How to market successfully in a recession

Kinetic Communications

The UK is officially in recession for the first time in 11 years, with reports showing the greatest ever recorded drop in gross domestic product. This has raised many concerns for business owners surrounding the long-term health of their businesses.

The current financial situation brings to the fore many important questions about how we can successfully develop a business and market it, such as, what sort of marketing is appropriate at this time? Should budgets be reconsidered? And what lessons can we take from the last recession?

Angela Podmore, founder and CEO of Kinetic Communications, discusses best practice for generating new business in a recession and how to do this sensitively.

Tougher competition

The recession decreases demand, meaning every business transaction is highly contested.

To compete successfully, business owners must ’pedal’ harder on their ‘marketing machine’, to create the sales momentum required to successfully emerge from the trough of economic turmoil ready for customers who, in turn, are already for a new growth peak. The sharper the decline, the harder you need to ‘pedal’ to climb up the other side.

Despite the virtual world having its limits and challenges, creating and maintaining a strong online presence is key to continuing your marketing drive amid economic unrest.

Being visible online was always important but it’s even more crucial now.

Assigning budgets effectively

In a recession, almost every business’ budget will decrease.  When you’ve less budget, it’s more crucial you spend every penny wisely. Your decisions can make or break a business.

Before committing to any large marketing spend, you should first ‘test and measure’.  Spend a little to see what works and what doesn’t and how to get the greatest return on your investment (ROI).

There are many analytics tools available, and many are free and easy to use. Data collected from analytics sites can be incredibly useful for determining accurate marketing ROI. For example, Google Analytics provides you with information about where your website visitors are coming from and provides you with valuable insights.

Helpful lessons from the 2008 recession

COVID-19 has created the first global recession on record, so we’re all in ‘unchartered waters’.

Many business owners are adapting their offering to solve new customer needs and problems. This is something our ancestors did during the world wars and Great Depression too. However, this time, things are different as the internet provides us with more opportunity.


  • Know where you are and where you want to be – regularly review your market position. Use measurable goals to assess the effectiveness of your marketing activity vs what your competitors are doing.


  • Fire budget ‘bullets’ before ‘cannonballs’ – divide your time and money into smaller campaign budget ‘bullets’ and test their effectiveness before firing bigger campaign budget ‘cannonballs’ (see Jim Collins ‘Good to Great’). This will help you see what’s working before you decide to scale up your investment.


  • Cost-cutting has its limits – at some point, you will need to speculate to accumulate. Businesses must sell to survive. No matter how small, it’s critical your marketing efforts continue.

  • Seek opportunities – stay positive. Treat every business day as a daring new adventure. Try to see the recession as a means of refreshing your offer to generate new opportunities. Be prepared to make the most of these opportunities with kinetic strategies.


Market sensitively


The key is to not push COVID in every message.


Consider how people are facing life-changing impacts from the pandemic.


Successful communication at this time is all about helping others – use your expertise and experience to help others through challenging times.


Before putting any communications out into the world, consider your audience. Think about whether your content will resonate with them or help to solve their problems. If not, you can adapt the message to suit – that’s when PR and marketing really come into their own.


The impact of COVID-19 needs to be acknowledged and talked about, but over-use and exploitation for marketing gain is the easiest way to lose trust and customers.

Where to begin

Begin by auditing where you are. Then think about where you want to be.  Then what you need to achieve to get there. Create a plan to bring it all together and define the steps you need to take. This plan should entail three key elements: your brand’s ‘DNA’, your measurable objectives and your target audience personas.

Your brand ‘DNA’ – your vision, mission and values – needs to stand out and be the foundation for all of your future communications.

Setting measurable objectives means you can measure the success of your activities and sharpens your objectives to give future communications the edge. 

Your target audience persona work like checklists, ensuring that all your communications resonate with your audience, uses the keywords they use, in the format they prefer so engage them emotionally.

In summary, your marketing mantra should be:  plan, test, measure and hone.

For more information on marketing your business in a recession, visit or call 0121 212 6250.