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Customer Success

21 Ways to Grow Your Business During a Recession, Broken out by Team.

Mike Skeehan

The future has never felt more uncertain than it does right now, as we face down a pandemic and (likely) an economic recession. 


While I can't offer any reassurances about the former, I do know a thing or two about growing a business in the face of adversity — We started Salted Stone in 2008, right before the Global Financial Crisis. 




A recession is not a death sentence for your business. If you play it right, it could even be a growth opportunity. 


When the economy shrinks, typical growth strategies stop working. But you can get ahead by thinking creatively. 


Here are some alternative ideas for growing during a recession, broken up by team: 


Executive leadership 

  • Use design thinking exercises to come up with out-of-the-box ideas for new revenue streams.
  • Tap into your workforce's hidden skillsets. An employee's passion project could be your next big thing. 
  • Don't stop. The best time to race ahead of your competitors is when everyone else is standing still.

Marketing teams

  • Start using ABM. Account-based marketing can help you keep your funnel healthy when lead sources dry up. 
  • Trade shows and conferences cancelled? Consider webinars, referral programs, and incentivized sales meetings to keep those personal connections coming. 
  • Invest in organic search. It takes 3-6 months for pages to start ranking for target keywords, and older content naturally decays over time. If you invest in inbound content now, you can start winning just as your competitors are starting to lose. 
  • Dust off your back-pocket buyer personas. Who were the people you said you'd market to if you had no other choice? It might be time to go get them. 
  • Consider co-marketing to drive additional leads. Adjacent companies' mailing lists can be as good as gold. 
  • Be honest in your messaging. People are suffering. Now is no time for marketing disguised as sympathy or insincere "personal" emails

Read: Is there such a thing as "honest" digital marketing?

Sales teams

  • Think small. When times are tight, people are more likely to spend a little money than a lot of money. Your small-ball deals might be more important than the big fish in the long run. 
  • Get a third-party to audit your CRM and sales enablement content and suggest fixes that could streamline sales operations. 

Read: If you're not using automation, you're not really using your CRM. 

  • Get flexible with your payment options. Installment plans, pay-as-you-go options, and back-heavy payment schedules can sting, but they're better than nothing. 
  • Play an empathy game. The sales teams that win during this time will be the ones who can think like their customers. There are exercises out there that can help you grow that skill within your team. 
  • Focus on channel sales. Your product or service could be a value-add to resellers and affiliate partners. It could be worth the commission to get those new customers into your ecosystem. 

Customer success teams

  • Let your customers cancel. It's not personal. If you make it easy for them to save money now, they'll be more likely to come back when they can afford it.
  • Check in on your customers just because. You don't need to be offering anything to ask how they're holding up.
  • Automate your support. Building an online knowledge base is easier than it sounds, and it can free up your time for more proactive CS activities. You can even use a chatbot to help customers find what they're looking for. 
  • Cross-selling is your new best friend. Offer your existing customers additional products and services that can add value to their lives. (Note: cross-selling is not up-selling.
  • Ask for help. It doesn't cost anything for your loyal customers to leave a positive review, share your content on social media, or complete an NPS survey. 

Operations teams

  • Do spring cleaning on your spending. Are you paying for software you don't use? Are you paying for unnecessary licenses? Send out a survey to your team to find "dead" subscriptions and get them off your books. 
  • Consider a technology infrastructure change. Want to move to a new marketing automation solution or CRM? The best time to replace a system is when business is slow. 
  • Worried about team members who are being underutilized right now? Help your team leads start a 30 day training/certification challenge and keep everyone busy while you grow your capabilities. 

Looking for a low-risk way to kickstart your growth? Get a 90-minute Springboard Workshop

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