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Many businesses are going to start feeling the squeeze. For some, the first instinct is to focus on retaining customers. However, it’s far safer to focus on growth. Here, we break down the key corner stones of a digital growth strategy.

Apple. Nike. Kellogg’s.

These are the brands with enough weight behind them to withstand a period of economic downturn. When the wind blows, these giants stand steady.

However, not everyone can prop themselves up by size alone. Most brands need a plan of action.

As customers find themselves with less money in their pockets, cutbacks will start to happen. Here, we look at how agencies can help clients keep their revenue stable during a recession.

Do you know your customer types?
Before we start discussing stability, we need to look at the key customer types present during a recession:


  • People that will keep buying from your client. They will make their cutbacks elsewhere.


  • People that you can expect to keep buying but may stop. Core customer groups typically shrink when a recession peaks.


  • People that enjoy the offering but are struggling to justify it. During a recession, a best-case scenario would see these customers drop by a third; a worst-case scenario would see them leave all together.


  • It’s unlikely your client has even close to 25% of the market share. Even if the market is shrinking, there are always new buyers.

So, why focus on growth?

Your client may have bought into the idea that it’s cheaper to keep a customer than win a new one, but this doesn’t consider a recession. If a customer simply cannot afford the offering, there’s no clever email marketing strategy that will make them stay.

Brands need agencies that balance increased churn with new customers. How do you become that agency? You adopt a three-faced digital presence.

The three faces of a digital presence
Three things make up a brand’s digital presence: what they rank for, the ads they put out, and the experience their website provides.

Sure, there’s organic social and an email personality, but most clients can’t survive on these alone. They need a website that’s visible and converts well.

How should you view the digital presence?
Three faces, three mediums:

  • Organic rankings (SEO)
  • Reaching people through ads (Paid Media)
  • Website conversions (CRO)

Each medium plays a vital role in the customer journey. SEO and Paid Media get you seen, CRO makes them buy.

When planning your client’s growth strategy, use the below customer journey framework. Here, we’ll pretend our client sells cleaning products.

  • Stage one – The pain arrives. The user googles their pain. For example, ‘how do I get stains out of a wool carpet?’ Here, SEO and Paid work to ensure your client is the one answering the question.
  • Stage two – The pain grows. The user has had enough of not having the right tool for the job. For example, home cleaning remedies just aren’t cutting it anymore. Paid ads, key product pages organically ranking, and on-site trust signals all increase the likelihood of you winning this new customer.
  • Stage three – Time to buy. The user knows roughly what they want. For example, ‘wool carpet cleaning spray’.

For this stage, you need to be on the first page of Google (either through SEO or Paid Media) and your website needs to make converting a breeze.

Important note: A customer can enter at any of these stages. You need to be ready to nurture from stage one to stage three, or be there for those jumping straight into stage three.

How do I apply this to my clients?
First, break down each customer journey into these stages. Use the outline below to understand where resources need to be allocated.

  • Stage one: The pain arrives.

List the top five pains that lead to someone discovering your client’s offering. Then, think of as many questions around these pains as possible (keyword research tools are your friend).

This is your long-tail content strategy, where you build your brand and get in front of new customers.

  • Stage two: The pain grows.

Look at your key products that solve the listed pains. Split them into two categories:

  1. Ranks well organically
  2. Doesn’t rank well organically

For products that don’t rank well organically, allocate SEO resources to improve their rankings while plugging the gap with Paid Media. For products that rank well organically, use conversion rates to identify areas to improve.

  • Stage three: Time to buy.

Time to ramp up those conversion rates. Not just on-site CRO, but also ensure ad copy converts.

Rank the products by how well they convert and then do the following:

  • Look for trends – do the high-conversion products have a greater number of reviews? Are low-conversion ads all relying on the same benefit?
  • Test on your low-conversion products – test until you find a winning outcome, then scale.
  • Be bold – experiment with ad copy that’s different to the norm.

This is tried and tested
By focusing on growth during a COVID-19 downturn, ellaOne achieved an incredible 1,361% increase in organic traffic, along with:

  • 91% increase in transactions
  • 96% increase in clicks
  • Paid ads conversions doubled

(Read the full ellaOne case study here).

By breaking down the customer journey into three key stages, it made it easier for ellaOne to grow their digital presence.

With a three-faced digital presence, you can help your clients grow while their competitors shrink. You’ve got nothing to lose!