Avoid These 8 Marketing Mistakes and Thrive in Challenging Times

When your startup faces a budget crunch, it’s tempting to trim costs wherever possible – in department budgets, personnel, production capabilities, etc. Often, the marketing department takes the first hit across all of these categories. But before you make that call, take a moment to reconsider.

In the ever-evolving landscape of business, and particularly during a recession, avoiding critical marketing mistakes is essential for achieving quick-wins and long-term success.

In this article, we’ll explore the eight most common marketing pitfalls and how to steer clear of them.

Mistake #1: Completely Eliminating the Marketing Department

We, as SAGE Marketing, understand that tough decisions need to be made when budgets tighten. 

However, slashing the marketing department entirely could have serious negative impacts on your business.

Marketing is fuel; it’s the engine that propels your innovative products into the spotlight, that speaks to your target audience and fills the pipeline with potential leads.

Think of a beautiful, sleek car… but without gas. Sure, it may look great, but it will never be able to put tires to the pavement and go. Instead, it will stay forgotten in the parking lot gathering dust.

Marketing is the fuel of your business.

You can have the most innovative, proven product that is leaps and bounds better than your competitors, but without marketing to fuel your sales and notify the world of your existence, you risk gathering dust in the parking lot.

The leg work that sales does is important but not scalable, and the truth is that sales teams need the support of marketers to generate qualified leads that convert. Marketers play a pivotal role in ensuring that when the sales team approaches a potential opportunity, they are welcomed and expected. 

So, before jumping to eliminate your marketing department, consider both the short-term impact on your sales performance as well as the long-term impact on your company’s ability to bounce back after the recession.

Mistake #2: Continuing Business as Usual

While sticking to the status quo might feel like a safe bet, it’s not always the wisest choice, especially in times of recession. Instead, it’s crucial to develop a streamlined marketing strategy that aligns with your overall business objectives.

So, where do you start? 

By pinpointing your most effective channels and strategies, and concentrating your resources on these areas. Simultaneously, assess your less impactful marketing endeavors and scale back on these to streamline operations.

Take a close look at your contacts, database, and LinkedIn connections. Sometimes, the untapped potential lies within these networks. Reconnect with dormant prospects by providing valuable information and content, or by inviting them to a webinar tailored to their interests and needs.

Consider collaboration as well. By partnering with complementary solution providers, you can amplify your impact. Join forces and host joint webinars or activities to leverage the combined strengths of both parties while sharing the costs involved. Remember, teamwork often yields greater results than going it alone.

Focusing on your most effective strategies is crucial during tough economic periods, and efficiency is paramount.

So, scrutinize each marketing operation and ask yourself: does it align with my goals and is it delivering the expected value?

Mistake #3: Ignoring the External Environment

Marketing doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

It’s influenced by the broader context of political, economic, and security landscapes around you. And these days, it is more vital than ever to be in alignment with current events.

So, before finalizing any marketing strategies, take a moment to analyze how external factors may influence the impact of your marketing activities.

For instance, you might need to consider delaying or synchronizing a planned campaign with current news events to capitalize on market trends and address compelling topics. Such news events often create a sense of urgency among your target audience, making your message more relevant and timely.

Connecting your brand to relevant events can enhance your marketing impact, creating resonance with your target audience.

In the same vein, paying attention to your external environment ensures that you avoid making any marketing mishaps or uploading insensitive content.

Mistake #4: Sticking to Old Habits

In challenging times, creativity is your ally. 

Recessions demand out-of-the-box thinking, and the fact of the matter is that innovative marketing moves don’t always require hefty budgets. 

Take inspiration from a real-life example of one of our clients: Salt Security.

Salt Security was planning to attend the largest cyber conference, RSA, and we knew we had to help them stand out using a limited budget. 

So, we set up a branded popcorn stand and gave out buckets of unsalted popcorn. 

As attendees came back and asked for salt, we seamlessly wove in our client’s message, highlighting the crucial role of their product in cybersecurity, just like the tiny but vital role of salt in our food.

