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Digital Marketing during economic uncertainty

Digital Marketing during economic uncertainty
Summary: During times of economic uncertainty, lots of things outside of our control are changing all around us. So how do you control what you can control so that you can still deliver your strategy?

At times of economic turbulence, the world is changing all around you. What was a “known” one day, is not necessarily the next, which means the marketing plans that support your strategy need to be flexible, responsive and effective.

So, how do you set up your plans so you can adapt to change with the minimum of fuss?


A rude awakening mid 2022

According to Gartner research, CMOs were generally feeling positive at the beginning of 2022, with increased investments in marketing back in budgets after a year in the doldrums over the pandemic :

Percentage of revenue spent on marketing

However, confidence has been eroding throughout the year, as geopolitical and macroeconomic factors have emerged worldwide  – inflation, rising labour costs, supply chain risks, the war in Ukraine and it’s impact on fuel costs in particular, and in the UK, recent political and exchange rate instability.


How can you adapt for economic uncertainty?

It’s fair to say that there is no “playbook” for economic turbulence – different factors affect different businesses based on their structure, market and business lifecycle.

There are, however 4 actions that you can take to make sure you are as well positioned as possible.


Action 1 : Benchmark competitors

Keep a close eye on what your competitors are doing.

Ask peers in your network to share (non sensitive) insights, and ask your Digital Marketing Agency for a Competitive Analysis so that you are clear what the competition is doing. Armed with this information, you can plan your response.


Action 2 : Understand Changing Customer Behaviour

Make sure that you are getting the very best information out of your “Voice of the Customer” activities.

Whether you run surveys, online chats, qualitative research, or customer panels, ask your clients (and would be clients) about how the current economic climate is affecting them, and how any change is affecting their perception of you.

Here’s a simple summary of recession customer types by Exposure Ninja, with some tips on marketing direction for each group :

Customer Types during Recession
Source : Exposure Ninja


Action 3 : Plan scenarios

If you have one plan, and the world changes around you, you have to go back to step 1 and start again. This loses precious time at a point when responsiveness is key.

In today’s world, we recommend an agile approach, with bold and clear medium-long term goals, deliverable through a range of options which you can switch into when you hit agreed trigger points. Lay out the options and trigger points up front to save time when you need them.

As an example, your clear goal is to sell out an event scheduled for April 2023.

Plan A, is to use SEO and Social Media to promote the event.

If you are more than 60% sold by end of December, you’ll stick with the plan. If you are 40-60% sold, you are lined up with Facebook Ads as a plan B. If you are under 30-40% sold, you’ll stop SEO and channel all the spending into PPC on Google and Facebook as plan C. At under 30%, you’ll look at options to cancel, reschedule or reduce the size of the event.


Action 4 : Focus on value

The usual response at times of uncertainty is to reduce discretionary spend, and to focus on Return on Investment. Of course this is a sensible course of action, BUT your business results also depend on your brand being top of mind as clients are deciding whether to buy from you or a competitor, so proceed with caution, as not all marketing activity is measurable quickly or financially.

Firstly, check that you are measuring Key Performance Indicators that give you usable data – good KPIs should trigger change in what you do and not just sit in a report.

Secondly, consider your fringe activities. If you can’t invest in a marketing tactic with confidence, then remove it so that you do less, better.

Thirdly, continue brand building. There may be ways to do this at reduced cost, but don’t stop!

Finally, where can you add efficiency? There are many marketing automation tools to choose from which may give time back to your team. Similarly, you may be surprised at how affordable agency support is, giving you the headspace to focus back on your business.



The times of creating a 3 year plan, without revisiting it regularly are over.

That doesn’t mean that you should operate without a strategy in place – this is as critical as ever. Having an agile and measurable scenario based plan supporting your strategy will keep you on track towards successful delivery, even in these uncertain times.


Further Reading : Gartner CMO Journal Qtr 3 2022

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