Marketing During a Recession Can Grow Your Business

When I was a kid, we’d ride our bikes to a pond down the road from our house to go fishing.

In fact, there were two ponds.

The front pond was wide, fairly deep, and had large fish. The challenge was that these fish mostly huddled at the base of a 20-foot rock ledge on the west end of the pond.

Sometimes your lure would snag on the rocks below, and reeling in a fish from that height wasn’t the easiest thing for a 12-year-old boy.

Picture of a pond. Rocky land adjacent

The other pond was a little deeper into the woods. It wasn’t as big but it had a small sandy area near the edge you could easily fish from. This pond had more fish, but these fish were significantly smaller than the big fish in the front pond.

And these small fish were always hungry.

So hungry, in fact, that you didn’t even need to put bait on your hook to catch them. Yes, all you had to do was cast an empty hook and a fish would catch on milliseconds after it hit the water.

It was a blast catching fish like this. There was no waiting, very little work, and just about anyone could catch fish no matter how much fishing experience they had.

But, believe it or not, fishing in the back pond became boring.

It required literally zero skill and anyone could be successful.

The challenge of catching one of the bigger fish in the front pond became more appealing, As we tried and failed, many kids ended up giving up because it just wasn’t as easy as the back pond.

It’s interesting how resistance weeds out the weak.

The same is true in your marketing.

When times are good and consumers are running around with their wallets out trying to find anyone to take their money, it’s easy to feel like your marketing strategy is a winner.

When you have to dig in, realign, and reassess your short-term business goals, it’s important to remember that your marketing strategy is an extremely valuable tool, not an expense, especially during a recession.

What are you going to do, pack up your fishing poles because you now actually have to put forth some effort?

Marketing During A Recession

Your marketing strategy exists to drive traffic through your door. It’s the only tool you have that is hyper-focused on creating more business. You need the most exposure you can get during a recession to broaden your reach.

The last thing you should consider is cutting the very thing that could keep you afloat.

Increasing marketing efforts can have a positive effect on your bottom line. Start investing in digital marketing opportunities like updating your website, and increasing your online advertising can help businesses maintain and grow their market share.

Branding During A Recession

Are you building your brand’s presence? Because if you don’t show up, somebody else will. 

Strengthening your marketing efforts in a recession can mean the difference between you becoming an authority in your niche and fading into the highly competitive bottom of the barrel.

Many of your competitors will cut back their marketing efforts out of fear.

Business owner during a recession with boxes on the counter

This will open the door for you to reposition your brand. If the marketing noise in your niche is quiet, you’ll have a larger share of voice in your niche and become a strong brand in the eyes of your loyal customers.

It’s time to streamline and capitalize on this opportunity.

  1. It’s less noisy – When a recession hits, many businesses will run away scared. These businesses were finding success with sloppy marketing campaigns that work great when there’s a surplus of hungry consumers.
  2. Consumers may be tightening their wallets a bit, but they still have the same problems they had before, and you can solve them.
  3. Remaining visible increases trust and perceived viability – Keeping your business front and center to your customer base and potential customers will have a big impact on your overall long term business goals.

As a popular adage says, “When times are good, you should advertise. When times are bad, you must advertise.”

History Shows Brands Winning Using Marketing During A Recession

Historically, there are brands that have benefited from leaning into their advertising during a recession by maintaining their ad budgets and adjusting their marketing strategies.

  • During the Great Depression, Post, then the leading cereal company, cut back on its advertising budget. Kellogg’s, at this same point, doubled its advertising spending and introduced a new product. As a result, Kellogg’s profits grew by 30% during the Great Depression and became the new category leader.
  • In the early 1970s, a recession was triggered by the energy crisis. The first MPG report issued showed that Toyota was second to Honda. The temptation was for Toyota to drop their ad budget since they were experiencing strong sales, but they resisted and adhered to their long-term marketing strategy. That decision resulted in Toyota becoming the top imported car maker in the US.
  • During the early 1990s recession, McDonald’s, the leader in fast food, dropped its advertising and promotion budget. Pizza Hut and Taco Bell took advantage of this, kept their marketing game on point, and increased their sales by 61% and 40% respectively, while McDonald’s sales declined by 28%.
  • In 2009, during the “great recession”, Amazon continued to innovate with new products, most notably the Kindle, and sales grew by 28%. By the end of the year, Amazon customers were buying more ebooks than printed ones. In the minds of consumers, Amazon was an innovative company that provided a lower-cost reading alternative to cash-strapped consumers, and the rest is history.

