Marketing In a Bad Singapore Economy

how to market in a very bad singapore economy

According to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the expected GDP for 2019 is set at 2.1%, which is down from the previous forecast of 2.5%. Economists say that this is the slowest growth in nearly a decade of the Singapore economy following an analysis of the first quarter results.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) had earlier given its estimates for 2019 to be between 1.5% and 2.5%. Moreover, MAS is expecting lower medians in nearly all macroeconomic sectors. For example, the manufacturing industry is expected to grow by 0.2%, which is a sharp deviation from the predicted 2% growth.

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The finance sector is also expected to increase by 3.5% down from 4.5%. With that said, what does it mean for marketers in Singapore?  For starters, most people will be cautious about spending their money seeing the news circulating of an impending recession. Moreover, DPM Heng Swee Keat recently said that Singaporeans should not expect a full-year recession, and most people interpreted it to say that Singapore is already in a recession.

Marketing In a Bad Economy

A slow economy makes it difficult for most businesses to maintain their sales numbers because people start cutting back on their expenditure. Most businesses go on to cut back on their marketing budget to save money, but that is a bad decision. If anything, it is the time to intensify your marketing efforts.

Despite the slow growth of the Singapore economy, businesses should approach marketing with a refined strategy. Here are tested tips to help you in with your marketing in a bad Singapore economy.

Track Everything

It is common practice for businesses to track their margins, especially their ROI. However, it is much more important that you track all aspects of your business and marketing processes in a tough economy. This means tracking everything right from customer response rates via promotional codes, emails, and online advertisements, as well as checking traffic sources or links that lead to a sale.

Monitoring the business allows you to identify and repeat working strategies and processes to eliminate what is not working. Businesses can then be able to focus their time, budgets, and energies on lowering the cost per acquisition.

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Provide Buying Options

Potential customers are twice likely to convert into paying customers when presented with buying options. During such times, when the Singapore economy is slowing down, marketers need to increase their strategies to include various channels such as fax, mail, email, telephone, and online. Several marketers have recorded a 40% increase in sales during recession time by offering a variety of buying options.

Moreover, businesses need to create new pricing options such as delayed payments, alternative financing options, discounts, subscription fees, and more to lower the risk of purchase. The goal here is to create better customer and onboarding experience for increased customer retention.

Call On Existing Customers

The chances are that you will not record as much new business as when the economy was on an upward trend. However, focusing on existing businesses during a slow economy could encourage repeat business, and thus increased or sustained sales.

Leveraging customer value is a sure way of fast-tracking business growth, especially in a tough economy. Start by offering customers exclusive savings and discounts or implement a repeated customer program or a loyalty reward.

Moreover, you ought to review the customer’s demographics to determine if they have similar characteristics. You can then use this information in your marketing processes and sales techniques to attract new customers.

You should also make calls to your best customers and ask them for referrals to people in their business and social circles. On top of this, ensure to attend face-to-face networking events, at least once every week.

Use Marketing Variety

Despite the burgeoning e-commerce market in Singapore, it is not enough to concentrate on one marketing avenue. It is better if you combined both offline and digital marketing in Singapore. For example, during the dot com bubble, many businesses relied on online marketing efforts, but when the bubble burst, the businesses realised the importance of offline marketing and traditional advertising practices.

This is also true in a bad economy. Make plans to reach customers by implementing cost-effective ways such as striking a balance between online and offline marketing and advertising.

Offer Free Trials

A tough economy causes a reduction in impulse buying. Customers will tend to focus more on the benefits of the product or service in their lives before making a purchase. Offering free trials is one of the best ways of navigating around this problem.

This is an opportunity for the customer to experience the benefits of a product or service, which will help them overcome their reluctance.

Outsource Services

Businesses need to look for ways to reduce their marginal costs, including the cutting down on marketing expenses in a bad Singapore economy. For this reason, it is necessary that you consider outsourcing your marketing, PR, and design needs.

The state of a bad economy is a perfect opportunity for you to transition into outsourcing since it is a cheaper option than maintaining in-house personnel. Moreover, outsourced personnel can generate superior outcomes compared to the produced through internal efforts.

In a bad Singapore economy, headcount and associated overheads due to CPF, taxes, floor space, welfare, transportation, entertainment, medical, insurance and bonuses become very magnified.

So it is usually better to outsource your marketing to an agency which can accommodate to your budget. If they do a great job that gives you superb ROI, you can scale up. If they do a bad job you can scale down or change agencies easily.

