The higher the score, the more likely it is that the lead is ready to buy. This ensures CMOs and their teams are clear on which leads to prioritise.

What does 2023 look like for digital lead acquisition and conversion in a difficult landscape?

2023 will be a challenge. The economy is likely to be weaker, and competition for leads will be fierce. Companies will need to be more creative and focused in their marketing and lead generation efforts to succeed and make the most of their spending. The race will be on to get a greater understanding of the target audience and tailor marketing to speak to their actions, goals and pain points, as outlined above. And you’ll have to make more of an effort to stand out, differentiate and be memorable, too.

Lead tracking technology now has a big part to play in capitalising on your marketing activity. When you spend precious budget on campaigns in an effort to drive traffic to your website, you’re dependent on new prospects filling out a form. With website visitor tracking software such as Lead Forensics, you get visibility of every individual who’s visited your website, not just the minority who leave their details, giving you a much larger pool of data for you to follow up with.

How can you integrate your tech stack to lose fewer leads and maximise the value of the ones you convert?

Website visitor tracking software like Lead Forensics enables you to make the most of every website visit, find contact details for decision-makers and feed opportunities directly into your CRM. This makes it easy to prospect to them – within GDPR guidelines, of course – and add them into your marketing campaigns.

In tune with Gorgias and Klaviyo’s views on integration, the Lead Forensics software also integrates with a variety of platforms, including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, HubSpot and Zapier among others. This makes data handling efficient and pain-free – and a valuable resource when you consider the potential to increase leads, conversions and revenue thanks to the insights gained.

What are brands most concerned about right now?

When it comes to customer acquisition (yes, it’s still worth investing in advertising) and retention during a period of financial stress, businesses have several questions. Kerri Barnes was happy to share the most common issues affecting business decisions across their client base:

Should they discount?

It’s an understandable reaction to seeing a drop in market share, or a competitor trying to undercut you on price. Where you land on this may well depend on your sector, service, products and profitability, but in general a rush to discount can result in a race to the bottom that nobody wins in the long term.

What opportunities are there?

With so much innovation in technology, automation, time saving, targeting and segmentation, data analytics – and in fact catching people at just the right time – there is potentially a rich seam of opportunities waiting to be exploited. The key to success in nurturing your audience is in relevancy in all your messages.

How do we foster brand loyalty over the cheapest brands?

If price is your only weapon, then you have a serious problem when it comes to your brand’s values, standards and personality. Part of nurturing your customer base is building your brand up to be something people buy into, above the products or services you offer. Couple this with undeniable quality, and you’ll earn that loyalty.

How can we use word of mouth to acquire new customers?

Word of mouth is possibly the most potent weapon in your marketing arsenal. People will place far more weight on a recommendation from a friend or trusted contact than a paid ad, or even an online review. Encourage happy customers to talk about their experience with you on social media or in reviews and become brand advocates, or perhaps initiate a referral scheme.

What does your landscape currently look like?

It’s worth looking into your email marketing to see how much of your income results from your activity in that channel. For example, according to Klaviyo, typically 30% of their clients’ income is generated by email.

But you should also consider the ‘nudge’ effect that comes from email and message marketing. With the best tracking (and will) in the world, not all revenue is attributable to specific campaigns, as not every purchase results from a direct click-through from your message. Thanks to your activity, many customers will buy later after a search on your brand or product. Monitor your sales around your campaigns and see exactly where the spikes happen in relation to your emails, social posts and SMS broadcasts.

How much more could you be making with emails that have been carefully crafted for purpose, worded to appeal to their pain points, arranged as a series to provide value and nurture the relationship between them and your brand – and triggered or timed according to customer behaviours?

In conclusion…

With every brand and marketing professional moving their focus towards customer retention and delivering a great customer experience, you should be looking very closely at what your customers are always asking and talking about. Get a complete overview across all your channels – not just email but also live chat, SMS, social media messages and comments – so you don’t leave out any potentially valuable threads or conversations.

These insights and data will deliver information that has the potential to improve not only your email and message marketing but also your on-page content and even the product or service itself.

And a comprehensive customer service platform, linked to your marketing CRM, will be able to connect all your channels under one user-friendly dashboard or interface. Integrations are, without a doubt, the biggest innovation and the most powerful tool you can bring into your marketing toolbox – enabling you and your team to think smarter and more personally about how you re-engage and nurture the customers likely to like you most (and spend most money).

The result being you see more sales, and more revenue, and can justify every penny spent on marketing to your board.

Use technology and our expertise to ride out the storm

Looking to develop your brand’s value proposition, redefine how you engage with customers across every channel and point on their buying journey, and create better ways to nurture and retain your existing customer base? And ultimately drive better ROI?

Speak to our CRM specialists, who’ll be able to assess where you stand currently and suggest strategies for improving your relationship with customers – both old and new.

The longer you wait, the further behind and less prepared you’ll be when the recession really bites.

Let's talk strategy
Drag Read Watch