Why Continuing Digital Marketing is Essential in Times of Uncertainty

by | Digital Marketing

Uncertain times are, unfortunately, inevitable, especially when you’re in business. It’s easy to get swept up in media hype and fear, acting on impulse and potentially making your situation worse. However, history shows some smart strategies in uncertain times can help you gain, not only in the short-term but in the better times too.

When businesses are hit with uncertain times — like when they hear the word recession — they immediately start to make cuts. Marketing is often one of the first things to go, which coincidentally, is one of the worst things you can do. 

Think of it this way, just because you’re putting more weight on a table, you’re not going to cut off its legs, right? In fact, you may even add another leg for support. This is how you should look at digital marketing when you’re facing hard times.

Let’s look at why continuing digital marketing is essential in times of uncertainty.

What happens to marketing during a recession and uncertain times? 

There are typically three ways businesses handle their marketing during a recession and uncertain times:

  1. They turn it all off to cut as many costs as possible.
  2. They reduce marketing and advertising spend.
  3. They increase their investment into their marketing and advertising.

You may be thinking, what business in their right mind would increase their marketing spend during uncertain times? Smart ones, that’s who. Businesses who thrived during the Great Depression are the perfect example of why you shouldn’t follow what everyone else is doing during difficult times. 

Businesses who spent more during uncertain times and profited from it


In the 1920s, packaged cereals were only just starting to take off, with Post being the market leader, followed by Kellog. And then the Great Depression hit…

Post did what most businesses did and cut spending, including a significant reduction in their marketing and advertising. Kellog reportedly doubled their advertising budget, heavily pushing their new cereal, Rice Krispies. While Kellog went on to see a 30% increase in profits and become the global brand we know it today, overtaking Post’s success.

Procter & Gamble 

Procter & Gamble (also known as P&G) began operating in Australia in 1985, with brands to their name like, Olay®, Oral-B®, Pringles®, Wella®, Pantene®, Duracell® and more. Their 185-year history spans across many countries, and they are looked upon whenever there are uncertain times for their growth strategies — and 2020 was no different. 

When faced with the global pandemic, P&G’s joint CFO and COO, Jon Moeller, said, “The best response to what we are challenged with today is to push forward, not to pull back.” They not only committed to their 2020 advertising budget, but increased it, resulting in a 4% growth of revenue in 4% alone.

5 Top Reasons to Continue Your Digital Marketing in Economic Downturn

Less competition

Despite the evidence against doing so, many businesses cut or stop their marketing and advertising budgets when faced with an economic downturn. For you, this is a golden opportunity to take advantage of their lag, doubling down on your efforts to ensure you’re front of mind while they are absent.

Search engine results, in particular, take a hard hit when not regularly maintained. If you invest your time in working with new algorithm updates, posting relevant, high-quality content regularly, and optimising your website and online presence, you’ll notice your rankings and website visitors climb, while your competitors slip off the results. When they do realise their mistake and return to their SEO strategies, they’ll have a hard time catching up. 

Build and maintain trust

Far too many businesses ghost their online presence when they’re going through a difficult time, but it’s the most important time of all to stay atop of your marketing. People will be using social media, Google and other platforms to check if you’re still open, when you’re open and what deals you may have on offer. If you’re not posting or updating, it’ll look like you’re out of business, losing you valuable business. 

Facing or going through a downturn is when you should knuckle down on building and maintaining trust with your online audience. This includes:

  • Gaining new reviews.
  • Engaging with your online community.
  • Posting relevant information and offers regularly.
  • Focusing on providing a good user experience.

And more. Building and maintaining trust not only helps find you new customers or clients, but also helps retain the ones you already have too. 

Better return on investment

Less competition comes with many benefits, including a greater return on investment. From your organic efforts to your paid advertising, there are more opportunities to increase the results you gain from your marketing investment. However, to do so effectively during an economic downturn, you do need to pivot your marketing to suit the new environment.

We speak more on this later, but what and how you market and advertise will likely be different when consumers are more conscious of what they spend their money on. It’s important you find what value you bring to them and highlight this through your digital marketing to maximise your potential of receiving a return. At the end of the day, your results are only as strong as your strategy, and knowing where and how to put yourself out there.

More online opportunities

Online shopping in Australia has been on the climb for many years, growing by 23.4% in 2022 alone. With consumers tightening their purse strings, 81% of shoppers look online before making a purchase, searching for the best price, most trusted brands and the best choice for them. This is your golden opportunity to ensure you are getting your business in front of these people.

A diverse online presence is very important when marketing your business during uncertain times, ensuring you meet consumers wherever they’re looking online. While 68% of online experiences start on a search engine, it’s also important to ensure you’re findable on social media, and even using paid advertising on platforms to best reach your ideal audience.

