| Jan 17, 2023 | | 6 min read

Marketing agencies: How to increase sales during a recession


The scary R-word has been floating around for a while now. While experts still disagree about whether we’ve crossed the threshold into recession territory, it’s clear that bumpy economic times lay ahead. Doing business in a recessionary economic climate is challenging for most industries, and marketing is no exception. Budgets tighten, deals become more challenging to close, and the competition becomes stiffer. However, there are also unique opportunities for marketing agencies during recessions. We’ll cover how to increase sales during a recession so that your agency can turn this challenge into an opportunity for growth.

Read "How to survive a recession: The agency playbook" and gain the actionable strategies, tactics, and checklist your agency needs to adapt in tough economic times.

The challenge for marketing agencies

Before diving into the strategies you can for how to increase sales during a recession, it’s worth acknowledging the very real challenges that marketing agencies face when economic activity is slow. This helps to contextualize the sales strategies we’ll go over in the following section.

Shrinking marketing budgets

It’s likely that some of your clients are beginning to adjust their budgets downward. They may not stop using your services altogether, but many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) respond to the pressure to limit spending by slashing marketing budgets. Marketing often isn’t seen as directly related to their ability to deliver their product or service. They might believe they can cut back on spending without impacting their core business too much.

Some clients don’t survive

Depending on how bad a recession gets, some SMB clients simply might not make it through and decide to close down. Whether this happens to your client base depends largely on the types of clients you serve.

In-house teams are prioritized

Many companies decide to load their in-house staff with more responsibilities, including those that might have been previously handled by external agencies.

Is sales recession-proof?

Despite these challenges, marketing dollars do get spent during a recession, and your job as a marketing agency owner is to discover the clients most likely to maintain their marketing budget despite the economic outlook. The most successful marketing agencies will double down on their efforts to identify and convert those valuable clients. In other words, sales becomes an even more important function during a recession.

With an idea of what some of the greatest challenges to a marketing agency are during an economic downturn, let’s take a look at how to increase sales during a recession, despite these common difficulties.

Target resilient industries to boost sales during a recession

As a marketing agency owner, you’re fortunate enough to have a business with the flexibility to manage different economic circumstances. You can always shift your focus to different types of clients depending on which industries have the most cash to spend on marketing services at any given moment.

For how to increase sales during a recession, try to grow the share of your client base that is in recession-proof industries.

Some industries have shown themselves, time and time again, to be exceptionally resilient even when the rest of the economy is taking a nosedive. By padding your client list with businesses in these industries, you can set yourself up to remain busy and profitable during a recession.

So, what are some industries that are recognized as recession-proof? Here are some reliable examples:

  • Health services
  • Financial services
  • Legal services
  • Real estate

Whether you have existing clients in these industries or you’re looking to expand your client base, this is how to increase sales in a recession.

Get hyper-focused on a niche

In a recession, it can be tempting to cast your net as wide as possible, become a jack-of-all-trades, and try to work with as many clients as possible. In a way, this makes sense. If you want to increase sales during a recession, shouldn’t you become a generalist so that there are more potential clients for you?

Not necessarily. Narrowing in on a specialization, also known as niching down, can be an effective way to make yourself more appealing to clients. Niching down is a way to differentiate yourself from the competition and demonstrate that you are the perfect fit for their needs.

When it comes to marketing services, there is no shortage of agencies that can potentially be hired. The question then becomes, which agency is best suited to a business’s unique needs?

By niching down, you may have a smaller pool of prospective clients, but a much higher chance of actually securing them and increasing your sales.

For example, one agency might offer SEO services to any and all clients, while another might niche down to clients in the legal field specifically. As a legal office, the agency that has niched down to your specific industry will inspire more trust and be more appealing.

Don’t limit yourself to your geography

Just because you’re niching down in terms of the types of clients you target doesn’t mean you should limit the geography in which you offer your services. To increase sales during a recession, it’s a good idea to prospect farther afield.

The beauty of selling marketing services is that they aren’t bound by geography, since they’re generally delivered remotely. By looking for clients in your niche around the country or globe, you can put yourself in a position to comfortably weather the economic downturn with plenty of sales.

Educate your clients

When determining how to increase sales during a recession, you may want to refine your pitch to take account of your prospects' most pressing current concerns.

Think back to the reasons we listed above for why recessions can be challenging for any type of marketing agency in the first place:

  • budgets tighten
  • focus shifts to in-house teams
  • some SMBs don’t make it through the downturn intact

All of these concerns are on your prospect’s mind, too. By addressing them, you can demonstrate that you understand their needs and are prepared to meet them.

Now is the time to help your existing and prospective clients understand the real value of marketing. Communicate to them that while the temptation to cut back their marketing spend is understandable, previous recessions have repeatedly shown that the businesses that invest in marketing throughout the downturn perform better.

Scaling back marketing efforts leaves market share to be taken over by competitors, and when the economy comes back, those gains in market share will pay off.

Consider price breaks

While you don’t want to damage your profitability by being the agency that competes on price alone, a recession can be a good time to look at your pricing strategy. Are there opportunities to tempt more customers and land more sales with attractive prices?

One way to do this is by bundling marketing services and offering price incentives to choose the bundles over individual services.

How to increase sales during a recession: Diversify your offering

The more you can become a one-stop shop for clients, the more tempting it will be to work with you regardless of what shape the economy is in. To increase sales and survive a recession, consider whether there are additional services you can offer to round out your portfolio and offer your clients more ways to spend their marketing budgets with you rather than the competition.

One way to do this without increasing your costs is to resell digital marketing. By having a white-label team fulfill services on your behalf, you can focus your efforts entirely on landing more sales.

About the Author

Solange Messier is the Content Strategy Manager at Vendasta. Solange has spent the majority of her career in content marketing helping companies improve how they connect with their prospects and customers. Her diverse background includes magazine publishing, book publishing, marketing agencies, payment processing, and tech. When she's not working, Solange can be found spending time with her family, running, and volunteering.

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