In times of crisis, it’s human nature to pause and evaluate.

With plenty of uncertainty to go around, business owners and consumers alike share a common mindset: Save money wherever possible.

For the consumer, this means not purchasing goods and services that are considered unnecessary or luxury items.

This, in turn, leads business owners to believe that cost cutting — or saving — should start with the marketing budget – because why spend money to market to and obtain new customers when they’re less inclined to buy?

This logic can make sense for some businesses and their owners in the short run, although there is evidence to suggest the contrary may be more effective in the long-term.

Just keep this in mind: Even if you have decided to reduce or eliminate dollars towards marketing, there’s still a handful of ways you can effectively promote your business online to reach existing customers and acquire new opportunities during tough times.

Here are a few of those options, each of which can cultivate long-term success on a limited budget.

Local Search

Of the 3.5 billion searches performed on Google every day, 46% of them are looking for a local service.

Think about that for a second…

That’s a ton of opportunity awaiting your business.

Local search is, by far, one of the smallest investments you can make to promote your business online and, potentially, the most beneficial.

If you own or operate a service-based business that relies upon a local audience to grow its customer base, establishing a presence in the “map pack” of search results is a must — regardless of the economic climate.

If you have not yet claimed a listing on popular local platforms like Google My Business or Bing Places — both of which are free — do so now.

Yes, there may be times when demand for your local product or service is lower than normal, but don’t cheat yourself out of any available opportunities.

Those opportunities could come from people right in your own backyard.

Trustworthy Content

According to a survey conducted in 2019, more than 81% of consumers admitted that a major factor when deciding whether or not to purchase a product or service from a specific brand was the level of trust in that brand.

Nothing instills trust in your brand like the content on your site. It informs while also providing value that improves your potential customers’ lives.

Providing your audience with educational content breeds trust, but it also incorporates the value you want to present to your audience, fostering long-lasting goodwill. Informational content aligns with how a majority of people search the Web.

You’re an expert in your field, and the content on your site should confirm this.

Studies have shown that nearly 75% of consumers trust content that is considered educational without explicitly soliciting a product or service.

For example, let’s say you’re a plumber. You could publish a comprehensive guide on how simple DIY preventative measures can lower water bills.

Rather than telling someone why you should be their plumber, you’re providing them with real value — value that will pay off the next time that person needs to repair a plumbing issue that requires professional help.

Creating new content is not the sexiest or most expedient way of promoting your business, but when done right, it will create a bond between your brand and your audience, the foundation of which is built upon a trust level that can endure for a very long time.

Search Engine Optimization

The concept of SEO can be daunting, but there should always be room for it in your overall marketing plan.

In fact, because SEO is the ultimate long-term play, what you do now — when you have a little extra downtime — can pay off handsomely down the line.

Creating valuable content and acquiring links from authoritative sources across the Web are — and always will be — the top two ingredients of successful SEO.

But be mindful of the time you have now to perform some general maintenance on your site. Optimizing it page by page will complement the other two ingredients of SEO and ultimately put you in a good position when the effects of any type of crisis subside.

Despite the fact they can offer outdated advice at times, user-friendly plugins, like Yoast, can help with site maintenance.

At the very least, they’ll provide you with the resources to optimize each page of your site and address some of the more technical aspects of SEO, which are vital to ranking well in Google and other search engines.

Buttoning up everything on your site through optimization is a vital part of any sound SEO strategy and can lead to new opportunities three, six, 12 months down the road.

Paid Ad Campaigns

We know, the word “paid” seems out of place.

Especially when you consider the other digital marketing techniques on this list require little to no expense.

Paid ads, however, on platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads, are priced according to an auction-like system that’s predicated upon competition.

This begs the question: If your competitors are dropping out of this auction out of fear of spending money during times of crisis, shouldn’t you do the same?

The simple, and very straightforward, answer is no.

The absence of your competitors only makes it easier and cheaper for you to reach potential customers.

Ads for your business show at the top of Google’s (or Bing’s) search results, and you get clicks from potential customers at what could be a drastically reduced price, which stretches your overall marketing budget even further than before.

These clicks can result in leads that ultimately produce revenue to pay for important operational expenses, such as employee salaries, utilities, and more.


Times of social and economic strife can be hard on us all, but they’re perhaps hardest on smaller businesses who rely on two dollars being returned for every dollar spent.

The good news is, the Web provides a wealth of opportunities for any business, in any economic climate.

You just need to know where to focus your efforts to maximize your opportunity and return on investment — both of which can be done at a surprisingly low cost.

Ryan Faller

Ryan works as a Digital Strategist and spends his time implementing creative solutions for clients to help them meet their marketing objectives. A jack of all trades, Ryan has worked the better part of the last 15 years in the online realm in a number of capacities, from SEO and paid search to content creation and landing page optimization. When not in the office, Ryan enjoys staying active, including exercising and playing sports, working around the house, taking in some live music, trying new restaurants, and enjoying a good craft beer.

Learn more about Ryan Faller