How Marketing Leaders are Navigating Recession [New Data]

In the last six months, economic trend surveys we’ve conducted revealed that 37% of marketers are reporting budget cuts – likely due to our changing economy.

As a marketer, knowing where your leadership team might need to cut can help you prepare to pivot to strategies with less resourcing. And, if you lead a team, you’re likely wondering how marketing leaders are navigating this time to make the best decisions for your staff and business in uncertain times.

To help you navigate reducing your marketing budget in 2023, we used tools like Glimpse to survey more than 500 marketing leaders on their top strategies for cutting costs. We also asked them which channels they plan to pull back on first, so you can get an idea of what to expect.

Download Now: Free State of Marketing Report [Updated for 2023]

How Marketing Leaders Are Already Pivoting

Our full report, the Marketing Leader’s Playbook, revealed 80% of leaders have already taken steps to plan or prepare for a recession – so let’s dive right in and see what we can learn.

80% of marketing leaders are planning for recesssion

How Marketing Leaders Are Cutting Costs in 2023

Marketing leaders say leaning into earned media, leveraging automation or AI, looking for emerging marketing opportunities, using organic marketing channels, and optimizing your media mix are the top strategies for cutting costs, so let’s take a look at each in more detail below.

the most effective cost cutting strategies for marketing leaders

1. Tapping Into Earned Media over Paid Media

Tapping into earned media is a great (and free) opportunity to expand your reach when budget cuts are on the horizon.

Traditional examples of earned media include getting your brand spotlighted by a news publication or rated by a review site. Not only is it free, but the fact that it comes from an independent source adds credibility to your brand.

Another powerful earned media asset is content from your very own satisfied customers who might share their pleasant experiences on social media, review sites, or other channels.

Also known as user-generated content, assets created by happy customers are a great way to promote your brand in an authentic and credible way. Sharing and interacting with UGC on your official page will also deepen your connection with your customers and incentivize others to share their stories too!

2. Leveraging Affordable AI and Automation

Let’s have AI (courtesy of OpenGPT) write this section on how AI can help marketers:

“Marketers can use AI to cut costs in several ways. For instance, they can use AI to automate repetitive tasks such as data entry and analysis, which can save time and reduce the need for human labor.

Additionally, AI can be used to optimize marketing campaigns, helping to target the right audience and increase the effectiveness of marketing efforts, which can reduce the amount of money spent on marketing activities.

Furthermore, AI can be used to improve the customer experience, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, which can help to reduce the cost of acquiring new customers.”

Yes. The writing above isn’t perfect. But, it makes the necessary points and just needs a few tweaks to be great.

While AI isn’t ready to write intriguing full-fledged blog posts on its own, and we don’t condone replacing your team with AI, marketers and leaders can leverage automation, like HubSpot’s Content Assistant, to save time and money in a wide range of ways, like:

  • Using AI for basic web research
  • Generating post outlines
  • Creating short meta or social media descriptions

Artificial intelligence could be such a major evolution in today’s economy and workplace, that it’s even the topic of our next research report and series, which will cover The State of AI in business. Bookmark this page to check out our survey’s marketing highlights.

3. Embracing Emerging Marketing Opportunities

From AI to social media, marketing is always evolving, with new apps and features popping up constantly.

These are often free to use and being among the first brands to hop on a new trend presents a massive opportunity.

For example, embracing BeReal, a new social media platform popular among Gen Z, can make a splash with that demographic in a space brands haven’t yet saturated. You can also try out new social media features, like Instagram’s shopping tools, which offer marketers a high ROI as Millennials and Gen Z continue discovering products (and buying them) through social media.

4. Leaning into Organic Social Media Content

Leveraging social media to gain organic, free awareness is a no-brainer in this day and age, especially for the leaders we surveyed. Rather than investing time and money into making paid ads, you can create great content tailored to the interests of your audience and let social algorithms do the targeting for you.

And as we’ll get into later, paid social media content is the first channel marketing leaders plan to cut in a recession, so organic may be more important than ever.

The good news is that you no longer need a professional camera and the perfect setup to win on social media. Nowadays, authenticity and relatability go much further, especially with Gen Z and Millennials.

Brainstorm a few ideas, grab your phone or pop open Canva, and hit the post button. Analyze your results, double down on what works, and watch your audience grow.

5. Optimizing Media Mixes

Optimizing your media mix is all about figuring out what works (and what doesn’t) and shifting your investment accordingly.

Analyze the performance of your marketing channels and amplify the ones giving you the best ROI. At the same time, you can either cut underperforming channels or switch up your strategy.

Speaking of cutting back on underperforming marketing channels, let’s take a look at where marketing leaders expect to see budget cuts if a recession were to happen.

Where Marketing Leaders Could Cut Costs

If our economy worsens, most marketing leaders expect to see budget cuts in their paid social media content, followed by organic social content, print ads, email marketing, and video content.

Since these are among the most popular marketing channels, it’s no surprise that budget cuts will affect them disproportionately, simply due to the fact more marketers use them in the first place.

With all of that said, one thing worth keeping in mind is that the data above doesn’t necessarily mean marketing leaders will get rid of things like social media or email completely: they just might invest in them differently and more conscientiously.

which channels marketing leaders will cut budget from

On the other hand, marketing leaders least expect virtual events, podcasts, SMS, and physical ads to see budget cuts in a recession – possibly because these are used least often. Still, around one in five leaders still think these channels would be on the chopping block.

One definitive finding is that blogs are also among the least likely to be cut, despite being the second most popular marketing channel. Based on that, we can assume blogs will see less of a pullback than other equally popular marketing channels like social media, email, and video.

Get Ahead With Key Economic Insights

With one in three marketers saying a recession will have an even bigger impact on their marketing activities than COVID-19, preparation and continuous monitoring will be key to success.

Now that you know how marketing leaders are planning to cut costs, dive into the full survey results by checking out the Marketing Leader’s Playbook.

We’re also regularly surveying marketers on how the recession is impacting them and the strategies they’re using to persevere.

After reading our blog content, learn about the latest trends, innovations, and other ongoing challenges in the marketing space today by downloading our free State of Marketing Report below.  


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