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7 Marketing Tactics That Work in a Recession

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7 Marketing Tactics That Work in a Recession

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: July 30, 2009

Here are some sobering statistics for any small-business owner: Two-thirds of respondents to a recent survey by online marketing company Performics say the recession 'has fundamentally changed the way they think about saving and spending money.' What’s more, the '2009 Online Buyer Economic Trend Study' showed, 8 out of 10 respondents say the recession “will have a lasting impact on them.' In that type of climate, how do you market your products and services to capture consumers’ precious dollars? Here are 7 ideas that work now.

  1. Help customers save money. Whether you’re a B-to-B or B-to-C marketer, saving money is probably your customer’s biggest concern right now—so you need to be able to show how your product or service will do this. One small firm I read about recently has gotten more business than it can handle by auditing commercial customers’ shipping expenditures and finding cheaper solutions. Key to making the sale, the company doesn’t charge any upfront fee, but takes a percentage of the savings—so clients don’t pay anything unless they save money.

  1. Help your customers DIY. From cooking to haircuts to home repairs, consumers are doing it themselves. So if your business relies on doing it for them, you’ll need to think about new products or services you can offer to help them DIY. For instance, hair salons can sell customers home coloring kits to keep their hair color in shape in between appointments. A fitness trainer could offer online training videos that customers can subscribe to instead of coming in for sessions. A caterer could provide cooking classes and sell recipe e-books. These offerings aren’t meant to replace your normal ones, but simply to serve as an alternative to make smaller sales to customers who might otherwise stop spending with you altogether.

  1. Convince customers you’re worth it. Many small businesses focus on upscale, luxury or artisanal products. While some of these are taking a hit, others are doing surprisingly well. Why? With less money to spend, consumers are thinking harder about where to spend it, and they want products that are special in some way. If your products are unique, hand-crafted, classic, sustainable or have some other feature that consumers prize, your marketing needs to emphasize that. Is your jewelry something that mothers will pass down to their children? Are your home décor products made by women in African villages, helping them support their families? Make sure your Web site, marketing materials and packaging all tell the story that makes what you’re selling unique.

  1. Get niche. I recently read about a realtor who had one of his best years ever last year. Yes, you read that right. Why? Because he had developed a specialty: selling homes built in one particular style of mid-century modern architecture. By becoming known in the national and local community as an expert in this area, whenever home buyers were searching for someone who could help them buy this type of home, they’d be directed to him. Most successful small companies already have a niche, but consider how you can narrow down your niche even more. Are there more targeted subsets of your target market you could be reaching? Is there one product or service area where spinning off something into a niche item would yield big rewards?

  1. Use social media. If you’re not already using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media tools, start exploring them. The only investment required is your time, making this one of the smartest marketing moves there is. If your business warrants it, consider starting your own blog on your Web site. If you don’t have time for that, at least start reading the leading blogs in your industry, posting comments and sending the bloggers (relevant) info about your business. Bloggers are starved for new stuff to write about, and getting your company mentioned in a popular blog can take your business to a whole new level.

  1. Get out in the community. The online community is important, of course, but I’m also talking about the physical community. There’s a growing trend of consumers “thinking local” when they spend money. Consumers also care more than ever about social responsibility—so if they see that your business is an active, involved part of the local community, they’ll be more likely to patronize it. There are many ways to get involved, from sponsoring local schools, special events or sports teams, to participating in charitable causes, to speaking in front of local organizations relevant to your business. Whatever the activity, the key is to make sure there’s a relevant tie-in. For instance, if you own a sporting goods store, you could make children’s physical fitness your “cause.” You could sponsor school fun runs or community sports teams; donate athletic equipment to schools; and speak to parent groups about how to help their kids stay fit. Leave behind handouts, coupons or other special offer for the people at any event you’re involved in. And make sure to publicize your doings with a press release.

  1. Harness the power of referrals. When people are watching their pennies, they want to be absolutely certain the company they’re paying will do what it says it will. Winning over new clients is easier if they know someone you already do business with. When you complete a project for a new client, follow up to make sure they’re satisfied—and if they are, ask if they know anyone who might be able to use your products or services. If they do, ask if they’d mind sending an email to that person, CC-ing you and introducing you. All else being equal, people do business with people they know and trust—so if you are referred by a trusted source, you’re already way ahead of the game.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media (, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow her on Twitter @rieva.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at and visit to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades


I appreciate your post! Lot of good ideas but as far as selling 'touch-up' kits at a hair salon, I would prefer giving them a discount coupon for me to give them a touch up rather than them do it themselves. It's not about the color, its about the shade and most of these have to be mixed when it is time to apply them so I would much prefer to give a discount for a touchup rather than charge them more at their next appointment to fix it. But I do understand your point but discount coupons work for a business like mine rather than a DIY type product.Message Edited by NicoleD on 12-21-2009 07:56 AM
All of these ideas are great and I plan to utilize as many as possible. Good Ideas, excellent article. RobertMessage Edited by NicoleD on 11-30-2009 02:50 PM
By helping customers to DIY, companies build long term trust and image. The ones you 'help' will be among the most loyal customers in the future. Best Regards,Alice Norin,Linux dedicated serverMessage Edited by NicoleD on 11-23-2009 10:25 AM
Excellent advice! Thanks! I am currently focused on leaning the best way to employ social media. I am blogging and utilizing LinkedIn. Now, I really want to learn the most effective way to use twitter. John Yocca,Nationwide Call CenterCalifornia Call CenterMessage Edited by NicoleD on 10-26-2009 05:26 PM
Monica, there are numerous opportunities for networking once you're back here in the US. I would test a few out and see where you feel most comfortable and where you think you can get the most benefit. Try the local Chamber of Commerce or an organization like NAWBO (National Association of Business Owners).
Great tips in the time of recession. I myself try to confince my customers to save money at their best. Of coure I also try to give the best quality for them. If we keep a good relationship to them, I believe that they will stick with us no matter what happen to the world. Holiday Voucher CodesMessage Edited by NicoleD on 10-11-2009 11:24 PM
Agreed! Do you have tips on community activities when you move to a new place? I will join a local BNI chapter here in Gothenburg and I want to connect when I am back in the United States of America. Thanks,Monica - voucher codes Message Edited by NicoleD on 09-30-2009 12:33 PM
Very important advice and thanks for sharing. I'm pleased to see that I'm already doing a few of the things in your list such as trying to businesses money by lowering their cost base and social media marketing really is working for us too.
I think a great marketing tactic in this economy is to create a valuable give-away (white paper, ebook, consultation, product trial), so potential customers have the opportunity to understand the value of your products or services before they have to commit their precious budget to it. -Aaron StreetPublisher, Lawyerist Media LLCwww.Lawyerist.comMessage Edited by NicoleD on 09-25-2009 01:02 PM
Really Great Advice! Thanks for pulling together some great ideas into one place. Thanks,Sharon recommend some voucher codes, coupon codes and discount codesMessage Edited by Christine_Lai on 09-24-2009 02:36 PM


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