If you’ve been watching the news lately, you may have noticed that the economy is in a bit of a downturn. It’s happened before and it will happen again. During these times, smart businesses adjust their marketing strategies to make sure they will thrive during these slumps. You do not want to allow external circumstances to determine your future. The key is to be strategic, savvy, and streamlined in your campaigns.

For a well-positioned company, an economic recession should not lead to marketing cutbacks. Any time you go into a fearful reactive mode, you are actually moving backwards. Instead, think of this an opportunity for you and it is a great time to get aggressive with your marketing. Marketing is what will make your company recession proof. Since a lot of your competitors will be cutting back, this is your time to really differentiate your business and strengthen your competitive advantage.

Here are tips to help you adjust your marketing in a tough economy:

1. Know what drives your customer in this economy. More than ever, you must understand what drives your target audience and how they are reacting to the current economy. Both consumers and businesses will take more time to make a purchasing decision and they will most likely be a hard negotiator at the point of sale. Buyers are more willing to hold off on making a purchase, and they will rely on the brands that they know well. Therefore, talk to your current customers about their challenges and what they need from you to help them.

2. Keep an eye on your sales. This is a time for careful monitoring and adjusting. Watch your incoming company sales and keep an eye on your project pipeline/future income. If you compare this to past data, you will know what is happening before it actually occurs and you can intensify your marketing efforts to compensate for potential slowdowns. Now more than ever, you want to make sure that you are marketing forward to ensure your pipeline stays full in the coming months.

3. Differentiate yourself and reinforce your brand. When we are in a time when fewer people are buying, competition becomes fierce. Make sure your target audience understands why you are different from your competitors. Let them know why your brand is the best. Treat your best customers with extra TLC because you want them to weather the economic downturn with you. This is a great time to give your VIPs extra value and incentives.

4. Don’t focus on expansion right now; instead focus on what is profitable. Now is not the best time to launch a brand new venture. For example, if you are a chocolate bar company, it’s not a good economy for you to try out a donut line. You don’t want to risk a fall by jumping too far away from your tried-and-true core areas. Instead, take a look at the services and products that are most profitable for your company and vigorously promote these.

5. Focus on relationships and value. Keep marketing your company’s value to your prospects and customers. Because people are spending less, they want the purchases they DO make to be of great value to them. Emphasize reliability, durability, quality, and performance in your promotions. Tell your customers how much you appreciate their business.

6. Ditch awareness-marketing for lead-generating marketing. I am a proponent of building brand awareness through advertising and promotions. But now is not the time for traditional marketing – you can’t afford to waste your dollars on efforts that don’t generate immediate business. Instead, implement marketing that generates quality leads. Be sure to set up tracking systems so you can effectively monitor the results.

Remember, a recession is not the time to get gloomy. Instead it is an opportunity for smart business owners to differentiate their company. In a slowing economy, it is time to maintain or even increase your marketing budget. Stay laser focused on the activities that make your phone ring now and in the coming months.