As someone whose fledgling career came to a grinding halt during the last major recession, any rumblings of an economic downturn really bring out the “anxiety-riddled Millennial” in me. However, with the U.S. economy meeting the technical criteria (two consecutive quarters of slowed growth) and many experts raising the alarms, it’s time to prepare for the very real possibility of a recession in the coming year.

But what we’re not going to do is turn into Chicken Little. Yeah, there’s a lot of uncertainty that both businesses and consumers face during recession, but knee-jerk reactions often come at the expense of your brand long term. 


  • No two recessions are the same in terms of cause, impact and duration.
  • Consumer needs are constantly changing, even more so in times of change.
  • Good marketing can be adapted to overcome these consumer and economic challenges.
Me, right now. For real.

Me, right now. For real.
Photo: AKIF/Vantagenews / AKM-GSI

Instead, let’s try taking a proactive approach to recession marketing with strategies that work – regardless of what the economy decides to do.


Focus on Customer Experience

Recession or no, your customers are your best marketing tool. We live in a feedback economy, meaning that the ways and frequency in which customers voice their opinions have grown exponentially – as have their expectations for what a good customer experience entails. That’s why knowing who your customers are, how they interact with your brand and what to do when they provide feedback (good or bad), is so important.

Not convinced? Research from PWC found that 73% of buyers point to customer experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions – and are willing to pay an average of 13% more for a good customer experience. In a recession, this means more word-of-mouth endorsements, referrals and customer loyalty – all unpaid marketing efforts that improve your bottom line.


Pay Attention to Measurability

While tightening of the purse strings can be expected, cutting marketing efforts across the board is an ineffective and, quite frankly, lazy approach – especially when faced with the sheer amount of data that can be used to prove how effective marketing directly impacts your bottom line.

Take a look at your current campaigns. Does the data you’re collecting tie directly to KPIs or larger strategic objectives? If not, that could be a sign that you’re not collecting the right data, not properly analyzing the data collected, or that the campaign is ineffective. Trimming the fat by turning off campaigns with no measurable ROI is a better way to cut marketing spend without derailing your overall marketing efforts.


Automate and Align Sales and Marketing

There’s a perception that sales only makes money and marketing only spends it, but the reality is that, when their priorities are aligned, marketing can make the job of sales easier.

By integrating with tools that your sales teams are probably already using (like a CRM), you can have a better line of sight into how strangers become leads, become prospects, become customers. From there, you can develop workflows and automate processes that will keep prospects engaged, your brand top-of-mind, and help shorten the sales cycle.


Target Your Content

Creating content can be time consuming and expensive, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important part of your marketing strategy. When every marketing dollar counts, take a look at your overall content strategy.

  • Are you creating content that meets the needs of your core audiences?
  • Is it relevant to the industries you serve?
  • Does it align with your customer’s journey (understanding that recessions tend to extend sales cycles)?
  • Do search trends and volume prove interest in your chosen topics?
  • Are you segmenting your content delivery to ensure it’s reaching who can benefit from it most?


Review Channel Performance

Quite honestly, regularly reviewing channel performance should be happening anyway. But many marketing departments operate under “business as usual” just to stay afloat. If that’s the case, a recession and the change it brings to consumer buying habits, is as good a time as ever to identify which of your efforts should be expanded, optimized or eliminated from your marketing mix.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few common studies that we use to evaluate channel performance.

  • Marketing audits that examine competitors, customers, prospects and the marketplace as a whole, to optimize your multichannel strategy.
  • Website audits to identify issues that may be negatively affecting your user experience, search visibility and digital marketing campaigns.
  • Email marketing audits that look at your overall strategy, as well as opt-in processes, content and messaging, and design.
  • Analytics audits to ensure platforms are properly set up and accurately tracking user behavior, conversions and sales attribution.
  • PPC audits that examine account structure and ad group relevance, ad variations and extensions, and keywords used in your paid campaigns.


Continue to Build Your Brand

Most consumers don’t actually cut spending during a recession. Instead, they try to get more value out of what they buy. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should put your efforts toward competing on price, though. In fact, a Harvard Business Review study found that price cuts and promotions made during the 2008 recession negatively impacted a brand’s perceived value well after the economy recovered.

That’s why continuing to focus on your brand is important. As consumers become more risk-averse, brand-building activities that focus on things like product experience and quality can help build and maintain emotional connection to your brand that can lead to more customer loyalty, referrals and even advertising effectiveness.


Keep Your Marketing Efforts Agile

If there’s a throughline in all of these recommendations, it’s this: Targeting, measurement and optimization are your friends when marketing in a recession. If you lack the in-house resources to constantly monitor the ever-evolving economic landscape and adapt to these changes, consider outsourcing aspects of your marketing to better control costs and tap into specialized expertise.

As your full-service marketing partner, Responsory is committed to delivering measurable results through thick and thin. Contact us to learn more about what you can do now to help minimize the impact of a recession later.