7 Cheap and Easy Marketing Ideas for a Recession

With the recession in full swing, and the Dow dropping below 7K, I thought it'd be wise to provide some cheap marketing tactics.

Hopefully these help you start a surge of other marketing ideas for you.

1. Highly focused pay-per-click advertising.
Don't bid on generic industry terms like 'car insurance' or 'car rental'. Instead, bid only on long-tail terms like 'car insurance quote wisconsin' or 'car rental prices denver, co'. Using geographic phrases, and keywords with obvious buying signals is way to keep search marketing costs low and ridden with higher quality conversions.

Tip: Create focused landing pages with plenty of conversion methods (sales quotes, whitepapers, brochure downloads, e-mail list sign ups, etc.)

2.  Create a valuable whitepaper and send out an e-mail to your permission list noting that it's available for download.
Make sure your whitepaper cites its statistics.

Tip: Buying the rights to whitepaper or e-book by an industry expert may yield higher returns on investment and requires less staff. 

Tip: Make sure you have a way to track whose downloaded the whitepaper so you can follow up with a sales call. A simple PHP form will suffice.

3. Create an online user group on Ning or LinkedIn.
Ning allows you to create your own social network. Think Facebook but with only your customers or friends.

Offer a discount to people that refer their colleagues or other customers. Create unique content that your best customers would care about (tutorials, slideshows, videos, etc.)

Ning's basic social networks are free, but ad supported. To not have ads shown, it costs $25. Let your customers know that Ning needs to support itself somehow.

This will give your biggest fans a breeding ground, and help connect them to drive brand loyalty and referral business.

4. Create a Twitter alias and connect with your customers on a one-to-one basis.
This one is a little iffy and requires your company to have the right culture for this to make sense.

I hear it can be addicting as well, so you may need to hire a well-intentioned intern to manage it.

5. Create a blog.
You don't have to have a cat to have a blog. 37Signals is an example of corporate blogging done very well.

You can have a labs blog where you talk abou upcoming products, or a service pack blog where you talk about enhancements to your products that have been made. You can administer your e-newsletter as a blog.  

6. Develop strategic partnerships for referral business.

At Applied Engineering, the company I work for, I've been reaching out to local workforce centers to help drive training revenue from dislocated workers.

7. Promote your local business online for free on all the major spots.

I wish I didn't have to say that, but it is overlooked by too many small businesses.

I hope this helps.  Best of luck. Stay positive.


  1. Craig,
    Great post. I’ve subscribed. Relationship based marketing is the way to go in a recession. I’ve done several blogs you’d be interested in.
    As far as Ning… not too sure. Have you taken a look at our tool Referral Key?
    Chris O.
    Referral Key
    “Your Trusted Referral Network”

  2. It is always about customer relations and walking in your customers shoes to get a true understanding of their wants,desires, and methodologies in their thought processes. Finding creative ways to develop a strong customer relationship is one of the most powerful ways to securing your business and profits. Customer loyalty programs ,offering sales incentives, and incentive programs and freebies always helps establish a strong bond between the company and customer. You can always promote from within your business by offering unique employee recognition programs and systems as well. Cross-promoting with other businesses is an excellent means of generating extra revenue but also a very cheap form of effective advertising and marketing.

  3. LinkedIn is a good idea, it lets you reach out to customers in a business oriented environment.

  4. One comment about pay-per-click is that some free tools are available to check the search traffic as well as relevant keywords, such as Google Analytics. This will give an idea of how competitive the market is and how much the cost could be.

  5. These advices are great, though a business proprietor should always remember that big-time endorsing during the current recession is quite a gamble. I suggest investing more on personnel training and development. The recession guarantees your employees will stick with you, at the same time, their current knowledge and experience can be quite a good investment! One piece flow simulations and lean simulations and seminars are a great help too, as it not only boosts a company’s output and manpower, but also helps reduce extra expenses.

  6. I used NING and yep, like facebook alright, only more business-oriented!

  7. “Create a blog.” – I think this is one of the popular media available today that you can use to promote your products/services online.


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