All these can help you avoid the unpleasant and morale-busting task of hiring and firing staff.

Additionally, an external agency would bring about new insights, profitable marketing strategies that you have never considered and new markets you have never dared penetrate.

Here is a video on how a company successfully outsourced their marketing:

YouTube video

Go On the Offensive

Many businesses make the mistake of slowing down their operations and getting on the defensive. Instead, the best option out is to get more aggressive with your goals and strategies. You ought to use multiple customer contact points such as a call centre, a product support website to create new opportunities via your marketing in Singapore.

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Stick to Your Sales Process

A slow Singapore economy can be demotivating to businesses not only in the country but also in the region. However, businesses must make a point of sticking to their sales process if not bettering it. If you make 50 cold calls a day and 20 reference calls, you should not reduce it due to a tough economy.

Sticking to the sales process will create a sense of accomplishment, even if the conversion rate is lower than expected. Moreover, when the economy recovers, you will not work hard on getting back your normal schedule.

Crank Up On PPC Ads

PPC ads are very competitive, and most businesses in the bad Singapore economy are cutting back on their online advertising budgets. However, customers will not stop searching the internet for their preferred products and services.

Cranking up on your PPC advertising ensures that you win the ads auction and a chance to increase website visibility to drive more customers. However, you will need to optimise our PPC ads to attract potential customers.

Take Advantage of the Trends

The slow Singapore economy is a blessing in disguise if you know where to look. Trends provide an opportunity to improve product visibility and engagement. This calls for you to carry out market studies to figure out what is interesting to your customers.

Use a Strategic Approach and NOT a Cosmetic One

Much of what other companies will be doing during an economic downtime is reacting to the bad situation. They’ll switch into a survival mode and try to adopt an operational approach instead of coming up with a strategy that will see to it that they’re able to sail through the situation they’re in and still give them a competitive edge after things get back to normal.

What you need to do at such a time is to maintain your cool, and focus on coming up with a long-term marketing strategy to help them grow and develop their company.

Many companies run their campaigns with no clear plans – they just experiment with so many random strategies hoping that something good may come out of it. But that’s not the way to go. What you need instead is a strategy that will help you face the brutal facts of reality.

That demands that you ask yourself a series of hard questions:

  • How do we make our company stronger, strong enough to remain stable even with the economic tide threatening it?
  • How do we make this company great despite the tough economic conditions?

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Your focus should be on improving your business, making it better than it is at the moment. For which case, you have five things to factor into the strategic plan you come up with.

A cosmetic approach would be to lay off some members of your staff, cut costs, and juggle between different business operations. But you need to learn to think bigger than that.

Take a deeper look into the following core things and figure out how to factor them into your strategic plan:

Mission: You need to understand your mission in business. What are some of the reasons that pushed you to get into this line of business?

Core Values: What are the core principles that control all your business operations? What do you stand for as a company? This should prevent you from acting desperate and losing focus.

Vision: Things might appear pretty tough at the moment, but where do you see your company in future?

Goals: What do you wish to accomplish or achieve after, say, a year or two? And to hit this goal, what measurable steps must you be involved with to create this future?

Objectives: What are these small steps that hinge you closer to your goal? Or what should you be doing to achieve this goal or turn your situation around?

Team: Which member of your staff do you need to achieve this goal, maintain your vision, and to stick to your core value?

Management: Is the management doing things right, or should they be reshuffled, removed, or eradicated? Does the business need a new structure or policy? What system do you need to adopt to grow your company?

Your business strategy is only good when it’s able to turn the situation of your company around and guarantee a better future. That means, your strategy must be focused on helping your business grow.

In other words, you’re picking a strategy that promises to move your company to the next level.

Efficient Marketing Strategies for a Slow Economy

Customer loyalty

Every customer you attract counts. For a business that’s struggling to gain stability or grow, then more focus should be directed at retaining a great majority of your current customers.

Be equally as concerned about keeping the bulk of your customers as you’re about attracting new ones. If you haven’t been doing it already, this is the time when you’d want to adopt loyalty marketing initiatives that will give your current customers more reasons to turn a blind eye on your competitors and continue shopping with you.

Invest heavily in Online marketing

When the economy is bad, you’re more likely to lose many of your customers and other stakeholders. But amid all that, online purchasing and shopping will continue to grow.

The good thing with online marketing is that once you’ve succeeded to install all the web assets in place, you can virtually reach an unlimited number of prospects at a much cheaper cost than print media or any other traditional form of marketing.

