How can you sensitively and successfully market in a recession?

The UK is officially in recession for the first time in 11 years, with reports showing the greatest ever recorded drop in gross domestic product (GDP). Understandably, this has raised concerns for many business owners surrounding the long-term health of their businesses.

The recession raises many questions about business growth, the adaptation of sales and marketing at this time. Is it appropriate to continue marketing? How should business owners spend their limited marketing budgets? What lessons can we learn from the last recession?

Tougher competition

The recession causes a decrease in demand, meaning every business transaction is subject to tougher competition.

To give your business a fighting chance, you need to make sure to pedal harder on your ‘marketing machines’, to create the momentum needed to pull through the turmoil and into a new growth cycle. The steeper the decline, the harder you need to pedal to reach the other side.

Despite the virtual world having its limits and challenges, maintaining a strong online presence is crucial to letting prospects and customers know you are still open for business

Use limited budgets wisely

In a recession, almost every budget will be reduced. Spending this limited budget wisely can be the key to making or breaking your business.

Before you commit to any large marketing spend, make sure you ‘test and measure’, to allow yourself to see what works for you and what produces the best return on investment (ROI).

A useful way of demonstrating ROI is through free analytics tools. For example, Google Analytics allows you to see where website visitors are coming from and monitors conversions, to clearly display the source of your sales leads.

plant growing from coins

Lessons learnt from the 2008 recession

COVID-19 has created the first global recession on record and the whole world is facing economic turmoil. We’re in unchartered waters.

Many business owners are ‘pivoting’, adapting their services or products to solve new customer problems. This is exactly what our forefathers did during the Great Depression. However, this time, things are different. The internet allows for more possibilities to ‘pivot’ our business offerings.

Some key things to keep in mind include:

  • Understand where you are now, and where you want to be – carry out regular reviews of your marketing position, so you can remain competitive and put measurable goals into place to monitor the success of your marketing activity.


  • Fire ‘bullets’ before ‘cannonballs’ – segment your time and money into small budget ‘bullets’ and test the impact of these before firing bigger budget ‘cannonballs’ (see Jim Collins ‘Good to great’). This will allow you to see what’s working before you scale up your investment.


  • Cost-cutting has its limits – at some point, you need to speculate to accumulate. It’s essential to keep selling to survive. Marketing is a vital tool for moving sales forward.
  • Look for opportunities – remain optimistic and see every business day as a daring new adventure. Look at the recession as a means of identifying new opportunities. As a business owner, it’s crucial to prepare for these opportunities and make the most of them with kinetic strategies.

A sensitive approach to marketing

It’s crucial not to push COVID in every communication. Be sensitive to the fact that people are facing life-changing impacts as a result of the pandemic.

Successful communication in a recession has to involve using your expertise to help others.

Before you put any new content out into the world, be sure to consider your audience carefully. Ask yourself, will the content resonate with them? Will it solve any of their problems? If not, change the message. That’s when PR and marketing really come into their own.

The impact of COVID needs to be acknowledged, but repeatedly referring to it and exploiting the situation for marketing gain is a sure-fire way of losing trust and customers.

paper with question mark

Where to begin

Start by auditing where you are now. Then, think about what you want to achieve and where you want to be. You can then create a plan which links the two: defining the steps you need to move from point A to point B.

This plan needs to include three key elements: your brand’s DNA, your objectives and your target audience.

Your ‘DNA’ – your vision, mission and values – needs to stand out from all your competitors and can then be used as a robust foundation for all future communications.

Clearly defined objectives can allow you to measure the success of all communication activities and give you the opportunity to make improvements if things aren’t working. Finally, your personas will work as a means of ensuring all communications truly resonate with your target audience.

In summary: plan, test, measure and hone.

For more information on marketing your business in a recession, get in touch with one of the Kinetic team.





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