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Some people think we will soon be in a recession, forcing all businesses to figure out how to do marketing in a recession. Some believe we are there already, while others think we still have some time. 

Marketing in a Recession

Updated 2024:

Here’s a summary of the current state of affairs concerning recessions:

Indicators suggesting a possible recession in 2024:

  • Economic slowdown: The Federal Reserve projects U.S. economic growth to be only 1.4% in 2024, significantly lower than previous years.

Indicators suggesting a possible avoidance of recession:

  • Strong labor market: The unemployment rate remains historically low at around 3.7% (as of November 2023).

Overall, the outlook for 2024 remains uncertain. While some indicators point towards a potential recession, others suggest the economy may avoid it.

Looking beyond 2024: Predicting recessions further into the future becomes even more challenging. However, staying informed about economic trends & global events

The Value of Adaptability in Marketing and Business Growth during a Recession

Honestly? From the perspective of marketing in a recession and learning how to market in a recession, it’s irrelevant. Change will always be part of this crazy world. But, here’s the good news: Anytime there is change, there is an opportunity to prepare to be the next version of your best self and business.

There’s a fascinating book called “Small Giants.” It’s about smaller companies that embrace excellence over just growing. It’s a truly inspiring read, and there are several stories where you know that the decision to become more heart-centered, value-centered, and excellent-centered versus growth-centered can save you from hitting rock bottom. 

If you want to learn how to grow a business during a recession, you need to hold these values dear.

Marketing your business is all about the right prioritization. We’ll discuss more on that shortly. On the one hand, it’s also about being prepared for change. People who are often surprised by change are people who did not plan. Change is always here. In fact, being unprepared for change is ludicrous.

Every day, with every conversation, you have the opportunity to be brutally honest with yourself. Or, shed some honesty to the relationships around you, explaining how change happens, and how you will navigate that change. Strangely enough, this also means you must fight your brain, especially since our brain has a recency bias: Everything in front of us becomes a priority.

But the thing is that it’s not typically a reality. So you have to pre-think what you are prioritizing. This means you need to shift to an opportunity orientation, not a problem orientation. 

So, from a prioritization mindset, what should you prioritize instead of chasing after fear?

First things first: No blanket cuts. You can’t just amputate. You have to take a scalpel, like a surgeon. So start thinking about what’s rotting. What is hurting you? What is not serving you? 

Marketing in a Recession Means Preparation

So again, marketing in a recession is about being opportunity-oriented, not problem-oriented. It’s about being clear in your thinking and not letting your emotions create knee-jerk reactions.

If you’re thinking about resource allocation and how to market in a recession, or just when you’re prioritizing what to keep, you need to prioritize more than just keeping your customers happy. You need to make the improvements necessary to keep your customers even happier than before. Customer retention becomes more critical than ever when trying to grow your business in a recession. As such, you must prioritize your relationships when considering any cost-cutting measures. Like any relationship or marriage, customer relationships only stay intact if they stay that way on purpose. 

Don’t lose sight of the fact that there are human beings on the other side of those invoices. Like you, they’re trying to figure out how to grow a business during a recession. You must treat them with the same empathy you expect. Speak with them as people and check in on them when you aren’t trying to sell them something. This does not mean you have to be sunny and smiley always. The truth is, this means you must be human and treat people with dignity and respect by engaging in active listening. You can only learn how to grow a business during a recession if you know how to talk and listen to people. 

It’s even more vital to prioritize your customers, especially the ones worth keeping. Of course, some customers can also seep the joy out of you. 

This may sound harsh, but you may have to ask: Why am I prioritizing this person if they’re killing my joy and my team’s happiness? Prioritize the profitable customers from both a financial and joyful place, and ensure that the profit is a two-way street. In other cases, take a scalpel. Customers cost money. If they drain your resources to serve them, you may be proactive by structuring your operations around profitable customers instead of all customers.

