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Many economists think we are already n the middle of a recession, or we’re quickly heading into one. I’m no economist, but it’s obvious that things are definitely tightening up. Gas prices are sky high. The housing crisis and credit crunch have people worried. Many companies are cutting back on their marketing spending, just as a precaution.

In uncertain times, you’ve got to tighten up the marketing budget, right? Actually, no. The smart marketers understand that this is the time to crank up your marketing efforts. Why? If there is a smaller pie, you’ve got to fight harder for your share. Secondly, if you do it right, you can swoop in and grab up market share while your competitors are huddled in the corner in the fetal position.

I’m not telling you to spend like it’s 1999. You’ve got to be smart about where you spend your marketing dollars. Your specific marketing/media plan will depend on your target market and your specific objectives, but generally, you should focus on measurable, direct impact marketing media. Start with the stuff that will bring in actual sales now, not feel-good branding campaigns that might yield sales at some future date.

Here are a few tried and true marketing tactics that you can use to succeed in good times or bad:

Search Engine Optimization
If your website shows up on the first page of results for your keywords, you will get a constant flow of customers who are looking for exactly what you have to offer. Aside from the increased traffic and sales, owning the organic search listings builds your reputation as a leader in your industry.

PPC Search Marketing
Pay per click search advertising offers a lot more targeting control than organic search. Sure, you have to pay for every click, but you’re only paying for the clicks you want. Plus you can limit your campaign to specific geographic regions or time of day. Have a professional set up and manage your campaign and you’ll see a huge difference in results. Make sure you’re using the right match types, including applicable negative matches to weed out the junk.

PPC Contextual Advertising
Many people assume that content network ads don’t perform as well as search. This is true some of the time, but not always. Average cost per click is often lower with contextual ads, so you can achieve comparable results to your search ads even if the conversion rate is lower. However, just because you can display your search ads in the content network doesn’t mean you should. Since people seeing these ads didn’t necessarily search on your keywords, you need to use an ad that matches their frame of mind.

Affiliate Marketing
Get 1000’s of websites to promote your wares and only pay for completed sales. That’s the allure of affiliate marketing. It’s a lot harder than it sounds to get it right, but if you are generous with your payouts and treat your affiliates right, this channel can make a huge impact to your company’s sales numbers.

Email Marketing
Build a list of customers and prospects and send them valuable information, and good offers. Customize your offers to their specific needs and let them know how you can help them. This is a good time to maximize your house list and nurture your relationships with existing customers. They say it costs 10 times more to acquire a new customer than to sell to an existing customer, so it’s a no brainer.

Joint Ventures
It’s smart to use your own customer list to its fullest, and it’s also smart to leverage the loyal customer base of partner companies. Pay your partner a commission for sales they generate, or cross-promote their products to your customer list.

Direct Mail
Response rates for direct mail campaigns are way down, and non-targeted campaigns are usually a waste, but if you target the right list with the right message and the right offer, DM can be golden. If all your competitors are sending email, a personalized letter in the mail will stand out.

Customize your marketing plan to meet your objectives. Test EVERYTHING. Ditch the stuff that doesn’t work and increase spending on the stuff that works. Don’t let the stupid recession get in the way or reaching your success!