How to Acquire Customers in an Economic Downturn

Despite an economic downturn, staying afloat – and even flourishing – is a prospect still on the cards.

One of the challenges associated with an economically tough time is reaching new customers at a time when businesses want to keep costs down and customers are tightening their purse strings. However, navigating these obstacles all comes with adopting the right strategies. In this article, we’ll guide you through the best new customer acquisition tactics and ideas so you can win new customers during an economic downturn.

What is customer acquisition?

Customer acquisition refers to the process of drawing in potential customers to purchase your products or services.

A strong customer acquisition strategy will have a fool-proof method of attracting leads, keeping their interest and converting them into paying customers. It doesn’t just come down to advertising and marketing, it’s about the whole experience from first contact to first sale. How much money goes into achieving this is known as customer acquisition cost (CAC).

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How does customer acquisition drive growth?

Naturally, the more customers you acquire, the more sales you make and, ergo, the more revenue you take in. This extra revenue can be invested in purchasing more inventory, widening operations, increasing marketing budgets to reach even more customers and ultimately scaling up your whole organisation. In fact, through continually investing in and fine-tuning your new customer acquisition management, businesses can achieve substantial growth and meet – or surpass – their business goals.

Pros and cons of customer acquisition

Customer acquisition is an integral step to business growth. But that doesn’t mean it’s without its drawbacks. Below we’ll outline the key benefits and the challenges of adopting a new customer acquisition strategy in an economic downturn.


  • Customer acquisition is fundamental to growing a larger customer base. Without some focus on acquisition, it’s hard to tap into new markets and reach new prospective customers.

  • When effectively carried out, customer acquisition will boost revenues and business growth.

  • Evaluating the efficacy and success of your efforts is easy: simply measure up revenue increases coming from new sales against your CAC, i.e. how much it costs to secure those new sales.


  • There’s no getting around the fact that new customer acquisition is costly. The resources you invest in marketing campaigns, paid ads and revamping your online presence doesn’t come cheap. To counteract this, make sure you stick to a budget and don’t overspend to the point you compromise other aspects of your company.

  • It can be more rewarding to focus your efforts and resources on customer retention rather than acquisition, especially if your current goals don’t involve growth. This is because keeping your loyal customers happy is a sure-fire way to keep revenue coming in, and comes at a lower risk of seeing little return on your investment (ROI) as you know these customers already appreciate your offerings.

How to acquire new customers in an economic downturn

Now to the nitty gritty: How exactly can you acquire new customers in a thorny financial climate? Well, it’s going to come down to maximising your ROI and adopting effective tactics that simultaneously persuade people to part with their hard-earned cash while limiting the expenditure of your own.

So without further ado, let’s look at some of the strategies you can employ to pull in new leads in a trying economic downturn.

Focus on content creation

Getting the word out there about your business and the products and services you offer doesn’t just come down to advertisement. Creating engaging, interactive content across a range of online platforms is a necessary component of your marketing campaign if you want to reach a maximum number of customers.

Short-form videos, blog posts, polls and sponsored social media posts make up a huge amount of what the average person engages with online. These exist to entertain, spread information and educate – all things that your brand can do too.

Think about creative ways you can reach your target audience through online content. If you sell hairstyling products, for example, consider making TikTok videos that showcase your products and the results they yield. Or if you’re a food establishment, shots of your dishes and drink creations looking tasty and tantalising are often enough to do the trick.

And the biggest plus here is that it’s not only an effective way to draw in leads and increase conversions, but it’s also a relatively low-cost marketing method. A simple smartphone camera, a business social media account and plenty of ideas are all you need.

Conversion optimisation

Another biggie for securing more sales during an economic downturn is to optimise the process from lead to sale. This is where Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) becomes important.

A major example of this is ensuring your online store runs smoothly, with no glitches or slow-to-load graphics. That way, potential customers are likely to hang around long enough to make a purchase.

Other key ways you can optimise conversions is through ensuring you have a top-notch POS system and by adding a guest checkout for customers in a hurry.


Search engine optimisation (SEO) is your friend when it comes to customer acquisition. Nailing your SEO strategy will have you reaching more customers and seeing more sales and revenue as a result.

While optimising your general strategy to ensure you’re hitting key search words in your product description and website content is a must, you can also take advantage of the current downturn by tracking key search trends. ‘Cost-effective’, ‘affordable’ and ‘worth it’ are all examples of words people might search in relation to your products and services during a time when they’re watching every penny. Incorporating some of these could help you climb the search pages and reach more prospective customers.


Finally, reaching out to other brands and businesses to launch a unified marketing campaign can be just the ticket to reinvigorating your customer acquisition strategy.

While it involves finding the right partner that aligns with your values and goals and collaborating on the campaign, it can yield fantastic results as it allows you both to tap into your respective partner’s customer base. Plus, it usually lessens marketing costs as you’re both pitching in.

An example of a hugely successful co-marketing campaign (which launched during the 2008 recession) is Netflix and Xbox. Xbox Live Gold subscribers had access to Netflix’s streaming catalogue as part of their subscription, winning Netflix hoards of new viewers while Microsoft was able to seal the deal with customers on the edge about upgrading by offering them access to a whole other service.

If you’re in a customer acquisition slump, give these tactics a spin and see if they don’t land you streams of new customers – even in a downturn.

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