It’s weird to think about marketing in a recession and cutting customers. However, even thinking this way can reorient your business.

On top of that, it can help you feel strong. By doing so, you will be more than capable of asking those questions and dealing with the answers you encounter, no matter what those answers may be.

Change Your Priorities

You need to define growth to learn how to grow a business during a recession.

You can have a company that brings in $100 million or a billion, but who cares? The thing is, you shouldn’t prioritize what you make, but you need to prioritize what you keep. It’s not about prioritizing such an impressive number, but about prioritizing what really matters. When we say you need to prioritize profit, that’s exactly what we mean. What do you ultimately get out of your relationships on the personal, business, and relationship sides?

Apply these lessons to your relationships and team by prioritizing the people that can help make your business successful. Keep those that matter and surgically cut those that don’t. 

Most importantly — have big dreams. All of us should have ambitious goals. What are you currently thinking of? What’s locked inside your head or heart? How can you get there? Who can help you get there? 

By prioritizing your team, you’re saying, “I know we will get through challenging times, and we will dominate super exciting opportunities because of our collective abilities — and not because I’m the smartest person in the room.” 

You can’t learn how to market in a recession without having the right priorities. Even more so, you can’t figure out how to grow a business during a recession unless you get this right. 

Prioritization and Late-Stage Business Deals

Everyone has a sales cycle. Ultimately, if you’re learning how to grow a business in a recession, you must partner with a customer and get them to make a decision. This also means you have to get them to reduce the risk they face by saying yes to you.

But what exactly does this imply for you and your company? Think through the complications that you know saying yes to you might create. Empathize with your customers, and be a guide and leader. You have to do more than convince them; you have to guide them into making great choices for their business.

Learning how to market in a recession — learning how to grow a business during a recession — means prioritizing late-stage deals and being strategic. But, you can’t do it alone: Pre-planning those questions is critical. Telling the truth, asking tough questions, and doing what you need to do to be in partnership inside your selling cycle are more crucial, especially during a recession.

More to the point, you have to prioritize “the easy.”

Again, what does this mean for you and your team? Walk in other people’s shoes. Understand and think critically about their market, and see things from their perspective. What trends are they facing? What triggers them, and what emotions do they have now? How can you create a business model that makes their life easier? 

You know what problems and fears they’re facing. So, your product or service must be uniquely designed to help them face those problems and fears. Of course, that’s the easy part. On top of that, you still need to answer even more critical questions: Who is your ideal buyer? What words can you say to help them recognize this?

Remember, your customers need to hear things from their perspective, not yours. So you’ve got to translate your products or services for them. Make them feel excited and powerful. Other than that, you have to make them believe you are truly genuine in serving them.

Make the Right Cuts To Prioritize Caring for Yourself

Don’t make cuts across the board. If you need to figure out how to market during a recession, don’t panic. What matters in your business are your relationships and your customers. If you’re spending endless energy on something that’s not bearing any fruit, it’s because it will never grow and thrive. It’s vital to find the things you are supporting falsely and cut them. Now. 

Learning how to grow a business during a recession also means taking care of yourself. Create space for yourself to think, so that you can ask the right questions. What’s even more vital is to create relationships and scenarios where you can be emotionally and spiritually supported. Do NOT cut self-care. We all screw this part up, but it’s a game changer. It doesn’t have to be a ton of time! Say, five minutes here and there, so you can be good to yourself, and even something as simple as finding gratitude can be enough. Ultimately, these seemingly trivial self-care activities are better than nothing. 

By doing this for yourself, you can optimize your joy and curiosity. The truth is, not everything has to be complicated. Every second of the day doesn’t have to be complicated. And what’s good about these complications is that sometimes the hard things force growth. Believe it or not, that applies to your business, too. It may be hard to swallow, but marketing in a recession can help you improve

Want to dive deeper into marketing during a recession? Schedule a consultation with a marketing expert today.