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How to prepare your agency for a recession

By Daniel Aharon, RedFork Marketing Content Director

Wix Partner, RedFork Marketing.

Let’s be real. The world’s in a panic right now. But don’t worry, we’re not here to scare or alarm you. Instead, we want to help you prepare for a recession that’s already begun in some ways.

As you know, COVID-19 is causing a lot of uncertainty in the business world—especially for small businesses, including agencies and freelancers such as yourself.

Many economists believe that a full recession is on the horizon, so we wanted to share what we believe you and your agency can do to strengthen the value of your services, market it effectively to attract more clients, and optimize your workflow.

The goal: Survive. Then Grow!

So, how do you prepare your agency for a recession?

As a freelancer or agency, understanding the value of what you offer is crucial. It’s more important than ever to bring focus to what you actually do and provide.

There’s a reason that Apple continues to be successful year after year. Whether you like them or not, their value is at the forefront of every product they offer and Apple strategically built it this way. Their products are loved by their fanatic customer base because of the simplicity they add to everyday lives. And Apple continues to innovate with that core value in mind.

But value doesn’t matter if you don’t market it properly.

"Almost half of small businesses spend less than two hours per week on marketing efforts.”

Small Businesses Marketing Statistics and Trends, Fundera

Here are 7 tips for simplifying your marketing, so you can strengthen the value you offer and prepare for a recession:

  1. Focus on benefits, not features

  2. Speak about customers, not about yourself

  3. Focus on what you do best

  4. Don’t compete, partner up

  5. Be relevant

  6. Keep it consistent

  7. Create a more streamlined experience

1. Focus on benefits, not features

Every product or service has features and benefits. The features are what they actually offer. The benefits are how they enhance the user’s experience. At the end of day, people care more about what they can do with a product, not all the nuts and bolts that go into it.

Here’s a quick example:

Feature: Phone with 24 hours of battery life.

Benefit: Never worry about charging your phone throughout the day.

See the difference?

You need to reshape the way you think about your services, then rewrite the way you communicate, because customers don’t buy fancy features. They buy something that adds value to their life. As the American economist Theodore Levit would say, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

Apply this:

Use action words when writing about the benefits of your service.

Don’t write: “Website with up to 50 pages.”

Do write: “Get a beautiful website that closes more sales.”

2. Speak about customers, not about yourself

To be blunt, customers don’t care about you. They want to know what you can do for them. When you make it about yourself, your brand comes off as self-centered and uncaring, but if you make some minor messaging changes, you’ll start seeing more leads.

This is best exemplified by your website’s homepage value proposition. And one of our favorite examples is Airbnb’s: “Book unique places to stay and things to do."

Airbnb homepage, “Book unique places to stay and things to do.”
Airbnb homepage, “Book unique places to stay and things to do.”

This value proposition is simple and focuses directly on what their target audience wants. Airbnb knows that their users aren’t looking for run-of-the-mill hotel stays, so they drive value at the forefront of their site (along with the immediate ability to start searching).

Quip homepage, “Simple. Accessible. Enjoyable.”
Quip homepage, “Simple. Accessible. Enjoyable.”

Another example we love is from Quip. All of their messaging (section titles, body copy, etc.) speak directly about the customer and in turn builds trust with the target audience.

Apply this:

Use words like “you” and “yourself” to speak directly to your audience.

For example:

Company-based: “We have the best marketing services in town.”

Customer-based: “Get the best marketing services to grow your business.”

3. Focus on what you do best

In uncertain times, it’s best to cut out any services that aren’t at the core of what you offer. Whether it be website building, SEO services, or marketing, most (if not all) of your time should be spent on pumping out great results—even if that means taking on smaller budget clients. You’ll continue honing your skill and more importantly, gain valuable clients that will speak highly of you to others.

Apply this: Strip down to your essential services so you can focus on what you do best.

4. Don’t compete, partner up

Join a professional community where you can meet other agencies and freelancers. Then work with them to create a partnership that allows both of you to benefit. Let them know you’re in this together and that you’re willing to send clients their way, if they are to do the same for your services.

