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Proven marketing strategies to grow during a recession

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

Part of the Recession Resilience Series

In today's uncertain economy, it's more important than ever to have a solid marketing strategy in place. With the right approach, you can keep your business growing even in challenging times. Here are time-tested, proven marketing strategies that will help you grow your business during a recession - and our exclusive look at tools to plan your business growth and evaluate your market competitors.

Diversify your marketing mix

If you're only relying on one or two marketing channels (like print ads or radio), you're missing out on potential customers. During a recession, it's important to diversify your marketing mix and reach people where they are. Consider adding digital marketing to your mix, which is more cost-effective than traditional marketing and can reach a wider audience.

A digital marketing strategy provides excellent value for money

Digital marketing strategies can be tailored to target specific demographics, interests and even locations. It also allows you to track your results so you can see what's working and adjust your tactics as needed.

SEO and Content Marketing Strategies

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) will boost your presence on Google and other search engines, helping you to attract more leads. It's important to invest in SEO even during a recession, as it will help you to stand out from your competitors who may be cutting back on marketing.

Remember E-A-T

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority and Trust. When writing your website content and blog posts, make sure to include these elements to show search engines (and potential customers) that you're an authority in your industry.

By providing valuable information that solves your target audience's problems, you are building trust and authority. This will help you to attract more customers even during a recession.

Solve for your customers

Content marketing is a cost-effective way to reach your target audience. By creating informative blog posts, eBooks, and other resources, you can attract leads and build trust with potential customers.

Creating helpful content that is authentic

The recent Google algorithm is ranking helpful content higher, which can be good news for small businesses. If you focus on creating original content that is helpful and informative, you can improve your chances of ranking high in search results.

Start by interviewing the thought leaders at your organisation, and then develop blog posts, eBooks and other resources that answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) from your target audience.

Build your influence by guest blogging

One way to reach new audiences is to guest blog on popular websites in your industry. This will help you to build your influence and grow your reach. Guest blogging also allows you to include a link back to your website, which can help with SEO.

Organic social media marketing will keep you top of mind

In a recession, people are looking for ways to save money. They're also spending more time at home, which means they're online more often. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn offer a cost-effective way to reach your target audience. You can use social media to build relationships, share helpful content, and drive traffic back to your website.

Paid social media gives you demographic targeting options

In addition to organic social media, you can also use paid social media to reach your target audience. With demographic targeting options, you can specifically target people in your recession-proof market.

Focus on needs-based marketing

In a recession, people are focused on their needs rather than their wants. This means that your marketing efforts should focus on how your product or service meets your customers' needs. For example, if you sell cosmetics, focus on how your products can help people save money on beauty treatments.

Get creative with your budget

You don't have to spend a lot of money to create an effective marketing campaign. Get creative and think outside the traditional advertising methods. There are plenty of free or low-cost marketing tactics you can try, like email, networking, or content marketing.

Focus on your existing customers

Your existing customers are your best source of revenue, so it's important to focus on retention during a recession. Keep them happy with great customer service and look for ways to upsell and cross-sell them on other products and services.

Focus on customer retention

It costs five times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to keep an existing one. So, during a recession, it's important to focus on retaining the customers you already have. Show your appreciation with loyalty programs or exclusive discounts and offers. And make sure your customer service is top-notch—it's one of the most important factors in customer retention.

Focus on your niche

It's important to focus on your niche during a recession, as this is what sets you apart from your competitors. When people are tightening their budgets, they're more likely to choose businesses that specialise in what they need.

Use recession-proof keywords

When people are looking for ways to save money, they're going to use recession-proof keywords in their searches. So, it's important to use these keywords in your marketing materials. Some recession-proof keywords to consider include:

  • affordable

  • value

  • budget-friendly

  • cost effective

Target new markets

A recession could be a good time to target new markets—because your competition may be cutting back on their marketing efforts, you have a chance to reach new customers who may be open to trying something new. Look for market segments that are growing during the recession and focus your efforts there.

Some examples of new markets could be geographic, like a new county, region or country. Or you could target a new demographic, like young adults or seniors. You could also focus on a new psychographic, like people who are health-conscious or environmentally conscious.

Think long-term

A recession is usually followed by a period of growth, so it's important to think long-term when planning your marketing strategy. Even if you must tighten your marketing budget during a recession, make sure you have a plan in place for when the economy improves.

Be prepared to adjust your prices (or offer valuable bonuses)

During a recession, people are more price-sensitive than ever. If you're selling products or services that are discretionary items, be prepared to offer discounts or promotions. If you can't lower your prices, consider adding value-added services to your offerings.

