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Council Post: 4 Strategies For Marketing During Times Of Uncertainty

Kathy Floam-Greenspan is the President of Pomerantz Marketing, a full-service B2B agency supporting regional, national and global SMBs.


Economic uncertainty, like the laws of physics, is an inevitable part of a company’s life cycle. What goes up will, at some point, come back down.

For many business leaders, economic uncertainty seems to be coming around a lot more often than it did before.

They may be on to something.

According to the Harvard Business Review, researchers have documented an uptick in economic uncertainty, identifying five modern crises amplifying uncertainty across various sectors. When coupled with the fact that 75% of CEOs expect declining growth in the year ahead and 40% think their company “will no longer be economically viable a decade from now,” it’s no wonder that people feel uncertain about their company’s future.

Often, a leader’s first response to uncertainty is to slash advertising and marketing budgets. For example, one 2022 survey found that 75% of respondents said that “signals of economic downturn” impact their media budget decisions, and 30% plan to cut their budgets in 2023.

However, leaders should be careful not to react too quickly. Nielsen notes that, historically, 75% of recessions last less than a year, and 30% last just two quarters. Economic uncertainty is cyclical, and every down cycle brings challenges and opportunities that will determine a brand’s potential moving forward.

Why does marketing during times of uncertainty matter?

Marketing through uncertainty requires a disciplined, data-driven resolve to maximize the most important outcomes.

For starters, leaders must leverage historical insights to determine potential impact. During the Great Recession, 63% of brands that increased their marketing investment saw positive ROI from their efforts.

What’s more, as Nielsen reports, “Considering most brands are already under-spending—depressing their ROIs by a median of 50%—any additional cutting of media expenses could only serve to reduce ROI further, at a time when brands need to maximize profits most.”

Meanwhile, when brands prioritize marketing spending, they continue to work toward critical outcomes, including:

• Maintaining brand visibility and staying top-of-mind.

• Building and strengthening customer relationships.

• Capitalizing on competitors’ reduced marketing efforts.

• Adapting to changing consumer behavior and preferences.

Economic uncertainty doesn’t necessarily indicate an imminent downturn, but even when times get tough, companies can still thrive, and the right marketing strategies can help make that possible.

What are some effective strategies for marketing during times of uncertainty?

In many ways, uncertainty can prompt companies to refine their marketing efforts, ensuring they achieve the greatest ROI regardless of the economic conditions.

Here are four strategies I recommend for companies seeking to maximize marketing effectiveness during times of uncertainty.

1. Ensure you are making data-driven decisions.

Data-driven decision-making leverages analytics including customer demographics, purchase behavior, social media activity and browsing patterns to identify trends that can help leaders allocate marketing resources effectively. These can go far in optimizing your campaign for better results.

2. Embrace agile marketing strategies.

At the same time, companies must become more agile and responsive, ready to adapt their messaging and methodology to account for shifting consumer expectations and market realities. Many brands grew their expertise in agile marketing during the recent pandemic by embracing new technologies and messaging strategies to become more empathetic with customers and communities grappling with unprecedented uncertainty.

3. Develop empathy-driven messaging.

Agile marketing allows brands to implement this approach, offering customers timely, meaningful messaging even as circumstances change. In uncertain times, marketing collateral that demonstrates brand expertise and impact scale, like case studies, can be especially effective.

4. Focus on ROI.

Leaders should prioritize high-impact marketing channels and tactics, ensuring that every dollar spent improves the company’s opportunity to compete and succeed. This requires evaluating current marketing investments and identifying areas for cost optimization and reallocation.

By embracing these strategies, companies can improve their marketing efficiency and effectiveness, making them more resilient to a potential downturn and more competitive when the economy booms.

Leaders must seize the opportunity that arises in times of uncertainty.

Analysts and business leaders frequently use metaphors to convey the rotation of standard business cycles. They use words like “turbulence,” “headwinds” and “downturn” to describe inevitable uncertainty.

These experiences are real and impactful, but they don’t have to catch us by surprise. Economic uncertainty is an inescapable aspect of the business world, bringing challenges and opportunities.

Instead of hastily slashing marketing budgets, leaders should consider the potential benefits of marketing through uncertainty. By leveraging historical insights, maintaining brand visibility, capitalizing on competitors’ reduced marketing efforts—and wielding the right strategies in their own—companies can navigate these difficult periods with greater success.

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