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Tamar Wallace
Graphic Design and Marketing
Waltham, Massachusetts
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Marketing in an Uncertain Economy

There's no doubt that the current economic situation is a major concern for businesses. But that doesn't mean it's time to eliminate the marketing budget. By refocusing and refining your message, it's possible to not only survive, but to thrive.

Written Mar 10, 2008, read 2087 times since then.


With grim stories about a troubled economy, it’s difficult not to be concerned about the future. Jobs are being cut left and right, companies are scrambling to save money wherever they can, and upper management is doing a lot of wishful thinking—making it hard to see the bright side. But there is one…and we’ll get to that soon.

As fears rise about the dreaded “R word,” people are trying to cut whatever they can from their budgets. This often means no more marketing, as that tends to be one of the first things to go when trying to minimize spending. But experts agree that smart, focused marketing is the best solution during in uncertain economy…and it’s far more effective than no marketing at all.

One of the first things taught in Marketing 101 is that marketing is an ongoing process…something that should be done by everyone in the company all the time. The reason being that if you’re continually marketing your business, filling your pipeline with prospects and people interested in your product or service, then those slow times—which invariably occur, even in the best of times—aren’t as slow. And a sluggish economy is not the time to eliminate those marketing efforts. Refine, yes; eliminate, no.

According to marketing expert Mac McIntosh, “even if sales are down 50% in your industry, it means that five in 10 are still buying.” You just need to make sure those five people are spending their money with you.

Stick with what you know.
For starters, put any large image-building or new market campaigns on hold. Now is not the time to experiment, or spend the money on vanity marketing projects. In fact, it’s suggested that you evaluate what you’ve done in the past, and focus your energy, effort and budget on what has produced results before. In a time of relative uncertainty, sticking with what you know may be the best bet.

Now, this is not to say that all image-building or brand reinforcement efforts should be forgotten. Rather than attempt an expensive campaign solely for the purpose of building brand recognition, “let the quality of your [marketing] materials and website do the job of enhancing your company’s image.” (McIntosh)

Be deliberate.
Another thing to remember is that it’s always easier to sell to existing customers, rather than trying to convert new prospects into buyers. Make sure you are targeting your existing and previous customers and clients. Whether it’s through direct mail, email, a newsletter, an advertisement, etc., the key is repetition. You will experience better results by getting your marketing message out multiple times to a smaller, cherry-picked group, than one time to a larger, broader group. So be deliberate with everything that you put out. You don’t have to spend more, just spend smarter.

Keep an eye on the competition.
Pay attention to what your competition is doing. If you’re worried about your budget, chances are so are your competitors. So keep an eye on trade magazines, local papers, and anywhere else your competition typically advertises, and be ready to capitalize on any changes. If you notice that one of your competitors has stopped advertising somewhere, go ahead and pick up the spot. Their loss is your gain.

The bright side.
This brings me back to that bright side I’d mentioned in the beginning. As I said, if you’re going through budget concerns due to an uncertain economy, so are your competitors. While your competition is cutting back on marketing in the hopes of saving some money, you’re refocusing and refining your marketing efforts. So when those “five out of 10″ people are ready to buy, they’ll be that much more likely to spend their money with you. And that, my friends, is a bright side indeed!

Learn more about the author, Tamar Wallace.

Comment on this article

  • Seattle WordPress Trainer 
Seattle, Washington 
Bob Dunn
    Posted by Bob Dunn, Seattle, Washington | Mar 12, 2008

    Hi Tamar, this is good stuff. I belong to several chambers of commerce as well, and we are seeing businesses pull back on advertising and sponsorships. I agree to look at your competition. Sometimes this can be the perfect opportunity to get a "one up" on your competitor. And I especially agree on paying more attention to your existing clients rather than new ones. We all hate that "R" word, but yes, don't stop marketing. This is a great article to remind us of that.

  • Graphic Design and Marketing 
Waltham, Massachusetts 
Tamar Wallace
    Posted by Tamar Wallace, Waltham, Massachusetts | Mar 12, 2008

    "Sometimes this can be the perfect opportunity to get a "one up" on your competitor."


    For example, if all but one of the Realtors in your Chamber were to pull their advertising and sponsorships, the one remaining Realtor would get the lion's share of exposure, recognition, and possibly business. (Feel free to replace "Realtor" with any business -- it was the first thing that came to mind.)

    So yes, the economic climate is a little disconcerting for us all -- believe me, I understand -- but as you said, "don't stop marketing!"

  • Dog Wash & No Cage (or cage dryers) dog grooming 
Vancouver, Washington 
Sarah Idriss-Miller
    Posted by Sarah Idriss-Miller, Vancouver, Washington | Mar 26, 2009

    The best way to deal with the media's chicken little view of the current economy is to turn off the TV. Next, get in touch with your current customers and figure out their "itch cycle" ie how often do they return to you for business. Now, divide them up into frequent customers, occasional customers, rare customers, and I don't know if I will ever see them again customers. It is too costly to market to everyone in you data base. Market to the frequent and occasional customers first. If you have time (and money), market to the rare customers. Let your customers know are still alive. Depending on the industry (and if you are priced right) call them or send them coupons, gifts, articles related to your business, etc. If you are good to your customers, they will be good to you. Companies that treated people like a sale instead of like a person are currently going out of business. Be a successful relationship builder and you will do great!

  • sales rep. for 21st century electric radiant ceiling and under-floor heating systems and author of "Transitioning to Green", a Workbook for the Homeowner, your Gradual Process of getting to Green and Sustainable. 
Seattle, Washington 
Jacqueline Powers
    Posted by Jacqueline Powers, Seattle, Washington | Feb 03, 2011

    Tamar, I find it very encouraging just to read encouraging articles such as yours. Basically, we all know this stuff but we need to be reminded when we get down on what's not happening for us.

    I read biznik articles in the morning to take a positive attitude into my day. (I wrote this at 8:21am).

    Thanks for the advice and the encouragement.