While experts debate whether America is currently in an economic recession, one thing is clear—businesses are adjusting to the new environment. A recent study has found that around 42% of companies, even those with large market shares, are cutting their marketing expenses. Some have found new, creative ways to advertise, while others anticipate bad sales due to marketing budget cuts.
Promoting your business on a budget can take time and effort. The good news is there are plenty of ways to market yourself to customers without spending any (or much) money, even during an economic downturn.
What Happens to Advertising During a Recession?
Recessions bring fear alongside uncertainty in the market as consumers aren’t willing to spend more, and businesses cut costs in anticipation of fewer sales. Consumers face job losses, growing inflation rates, and declining investment balance. All of this ultimately leads to consumers spending less because of warranted fear.
Advertising costs are usually on the chopping block for downsizing businesses. And halting advertising efforts may be a sensible strategy if your average consumer is holding onto their wallet tighter. Still, companies cutting their budgets can take advantage of more creative marketing to attract new business.
By mixing creativity with proactivity, a recession might be an opportunity for your business to grow ahead of its competitors. People aren’t likely to be as loyal to their current brands during a downturn, making this the perfect time to take advantage of changing consumer patterns.
What Sells Best During a Recession?
By nature of the goods or services companies offer, several sectors of the American economy manage well in a recession.
Consumer staples such as food, cleaning supplies, tobacco, automotive parts, baby products, or clothing are just a few things Americans can’t do without, even in an economic downturn. In short, the necessities of life, and even human vices, don’t suffer when recessions come.
Only discretionary areas will see the most significant financial drops. Specific areas that suffer considerably include hospitality, retail, restaurants, tourism, real estate, and manufacturing goods.
How to Advertise During a Recession
Consider creative, cost-effective marketing strategies if the current economic downturn has impacted your business.
Measure & Downsize
If your company is tight on marketing expenses, you may need to cut out the fat of your advertising budget.
Start by writing down all marketing items and advertising spend, like social media ads, guerilla marketing, commercials, and anything else you use to market your business. From there, cut out what hasn't been producing results to slim down the ad budget. Focus your resources on what has created a positive return on investment and spend money on the ad campaigns driving customers to your doors.
Increase Your Online Presence
The Internet has been a boon for many small business owners looking to expand their customer base by giving them a more significant share of voice. Use the many free resources on the Internet to spread the word about your business.
Increase your social media content output to build a robust online community. Focus your marketing strategy on creating quality, consistent content and skip the fluff. Consumers know when they are reading fluff content and tend to skip over it to get to the meat of the content.
While building a reputable social media presence is easier said than done, don't get discouraged if you’re not a social media rockstar overnight. Begin by creating accounts on platforms that cater to your target audiences, like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Check participation metrics often to see if you need to tweak your outreach strategy.
Start a Podcast
Kick marketing up a notch by creating a podcast that highlights your industry. Starting a podcast isn't costly—all you need to purchase is a microphone and hosting. This investment is a low-cost way to build awareness, showcase knowledge and humanize a brand.
Produce High-Quality Content
Speaking of content, start providing high-quality content to get more eyeballs on you and only you. Good content increases your credibility in customers' eyes and can help pull in new leads. Add a blog page to your company’s website with articles that answer common questions or pain points your customers may have.
Email newsletters are another great, cost-effective way to promote your business consistently. Several popular email marketing platforms offer free plans for those wishing to dip their toes into newsletter marketing campaigns. Whatever content you produce, aim to be consistent, collaborative, and committed to growth.
If you’re unable (or unwilling) to take the time and effort to produce content, you can always outsource to freelance platforms like Fiverr or UpWork for much less than hiring a content director.
Update Email Signatures
If you already send emails to customers, updating business signatures is an easy, usually free, marketing method. Add a short sentence with a call to action to stir potential customers or clients to act. You could also link to your company’s website, social media channels, or calendar for scheduled calls.
Use Credit Card Rewards
Owning a business is an expense. After all, you have to spend money to make money. As a savvy business owner, you are likely using a business credit card for purchases. You may have accumulated many reward points that can help you get more back from necessary marketing spending.
It’s time to cash in those points. Many credit card brands offer rewards like cashback payments, travel rewards, gift cards, and more that can help reduce operating costs for your business.
dash.fi offers an unlimited virtual card for ad spending with no pre-funding or top-up fees. The dash.fi card also provides up to 3% cash back for the first two months after signing up, giving you the most bang for your buck.
Ask for Referrals
Customers trust recommendations they receive from sources they know. Getting recommendations from family, friends, or online review sites can significantly impact consumer behavior.
Dig into your files for records of good customer experiences and ask them for positive reviews or recommendations. Reach out with a phone call, email, handwritten note, or holiday card. Go the extra mile in the short term to make your request thoughtful, and happy customers are more likely to return the favor with potential clients over time.
It’s never a wrong time to show clients, whether new or old, that you appreciate their business and the chance to earn and keep it.
The Final Word
There’s no doubt that many people post-COVID are struggling to make ends meet as economic conditions worsen, and many businesses are feeling the pain as well. If your small business can’t afford a massive marketing budget during the ongoing recession, stretch your money further and increase sales growth with these and other promotional ideas.