How To Market Your Business During a Recession

Many U.S. economists predict a recession in the near future. Economists at Wells Fargo & Co. and Deutsche Bank AG agree a recession is likely to happen in mid-2023. Bloomberg Economics predicts a recession by the dawn of 2024, giving it a three-in-four probability.  

Whether or not the economy slides into a mild recession or a depression, you shouldn’t halt your brand marketing. While marketing during a recession may require you to fine-tune your marketing plan to blend in adaptive and innovative ideas, it shouldn’t push you to withdraw your advertising budget. 

And if you get tempted to cut back out of fear due to economic uncertainty, this Henry Ford quote should make you rethink your decision — “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.”

You must understand how marketing in a recession works so that you don’t retreat to knee-jerk approaches during an economic downturn. In this article, we’ll look at recession marketing and share some expert insights to do it right and stay on top. Read on.

How Does a Recession Affect Your Marketing Efforts?

During a recession, there’s a dip in economic activity as consumers prioritize purchases and decrease spending. A drop in consumer spending translates to fewer sales and longer sales cycles for your business products or services. It may prompt you to cut back on your advertising spending because you may not be getting a good return on investment (ROI) as you did before the downturn. 

This happened during the Great Recession of 2008 when the U.S. advertising market declined by 13% as businesses spent less on ads. However, slashing your advertising budget isn’t a gainful strategy, knowing the economy will bounce back after the recession. Instead, you should find more dynamic and innovative marketing strategies to survive a recession or even profit from it, as we discuss below.

6 Tips for Marketing During an Economic Downturn

Recessions have a silver lining you can exploit and come out on top when it’s over. You must be strategic and resilient to capitalize on an economic downturn and not allow the fear of uncertainty to drown out your marketing campaigns. Here are six tips to inform your marketing strategies for recession.

Consider an Adjustment to Your Budget Allocation for Advertising Spend

Reviewing your advertising spending is necessary during a recession. But you should approach it with a reallocation mindset rather than an austerity outlook. When the economy is in decline, many businesses tend to slash their advertising budget, making the ad market less competitive. This is the gap you should cash in on by rechanneling your budget towards the most valuable ad platforms in your industry. 

But how can you assess the most profitable ad channels to invest in from hundreds of available platforms? By leveraging DSP programmatic advertising technology. A demand-side platform (DSP) allows you to automatically buy ad space for your marketing campaigns. During a recession, you can buy some of these upper-crust ad platforms at discounted rates. 

That’s why it’s vital to review your ad budget allocation so that you can redirect money to ad platforms likely to yield a higher marketing ROI. Additionally, you’ll get a higher share of voice, as most of your competitors are likely to curb their marketing spending. You may even find it viable to supplement your advertising budget to buy more premium ad space and reach a bigger audience. 

Hone In On What Type of Customer You Are Targeting

If your recession marketing isn’t highly targeted, you’re throwing already scarce money down the drain. Remember, you’ll be working under tight budget constraints, and your investors will be hesitant about spending money. Thus, you won’t have the luxury of adopting spray and pray marketing techniques even in their mildest form.  

A more result-driven approach would be optimizing your paid search campaigns. Well-optimized paid search campaigns help you target prospective customers with a high buying intent. Marketing to customers who’ve already started the buyer’s journey is more cost-effective and yields more leads. It’s about defining your buyer personas and targeting them with your marketing message.

If you’re utilizing programmatic digital advertising, it’s easier to execute targeted marketing campaigns since programmatic tech helps you place ads on platforms where your target customers are. 

Refine Your Marketing Strategy by Analyzing Your KPIs

Analyzing your marketing key performance indicators (KPIs) helps you set new ones that are more in tune with recession marketing. With a recession, you expect longer sales cycles and lower overall sales. It means you cannot underpin your marketing strategies for recession following old KPIs as you would end up short-selling your entire marketing campaign. 

For instance, your customer acquisition costs will be higher during an economic slump as consumer confidence is typically low. Thus, it would be inexpedient to continue with your former customer acquisition KPIs. 

By fine-tuning your KPIs to match the new economic conditions, you’ll be better placed to framework a winning marketing strategy. From then on, you can track your new KPIs and accurately gauge the success of your marketing campaign on the go. 

Use This as an Opportunity to Increase Product Offerings

Although consumers react to recessions differently subject to their spending power, curbing expenditure is the most prevalent reaction across the board. This means you have to work harder to convince them to overlook their financial uncertainties and purchase your products. The best way to persuade recession-hit consumers is to unveil new product offerings with extra value-adds. 

Investing in product development during an economic downturn gives you two significant advantages.

First, you get to one-up your competitors who cut back on their research and development budget. And if your product innovation generates substantial cost savings or adds more value, you may easily win over value-conscious customers.  

Secondly, new product offerings will supercharge your marketing after the recession eases. When the economy recovers after a downturn, consumers are more willing to spend on new products. An increase in consumer spending power enables you to upsell, cross-sell, and market to new customers more effectively. 

Working on product development during a recession allows you more time to innovate without consumer or competitor pressure. New product offerings help your brand stay top of mind with customers. Even if they don’t purchase during the recession, they’re more likely to buy once their economic hardships alleviate. 

