Promoting Smart and on the Cheap During a Slowdown

What do you do when business slows down squeezing profits? If your thoughts are to cut marketing, it’s time to think again.  While it’s true marketing may strike you as less essential than other business areas, a solid marketing plan can make a difference between success and failure.

I ran into this Harvard Business Review study.  It goes over the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2007.  It looked at what happened to 4,500 businesses and it found that companies with the most forward-thinking attitudes – in other words, those that didn’t engage in the drastic cutting of their marketing budgets – performed the best both during the recession and in the long term.

Please don’t go on spending spree buying online ads left and right.  Do spend time thinking like a very smart marketer focused on what strategically makes the most sense for your firm.  Here are some things to consider:

Audit Your Existing Content

One of the best ways to market on a budget is to make use of what you already have. If you have existing content, take a look at how it can be updated or repurposed. For example:

  • Review your blog posts, videos, graphics, and photos to see what may be relevant to your current marketing plan.
  • Make note of content that would need updating to be used again.
  • Don’t forget to review your social media posts to find content that can be used again.
  • Other assets to consider include emails, lead magnets, eBooks, white papers, case studies, infographics, and web pages.

You may want to set up a spreadsheet to keep track of everything. You can use it to indicate different potential uses for content, too.

Brainstorm New Ways to Use Old Content

Once you’ve completed your inventory, spend time thinking about how to repurpose your old content, and make it relevant to your audience now. You might be able to take an old blog post and revamp it as an infographic or convert an eBook into a webinar.

Keep in mind that you may need to do some work to make the content reusable. A blog post that uses statistics from three years ago will need updating before it can be turned into a chart or infographic. You don’t want to have outdated data.

Connect with Your Customers

It can be tricky to determine what kind of content would be useful to your audience in the new reality we’re all experiencing, but there’s no reason you can’t reach out to your audience and ask for their input.  Given how difficult things are currently, many of your own customers will be very open to talking with you about this.

One of my favorite ways to conduct audience research is by creating a simple survey and sending it out to my email list. Surveys should be no more than 5-10 questions and should be easy to complete.

Another option is to create a poll or post a question on social media. Facebook makes it really easy to create a poll and post it as a status update. For other sites, such as Instagram and Twitter,  you may want to pose a question and ask the people who respond to use a hashtag you create for that purpose.

Any information you collect can be used to inform your new marketing strategy. Your focus should be on learning what kind of content your audience wants to see, where they want to see it, and what products and services they’ll find most useful during the pandemic.

Focus on Local SEO

Local SEO, meaning SEO work that’s designed to come up with people search for “(your service ) near me” or “(your service) (your town),” is your best bet for pandemic marketing on a budget.


First of all, consumers are eager to support local businesses in this time of need. They need to know who you are to support you and local SEO is the best way to reach them.

Second, local businesses can avail themselves of options that national businesses can’t. For example, you can deliver or offer curbside pick-up services. Those things are convenient for customers and can help you attract new business.

Finally, local SEO is, by definition, highly targeted. It lends itself to marketing on a budget because you’ll spend less to reach people in your local audience.

Collect Reviews and Testimonials 

Online reviews have never been more important than they are now. I’ve already quoted the statistics for you in past articles, but here’s why you should be focusing on them now.

As noted above, customers are actively looking for local businesses to support. They’ll be more likely to take a chance on you if you have recent reviews on sites like Yelp and Google My Business.

It’s also worth noting that reviews are free, which means they’re an inexpensive way to attract new business.

My suggestion is to decide how and when to ask customers for reviews and be consistent about it. For example, you might send them an email asking for a review a day or two after they order from you (or within a few days of delivery, if applicable.)

Then, monitor your reviews and respond to all of them, positive and negative. Consumers want to reward businesses that engage with their customers.

Create a Digital To-Do List

So far, I’ve focused on short-term strategy; now, let’s talk about something you can do that will help you out in the long term.

I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of things in the marketing arena that you’ve been wanting to do. They might include:

  • Updating your website
  • Creating an online store
  • Segmenting your email list
  • Standardizing your social media profiles
  • Fixing broken links
  • Testing ads and content

Guess what? This is the perfect time to tackle some of these projects. Not only will they give you a focus during a time that might otherwise be stressful, but they’ll also set you up for success in the future. You can do many of these things without spending a ton of money.

Nobody’s a fan of this pandemic, but if you handle your marketing properly now, your business will survive the storm. You may even find that you come out of this time more successful and profitable than ever!

Hope this helps!  Tell me what you think.

Jorge Diaz

Jorge is an online marketing evangelist, speaker, author, coach, consultant, and adviser. He is the founder of Jorge Diaz Online and digital agency Larry Jacob Internet Marketing. He's leading a movement dedicated to transforming small business thinking. Having spent 20+ years in corporate software development and 8 years building small business online marketing systems making use of marketing automation platforms like Infusionsoft, Jorge has worked with hundreds of owner led businesses to increase revenue, systematize lead generation and grow their businesses.

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