Maintain momentum

Digital marketing takes time to work, so if you stop your marketing, it will take more work and time to get it back up to speed when you need it most. Some digital marketing strategies, like search engine optimisation, rely on maintenance to perform well, which can often take 3 to 6 months to even start seeing results. While it’s believed ads start generating leads the moment you turn them on, they can take weeks, if not months, to gather enough data to work well at generating leads for your business. Plus, they stop producing results the moment they’re turned off.

If you have the means to continue your marketing and switch your strategy up to suit the market, you’re more likely to ride out the uncertain times and even grow from them. Never run an SEO or ads campaign before? That’s ok too. It’s never too late to get started, but the more time you give yourself before you need those leads to stay in the business, the more time you have to succeed. 

How to Adapt Your Digital Marketing During Uncertain Times

Adapting your digital marketing during uncertain times is essential to see success. These are just some of the things you need to consider when adapting your strategy and marketing plan to suit uncertain times.

Find your unique selling proposition and value

During uncertain times, the needs and wants of consumers change. It doesn’t necessarily mean they stop spending, they simply value every dollar more. This is where you need to find how your business can provide that worthwhile value and how it benefits the customer or client. 

For example, during the pandemic many plumbers saw an opportunity in advertising regulated bidet installations to combat the toilet paper shortage. Many other businesses temporarily reduced their pricing or ran sales to help support their communities and help bring in immediate cash flow. Think hard about the products and services most valuable to your customers right now and what that benefit is. 

Focus on user-experience

User-experience is everything in the online world. Information needs to be easy to access and quick to absorb. If you’re seeing visitors to your website or social media profiles but don’t see a conversion or valuable result (like an enquiry, sale or even a follow), it could mean there is something missing in your user experience. This can also be a common problem of why your search engine optimisation isn’t performing too. 

If you’re relying on digital marketing to bring you new customers, it’s time to look into the user experience you provide your customers. In uncertain times, a full website rebuild may not be in the budget, but search engine optimisation will be essential in providing the basics to what Google and consumers need to be able to find you and love your website. 

Adapt your sales funnel 

The sales life cycle can be longer during uncertain times. People will take more time looking for the right options, including looking for the best price, delivery options, quality and more. Your sales funnel needs to adapt to this, including how you’re tracking your results of your organic and paid digital marketing. 

Advanced conversion tracking can help you accurately measure the behaviour of people who follow your website, giving you valuable insight to adjust your marketing. Your salespeople can use this data to pre-empt questions or hesitations from potential customers, helping you secure more sales sooner. You can also utilise ads to remind these people of why you’re so great and why they should seal the deal now (even enticing them with an offer).

Utilise remarketing

Remarketing allows you to put an ad in front of people who have already engaged with your business, such as visited your website. This can be invaluable during hard times for some industries where repeat business is common or there may be a longer sales cycle. You can then make these ads specific to the audience and help bring them back to your site.

For example, you may offer free delivery or a discount with a promo code in your ad campaign, promoting a ‘flash sale’. This helps create urgency to speed up that sales cycle and helping them make a decision. 

Invest in long-term organic strategies

Businesses facing uncertain times often jump straight into ads and often neglect organic strategies, like SEO. While ads are great, they not only stop if you turn them off, their success can heavily depend on the budget you put into them, what your competitors are doing and many other uncontrollable factors. But SEO is an open playing field for all, and is a powerful tool on its own or even more powerful again when paired with pay-per-click ads.

There is a lot to search engine optimisation, but a big part of it is providing a high-quality solution to a searcher’s query. During uncertain times, this can mean putting in the energy to find out what questions your potential customers are asking about your industry online, and answering it. It can also mean improving the quality of your web pages to give you even better return on investment in your ads. There are so many ways it can help, so having an SEO agency who knows what they’re doing will be invaluable to your business if you’re facing a hard time.

Prepare for the bounce-back

The most important thing to do during a quiet period is to prepare for when things do return to how they were before. If you’ve kept up all of your marketing, you’ll be in the best position to receive an influx of customers once any restrictions are lifted. Use this time to plan ahead and figure out how you’ll handle this amount of business.

And of course, once all that business does come back you’ll be glad that you continued with your SEO campaign and other digital marketing efforts. Imagine if you’re getting results now during the tough times what your revenue will look like once everything is returning to ‘normal’.


Article Written & Reviewed By:

Ryan Chilton

Ryan is a passionate and award-winning SEO & Digital Marketing Specialist here at Digital Surfer. He helps businesses to Level Up their online presence with comprehensive digital marketing strategies. Ryan is also the mastermind behind our educational training program EEATs Friday.Ryan's passion for digital marketing makes him an excellent author, sharing his knowledge and insights through both written & video content.
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