B2B Marketing in a Recession: Succeeding in Lean Times

October 5, 2022

Recent times have been challenging for UK businesses and countless B2B companies are wondering how to grapple with their marketing in a recession. As the black sheep of the legal family, we’re no stranger to marketing in less than ideal environments. We’ve scaled remotely amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, challenged the traditions of the legal industry, and embraced B2B marketing with a twist. In doing so, we’ve managed to challenge big law and hone in B2B marketing tactics for difficult times.

As the UK enters an economic downturn, what insights do we recommend to companies weathering the storm? And what are some top B2B marketing tips for scaling businesses?

In this article, we outline B2B marketing tips for a recession,.

B2B Marketing in a Recession

As the saying goes, “When times are good, you should advertise; when times are bad, you must advertise.”

This mantra holds particularly true in the B2B space, which often is the first to cut marketing when a financial crisis looms. This phenomenon has become so mainstream, that in the summer of 2022, the UK government launched a campaign to encourage brands to cut marketing to combat the cost of living crisis. While the campaign was met with waves of criticism, it served as a stark reminder of the myth, misunderstanding, and poor comprehension of the power of marketing in the modern age.

In the infamous 2008 crash, what happened to those business that refused to cut marketing? Did firms that invested in marketing survive?  

The short answer? They did more than survive.  

Statistics showed that brands enjoyed 3.5 times more brand visibility than those who cut on spending, and enjoyed quicker recovery rates post-recession. Furthermore, many of these brands gained an aggressive competitive edge over those who decided to park marketing during times of difficulty.

Perhaps one of the most infamous instances of this was during the Great Depression, when Kellogg’s doubled its advertising spend and gained notoriety as a household brand - a legacy which has continued to today. Its competitor, Post, the 1920s cereal leader, faded into obscurity while Kellogg’s profits grew by 30%.  

Does Post ring any bells today? We didn’t think so.

The challenge for B2B Marketers

Despite the importance of B2B marketing in a recession, many brands will make the decision to go “dark”. For marketing teams, it can be a tricky challenge to make the business case for continued funds into marketing efforts. And yet…

In a 2008 report conducted by Millward Brown, evidence revealed that 60% of brands that went “dark” during an economic downturn saw a decline in at least one key brand metric - for example, brand use, or brand image. Notably, the same trend spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many businesses opted to put a pause on the foghorn.  

And Millard Brown is not alone - there are countless reports, articles, and resources dedicated to one simple truth: market in the downturn, and you’re more likely to ride the upturn. Park your efforts, and you’ll find scaling difficult that much more difficult.

Top Tips for B2B Marketing in a Recession

Not all marketing comes with a hefty price tag, and there are avenues that businesses can take that don’t break the bank in challenging times. Take the time to consider existing channels, resources, and market appetite, and consider what you can continue delivering without compromising on funds. Let’s explore some examples.

Recycle, Repurpose and Reformat your Content

As a B2B company you’ll likely have created some content. Whether that’s articles, webinars, social posts, or newsletters, you’re likely to have a bounty of resources at your disposal. However, have you utilised those resources to their fullest?  

While fresh content is key, it won’t always be easy to generate new material in challenging times. Ensure you’ve made the most of your existing content, whether that’s optimising it for SEO, evolving it into infographics, videos, and articles, or repurposing it for particularly niche campaigns. While it might seem like a waste to trudge through old material, HubSpot experienced an increase of 106% in their organic search views when they dove into a historical optimisation project. Take the time to consider your audience’s appetite, ask if you’ve made the most of your existing material, and recycle, repurpose, and reformat.

Creativity is key

Creativity is crucial in B2B marketing, whether that’s during times of economic boom or a financial downturn. In the B2B space, creativity is a particularly useful asset when faced with thousands of competitors often servicing the same product or service.  

During a downturn, take the time to consider whether your efforts are blending into the beige background of your competitors. If so, it's important to return to the drawing board, with a focus on creating a campaign that takes risks, pushes the envelope, and elevates you beyond the crowd.

In the legal space, B2B creative marketing is not particularly commonplace, with many firms following a tried and tested method of B2B law firm marketing. However, this is the very reason why we didn’t follow that path - it had been travelled.  

Our willingness to take risks led us to creating viral campaigns on TikTok, scooping the Innovate UK award, and becoming the legal partner of household names. And, as we descend into an economic downturn, you can guarantee we won’t be playing it safe.

Evaluating ROI is Critical

Financial downturns will invariably result in close attention being paid to accounts, outgoings, and lead generation. While it’s crucial to push your brand out there, it’s also key to ensure you’re measuring the ROI of your efforts.  

Not only does measuring help you to record marketing-qualified-leads, but it also helps you to pivot your focus. In a financial downturn, it’s never been more important to market in a way that’s efficient, recordable, and profitable. Whether that’s through the use of CRMs like HubSpot, or relying on trusty Google Analytics, make sure you can prove the benefits of your B2B marketing to the executive team. In doing so, you’ll make the business case for B2B marketing a lot more effective.

Recession Marketing’s Golden Rule: Don’t Stop!

Getting your brand out there during a recession is paramount, but it can be understandably tricky knowing where to start, where to prioritise, and where to invest.

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