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4 Essential Strategies for Marketing in Times of Crisis

July 4th, 2023 | 3 min. read

By Kim Kovelle

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In a post-COVID world, local business owners continue to face tough questions about cash flow and marketing efforts. These concerns are no less daunting as a recession looms.

It’s stressful, no doubt. But one fundamental way to lessen your worries is to hone in on your strategy — ideally when times aren’t tough. At Zoe Marketing & Communications, we’ve helped local businesses in metro Detroit and Chicagoland do just that over the past 35+ years.

To help give entrepreneurs an extra edge, we hosted a webinar to tap the expertise of Emmy-winning marketing expert Ryan Dohrn. In that webinar, Coming Out of a Crisis: Marketing and Business Reboot Strategies for Local Business Owners, he shared four essential tips:

  • Maintain your marketing frequency
  • Keep your marketing ‘triple threat’ strong
  • Build your rebound on customer trust
  • Think of marketing as a muscle, not a fat 

These four pointers will give you a better sense of how often to market in times of crisis, what avenues to use — and why it all matters, especially in a crisis.

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1. Maintain your marketing frequency

Frequency is the main ingredient in the marketing “secret sauce,” as Dohrn puts it. Most local regional business owners think of marketing as a strategy to get new business. In reality, marketing is about maintenance.

Maintaining your presence in the community and protecting your turf is crucial. You need to get in front of people. And how do you do it? Ad awareness. Here’s Dohrn’s equation to achieve this:

1 = 10 x 3 x 30

Here’s what this means:

  • 1 customer needs to see ...
  • 10 ads from you in ....
  • 3 different places (Facebook ad, digital ad, email, magazine, etc.) over a ...
  • 30-day period before they decide to do business with you.

Next, this is what winds up happening:

Nielsen Chart


After that first ad, people are 5% more likely to buy from you and 6.2% more aware of you. That builds and builds till the eighth ad, where they peak at being about 15% more likely to buy and 20% more aware. Then? Their interest bottoms out.

Wait — isn’t that a bad thing?

Not at all. It’s how humans are wired: After those eight views, you’re in their minds, and they must do their research to vet you. Then, when they need your service, that’s when you’ll see your “marketing bump” — they’ll become your customer.

The bottom line: Market in multiple ways on multiple days, and do it consistently. Repeat your ad cycle every 30 days to keep this process healthy.

2. Keep your marketing ‘triple threat’ strong

There are three key marketing solutions to get your message across, according to Dohrn:

  • Digital (things like enewsletters, ads, trusted websites like Zoe partners and, etc.)
  • Social media (Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, to name a few common top performers)
  • Traditional media (magazines, TV, radio, newspapers)

So, how should you invest in the trio? That depends on your digital strategy. In his experience with regional businesses, Dohrn advises putting 25% into social, 25% into digital and 50% into traditional. He advocates the lion’s share for traditional media because it drives people’s response to digital and social.

“People learn more about you in a tangible way when they’re involved in a tactile experience,” like reading a magazine, Dohrn explains.

It’s important to note that traditional media may or may not be as effective depending on your industry and budget. But the key takeaway is to have a mixture of methods.

“I wouldn’t pick just one,” Dohrn says. Remember, that variety of different marketing tactics is how you’ll ultimately get your “marketing bump.”

3. Build your rebound on customer trust

One truth about marketing is that you likely won’t immediately get a slew of new business. Why?

First, Dohrn says, is “stranger danger.” People are extra cautious about using new businesses after a challenging situation, such as a pandemic or recession.

The second is personal safety. After a health scare like COVID, for instance, there are real concerns about potentially getting sick, especially if you ask people to enter a business they don’t yet trust. And in economically tough times, they’re more protective of their resources.

Building that trust with new customers takes time, repetition and patience.

The good news, though, is that with past and current customers, those issues dissipate. In particular, Dohrn says, concerns about health risks dip 50% when someone is comfortable with you. Even better: Your probability of selling to an existing customer is 60%-70%.

By comparison, your odds of selling to a prospect are 5%-20%.

Keeping focused on both markets is vital. The more immediate money is in who you know. In the meantime, continue to build trust with prospects for the long haul.

4. Think of marketing as a muscle, not a fat

Be careful what you cut! Marketing is foundational. But often, Dohrn explains, business owners think of marketing like a faucet. When they need it, they flip it on; when they don’t, they flip it off.

What that means, though, is you’re popping in and out of the market — and people’s memories.

A steady investment and consistent marketing plan put you in a much healthier position. Remember, if you want to see those results, it will take 10 different exposures over 30 days.

Leading the pack is always more cost-effective than fighting from the back. And it’s about maintaining your presence, as well.

Next steps for marketing your local business

Marketing is a multi-layered effort — and it takes sustained effort. Whether times are tight or plentiful, a sustained marketing effort will help your business grow in all seasons.

Looking for some help along your marketing journey? Talk to us. Zoe Marketing & Communications has 35+ years of marketing experience in both digital and traditional print choices. We can help you find the mixture that works for you.

Not sure, or still researching your marketing? Steer your business in the right direction by discovering:


Ready to Reach More Customers?

Connect with your best prospects — and drive more conversions — with a custom mix of digital ads, content, email, streaming ads, SEO, creative services and more.

View Zoe's Services

Kim Kovelle

As Zoe Marketing & Communications’ content manager, Kim Kovelle brings nearly 20 years of writing and editing experience in metro Detroit. She has strong roots in community journalism and a knack for making complicated topics make more sense.