< Back to Blogs
April 10, 2023

Where Should Marketers Focus in the Midst of a Recession?

Revenue Leaders, Brand Marketers, and Product Marketers: Here's What You Need to Know

Marketers have less budget flexibility now than at any point since the beginning of the pandemic. Most marketing budgets were determined before the close of the year, when “recession” was the word on everyone’s lips, and the wisest path forward was to tighten the pursestrings all around. 

Though a recession might seem less likely than it did around New Year’s Eve, most companies are still keeping an eye on unnecessary spending, and marketing departments accustomed to hearing “yes” maybe be increasingly hearing something else, or at least be getting used to defending spend. 

So where should marketers be focusing while the threat of recession still looms on the horizon? This post will focus on: 

  1. Where Revenue Leaders (CROs, CMOs) Should Focus During a Recession
  2. Where Brand Marketers Should Focus During a Recession
  3. Where Product Marketers Should Focus During a Recession

Revenue Leaders: Aim at Retention and Focus on the Future

1. Focus on Retention Metrics

CMOs and CROs should be adjusting the metrics they’re evaluating on their dashboards, tuning in to those numbers that signify success in efforts to maintain existing business. 

So what metrics signify success? 

Smart marketing leaders will be focusing their marketing and sales departments on retention and growth for existing accounts, rather than pushing them to attain the nearly impossible during a downturn. The cost of new logo acquisition increases when money is scarce, and it’s far less expensive to invest in nurturing the clients who’ve already given you their trust. 

2. Shift Industry Focus if Needed

It’s likely that some of your client industries will be more impacted by a downturn than others. Markets like healthcare and higher education are generally steadier economically than other verticals when markets are unstable. If your business allows, now is the time to pivot your focus to double down in verticals that are less affected by market forces than others. 

Align your sales and marketing teams on these industries, creating new sales collateral if needed, to give your team better odds. 

3. Play the Long Game

While quick wins feel like the right thing to aim at when revenue is in jeopardy, this is the time to invest in longer-term plays. Driving your sales and marketing teams to produce the same results they did last year in a dramatically different economic market is pointless. The game has changed, and your strategies must shift accordingly. 

B2B buyers making complex considered purchases often spend nine to 12 months in the diligence phase prior to engaging with a sales representative anyway. Why not use this time to focus your sales and marketing teams on building synergies around the objections that arise in the sales process and build content to address those concerns? Create a trail of breadcrumbs for your buyers to follow as they engage in the digital due diligence process, and when their budgets come back, they’ll know where to buy. 

Brand Marketers - Focus on Top of Funnel

1. Why It Is Time to Pause Paid Media

A recessionary economy is the right time to reevaluate your media spend. When money is flowing, it’s easy to pour dollars into campaigns that might be working, but now is the time to look closely at those “nice to have” paid channels. 

The bottom line? If you can’t assure your leadership that a paid campaign is driving revenue, turn it off. You might be surprised how little it impacts your revenue.

2. Audit your Tech Stack

Over the course of months or years, it is easy to rack up software subscriptions and memberships that seemed like a good idea at the time. Now is the time to evaluate what your team is actually using, and what you really need to be paying for. Conduct a full MarTech audit, and shut down things you don’t need. 

3. Invest in Low and No-Cost Content

There are plenty of ways to gain exposure without dropping dollars into paid campaigns. Consider the assets inside your organization, namely your subject matter experts. What kinds of topics can they speak about to advance your brand in the market and help raise awareness around the problems you’re solving? 

Look into blogs, podcasts, and video channels where people are talking about the kinds of things you do. Book interviews with your leadership, subject matter experts, and clients, building an evergreen content collection that you can cut and distribute across your other channels (LinkedIn, email, website). Focus on distribution across the channels you own (email, your blog, podcast, etc.)

4. Focus on Customer Marketing

Don’t forget the customers who’ve already said “yes” to your company and brand. Keep them close and keep them happy by directing some of your energy at retention and loyalty-building initiatives. 

Consider hosting webinars with partners who share your audience, offering to audit your clients’ implementations and programs, or offering to modify statements of work if needed to keep current clients in place. 

This kind of loyalty marketing pays off in upsells when the market turns back up, and generates the kind of genuine referrals that can make a brand unforgettable. 

5. Don’t Skip Events

You may be thinking that now is the not the time for that big industry show. And you might be right, if you’re thinking of sponsoring or renting booth space. However, this could be the perfect time to send a couple attendees to the show. 

Less traffic means more face time with the opportunities that are present, and those who do show up may have deeper pockets than those who’ve had to strike the show from their agenda this year. 

Product Marketers - Look at Mid-Funnel and Sales Enablement

1. Build Alignment with Your Sales Team

Establish a weekly sync with your sales team to gain understanding of the objections they’re facing as the market shifts and your customers respond. When marketing and sales are in lockstep, it allows them to function as one unit, delivering content to pave each step of the sales journey and meeting objections before they arise. 

2. Define Your ROI Proposition

Quantify the ROI you are offering your customers. It might be cost savings over a competitor, it could be time saved in automating some workflow functions. Find a way to quantify and articulate this specific product benefit, as it’s likely to make the most impact on your sales efforts during tight economic times. 

If you can’t find a way to create an ROI calculator or articulate the time or resource optimization inherent in your offering, there’s a chance your offering might need to shift. 

3. Build Vertical Content

Focus your content efforts on information that aligns to the industries least affected by the market downturn–those that sales is approaching. Create landing pages, case studies, and customer stories that directly appeal to the problems and concerns faced by these markets, redeveloping your website as needed. 

4. Update the Product Pages on Your Site

If your product pages don’t clearly articulate time, resource, or money savings, it’s time to refresh your site. Build your ROI calculator into your site, or rewrite product pages to highlight the returns customers will gain with your product. 

Plan Now to Be Well Positioned When the Market Comes Back

Smart marketing teams will be using this time to build content and position themselves to be discovered and trusted by their target audience when those customers are ready to buy. It may require a mindset shift, especially for leadership previously accustomed to demanding metrics around paid media campaign performance, but it will pay off in the end. 

About the author

Nancy Smay

Nancy is the managing editor and head of content strategy at Notable.

Stay up to speed.

No spam, no ads, and no soft selling.

Just a monthly rundown of the most important topics impacting executives and revenue leaders – and where marketing fits in.