Recommended tool for your marketing strategies: The Ansoff Matrix

The Ansoff Matrix is a tool that can help you to identify opportunities for growth during a recession. It's a straightforward way to map out your options and make strategic decisions about where to focus your marketing efforts.

The matrix is made of 4 quadrants, and each quadrant represents a different growth strategy, each with it's own risk profile. The four quadrants are:

Quadrant 1: Market Penetration

Market penetration means selling more of your existing products or services to your existing markets. An example of market penetration is offering a discount to customers who purchase your product online.

Quadrant II: Market Development

Market development means finding new markets for your existing products or services. This could involve selling to new geographic markets, new customer segments, or new channels.

Quadrant III: Product Development

Product development means creating new products or services for your existing markets. An example could be developing a new flavour of ice cream or a new type of shampoo.

Quadrant IV: Diversification

Diversification means finding new markets for new products or services. This is the riskiest growth strategy, as you're essentially starting from scratch. But if you can pull it off, it can be very rewarding.

By using the Ansoff Matrix, you can evaluate your options and make strategic decisions about where to focus your marketing efforts during a recession.

How to develop a recession-proof marketing plan

No matter what marketing strategies you decide to implement, it's important to have a plan in place. Your recession-proof marketing plan should include your goals, budget, and timeline. This will help you to set goals, track progress, and make sure you're making the most of your marketing budget.

Step 1: Set your recession marketing goals

The first step in developing your recession-proof marketing plan is to set your goals. What do you want to achieve with your marketing efforts? Do you want to increase brand awareness, attract new customers, or boost sales? Once you've decided on your goals, you can start developing your plan.

Step 2: Create a budget

The next step is to create a budget for your recession-proof marketing plan. How much can you afford to spend on marketing? You may need to cut back on other expenses to free up some money for your marketing budget.

Step 3: Develop your timeline

Once you've set your goals and created a budget, it's time to develop your timeline. When do you want to achieve your goals? What milestones do you need to reach along the way? By creating a timeline, you can make sure you're on track to reach your goals.

Step 4: Implement your recession marketing plan

Now it's time to put your recession-proof marketing plan into action. Start implementing the marketing strategies you've selected and track your progress. Make sure to adjust your plan as needed to ensure you're on track to reach your goals.

Stand out from your competition

In any economic climate, but especially during a recession, it's important to differentiate yourself from your competitors. What makes your product or service unique? Why should customers choose you over someone else? When you can answer these questions, you'll be well on your way to standing out from the crowd.

What is competitor analysis?

Competitor analysis is the process of identifying your competitors and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses using tried and tested methods. This information can help you to develop strategies to improve your own business.

How to do a competitor analysis

There are several steps you'll need to take to do a competitor analysis. First, you'll need to identify your competitors.

  • Who are they and what do they offer?

Next, you'll need to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

  • What are they doing well?

  • Where could they improve?

Finally, you'll need to do the same exercise to YOUR OWN business to identify the gaps in your own offer. Their weaknesses are your strengths, your opportunities are their threats and vice versa. Once you understand the relationship between you and your competitors, start developing strategies to improve your own business.

Competitor analysis: a worked example

To help you understand how to do a competitor analysis, let's look at an example. Let's say you own a small business that sells handcrafted jewellery. Your main competitors are large online retailers that sell mass-produced jewellery.

To do a competitor analysis, you would first identify your competitors and then evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Some of their strengths might include a wide selection of products, low prices, and free shipping. Some of their weaknesses might include poor customer service and a lack of unique products.

Now that you understand their strengths and weaknesses, you can develop strategies to improve your own business. For example, you could focus on offering unique jewellery designs, providing excellent customer service, and offering free shipping on orders over a certain amount.

By doing a competitor analysis, you can develop strategies to improve your own business and stand out from the competition.

"Your competitor's weaknesses translate directly into your strengths, but you need to identify them through analysis and leverage them through successful marketing strategies."

Keep your eye on the future

While it's important to focus on immediate needs during a recession, don't lose sight of your long-term goals. Use this time as an opportunity to reassess your business plan and make sure you're positioned for success when the economy turns around again—because it will! By following these proven marketing strategies, you'll weather the storm and come out ahead of the game when the economy improves.

Interested to learn more?

Digital marketing provides a high return on your marketing spend, targeted reach and trackable conversions. When you are ready to recession-proof your business, get in touch at or book in a quick chat at a time that is convenient to you.


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