Ben Franklin originally said, “In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” And while that is definitely true, we’d add one more: the threat of a recession is always looming.

That may sound cynical, but contrary to popular opinion, there are actually a lot of opportunities during a recession. In fact, many brands have seen massive growth during times of economic crisis. Brands you use every day, like Groupon, WhatsApp, and Uber, all got their start during the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

This comprehensive guide sets you up to be one of those brands. We’ll talk about what it actually means when you get handed a mandate from above to “tighten your belts” or “do more with less.” And we’ll give you actionable strategies and tactics to position yourself to weather the storm and come out even stronger if and when the dreaded R-word shows up.


Marketing is Essential During a Recession

Marketing is Essential During a Recession

It’s tempting to cut back on your marketing budget, but data shows that is actually not a good idea. According to a report from Analytic Partners, if you cut back on marketing spend during a recession, you risk your competitors swooping in and stealing your business.

Content marketing is used by 79 percent of companies to generate quality leads, and there’s no more important time than a recession to bring in those leads. Having a sound content marketing strategy helps prepare you for any eventuality.

So, what marketing strategies make sense during a recession? Here are five ways to make your content marketing plan recession-proof:

First of All, Don’t Panic!

A recession is not the time for knee-jerk decisions. But it’s also not the time to just “ride it out.” That’s not a real strategy for long-term survival.

Don’t make any big decisions right away. Recessions typically result in an erosion of brand trust. Content consistent content creation keeps your customers confident in your company. (It also maintains that top-of-mind awareness.)

Remember, slow and steady wins the race. There’s no need to pull anything out of your existing content calendar at first. Now may be the perfect time to increase your content output. Even if it doesn’t feel like the right move during economic uncertainty, the numbers prove that it’s a useful strategy:

  • 66 percent of the top marketers use content marketing to nurture their audience
  • During the last recession, 60 percent of brands that increased their media investments saw improvements in ROI
  • 50 percent of brands that increased their marketing spend during the last recession saw improvements to ROI in back-to-back years
  • Brands that increased their paid advertising during the last recession had a 17 percent increase in their incremental sales
  • On the other hand, marketers who cut ad spend during the recession risked losing up to 15 percent of their revenue

The added bonus to a recession is that you should be able to stretch your dollar further with advertising costs going down.

And speaking of getting more for your money, on the whole, content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing but brings in 3x as many leads. In fact, companies with blogs generate 67 percent more monthly leads than those without.

If you don’t already have a blog, you might consider adding one as part of your strategy for weathering the recession.

Agile Marketing is Your Friend

Agile Marketing is Your Friend

Now more than ever, it’s important to pay attention to what the data (and your audience) is telling you. Plan to abandon the plan when sticking to the plan is no longer a good plan.

What we learned during the pandemic

In 2021, we learned something new nearly every day about living life in a post-pandemic world. That led to a lot of confusing messaging.

So much so that during this time, 99 percent of marketers who had ever pivoted their content plan did. In fact, 38 percent of them pivoted three times. Of that 99 percent, roughly 78 percent said it was for the best and made for an extremely effective strategy.

How do you apply that principle now? By not ignoring the elephant in the room, Pretending you’re not in a recession won’t make the recession disappear.

Your customers’ buying habits will change, how they consume their content will change, and even where they consume content will change. Take a good look at what the data tells you, and then adjust your approach accordingly.

Now would be an excellent time to take a hard look at your current content strategy. Rip it down to the studs and see what you’ve got.

  • How has your audience changed?
  • Where should you be reaching them?
  • And what is it that they want to hear?

What about increasing sales?

But what if your primary concern is, “How do I increase sales during a recession?”

The answer is (once again) slow and steady wins the race (surprise!). Focusing your content on discounts and promotions may yield some short-term increase in revenue but not long-term results. Brand messaging outperforms performance messaging 80 percent of the time.

Remember, a recession erodes trust. Focus your content on brand-building and values-based messaging to restore and maintain that trust with your audience. Trust and credibility go hand-in-hand. A recent study showed:

  • 78 percent of B2B consumers prioritize the content source’s trustworthiness.
  • Quality content is the most important factor for generating credibility.

So, be flexible with your strategy, but don’t sacrifice quality.

Don’t Underestimate Social Media

Email marketing, with a $36 return on each $1 spent, might still be king– but social media allows you to bring together many of the ideas we’ve already discussed. While it shouldn’t be your only strategy, social media can be a powerful component of your overall content marketing plan.

Use your social media to deliver values-based messaging, engage with your audience, and make real-time course corrections through times of uncertainty.

Let your data tell you which platform(s) your audience uses, and plan your content accordingly. Look for exciting ways to engage your audience, and think out of the box!

Love it or hate it, TikTok is the most used social platform on average. It has the highest engagement rate of all social media platforms at 4.25 percent. And not only that, TikTok has a potential ad reach of 1.218 billion users aged 18 and above. That’s 24.65 percent of all active social media users.

That’s a lot of people watching video content. And brands are noticing.

In 2021, language learning platform Duolingo built a TikTok account featuring its mascot, Duo the Owl. Thanks to a couple of viral videos, the account now enjoys 8.5 million followers.

There’s no denying that video is here to stay. It’s still one of the top marketing trends heading into 2024. And 96 percent of marketers say video is crucial to their content marketing strategy.

With 75 percent of B2B buyers saying they use social media to make purchasing decisions, what kind of decision will they make when they land on your social media?

Watch Your Competitors (They’re Watching You!)

Watch Your Competitors (They’re Watching You!)

It’s always essential to have one eye on the competition, but it’s especially so during times of economic strife. Your competitors can be your biggest teachers! And rest assured, they’re watching you as closely as you’re watching them.