And just like that – a little creativity plus a popcorn stand and some salt – and we made marketing magic that conference attendees talked about and journalists wrote about for years to come.

The take-away?

Don’t let tight budgets keep you from executing cost-effective, impactful marketing. 

Mistake #5: Downsizing Without Strategy

As sometimes happens in difficult economic times, departments need to be scaled down.

Scaling down your marketing team can be a strategic choice, but it must be done with caution.


Because a holistic, effective marketing approach requires expertise across various domains – campaigns, content, social media management, public relations, ABM, and more.

If downsizing your marketing team becomes necessary, it’s crucial to prioritize diversity in skills to maintain a versatile toolbox. For instance, a team composed solely of content writers without SEO or paid ads specialists may experience a decline in marketing effectiveness.

Additionally, consider the option of outsourcing your marketing needs to an agency. Agencies typically offer access to a range of marketing experts, allowing you to scale activities up or down without long-term commitments or employee concerns.

Mistake #6: Neglecting Customer Retention

When companies go through economic recessions, their focus often shifts to acquiring new customers.

While this is important, neglecting existing customers can be a costly oversight with long-term implications.

Firstly, customer retention is often more cost-effective than acquisition and provides a stable revenue stream.

Additionally, neglecting existing customers can lead to negative reviews that have the potential to spread and tarnish business reputation.

Therefore, you have to fight the instinct to hyper-fixate on customer acquisition, and instead, ensure that you are putting equal effort into keeping your current customers happy.

There are several ways to do this, including implementing loyalty programs, ensuring personalized communication, and keeping quality of customer service high.

By doing so, you can retain your existing customer base and maximize their lifetime value.

Mistake #7: Overlooking Data Analysis

In times of uncertainty, data-driven decision-making becomes even more critical than in typical times. Analyzing the numbers is the only surefire way to understand which strategies are providing ROI and which are not.

However, businesses often make the mistake of overlooking data analysis or relying on outdated metrics.

To avoid this, you should utilize robust analytics tools and regularly analyze data to understand market trends, customer behavior, and the performance of your marketing campaigns.

By leveraging insights from data analysis, you can optimize your marketing efforts, allocate resources more effectively, and stay ahead of the competition – even in trying times.

Mistake #8: Failing to Adapt

In a rapidly changing environment, adaptability is key to survival.

Some businesses make the mistake of sticking rigidly to their marketing plans without considering external factors or adjusting strategies as needed. 

Companies that are determined to power through a recession need to be willing and ready to adjust and pivot.

It’s easier said than done, but it’s more a mentality than anything else. You must stay prepared to change your marketing tactics in response to market shifts, customer feedback, and emerging trends.

Whether it’s modifying messaging, reallocating budgets, or exploring new channels, flexibility is essential for navigating challenging times successfully.

Achieving Marketing Success During Economic Turmoil

To power through a recession, companies must avoid common marketing pitfalls and embrace strategic decision-making.

Businesses often fall prey to knee-jerk reactions like eliminating their marketing departments or neglecting their existing customers.

But studies indicate that companies who bolster their marketing efforts during crises actually emerge stronger, while those who reduce marketing investments face challenges in regaining traction.

However, these mistakes are avoidable.

As your competitors hit the brakes on marketing, seize the opportunity to accelerate and surpass them in the race for consumer attention. By avoiding these common marketing mistakes, your business can do more than just survive during a recession.

And in case you’re skimming or need a reminder, here are the eight most important marketing mistakes to avoid:

Mistake #1: Completely eliminating the marketing department

Mistake #2: Continuing business as usual

Mistake #3: Ignoring the external environment

Mistake #4: Sticking to old habits

Mistake #5: Downsizing without strategy

Mistake #6: Neglecting customer retention

Mistake #7: Overlooking data analysis

Mistake #8: Failing to adapt

As long as you avoid these, you’re setting yourself up for long-term business success.