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Why Your Business Can’t Afford to Go Dark on Content in an Economic Downturn

Published on Jul 20, 2022

Why Your Business Can’t Afford to Go Dark on Content in an Economic Downturn
studioID Industry Dive

studioID’s VP, Content, Matt McCue underscores why content is more critical than ever in times of economic volatility. 

Are we in for a big banana? That’s the term the President Jimmy Carter White House used instead of “recession” because one sounds terrible and one sounds so darn funny. Hard to say what to call where we are right now—an “unforgiving economy,” “economic volatility,” or full-on banana. However you describe it, it feels like we’re entering the business climate where marketing budgets start to get slashed. 

Call us biased—we are in the business of selling our content services, after all–but research has shown time and again that the brands who cut back too much are poised to leave that recession later and in a worse position than brands who keep their spends steady.

Content remains a critical link between your client’s interest in your brand and sales, which is not something you want to cut now (or ever). 

When we polled our studioID network–heads of content for Fortune 1000 companies and leading B2B brands–about their content budgets for this year, more than half of the respondents said they’ve gone up. Here are five reasons to further underscore why you can’t risk going dark on your content program during these banana times.

📚Related Reading: Content Marketing: The Current Economic Outlook

Your Customers Need It

While volatility might not be good for all companies, it’s good for those in the journalistically driven content businesses because we can create guides to help our audiences navigate economic ups and downs. The pandemic crisis is a great example of how brands were able to pivot to be a light in the dark for their audience, and position their value to help usher them out of volatile times. 

One of the sites we own and run is CFO.com. Imagine you’re a CFO right now. The playbook you’ve been using needs to be altered, replaced by a new one that focuses on “DROOM”—don’t run out of money. If you weren’t a CFO during the 2008 recession, you don’t have that experience to lean on, so you’re looking for insights to help you now. 

That’s where we, as content creators, come in. With our exclusive brand content partner NetSuite, we’re developing a CFO Toolkit for how to operate in this economy, with specific tactics for CFOs to do everything from effectively communicating with their C-Suite, to how to weigh mergers and acquisitions opportunities. While it’s still early in our publishing process, we’re confident this content will resonate. 

As for you, think about the unique pain points your customers and prospects will face during this time. If you fail to provide guidance, you’re leaving your customers out at sea—and you’ll fall off their radar. But if you can swoop in and be the hero with helpful content, you, and your products and services, will be looked to as the escape hatch that leads to a better state of affairs. 

You Can’t Always Control the Business, but You Can Control the Customer Experience

You might lead a stellar content program, but for reasons outside your control and purview, your company’s business is hurting right now. So focus on what you can control–creating a valuable customer experience. Be an ongoing resource for your customers and prospects (see above). 

Research shows that companies who successfully implement a customer experience strategy achieve higher customer satisfaction rates, reduced customer churn, and increased revenues.

Two things will happen in this challenging business climate: it will end, and your audience will remember how you operated during this time. Anything you can do to increase customer satisfaction only helps your business—now and in the future. 

Your Content Program Isn’t a Light Switch–It Shouldn’t Be Turned On and Off

One of the most challenging–and best, depending on how you view it–things about a content program is that it requires a full-time effort. You can’t turn it on and off like a light switch. It’s a garden that needs to be continuously tended. How do we know this? First-hand experience. We at Industry Dive, our parent company, have been in the content business for 10 years, growing our company from three founders into an organization that is on pace to break $100 million in revenue this year. 

How have we done it? By delivering valuable content to our readers every week, day in, and day out.

There is a direct correlation between this full-time effort and increased audience engagement, newsletter subscribers and open rates, and audience growth across our sites and channels.

The same is true for our studioID brand partners. Our clients who run annual programs and publish on a regular cadence have seen their site traffic and audience engagement increase, successfully turning perfect strangers into marketing qualified leads that get nurtured into sales via relevant content. 

I’m a runner so for better and worse I have a running analogy for everything. In this case, think of it like training for a marathon. If you run consistently, you get fitter and that helps make your next run just a little bit easier. Whereas, if you don’t train for months, it becomes much harder just to get back into shape, let alone train at the level you need for a marathon.

Even in a sluggish economy, you’ve got to stay in top content shape, otherwise you’re likely going to have a big hole to climb out of on the other side. 

Your Company Needs It: Good Content is Good Business 

Content is not a nice-to-have; it’s a need-to-have. Research shows that decision-makers will consume anywhere from three to 13 pieces of content before they engage with a salesperson and make a purchasing decision. So we, as content marketers and the pieces we produce, are crucial links in the chain between when a prospect takes an interest in our brand and when they feel compelled to take an action that leads to a sale. In other words, why would anyone want to shut down that critical, high-ROI line in to their audience? 

To riff on what former IBM CEO Thomas J. Watson, Jr. used to say about design: Good content is good business. That’s true in boom years and it’s certainly true now as well. 

And consider: what does a once-flourishing, now gone-dark content program signal to your audience and prospective customers? What does it say when they can no longer count on you for advice? It’s a direct indicator your business isn’t doing so hot, which could stoke up fears that maybe you’re not in the best position to be a steady partner that can help them achieve their goals.

Industry-leading companies know how to position themselves to build on their lead during economic struggles. While other companies struggle, slash marketing budgets, and then struggle more to find new clients, the true leaders get out in front of that spiral and become the aggressors, and as such, can grow their business rather than just “survive.”

A Word of Advice: Use the Time for Key Improvements

One theme we’ve seen over the past few years is that many brands have been focused on hyper-growth, with content programs supporting that high velocity. During times of hyper-growth, that can mean that some of the more foundational, nuts-and-bolts aspects of your content programs can be pushed to the side. That’s understandable.

But, if you have to pump the breaks on some the more extravagant areas of your content program, this can be the perfect time for a content audit. Look for any pieces that have evergreen themes and update them for the times with new research and best practices. This allows you to continue to deliver value to your audiences, even if your budgets don’t allow for as much new content as they once did.

By assessing and refreshing your top performers, you can see a big boost in organic SEO, and compound that success with organic social promotion.

And you can use those insights to invest in more “safe-bet” pieces of content and campaigns that connect directly to your target audience demo. (If that’s something you want to do, we’ve got audience snapshots across 22 industries so you can connect what is on the minds of your readers with your content.) 

If, in the near future, you can tell those who control the budget at your organization that you will be a resource for your brand’s audience during a challenging time, improve the customer experience, strengthen the connection with your customers and prospects, make key improvements on your own channels without having to lean so much on paid avenues, and remain a critical link between your client’s interest in your brand and sales, you’ll make a strong case to continue to invest in content, no matter how bananas these times get.