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Focus on Building Trust During Periods of Economic Uncertainty

Biz Strategy & Growth

It’s no secret that, as we transition into 2023, there’s a likely recession on the horizon. 

For business owners, in particular, there’s real trepidation around what this could mean for their sustainability and bottom line. And I am no exception.

I saw a great post on Facebook today, though, made by a friend of mine. It did a great job of explaining the need for patience and clear-headedness during periods like the one we’re facing. 

The post states, “This is our time to shine. If you’re new at business or planning to grow, the next 3 years will be a great time for that. [But] it might look a bit different.”

“Different” is okay. “Different” I can handle. 

As I read this passage, I felt a sense of calm wash over me as some of the recession-based worry I hadn’t realized I was carrying melted away. As I’ve had more time to sit with it, I’ve realized that Lauren is totally right. There’s a time for panic, and this definitely isn’t it. 

I’ve identified, as recently as the last couple of weeks, that “agency” is a core value of mine. I don’t like feeling out of control. And while, yes, there are definitely things going on in the world and the economy right now that I cannot fix (as much as I think I can when I’m lying awake, worrying about them at 2am), I am the one-and-only CEO of my business. That means there are plenty of actions I can take to ensure my business continues to grow the way I want it to.

And I would like to, if I can in some small way, help you to get clarity around some of the things you might want to focus on in your own business. This is the time for us, as small business owners, to be doubling down on the things we have agency over. Which, in my small sliver of the world, is brands and websites

So, in the next few paragraphs, I’m going to try to continue Lauren’s work of helping you see past the buzzwords and the urgency and the panic to find some opportunities to thrive in the coming year.

7 Brand Opportunities for 2023

  1. Communicate with empathy.You’ve likely already seen brands that are leaning hard into the “recession-proof your business” language, preying on our worries about what is to come and what it means for our businesses. I’ve seen it, too, and I can feel my shoulders tensing just thinking about it. You wanna know how to stand out as these messages become more and more frequent? Just don’t do it. Don’t buy into the myth that you have to poke and agitate someone’s pain points until they just can’t take it anymore and have to buy what you’re selling. I’m a copywriter, and I can hear OG copywriters rolling over in their graves. Don’t agitate the problem? Whaattt?!?!?!?Hear me out, though. I’m not saying we shouldn’t address our clients’ pain points in our copy and messaging. I’m simply saying you don’t need to give people a metaphorical sunburn and then metaphorically slap them over and over. It’s smart to make sure that prospective clients understand that you know what they are going through and that you have a solution to help them solve it. But there’s a way to communicate that message with empathy. The takeaway: Think about the key messages you are currently using to sell your core offers. Are you acknowledging people’s challenges? Or are you possibly sending them into an existential crisis over them?
  2. Share stronger, more targeted messaging.As I mentioned, your clients and prospective clients want to know that you get them. That you understand what they’re dealing with, you’ve ideally walked in their shoes, and you have tailored your solution specifically for them, based on that experience and information. Especially during periods of economic uncertainty, you don’t want to add any additional hurdles to the right people finding your solutions.To reduce the friction in your buying process and customer journey, you want to leave absolutely no trace of doubt in your people’s minds about whether they are the right fit to work with you. What does this mean? Now is not the time to be shy about niching down your messaging. I’m a big believer that the best way to appeal to your ideal clients is to repel the wrong ones. Let your freak flag fly, so to speak. 
  • Are you an unabashedly ridiculous dog mom? (Hi, it’s me.) Stop trying to hide it! 
  • Do you have a hot take that you wholeheartedly believe is correct? Share it freely!
  • Have you had life experiences you don’t think anyone else on Earth can relate to? I bet you’re wrong! 

Create a sense of community with your brand and your content that helps people decide whether you are for them. Or not. If the answer is no, you don’t want them taking up valuable space in your email list or Facebook friends, anyway. 

You can do this in your messaging, but also in your design. Think about the images you’re sharing. The colors and fonts they’re using. Are they helping the right people see themselves in your brand?

The takeaway: Do a quick audit of your brand assets (social accounts, website, emails, etc.) and ask yourself – How easy is it for my perfect-fit people to identify themselves in the content I’m sharing?

3. Communicate your value, not your price.

Even when there’s not an imminent recession, people get tripped up on this one. 

The best brands help people understand the value or the transformation in what they are purchasing rather than focusing on deliverables and cost. 

Do some people want to know every single blessed thing they are buying when they throw down their hard-earned cash? Yep! So, provide those details. But don’t bury the lede. 

You’re going to get more aligned, more engaged clients if you start from a message that outlines a clear, compelling value proposition. It’s what I (and many other copywriters) like to call the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) statement. If I’m in the “Before” right now, what will my “After” look like once I’ve worked with you?