Consumer Spending Changes During an Economic Downturn

During an economic downturn, consumer buying habits change. They’re more reserved in how and where they spend their money, but they are still spending money. Purchases are backed by more consideration and less impulse, but generally fall into four different categories:

  • Essentials are necessary for survival or perceived as central to consumer well-being. People will continue to spend money on housing and food, as well as anything else they consider a need.
  • Treats are justified indulgences, and even in hard times people still find the funds to treat themselves. They may cut back, but they aren’t cutting it out completely.
  • Postponables are needed or desired purchases that can be put off for now. Renovations, upgrades, or replacements generally fall into this category.
  • Expendables are perceived as desirable but unnecessary, and these items will get some justifiable scrutiny. If a consumer can deem a purchase unnecessary in an economic downturn, they will not make it.

How Can You Market Effectively in a Recession?

Your product or service is still as valuable in a recession as it is out of one. If your niche falls into the “expendables” category above, you’ve got your work cut out for you. But if your niche falls into any of the other categories, maintaining your marketing budget through a recession may actually increase your leads and sales-but you can’t take it lying down. This is your opportunity to hone your marketing efforts.

Tailor Your Brand Voice to Your Target Audience

Use all the data you have at your disposal to understand your buyer persona and their buying behavior. Look for where you can save your customers some money while catering your marketing message to the value you provide. A recession can be an opportunity for current customers to rediscover your brand, take advantage of a deal, and for prospects to find you.

Focus on Building Trust with Customers and Prospects

This is the time to build trust and provide value with a solid content marketing strategy.

Consumers will spend a considerable amount of time researching before purchasing. When money is tight, the research phase increases.

Work on putting out more content, polishing up your current content, and consider where you could add value to your marketing message.

Build on topics that speak directly to the common issues your product or service solves. Are there common questions consumers ask you? Do you provide value that competitors don’t? Write a blog post about it. Focus on topics that your target audience might be afraid of or things that would be top of mind in the first few months of a new customer hiring you.

Set Clear and Attainable Marketing Goals

Set specific goals for site traffic, engagement, online sales, and lead generation. You should have multiple goals with KPIs that ensure you are on the right track. By doing this, you will know what’s working, what’s not, and how you can adjust.

Focus on Short-Term Incentives

We live in an instant gratification world, and the consumer mindset is driven by short-term ideals as a result. You can capitalize on this by creating some offers that are too good to pass up.

People love getting a good deal, especially in tough times. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should discount prices across the board. Packaging lower cost offerings will get prospects in the door, and once you prove your value upon delivery, you can turn your focus to up-sells.  

Enlighten Your Current Customers

Don’t spend all of your time trying to reach new faces. Your current customer base is full of opportunities to up-sell. As crazy as it sounds, some of your current customers might not even realize you offer products and services beyond what they’ve already purchased. Set up some email campaigns to enlighten your entire customer base on all of the value you offer-even if you think they already know.

Create Evergreen Digital Products

Evergreen content is always relevant, and a great way to provide consistent value without continuous effort. Ebooks, downloadables, online courses, and videos take some time in the front end, but once you have them they are at your disposal to distribute on social media and on your website.

Don’t Overreact to Temporary Downturns

It’s the ebb and flow of an economy. Ride the wave. Give people good things to talk about and continue to provide good products and great customer service. Be a rock in your niche-a business consumers can trust and count on no matter what.

It’s not uncommon for businesses to view their marketing as a luxury instead of a necessity, even though it is a consistent force driving success. In the face of a recession, your strategy needs to evolve.

Cutting your marketing budget will only undermine your ability to sustain through an economic downturn. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and overspent, turn your focus on how you can meet your customers and prospects where they are and align your marketing message to speak to current buying behaviors.

Determine how your products and services can solve common and current pain points in your niche and make sure everybody knows everything you bring to the table. Revisit your marketing goals and align them with what consumers are looking for. Incentivize and upsell to bring further value and awareness to your brand.

A solid marketing strategy is an investment in the success of your business. Make a commitment to yourself and your audience by leveraging this opportunity to grow your business.

You need a unique marketing strategy with short and long term goals focused on the value you bring. We specialize in helping businesses create and manage marketing tools that generate quality leads.