How (and Why) to Market in a Recession

Daisy Rogozinsky
By Daisy Rogozinsky
October 25, 2022 · 8 min read

As the recession that economists have been predicting looms ever closer, professionals throughout every industry are forced to think about how to react and plan ahead. As a business owner, you may be nervous about how you’ll keep your company afloat, wondering what costs and operations you can cut back on and which are crucial to keep moving forward.

Unfortunately, one key business function that often finds itself on the chopping block during times of economic downturn is marketing. But the truth is that marketing is an absolutely essential activity for any business, and this doesn’t change when times are tough. 

Instead of doing away with marketing entirely, the smarter approach is to revisit and adjust your marketing strategy in order to help your business weather the anticipated recession. This article explores how best to do so.

The State of the Economy Going Into 2023

There is no denying that COVID-19 did a number on the world economy, with most of us continuing to feel the effects in our day-to-day lives. This, along with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has had a lasting effect on global markets, supply chains, and financial conditions. Inflation rates are skyrocketing and interest rates are rising with them, with the cost of living going up for most. 

In addition, ongoing talks about an inevitable recession have many individuals concerned, as memories of the 2008 financial crisis remind us of the challenges of a global economic downturn. And while a recession hasn’t come in the first half of 2022, the possibility of economic activity stalling in late 2022 or early 2023 is seen as high

Why You Can’t Afford to Stop Marketing

The possibility of a recession is enough to send anybody into a panic, especially business owners whose livelihoods depend on their ability to maintain a consistent revenue. But allowing this panic to lead to a rash decision such as stopping marketing activities would be a mistake, and there are a few reasons why.

Time and again, studies show that marketing pays off, and stopping it is a quick way to lose money. Brands that have cut marketing spending have experienced a 16% loss in sales after one year and a 25% loss after two. In contrast, businesses that continue to market during a recession have seen an increase of nearly 5% in market share as competition in the market decreases.

So rather than losing all of the progress you’ve made in your efforts toward creating brand recognition and growing an audience, a recession offers an opportunity to actually keep building. Because people don’t stop spending money in a recession; they just start spending it differently, more likely to look for deals and spend with brands they’re loyal to. This suggests that the right strategic marketing decisions can help you see positive ROI on marketing, even as the economy slows down.

How to Shift Your Marketing Strategy 

So the marketing department (even if it’s just a department of one!) isn’t going anywhere. But how can you change your marketing strategy to set yourself up for success as 2022 comes to a close and a potential recession approaches?

Maximizing Your Budget

The first aspect of a recession marketing strategy is thinking about how to stretch your marketing budget so that you’re able to continue marketing activities without spending as much. Below, we explore some effective strategies for doing so.

Revisit your Goals 

Now is a perfect time for an audit of your marketing strategy and marketing goals. If you haven’t revisited them in a while, take a look at your marketing goals and think about whether or not they are still a fit for where your organization is currently. Remember that during a recession, it’s smart to focus on marketing outcomes such as retaining existing customers and building brand loyalty.

Look at Analytics 

Looking at data and determining how successful past marketing campaigns have been is an important way to understand what works for you and what doesn’t. During a recession, historically unsuccessful or otherwise risky campaigns and activities can be cut down or eliminated. 

Do It Yourself 

If you’re currently spending a lot of your marketing budget paying agencies or other outside parties to help you with tasks like content creation, see if you can do it yourself instead. For example, online video makers like Promo allow you to quickly and easily create professional videos while spending only a fraction of the cost of a video agency.

Repurpose Content 

If you aren’t able to create as much content during a recession, consider looking back on past content to see what you can repurpose and use again. As long as you don’t constantly repost the same thing again and again, you’ll find your audience won’t take any issue with it. 

Create Evergreen Content 

When it comes to the content that you create moving forward, aim to be as evergreen as possible so that it is perpetually relevant and can be reused again and again. This means that rather than creating more occasion- and trend-based content, try to address topics that are timeless and universal. 

Be Flexible 

During a recession, it’s incredibly important to maintain a flexible, agile approach. If it turns out that something isn’t working, cut it quickly and try something else instead rather than continuing to spend on it.

Look to the Long Term 

Remember that no recession is forever. While there may be an economic slowdown now, the economy will eventually swing back up. Even if you’ll see a dip in revenue in the coming years, aim to position yourself for economic recovery once it’s possible.

Changing Your Messaging

The next step to retooling your marketing strategy for a recession is to think about how you’ll change your messaging and how you communicate with your audience. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Update your Customer Personas 

In order to market to potential customers, it’s important to understand who they are. So as the recession transforms consumer behavior, revisit your customer personas. Ask yourself how your target customer is affected by the recession. How will their spending habits change? Do they have any new problems you can solve? 

Offer Discounts and Sales

Remember that it isn’t just your income that will be affected by the recession. Your customer’s budgets are being hit, too, meaning that discounts and deals are more effective than ever as a way to encourage sales.

Show Empathy

During a difficult time like a recession, people crave honest, authentic connections more than ever. When it comes to your storytelling, lean into being empathetic and human to show your audience that you care.

Video is an especially effective tool for this as it allows you to use tools like music and show real, human faces in order to create connections and engage emotions.

Build Trust

As we’ve mentioned above, customer loyalty is key during a recession, as people’s willingness to take risks on new brands decreases. This means that trust should be a key focus of recession marketing. Focus on showing your audience that you (and your product or service) are reliable and consistent. 

Again, video is a great tool for this as customer testimonials and product demos offer firsthand proof that your business does what it promises to.

Focus on your Value Proposition 

As people pull back on “wants” spending to save their money for the things they really need, a recession isn’t the best time to market using factors like FOMO, exclusivity, or lifestyle. Instead, focus on helping your customer understand why they genuinely need your product or service.

Get Creative

If your business typically sells something considered non-essential, it may be a bit more challenging for you to market during a recession. But creativity can help you through this challenge. For example, if your business is a nail salon, you can encourage people to treat themselves as a pick-me-up after a tough day. 

Watch What You Say

Remember that a recession is a sensitive time, so it’s especially important to be careful not to unintentionally say something that may offend somebody. In order to be aware of the implications of your messaging, it’s recommended to monitor current events and trending topics. This will help you avoid accidentally making an insensitive comment with bad timing.

Keep Calm and Market On

It’s natural to feel anxious about the possibility of a recession in the next few months. As a small business owner, money is often tight, making the prospect of an economic slowdown feel scary. But planning ahead can help you weather the storm, allowing you to continue marketing your business so that you don’t take too many steps backward. In fact, you may even find yourself growing your market share. 

About the author

Daisy Rogozinsky

Daisy Rogozinsky loves to use the written word to educate, entertain, and tell stories. If she's not writing content, she's writing poetry, music, and screenplays.

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