Sell To Your Current Customer Base

Marketing to your existing customers is easier and less costly to execute. This makes sense when operating under a strict budget and when consumers have constricted their spending. Before you consider targeting new customers or increasing your market share, strengthen your stranglehold on your customer base.

Existing customers are your most valuable asset in tough times. You should treasure and keep them happy by upscaling your customer experience quality. For instance, you may choose to design loyalty programs to reward current customers. Such programs may also bring about up-selling or cross-selling opportunities. They can also win you referrals. 

Think about it. If you go over and beyond to satisfy your core customers during a recession, they’ll most likely talk about it to their peers who may not be enjoying the same quality of customer experience. This would earn you free referrals, which are a gold mine in a declining economy. 

Take a Value-Based Marketing Approach

Value-based marketing is essentially practicing what you preach. It goes a long way in winning consumer confidence which normally drops during an economic recession. According to Forbes, the purchasing confidence in high-value items like homes or cars dropped by six points between May and June 2022, driven by recession fears among American consumers.

This means your marketing strategies for recession must focus on establishing trust with your customer base first, before pushing your sales message. And this is where adopting a value-based marketing approach saves the day. Because most consumers cap their spending during a recession, they’ll probe your product’s value more keenly than before. 

Thus, you must expressly communicate the value-adds your product will deliver to ignite their purchase intent. Making your recession marketing campaign customer-centric is all important when marketing to reluctant consumers. After demonstrating your product’s value in your marketing campaign, ensure that the product lives up to your billing.

With a sound strategic approach, it can be possible to achieve growth during a recession.

Can Your Business Grow During an Economic Recession? 

Is recession all bad news, or can you register substantial sales growth and challenge your industry? While many variables come into play, it’s possible to grow your business during a recession. Here are three factors you can monitor during an economic downturn, and play them to your advantage. 

Weak Competition 

As your peers retreat and slash their marketing budgets, do the opposite and fill the gap in the ad market. A good way to start is to develop a unique selling proposition that distinguishes you from your competitors. With less noise in the market, you can reach more target customers and persuade them easily since you’ll face less competition for their attention.

Competitive Vendor Prices 

You’ll likely get better prices for goods and services from your local vendors during an economic downturn. It’s not uncommon for vendors to discount their rates during a recession, especially for bulk buyers. You can take advantage of discounted rates and buy essential and nonperishable materials in bulk. This reduces your cost per unit, giving you long-term cost savings. 

Widening Talent Pool 

With a recession unfortunately often comes unemployment. Often, businesses are forced to lay off workers to weather an economic downturn. With a larger pool of candidates, you can attract top talent to your company. Having talented workers in your team will boost your business growth in the long and short term.

While these three factors aren’t the only determinants, you can achieve substantive business gains if you can capitalize on them. Instead of giving in to recession fears, you can use it as an opportunity to scale your business. Remember, fortune favors the brave.

Should You Increase Your Marketing Spend?

While many businesses cut back their advertising spending during a recession, Harvard Business Review advises against it. You should view your advertising budget as an investment with short and long-term gains rather than an expenditure. This way, even in an economic slowdown, it will make sense to increase your marketing spending because you know it will pay off in the long end. 

Marketing during a recession may feel counterintuitive if you’re thinking short-term. But knowing that recessions aren’t permanent should make you more optimistic about your marketing investment. Even if you don’t gain ground during the downturn, your recession marketing efforts will propel your product marketing after the recession.

Successful Companies That Experienced Growth During a Recession

The Great Recession of 2008 is probably the best benchmark for a ravaging recession in modern times. Companies that thrived during the 2008 economic meltdown are good recession marketing examples for marketers doing case studies. Some of these successful companies include:

  • Netflix 
  • Mailchimp 
  • Lego
  • Airbnb 
  • Warby Parker 
  • Citigroup

These companies leveraged recession marketing, and it worked out, making them globally reputable brands. For instance, Netflix launched its streaming service around the Great Recession, while Airbnb was launched in August 2008. These companies prove that marketing in a recession is viable, and innovative businesses can enjoy exponential growth during economic crises. 

Don’t Halt Your Advertising Efforts

While the financial uncertainties occasioned by a recession may spark fear across all sectors, it’s not for marketers and business owners to buy into the panic. At best, you should review your advertising spending to reallocate the budget to more viable ad platforms or boost it to market your products to intelligently targeted customers. 

Halting your advertising campaigns shouldn’t be an option because it will hurt you during and after the recession. At worst, you may be forced to close shop if your business fails to recover after an economic downturn. Perhaps this iconic marketing quote best sums up recession marketing — “When times are good, you should advertise. When times are bad, you must advertise.”

At AUDIENCEX, we can help you fuse programmatic advertising with your recession marketing strategies so you run more efficient marketing campaigns. With our full-service offerings, expert strategic support, and a fully integrated, unified tech stack with seamless omnichannel media access, we’ll help you reach the right audience faster and cost-effectively to ensure your marketing performs through any economic climate. If you’re looking for help figuring out how to approach your marketing strategy more effectively, feel free to request a free consultation with one of our expert strategists who can tailor solutions to meet your needs.