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Successful Marketing in a Time of Economic Recession

“Here we go again” may be an appropriate comment when it comes to describing the state of the global economy. For many business professionals, the word “recession” will spark a doomsday reaction followed by a bevy of bad decisions. The arrival of a bad economy is not a matter that should be met with procrastination and disinterest from those whose job it is to market a company. But before initiating the “a sky is falling” response, check with those who have experienced challenging economic downturns before and help put the current crisis in perspective.

The reality is that everything that goes up eventually changes direction and plummets back down, and economic boom times are certainly no exception to that rule. To add to the stress of the situation, the vast majority of actions that need to occur to turn things around on a global scale are out of an individual’s control. While each recessionary situation has proven to be different, the one persistent fact of every recession is that each, with the passing of time, will pass. The most important question marketers should be asking is: What should we do now to ensure that our brand not only survives but is in a good position to move ahead aggressively when the turnaround occurs?

The first rule of any reaction to a threat of bad fortune is, do not panic! Many of us have been here before. Review past strategies and tactics that were employed in the past and apply those actions that worked to this current situation. If the organization is new to the recession game, look at what experienced market leaders are doing and learn from them. To coin an often-overused phrase, “this ain’t rocket science.” But securing success in marketing during a recession is different and challenging.

The second most important rule is, don’t overreact and cut the marketing budget to save money. While it is always prudent to evaluate the organization’s cost of doing business, turning off marketing spend will result in increased loss of revenue when every dollar of revenue is critical. Marketing is an art and science that is essential to growing revenue and increasing the market share of a brand against its competitors. The marketing function and its professionals should never strive to turn the practice of increasing revenue to an off position. In a recession, every business function including marketing should be working to optimize its efforts.

Identify those digital and traditional marketing channels that are currently producing the most return on investment (ROI) and focus messages on long-term brand value. As always, personalize content and emphasize the brand’s long-term qualities. Consumers will not be disappearing into a dark hole during a recession. They will still be seeking basic needs and scrutinizing non-essential purchases and will still be out there waiting to hear from favorite brands. It’s a time to narrow the targeted audience and zoom in on current, loyal customers. Gaining a bevy of new customers is always important but an optimized marketing approach in a recession emphasizes retention over acquisition. It is a time to tweak the old “bird-in-hand/two-in-bush” value argument. Improve and even double-down efforts on loyalty programs; the move will pay dividends when good times return. Short-term strategies and tactics should be placed on the back burner.

During a recession, it is imperative to pay attention to the local community of consumers and work to reduce churn, the loss of customers to a competitor. Avoid abandoning loyal fans by unwisely cutting products and services and opening a door for a competitor to enter. Continue efforts to build long-term relationships with your best customers. Reaching the correct listeners, optimizing the quality of engagement, and achieving increased conversions starts with listening to the consumer. Highlight the specifics that are relevant to the listener and tailor communications to draw attention to how the brand delivers a relevant and desired solution.

This is a very good time to investigate and implement automation software to assist in routine and repetitive marketing efforts. Automated scheduling programs can perform mundane daily tasks, lower structured costs, and free-up time to build team goals, evaluate the effectiveness of current and past campaigns, and capitalize on new opportunities.

Surveys from past recessions reveal that investing marketing spend in promoting brand value produces the best results in times of economic challenge. Be positive and optimistic in public communications and feature humanized emotions and humor in messaging. It is a time when brands should be asking customers, ‘how can we help?’