Business leaders have successfully navigated the seemingly endless barrage of slings and arrows over the past two years, yet record inflation, continuous supply chain issues and complications from the Great Resignation continue to test them. Now, the likely onset of a recession is fueling additional instability and erratic consumer behaviors.   
Yet instability isn’t the sole marker of life since Covid — we have also witnessed waves of innovation, creativity and unity. Likewise, a recession, too, can bring new opportunities to businesses with the willingness and ingenuity to seize them. 
Often, retracting marketing and advertising efforts during a recession is the C-suite’s first inclination, yet it can backfire. Cost cutting across all departments may be necessary, but focusing those cuts on the avenues responsible for bringing in new business and offsetting losses should be evaluated closely. According to the ROI Genome Intelligence Report from Analytics Partners, 60% of brands that increased their media investment during the last recession saw ROI improvements. Brands that increased paid advertising also saw a 17% rise in incremental sales, while those that cut their spend risked losing 15% of their business to competitors who boosted their own presence.
As competitors cut back their marketing and advertising, it creates opportunities for the savvy businesses that see greater potential in wisely investing precious marketing dollars. Those businesses then have the power to capture new market share, convert leads and poise themselves for growth as others fall from the spotlight. But how best to pounce? 
Evaluate the business’s digital foundation. The most creative and targeted campaigns can easily fail if they direct qualified leads into a black hole. First, it’s important to address any cracks in your website, especially as they relate to aptly placed calls-to-action and user flow. Questions to consider:
At some point in the sales cycle, potential customers will be directed to a website. If they don’t know what to do when they arrive — or they aren’t driven to act — companies can miss out on many first-time customers and loyal relationships.  
Amplify lead capture and conversion efforts. Think of the website as the foundation of your marketing infrastructure, and lead capture technologies, processes and communications as the building blocks. If you don’t have a segmented customer relationship management (CRM) platform for tracking sales and managing marketing campaigns, or if your technology setup could be better optimized, your efforts may be starting behind the eight ball. Cleaning up back-end operations should be a top priority. Spreadsheets, Outlook and your mobile contacts certainly have their place, but you’ll limit automation capabilities as well as a compromise having a bird’s eye view of your opportunity landscape. Further, if marketing and sales teams contract amid a recession, those individuals’ contacts, relationships and processes could be lost if they aren’t tracked at a company level. 
Maximizing web site engagement. What happens when a customer makes a purchase or requests more information on your website? How is the information logged in your CRM? Look at tactics and processes that can be improved at this stage, such as educational email campaigns or sales outreach communications. While the manner and strategy in which companies capture and convert leads can vary quite significantly from industry to industry, there remains a need for defined processes and universal technologies that all internal team members commit to using.  
Reevaluate product and service offerings. From curbside pick-up to make-at-home margarita kits, restaurants hit hard during Covid showed incredible resiliency in helping guests recreate the restaurant experience in their own homes. During a recession, consider whether your current products and services need to be updated to appeal to new customer behaviors and habits. Can the same offering be used to fill a different need or be bundled to enhance value in a cost-effective manner? Subscription services have never been more in demand — do you have an opportunity to introduce a repeat product or service? Newly packaged products offer opportunities to tap into new audiences if they are structured around the problems and solutions encountered during a recession. 
Reevaluate incentives to meet current need. People like free stuff. No surprise there. Free education, consulting, samples and site surveys are among the many incentives that pique prospects’ interest. Yet in a recession, your target audiences likely have evolved needs. Take a fresh look at their new challenges and behaviors, and then adapt incentives (or the positioning of them) to meet today’s needs. New incentives can also reinvigorate stale campaigns that were once effective. 
Focus on the channels with the most conversions. Although completely retracting marketing and advertising efforts isn’t advised amid a recession, focusing efforts is a smart move. Analyze which channels have a history of delivering the most conversions and shift your budget and time in that direction. For instance, if email marketing delivers the most ROI for your company, reducing Instagram advertising could help you reallocate the marketing budget to deliver the most impact. If you don’t have the right analytics and insights tools and processes established, implementing them will enable you to make data-informed decisions when every dollar counts. 
Achieving growth and expanding awareness are very possible during a recession, but success requires the right foundation and a highly focused strategy. As your competitors step back, use that as an opportunity to put your business’s best foot forward.
Andrea Aker is CEO of Aker Ink PR & Marketing, a full-service agency based in Scottsdale. 
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