Marketing during a recession: The best digital defense is a cost-effective offense

It's already happening. Depending on your business size and industry, you’re either still finding it challenging to recruit and retain employees or preparing for an impending recession.

Digital Experiences

During every recession, business leaders and marketers find themselves in the uncomfortable position of not knowing how a downturn may affect their business. 

The most common scenario is that organizations start to indiscriminately cut costs, specifically around web development, marketing, and communications. 

What will happen if I slash my marketing budget during a recession? 

Cutting digital activities will:

  • Decrease brand awareness
  • Reduce your ranking on the SERP page
  • Lower customer loyalty

The bottom line: If you choose to decrease your budget, your competition will fill the void and increase their market share while you are on the sidelines. 

Visibility is still going to be vital. Take a step back and focus on how you can reduce, reuse, or recycle your assets into new materials. If you're going to cut costs, do it strategically. Give your team time to take stock of existing assets and review customer data. 

How will a recession impact your customers?

Understanding your customer is even more valuable when times are tight. If their shopping habits have changed, your messaging and strategies must've changed.

Ask yourself:

  • Is my core audience the most vulnerable during a recession?
  • Are they only going to buy what they need? 
  • Do they need my product/service?
  • Are they bargain hunting or coupon clipping?
  • Are they less indulgent?
  • Are they reducing their spending habits but trying to maintain a standard of living?
  • Does my product/service help maintain that standard of living?
  • Or are they, for the most part, unaffected by a recession?

Once you understand your audience, you'll realize where your investments are most worthwhile. Start first with your existing customer base — they are priority number one. Determine how you can help THEM during this time. Then, empathize with their changing needs and wants. 

Help them, help you, help them…

Try creating a tiered pricing model

A tiered pricing model helps loyal fans save a few bucks and gives customers the opportunity to maintain a sense of consistency — and keep working with your business. If you offer at least three options and add additional perks for high-priced models, you can sell products at various costs while generating maximum revenue. This is a case where operations and marketing working closely makes the magic happen. Once you have organizational buy-in, bring it to life with new digital experiences by updating your pricing page and creating dedicated landing pages for each tier.

Considerate developing a loyalty, discount, or referral program

It's easier and cheaper to market to loyal customers because they trust your brand, and customer retention is five times more economical than winning new ones. There are many ways to incentivize customers. You could include discounts, offering money back, giving away freebies, and more. Make sure you create a loyalty program that aligns with your business offerings. Rewards should appeal directly to your consumers.

Try using email marketing to stay in touch (and check-in)

Take care of loyal customers, and they'll take care of your business. Create a simple email marketing plan. Choose 2-3 segments that will make a big difference without introducing too much complexity. Consider surveying how they feel, ask them for their opinion on products, give them exclusive deals, and showcase value-add opportunities.

Top 3 cost-effective, evergreen digital strategies

Although many consumers are price sensitive and some businesses are pulling back on expenditures, your brand must make smart investments to retain its position in the market. Change is good and is a must when it comes to digital assets during a recession. Rethinking your market and content strategy is necessary. However, avoid making any significant changes, such as rebranding. Big changes may confuse customers or give the illusion that your company isn't doing well.

1. Evolve materials for extended buying cycles

Lead times will increase as consumers take longer to research products and services. Be sure you give your audience  the right information to make a decision. Evolve or reuse sales materials directly on your website to increase engagement rates. Take advantage of this linger time by investing in conversion rate optimization tactics. Then, changes to your website will re-index on Google offering a spike in traffic and an increase in user retention. 

2. Continue to invest in organic SEO strategies 

Search engine optimization tactics still offer the biggest bang for your buck. Local SEO packs will help you increase calls, leads, and foot traffic at the lowest price if your customer base relies on a specific geographical area. Technical, on-page, and SERP content can be optimized to appeal to your audiences' changing needs — and search queries. SEO best practices will continue to ensure your brand is — at a bare minimum — still visible and ranking with or above competitors. 

3. Outsource digital activities 

Outsourcing your digital, web, and marketing activities can help fill the gap if you're facing a hiring freeze, and it's often more cost-effective than you might think. Not only will you enjoy more financial stability with an outsourced agency, but you'll also benefit from the years of experience they bring to the table. In addition, agencies can serve as go-to experts across a wide range of subjects, and any good partner will be flexible enough to shift services to respond to your changing needs.

While a recession might prove challenging, investing in digital activities during an economic downturn will keep revenue flowing, help spur growth, and maintain market share. With the right marketing strategy, your business can come out of a recession successfully. Recessions bring opportunities to build client relationships. Remember, the customer journey doesn't end with the sale.


If you are interested building a consistent, evergreen digital strategy for 2023, please reach out to one of our pros to schedule a consultation. We can help you determine which activities will be most effective for your business.

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