Consider Outsourcing

There’s no better time to outsource all your PR, design, and marketing needs than at the time when the economy is pretty sluggish. Reason being, that’s exactly when they’re at their cheapest – even cheaper than the cost of maintaining an in-house team. That’s without mentioning that an outsourced provider has the experience and expertise to generate superior outcomes than that which is generated through internal efforts.

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ROI Analysis

Never forget the fact that at the end of the day, marketing is still an investment. So, it only makes sense that you’d want to evaluate it and measure it in terms of the returns that it’s bringing to your business.

That means you have to learn how to carry out a thorough ROI analysis of each marketing campaign that you run, as well as that of individual marketing channels.

Nothing Should be left to Idle: This is the perfect time to reinvent yourself and plan on how you’ll be pursuing new target markets. It’s at this point that you’ll also want to diversify and look for ways to pursue long term success. If the strategy you come up with can guarantee success at such low times, then you can be sure of it working at all times – even after the economy settles back to normal.

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Find ways to make your brand reflect what you do, how you do it and all the reasons behind your actions. Your website is key in telling your story.

Marketing Through Recession

During a recession, your marketing must be in full gear. It’s now that you want to balance your marketing efforts to shore up short-term sales and pare costs against investing in long-term brand health.

You can start by streamlining your product portfolio, bolstering trust, and improving affordability.

Remember you have four types of customers, whose needs you should be focusing on.

Tailoring your needs for each consumer segment




Essential Marketing Strategies for this group



The Treats You Can Offer Them



Postponables (what you can do away with – at least temporarily)





(strategies that are adopted for the moment – and which you can discard later on, after they have served their use



The segment that slammed the brakes (decided to put everything on hold (mostly because they no longer can afford your services or products)



*** Put an emphasis on the price by hitting pocket-friendly retail price points


*** Offers smalls packages of your products and services at a fraction of the price


*** Introduce fighter brand


*** Introduce low-cost value products



*** Shrink sizes


*** Keep on reassuring your customers through adverts that remind that ‘they deserve it.’


*** Hold prices down



*** Come up with layaway plans


*** Promote exceptional deals


*** Provide low-cost financing


*** Create adverts that challenge penny-pinching behaviour




*** Come up with DIY alternatives that your customers can benefit from.


*** Continue working on creating awareness (for future, or when your customers would have regained their financial positions.



Affected but patient


(these ones have chosen to hang onto your products and services)



*** Offer lower-priced options


*** Offer bonus packs to encourage stockpiling


*** Hit low retail price points


*** Your marketing messages must emphasise on the dependability of branded products and services




*** Reward loyal customer *(even with reduced consumption of your products and services)


*** You can advertise your products or services as a morale raiser


*** Advertise your products as an affordable option or an alternative to expensive products



** You can offer simpler models at reduced prices


*** You can promote repair services so the customer doesn’t have to purchase a new product (and so they can spend less)


***Promote low-cost operations



*** Invest in product improvement to encourage re-entry


*** Continue awareness advertising




The Comfortably Well off (not affected by the bad economy)



*** Continue raising awareness



*** Your marketing message should emphasise on outstanding quality


*** Advertise your products as a product they deserve, having worked so hard to get to where they are



*** Promote the idea of saving as a result of buying now, and not having to wait


*** Promote the fear of missing out. Sell the idea of acting quick enough to avoid missing out on the product or service



*** Offer discreet purchases, where some customers don’t want to make it appear like they’re flaunting their buying power to the less fortunate members of the society


*** Talk about the ostentatious nature of your products


*** Focus on selling class



Live for Today


(don’t really care about how the economy is fairing on. If they can afford at that moment, they’ll buy it)



*** Continue raising awareness


*** Continue reminding them why they need your product. Or why it’s essential for life



*** Offer automatic credit card billing. Where they just subscribe to your offer and you’ll be automatically making deductions


*** Promote the benefits of buying now



*** Offer monthly payment plans


*** Promote the idea of seizing the opportunity at hand



*** Sell the idea of an exciting new product/ a must-have


*** Advertise as products you should be aspiring to buy when your income grows



A bad Singapore economy causes most businesses to doubt their marketing strategies and whether the marketing budget is being used effectively. Tracking everything will allow you to determine the ROI and plan better and more cost-effective marketing strategies.

Contact us for professional digital marketing services in Singapore. Our support team will be on hand to provide free and non-obligatory quotes for your consideration.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Social Media




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