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How to propel long-term marketing success in a recession

Success in long-term marketing during a recession means playing the long game: investing in the right channels, and focusing efforts on your customers’ needs.

7 min read

MarketingMarketing Strategy

How to propel long-term marketing success during a recession

Gerd Altmann / Pixabay

With economic uncertainty abound, it’s understandable that marketers have worries. Worries about meeting targets, keeping their resources and reaching customers with limited budgets. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

Instead, this is an opportunity to try new things with reduced growth targets, to build loyalty by leaning into creating helpful content for your customers and to evaluate and determine which efforts truly make a genuine impact towards your organization’s success. 

The key to successful long-term marketing during a recession is to see beyond short-term volatility and to lay the groundwork for long-term goals. That way, when markets bounce back and competitors are scrambling to evolve, you’ll already be ahead of the game. 

How do you do this? By leaning into your top-performing channels, embracing a customer-first marketing approach, experimenting with new solutions and aligning your teams toward common goals.

Rely on your top-performing channels 

Particularly during a recession, budget cuts are inescapable. However, by being strategic, marketers can maximize the spend they do have now to generate higher returns and set themselves up for a strong rebound in the future — even during times of tighter purse strings. 

The not-so-secret secret: Rather than operating with a myopic lens centered only on short-term survival, invest with your long-term marketing goals in mind. Focus efforts on your highest-performing channels to help your business flourish during both the ebbs and flows of the current economy.

So where should you invest when you have limited resources? Go where people are looking for you. Research shows that 93% of online experiences start with a search engine like Google, Yahoo! or Bing. In fact, how you’re showing up through search engines — also known as organic marketing — is most likely your first or second driver of traffic to your website. 

In addition, studies have shown that SEO and organic efforts are the best place to invest a dollar, delivering an impressive $22 return on investment for every dollar spent. 

By investing in SEO and content marketing to increase your organic visibility on search engine results pages — especially while competitors are ignoring organic and merely focusing spend on paid channels — you can set yourself up to see long-term marketing returns that keep delivering beyond the recession. 

Why content and why now? Whereas paid ads stop delivering the minute you turn off the dollars, content continues to deliver long after your initial investment, helping you build a big foundation for when the economy recovers.

Many times, recessions end with the economy bouncing back even stronger than before. By devoting resources to content marketing now, you can set plans in motion to play the long game and surpass the competition. 

However, doing the opposite and chopping funds here instead of investing may lead to long-term loss. 

Embrace a customer-first approach 

In a recession when new customers can be harder to win over, centering efforts around helping and supporting existing customers is key. Focus on who your customers are and how you can provide genuine value to them based on their current needs. Consider their mindset and use that to meet them where they are. 

In the midst of a recession, they may be looking for different information or different opportunities than they normally would. Find out what is important to them through customer feedback — surveys and one-on-one anecdotal feedback are great tools — and leverage those insights to develop helpful content. 

By providing authentic value and developing content that people want to interact with, you can position yourself as a consistent source of useful information and build trust with your customers. Likewise, weaving the voice of the customer throughout your content can strongly impact how customers find — and perceive — your brand. Use your organic search data to create content in a voice that fulfills a genuine need and, in return, customers will likely prioritize your brand and be more eager to return to your product — even long after the recession. 

Not only will you be forging stronger bonds and building brand loyalty with your customers, but Google has begun to reward customer-first marketing. It incentivizes sites to create authentic content for real people with higher ranks on the SERPs.

If those aren’t enough reasons, use your common cents: Investing in content packs a serious efficiency punch in your overall marketing efforts, as this same content will fuel your other marketing channels, like email, paid campaigns or social. 

Using this time to experiment

Lean resources also can birth creativity. With scaled-back growth targets, this is an incredible opportunity to try new things. Just because you’ve done something for years doesn’t mean it’s the best solution for you or your customers or delivers the strongest ROI. 

Think outside the box and start asking yourself: Can we approach this in a new way? Are we best meeting our customers’ needs with our current approach? What channels or content types were not available to us in the past that we can use now? 

This doesn’t have to be a costly exercise either. Experimenting can mean something as simple as trial-and-error with new email subject lines, writing tones or social media videos. Start by brainstorming with your team to devise creative solutions you can leverage during this inventive time. 

Align your team to work towards common goals

To carry out what your organization needs during a downturn, you need to be able to rely on a united front. Always — but especially during a recession — there is no space for gaps in communication between your sales, marketing and customer success teams. This is a pivotal time under which all groups must join forces to best serve your customers. 

If there are any misalignments between teams, leadership is responsible for quickly breaking down barriers and opening the lines of communication. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Establish weekly set-up and wrap-up meetings with department heads to guarantee visibility across teams and make sure priorities are aligned.
  • Set up weekly pipeline reviews with all teams to evaluate successes and opportunities at each stage.
  • Be forthcoming and overly communicative to ensure everyone is briefed on, excited about, and focused on common goals. 

The best part: Like our other strategies, this harmony will continue to be advantageous throughout the recession and beyond. 

Capitalize on opportunity 

Yes, recessions can be nerve-wracking. Yes, uncertainty can be daunting. 

But times like these also are opportunities to reflect on priorities, to evaluate what’s working (and not working) within your organization, and to make meaningful investments to help your company weather the downturn and any other future storms.

If you play your cards right and keep your focus on your customers (see: tried-and-true strategies above), in just a few short months, you could be miles ahead of the pack, leaving customers happier than ever and competitors’ scratching their heads as to how you did it. And that’s playing the long-term marketing game. 


Lindsay Boyajian Hagan is the vice president of Marketing at Conductor. With over 10 years of experience in the B2B SaaS space, Lindsay’s strengths lie in scaling marketing teams and building cross-channel campaign strategies.

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