6 Creative Advertising Ideas for Recession-Proof Growth

These creative advertising ideas can be used by small business owners, including this entrepreneur on her phone.

An economic recession is on the way, but that doesn’t necessarily mean impending doom for your business. In fact, many small businesses can thrive during tough economic times, especially if they advertise.

During a recession, keep up your advertising spend, but reframe your message. You want to stay top-of-mind for consumers, especially when they cut back on expendable purchases. If it’s possible, position yourself as “essential,” whether it’s to a person’s health and well-being, or financial wellness.

If your service truly is non-essential, be an ally during tough times. Share what you’re doing to help the community and how you’re addressing customers’ fears and concerns.

For example, barber shops and beauty salons can share ideas for at-home haircuts to boost morale during trying times. Massage therapists can share content on how their techniques relieve stress—and how to do massage therapy at home.

Then when your customers are ready to shop, you’ll already be top of mind.

Fortunately, today’s digital world makes it easier and more affordable than ever to get your message out. Here are 6 creative advertising ideas you can try to help get your business back on track.

1. Amp up your social media advertising.

Where do your customers hang out? For most businesses, it’s on Facebook. But LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok are popular too, depending on your target market. Social media can be an incredibly effective and low-cost way to reach your customers.

Some creative ideas to consider:

  • Record “how-to” videos. Whether you’re a barber, nail technician, or florist, your customers would love to learn a new skill from you. Teach them easy techniques for nail care or how to put together a winning bouquet.

  • Start a user-generated campaign. Try one out using Instagram. If you’re a hairdresser, ask customers to take photos of their at-home haircuts and upload them online with your business’s hashtag. The funniest haircut wins! You’ll remind customers why they need you and offer humor during a tough time.

2. Get business insurance ahead of time.

Getting insured is important for any business, but especially if you’re advertising. When you promote your services, you’re at risk for getting sued. It’s easy for another person to accuse your business of libel or slander, and if you’re found guilty, you may have to pay for the damages.

Fortunately, business insurance can protect you in the event of a lawsuit. It can help cover the cost of damages, as well as a lawyer to defend your case if you’re brought to court (up to your policy limit). As you dive into advertising, consider getting business insurance right away—it could be worth the cost.

Plus, you can share your policy with customers or even advertise the fact that you’re insured. It can demonstrate a level of professionalism and credibility that you have over competitors.

3. Run a contest or giveaway.

Prizes are tough to resist, especially for customers. In fact, research shows that you can acquire an average of 34% new customers by running a contest. That’s tough to beat!

You can try running an Instagram contest where you ask visitors to like, comment on, and promote your page. Businesses that run Instagram contests can actually grow their followers 70% more quickly than accounts who don’t.

Some prizes to offer:

  • If you own a salon, spa, or barber shop, offer a day of pampering at your shop, free of charge.
  • Interior designer? Give out a free room makeover, including drawings and visualizations of the room’s design.
  • If you’re a travel agent, you can offer free services, plus discounts on vacation packages.

Make the prizes enticing enough for people to participate. Then watch your followers (and customers) grow.

Important reminder: Don’t forget to check if your state has requirements around sweepstakes or lottery contests!

4. Become an all-star guest blogger.

If you like to write, you’re in luck. Guest blogging is one of the easiest ways to promote your business, and it’s usually free. Popular blogs look for contributors, like you, to weigh in on your area of expertise. Once you write an article, the blog’s author should link back to your site, and voila! You can get new website visitors and customers.

First, look for the top blogs in your industry by doing a quick Internet search. Usually they include instructions for guest contributors. Then reach out to the blog’s author with specific ideas to pitch. Remember to reach out to a few blog influencers and make sure they link back to you.

5. Host an event people don’t want to miss.

Become the hostess (or host) with the mostest. People love to attend events, especially if they can learn a new skill or receive a deep discount. Great events don’t have to cost a lot and can be held in-person or online. Try a mixture or both formats and see what’s most successful.

Here are some ideas to spark your planning:

  • Spa owners and beauticians: Host a tutorial for brides on how to do your own wedding hair or makeup.
  • Acupuncturists and massage therapists: Hold an event that explains how your services can help heal and relieve pain during pregnancy. Then teach some basic techniques.
  • Florists and event coordinators: Teach event attendees how to create their own flower arrangements for Mother’s Day or another holiday.
  • Retail owners: Offer a sip and shop event where customers enjoy champagne and 25% off your products.

The key here is to think about your own business and target market. What exciting event would bring new customers in your door? Then put your ideas into action.

6. Create a customer referral program.

Word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful forms of marketing. According to Nielsen, 92% of people trust referrals from friends and family over traditional advertising. The best part? Word-of-mouth marketing (WOM) can quickly create results—and it’s free.

If you’re new to WOM, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Create a customer referral program. Give your ambassadors deep discounts if they refer friends and family to your business.
  • Ask for online reviews and ratings. Whenever someone shops at your business, ask for a review online. Facebook, Google, and Yelp are three places to collect reviews.
  • Encourage user-generated content. Ask your social media followers to take a picture using your product or service. Give them an incentive or run a contest. It can quickly influence their friends and family members.
  • Give out samples and free products to share. People love free stuff. If you can, give away a free product or service to the first customers who walk in the door. They’ll be likely to tell their friends about the giveaway.

Want more great advice like this? Download our FREE word-of-mouth marketing guide!

Remember to have fun promoting your business. Whether you host an event, start a social media campaign, or challenge your customers to a contest, your attitude will come through in your advertising. If you believe in your business, your customers will too.

Some of your advertising ideas will work, while others may not. Don’t get discouraged. Instead, measure your campaigns and learn from them. The more creative ideas you try, the more likely you are to get your business back on track—and fast.

Mariah Bliss

I love writing about the small business experience because I happen to be a small business owner – I’ve had a freelance copywriting business for over 10 years. In addition to that, I also head up the content strategy here at Simply Business. Reach out if you have a great idea for an article or just want to say hi!
Mariah writes on a number of topics such as small business planning, contractor insurance, and business licenses.