Marketing in a recession can be a big challenge.

Marketing in a Recession: Experts Share Tips for Success

Economists say we’re on the edge of a recession. A study showed a 7 in 10 chance we’ll cross over the brink during 2023. Does it mean they’re right?
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Marketing in a recession isn’t anyone’s preference. It’s so frustrating to see your budget on the chopping block … again. After all, you’re already doing so much with limited resources; how can you be expected to do even more with less

Economists say we’re on the edge of a recession. A study showed a 7 in 10 chance we’ll cross over the brink during 2023. Does it mean they’re right? 


But fortunately, there are some practical changes you can make regardless of economic conditions that can help get ahead of whatever comes next. Some of our own marketing experts recently sat down with the marketing geniuses at ZoomInfo to get their take on how to market during a recession and what you can do now to get prepared.

Fight Back Against MarTech Stack Bloat

Advice for marketers on how to deal with MarTech stack bloat during a recession or downturn.

MarTech bloat is a tricky problem, sneaking in when you least expect it, slowly getting out of hand and then wasting valuable time and money. And wasting marketing resources is the last thing you want during a recession. 

So, what can you do? 

The answer is simple: Get rid of the slackers. 

Evaluate your technology, what you’re actually using, and which tool uses too many resources or isn’t pulling its weight. For example, once upon a time, you might have purchased a really powerful technology with many capabilities. The challenge is that fully using all of those capabilities might require more internal resources than you have. And this adds up to extra expenses and time wasted.

“What you need to be thinking about is, rather than buying everything that you think is going to add value, focus on a few things that are going to be really important for your go-to-market motions and doing those really well.”

-Dom Catabay, Director of Demand Generation at Act-On

So overall, isolate the technology holding you back and search for opportunities to improve your tech stack. Sometimes this involves onboarding new tech to improve your results (counterintuitive, right?). Not all technology is created equal. The goal is to reduce bloat, so use these tips when bringing in new tools:

  • Speed up revenue growth … fast. Every moment, every month and every dollar matter during an economic squeeze. So make sure new tech pays off fast. 
  • Help monitor and improve performance. The old saying “You can’t manage what you don’t measure” is even more critical during a downturn. Make sure you can tap into reports that show campaign performance so you don’t have to go on a search mission across several platforms. 
  • Get rid of data silos. Is your data flowing as seamlessly as it could be? Or is data stuck in silos, causing you to miss out on valuable insights that could help you make better decisions and drive more revenue? You need interconnected data that drives efficiency and helps you get better results. 
  • Boost data hygiene. Some solutions don’t promote data hygiene, and this problem area can have a big impact on your bottom line. One study found that data hygiene issues cost organizations roughly 12% of their revenue. Wouldn’t you like some of that back during a difficult economy? 
  • And finally, promote scalability. Marketing automation helps offload boring, mundane tasks so your marketing teams can focus on higher-level work. And it helps you scale, which is critical when working on growing during a challenging economy. 

Tap Into the Bottom of the Funnel

Which KPIs should marketers focus on in the midst of a recession or downturn?

As marketers, we know that MQLs are important, but shifting how you think about them can be a game changer. For starters, consider that the lowest cost per MQL isn’t always the best. 


Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you have 10 MQLs that cost $100 each, but the conversion rate is only 10%. A similar program costs $500 per MQL, but the conversion rate is 50%. Sure, they look similar, but one might result in more bottom-of-the-funnel conversions — and that’s a big difference. 

So, yes, look at the cost per MQL, but then take it a step further and look at the bottom-of-the-funnel performance. How well are those MQLs converting once they get into the hands of your salespeople? Quality over quantity — always.

Kick Bad Leads Out of the Funnel

When a recession or downturn rears its head, it’s more important than ever to kick bad leads out of the funnel.

It’s counterintuitive, right? You worked really hard to get those leads — why kick them to the curb? Here’s the thing: Bad leads waste your sales team’s time, and time is money. So you need to figure out which leads are bad and get them out of your funnel pronto. What’s a bad lead? Here are a couple of examples:

The prospect is a poor fit. 

They lack purchasing intent. 

Their business isn’t suited for your products and services. 

Totally fine, but send these prospects packing instead of inadvertently passing them to your salespeople who work crazy hard trying to convert them — an uphill, if not impossible, task. 

This is a shift for some marketers who in the past tried to fill the pipeline with as many leads as possible. More leads translate to more revenue, right? 

Not exactly. 

So, how do we fix this problem? 

Two words: lead scoring. 

Lead scoring is a tracking system for the qualification process. It assigns each lead a number that shows whether that lead is ready for your sales team or it needs to be nurtured or — in some cases — kicked out of the funnel altogether. 

It’s the opposite of a spray-and-pray approach. You can tell how well lead scoring is working by tracking conversions. If you do it well, conversions should keep ticking up. And higher-quality leads, of course, translate to more sales and greater ROI, which brings us to our next point.

Search for Truth with ROI 

In a downturn or recession, it’s more important than ever to justify the ROI and total cost of ownership of your MarTech tools.

Marketers are no strangers to the ROI discussion. But if you think you talked a lot about ROI last year, just wait until you’re marketing in a recession. You’ll have that conversation so much more often. But that’s okay. You can get ready now. 

“Oftentimes we go into budgeting meetings and we ask about a tech and we talk about the spend and ask the question about the ROI and total cost of ownership of the tool and you can get a deer in the headlights kind of look…”

-Cameron Kilgore,  VP of Revenue Operations at Act-On

The past several years have been prosperous for some industries like tech, and many adjacent technologies have found their way into the tech stack. Oh yes, bloated tech stack, remember? But adjacent technologies don’t support growth, and every tool needs to do its part. ROI will help you quickly determine which tools aren’t pulling their weight. 

Plus, if you know the ROI of all your tools, you’ll be prepared when your budget comes under fire. You can share the specific ROIs and show stakeholders what discontinuing a tool will cost them. They can see the impact. They can see the dollars. And nobody wants to mess with the dollars during a downturn.

Leverage This ‘Secret Weapon’ for Success

A “secret weapon” for marketing success in a recession.

Marketing and sales alignment … yeah, yeah, you know it’s important. But during an economic downturn, it’s your secret weapon for success. 

Here’s why: Marketing is traditionally focused on MQLs, and they’re important, for sure. But as we discussed earlier, you’ve got to also focus on the bottom of the funnel. You see, marketing and sales are part of the same team. If they lose, so do you. And in a tough economy, you need both to win. Bad. 

Keep your eye on MQLs but also on how well those leads convert at the bottom of the funnel. Make any necessary adjustments quickly. And work with your salespeople so they understand which technologies give them the best leads and the highest conversions. As you do this, you’ll get sales executives on your side. They’ll know what’s working and won’t want anybody to mess with it. You and sales are now in the same corner, and that’s what alignment is all about.

Navigating Curveballs … and Hitting Home Runs 

The only thing we know about the future is that change will come … and it will keep on coming. Maybe good, maybe amazing, maybe challenging. We just don’t know … yet. But as marketers, we can get ready for whatever’s next by getting rid of our martech bloat, understanding the ROI of all of our tools and getting aligned with sales

These strategies will help you do more with less, spot better leads, improve conversion rates and, ultimately, drive up your revenue in the coming year. So whether or not the economic predictions are correct, you’ll be ready. 

Want more tips on marketing in a recession?

Watch the full webinar and learn more tips from experts about B2B marketing in a recession.

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