Pulling back on your marketing during a recession doesn’t just signal to your audience that your company might be in trouble; it also signals to your competition. When you create a gap, your competitors will be all too happy to fill it.

Don’t believe us?

Cutting your marketing budget could cost you business in the short and long term. Research shows that if a similarly-sized business doubles its marketing spend – where you do not – you stand to lose up to 15 percent of your business to that company.

Conversely, if you apply what we’ve already discussed, you could potentially capitalize on your competitors’ churn during an economic downturn.

Continue to be a consistent presence with your content. Take advantage of lower advertising costs and increase your marketing spend. Identify where your competition has created a vacuum and be poised to fill that space.

Where to Cut Back vs. Where to Spend More

Understanding that content marketing has a longer-term impact on ROI means now would be the time to assess which of your current campaigns are not delivering.

Mastering marketing analytics is easier than ever, thanks to the available analytics tools. And during a recession, information is going to be the most powerful asset you have. Using data-driven decision-making puts you in a position to not just survive but thrive:

  • Data-driven marketing can increase brand awareness by 50 percent
  • Data-driven marketing is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.4 percent from 2021-2028
  • Personalization through data-driven marketing can increase customer engagement by 74 percent


What you should do

Focus your attention on customer experience and behavior to deliver targeted, personalized messaging that increases customer trust and loyalty.

When you look at the data, you’ll also be able to make more informed decisions about where you might be wasting money in your advertising budget.

Ask yourself, what are your “nice-to-haves”? Are you focusing too much on TOFU and not enough on BOFU? Or vice versa? Where are some areas where you could invest more money and see a greater ROI?

For starters, if you want to save money, you should focus on your existing customer base. It’s long been established that acquiring a new customer can cost 5x as much than retaining an existing one. But did you know that the success rate of selling to an existing customer is 60-70 percent? (Versus 5-20 percent for a new customer.)

If you attempt to reach new customers, consider taking a more targeted approach and shifting to an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy.

Yet again, this is a longer play, but the reward can be much higher. You’ll exponentially increase your revenue potential by focusing on identifying – and marketing specifically to – larger, enterprise-level accounts.

Having a smaller, more targeted audience means you can also personalize your content for the high touch these accounts expect. Use your agile marketing plan to respond to their pain points in real time. (Certainly, they’ll have many pain points during a recession!)

You may also want to identify which products or services you could bundle together and promote synergistically, commonly known as the Halo Effect.

When you have products or services with similar messaging or benefits, the advertising dollars you spend on one can also carry over to the other. In fact, data shows that the halo can contribute to half of your overall marketing impact, but when executed effectively, it can increase ROI by up to 10x.

Now would also be a good time to try mixing up your formats and/or diversifying your marketing strategy. Using a multi-channel approach can increase your advertising impact by 35 percent.

Finally, it may sound counterintuitive if you’re working with a reduced team, but outsourcing your content creation entirely can sometimes be more cost-effective than producing everything in-house.

Why Outsourcing Your Content is Never a Bad Idea

Why Outsourcing Your Content is Never a Bad Idea

In its 2023 Annual Report, the Content Marketing Institute found that half of all content marketers say one person is responsible for all types of content. Sixty-seven percent of marketers surveyed stated that over the last year, their content teams have been asked to do more with fewer resources.

Despite being asked to do more with less, successful content marketers outsource at least some of their content marketing activities — and not just the most successful ones. Fifty percent of all marketers surveyed for the report responded that they utilized outsourcing.

We’ve already established that maintaining a consistent presence with your content is imperative during a recession. Outsourcing your content may feel like an unnecessary luxury during an economic downturn, but here’s why it’s not:

  • Adding more work to an already lean team makes consistent content output difficult
  • Content creation may stretch your existing team’s skill set and, therefore, require more edits and rewrites (which take up valuable time) than hiring professional content creators
  • Outsourcing certain content marketing activities to specialists means you can fill your content gaps without taking on new, full-time team members

Your content should utilize a multi-channel approach. However, not everyone on your team will be experts in different platforms. Unless you have a large, dedicated content team (which is only true for about 10 percent of marketers), chances are you don’t have a lot of specialized talent to work with.

Hiring experts to create the specialized content you need is worthwhile, even if you cannot take on a fully managed content solution during a recession.

As anyone familiar with the “iron triangle” of service will tell you, you can have things fast, good, or cheap. But you can only pick two.

Ensuring quality leads for your company is always worth investing in.

Your Recession-Proof Content Marketing Strategy

Your Recession-Proof Content Marketing Strategy

Economic downturns can be stressful and uncertain, but failing to plan is planning to fail. Maintaining a consistent presence with your content will not only keep your competitors at bay but will restore faith and trust in your brand with your existing customers.

Focus less on the drawbacks and more on the opportunities that this time may provide. Take advantage of lower advertising costs to stretch your dollar and increase top-of-mind awareness. Where your competitors may pull back, press forward!

A recession might be the time to cut down on your “nice-to-haves,” but your content marketing strategy is not one of them. Review your campaigns with a critical eye, optimize where you can, and plan to weather the storm.

And when you’re working with a reduced budget, partnering with an experienced content agency can maximize your budget’s impact. For example, when you partner with ClearVoice, we create a custom plan based on your needs and resources. You’ll never pay for what you don’t want or won’t use.

Only need a few blog posts a month? We’ve got you!

Want some help putting together a holiday content strategy? We can do that!

Ready to outsource your content creation altogether? Say no more!

Talk to a content specialist today to get your custom, recession-proof content plan. There’s enough uncertainty during a recession. Be certain that your quality content will continue to work for you.