We’re all suckers for stories, so helping folks to visualize what a better future could look like for them (whether that’s more money, freedom, adventure, ease, etc.), makes the actual cost of the purchase less important. Maybe not less important, but surely easier to integrate into their strategic plans.

The takeaway: Wherever you’re converting people (your website, a sales page, Instagram, etc.), think about whether your message is focused on transformation or deliverables. If the latter, look for opportunities to paint a picture of what their post-purchase future could look like.

4. Build trust with consistency.

If you’ve been in the entrepreneurship or online business space for any period of time, you’ve likely heard marketing and business strategists proclaiming loudly the benefits of consistency in your visibility and outreach measures. And that regularity is never more needed that during times when you are looking to build trust. 

Think about any relationship you ever had that was built on trust. Did that person stand you up when you had plans? Did they forget your birthday? Did their attitude toward you change every time you saw them? Probably not. 

Trust is built on consistency. And during economic uncertainty, trust is more vital than visibility. So, while it’d be great for your brand to be on every social platform out there plus be featured on 20 podcasts a month and speaking in 2 masterminds a week, you’re going to build a stronger, more aligned audience if you focus on the depth of your relationships versus the breadth of your network. 

Give people something to look forward to with your biweekly newsletter. Or your monthly podcast. Hold up your end of the bargain and nurture your die-hards with content that will help them progress in their know-like-trust journey with you.

The takeaway: Pick your focus areas and create a plan that will allow you to show up consistently for your audience.

5. Double-down on testimonials.

Speaking of trust, let’s talk about the power of testimonials or user-generated content. Studies have shown that people trust what their neighbors, peers, friends, family, and even influencers say about products and services exponentially more than messages shared by brands. 

So, while the next year is sure to be a busy one for all of us business owners, now is not the time to take your foot off the gas when it comes to harvesting testimonials you can use to show the power of your offer. 

One of the best ways I’ve found to gather these accolades is to build into my process. With each of my clients, I have a launch call at the end of their project. So, at the tail end of that call, I simply ask them a few open-ended questions about the process, the deliverables, what it was like working with me. 

Try not to go in hot and just ask “for a testimonial.” Give them some direction about the things you’re looking for information about. And, of course, always be open to receiving constructive feedback in these cases, too. It never hurts to find out how to make your offer even better for the clients that come next.

The takeaway: Build into your offboarding process a plan to collect quotes (and video!) from all your satisfied clients. The plaster this social proof everywhere you can (e.g., on social, your website, your email signature, etc.). Get creative!

6. Keep tabs on your customers.

Especially during periods of economic uncertainty, things can change in the blink of an eye. So what was at the very top of your clients’ and prospects’ list of challenges one month might have fallen all the way to number 20 a few weeks later. 

Try not to become complacent and assume you know exactly what your audience is thinking and what they need today based on what you knew about them in the past. Keep tabs on them by conducting informal, semi-regular market research to take get the pulse on what’s going on with them and how your offer jives (or doesn’t) with their current realities. 

You can do this a lot of different ways.

  • Casually ask existing clients what’s going on in their lives and businesses. 
  • Pay close attention to what your prospects tell you on sales calls. 
  • Add a brief (ideally just one or two questions) survey to your thank you pages. 
  • Do an AMA (ask me anything) session on Instagram. 
  • Interview a client or colleague on your podcast or YouTube. 

The takeaway: Keep your ear to the ground and listen for changes in what your clients and prospects are thinking, feeling, and needing. Be flexible if that changes over time, and consider how that might impact your offer.

7. Invest in the things that matter.

Things that are worth investing in today are still going to be worth investing in when (if?) we’re knee-deep in a recession. The key is to determine what your goals are and invest heavily in those strategic areas. 

If your goal revolves around major growth, I’d invite you to gut check your brand and website. Are they giving off the right vibes to enable you to attract your people and evolve your business to its next level? 

If so, awesome. Maybe your spending should be focused more around team building or running paid ads. 

If not, it might be worth revisiting your 2023 budget to allocate for some upgrades to your brand and website. These two items are arguably a couple of the most important assets for businesses that are ready for their next level of growth. But they can also be two of the biggest investments. Which is why, I’d wager, that so many people have trouble anteing up to enhance their brand. It can seem frivolous and like a nice to have. 

And while that is possibly true in the early stages of your business, you’ll be hard pressed to level up in a sustainable way without some of the trappings that go along with that level of success. You’ve got to look the part. 

Takeaway: If you’re not sure whether you’re ready for an upgrade in 2023, check out my masterclass + workbook that will help you break down whether it’s time to pony up to improve your brand and website. There’s a video, a workbook with journal prompts, and an assessment. Once you’ve had a chance to dig in, give me a shout if I can answer any questions. 

Here’s to a profitable and peaceful 2023 for all of us!