Tip: We’ve found that this works much better when referrals are rewarded with an ongoing 10% finders fee. This keeps everyone happy if one partner refers more than the other.

In our case, we don’t offer direct SEO and ad services, so we partnered with a local agency named Highforge that we trust to deliver our standards. And vice versa, when their clients are looking for specific website functionality, they reach out to us. This way, we both have each others’ backs in supporting local small businesses.

People working together in an office.

Apply this:

  • Write down the services you are best at.

  • Write down the services you wish you could offer and be great at.

  • Find other agencies and freelancers that can deliver those services at the high standard you set.

5. Be relevant

So you’ve got your newly shaped value-based services. It’s time to let your target audience know. According to CoSchedule’s marketing stats, marketers with a documented strategy are 313% more likely to report success.

Build a marketing strategy that’s relevant and consistent. We can’t stress enough how important this is. Without it, you’ll create confusion that pushes away possible leads.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think where and how they would like to learn about the services you offer.

The idea is to create a marketing bubble. One in which your target audience sees you as THE resource in your industry.

A RedFork Marketing email about mobile-friendly websites.

In our case, we found email to be one of the most relevant marketing tools for our audience. We use email to create powerful, well-designed content that speaks to our client base.

Our email topics include:

  • Why you need an SSL certificate for your site

  • Why your site should be mobile-friendly

  • Why understanding marketing campaigns is important

  • Why you should consider starting a TikTok account

Apply this:

Focus your marketing messaging and efforts to communicate with your target audience in the places (social, email, etc.) they use the most.

6. Keep it consistent

Consistency is just as important as relevancy. The basic idea is ongoing promotion because if you only post or share your services once, your target audience will certainly forget about it.

As mentioned above, you’ll want to find the avenues your audience uses the most and consistently share through them. You want your customers to experience the frequency illusion. The more prospective clients see your brand, the more likely they are to think of you when it comes to purchasing your services. Essentially, you’re nurturing your lead until they convert.

As an example, we recently had a lead reach out after first making contact with us over a year ago. The reason? They received an email that was relevant to their current needs. They’re now an ongoing client with our web and email services.

Apply this:

Make your target audience see you everywhere—all the time. And don’t give up on your strategy after a few weeks or even months. Keep going in order to see results.

7. Create a more streamlined experience

In uncertain times, you need to complete projects faster and more efficiently, because faster turnaround means more time to complete more projects and earn more revenue. Don’t get stuck in old habits (apps or services) just because you’ve been using them for years.

Consider the service you use for CRM, payments, site building, email, etc. and see if there’s a better tool you can utilize instead. In our case, we needed to optimize our web building process. And if we’re being honest, we didn’t like using Wix when we first got our hands on it years ago (that was during the Flash Editor days).

In fact, we’ve found that many other freelancers and agencies still have a misconception of it. But a few years ago Wix made some major upgrades under the hood that took it to the next level.

Since then, it’s been a revelation and we haven’t looked back!

Treasure Kids Academy website homepage built by RedFork.
Treasure Kids Academy website homepage built by RedFork.

This is how Wix allows our services to shine.

With RedFork Express, we harness the power of Wix, along with its user-friendly Editor to remove cumbersome steps that usually require much more time—especially in the design phase.

Through RedFork Blocks (specifically our Web & Ads Block), we provide unlimited updates, page builds, and site expansions to our clients’ websites—all with the purpose of executing great design that helps their business grow.

As a design-focused agency, we not only use Wix to make our designs come to life in a beautiful way, but we’re also able to build and launch sites more seamlessly.

Apply this:

Find and use tools and services that help you deliver great projects in less time.

Putting it all together. Use these tips to take action now.

Whatever may come next, we know that preparing your agency with a new value-based marketing strategy will help you optimize your process, attract more leads, and close more sales.

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

Thomas Jefferson

RedFork Marketing is a marketing and design agency based in Orlando, FL. Founded in 2014, their mission is to help small businesses grow and sustain their communities. They believe that purposeful design combined with powerful marketing is the key to supporting America’s largest business sector.

To learn more about RedFork Marketing and the services they offer, visit their website.