6 Strategies to Gain a Competitive Advantage During a Downturn

Marketing Best Practices

6 Strategies to Gain a Competitive Advantage During a Downturn

As the commercial real estate industry comes to grips with another downturn, the de facto mindset becomes very defensive in an effort to protect immediate profits. Specifically, one of the first areas companies tend to slash right away is marketing spend.

But this is a recipe for failure.

There are numerous studies and evidence against this line of defensive thinking.

A Harvard Business Review study analyzed the strategies and corporate performance of thousands of companies during three global recessions. During the recessions of 1980, 1990, and 2000, 17% of the 4,700 public companies studied struggled: went bankrupt, went private, or were acquired. However, 9% of the companies flourished, outperforming competitors by at least 10% in sales and profits growth.

Another study by Bain & Company of nearly 3,900 companies worldwide during the last recession found that winners diverged from losers, with winners growing at a 17% compound annual growth rate during the downturn, compared to 0% among the losers.

The main discoveries found that the most successful companies after the recession focused on:

1. Operational efficiency improvements

2. Spent more on marketing


Down market represents a big opportunity to get ahead of competitors and increase market share in the markets you’re operating in

Below we’ve created a list of six strategies to set your organization up for success on the brink of industry-altering changes to ensure you maintain the competitive advantage.

1. Keep your foot on the gas

The perception created for your customers, partners and greater CRE community that comes from marketing & advertising garners good will and trust long before they become a customer.

While others reduce their spending on marketing, there is a greater opportunity to increase share of voice and brand awareness when your competitors go silent. Even if your marketing spending remains the same, it’s likely you will get more advertising distribution, with less competition at lower costs. A recession is an optimal time to invest in marketing as your money goes further. 

In addition, reduced marketing activity can indicate your business is vulnerable.

Try to maintain similar levels of marketing to help convey confidence and stability as it’s important to signal trust to your customers, partners, employees. 

2. Invest in new channels

Customers want—and expect—to engage seamlessly across 10+ or more channels during their decision journey. A McKinsey study shows that decision makers are using 2X more channels before interacting with a company compared to 5 years ago. This means it’s a great time to consider expanding your footprint and begin experimenting with new channels. 

There are plenty of free and low-cost channels to consider that only require time and effort with minimal capital expenditure.

Some areas to consider to stay top of mind during this time:

  • Get more active on social media – If you’ve previously not been very active then start getting busy on social media and engage in conversations.
  • Step up your SEO (search engine optimization) – improve your website visibility for hundreds and thousands of daily keyword searches in Google by potential tenants, investors and other CRE professionals.
  • Run Google Ads campaignsGoogle keyword Ads are an effective way to generate targeted visibility and acquire visitors for your company and properties.

3. Embrace new customers

Make sure your past customers don’t fall off your radar – now more than ever is the time to focus on customer loyalty. Drawing on one of the most widely used sales theories that 20% of your customers drive 80% of your sales, it is only natural that customer retention is critical to growth, especially in a recession.


  • The cost of acquiring a new customer is 5-15X more than retaining an existing one.
  • Referrals are critical – typical CRE brokerage earns +40% of their business from repeat clients and referrals from past clients.

Focus on the quality and depth of your relationships to give you leverage during a soft market.

4. Consolidate your tech stack

Investing in the right digital initiatives at the right cost can blunt the negative effects of economic downturn in the short term and help drive your competitive position in the long term. 

Challenge existing workflows and processes to make them faster, simpler and more agile for the long term.

Be super critical of the purpose and effectiveness of the tools your organization uses. 

Ask the hard questions: 

  • Where’s the bloat within our processes and day to day operations?
  • What can we automate or better streamline?
  • Are any of our tools redundant or duplicative?
  • How often are my teams using these tools?
  • Are we using the data or insights from these tools?
  • Do any of these tools integrate together?

5. Improve data hygiene

Th highest ROI marketing channel in CRE is email.

Performance is dictated by a few factors (content, when you send, segmentation, etc.) but one of the most overlooked is data hygiene.

Internet service providers care about your credibility and rank your sender reputation to determine whether your message gets delivered. Data hygiene is absolutely critical for your email marketing strategy. Clean data can improve both deliverability and engagement rates to make your email campaigns more effective. If nothing else, focus on the following:

  • Clean Your Lists Regularly – When an email address changes, your messages will bounce. Those emails often remain in the database for months or even years past the point at which they can be reached. Remove them when you spot a bounce.
  • Purge Unsubscribes – If someone unsubscribes, remove them from your email list. As spam and privacy laws tighten, it’s more important than ever to clear these people out and not attempt to contact them.
  • Remove Inactive Contacts – No contact is ever truly gone, but there are certain thresholds you can watch. If someone hasn’t opened an email or engaged with your content in more than 12 months, consider removing them, or setting up a cold-nurture campaign to attempt reengagement one last time before deletion.

The cleaner your database, the more likely you can improve your deliverability and get email campaigns directly in the inbox of your users.

During a downmarket this becomes critical because you want to maximize your chance of success as much as possible.

6. Outsource functional roles

Hiring an agency or consultant helps you leverage greater expertise in many more disciplines than you have in-house.

1. It helps you leverage greater expertise in many more disciplines than you probably have in-house. You can tap into experts in design, web development, data mining for prospecting, online marketing and any number of other fields; Usually these guys are staying up to date with the current trends and technologies that you will have at your disposal.

2. By outsourcing your marketing, you can free up your bandwidth and focus your team’s time on high-value activities that have the most impact on your business’s bottom line. Great way to offload your work and make you more efficient.

3. Finally, outsourcing is an effective way to reduce HR costs & overhead. A single internal hire can not only cost tens of thousands of dollars but also represents lots of headache that goes with it (recruiting, interviewing, onboarding, etc.) and then the recurring risk of turnover that all add up to significant expenses.

What is Sharplaunch?

What is SharpLaunch?

SharpLaunch is an all-in-one CRE marketing platform to help you streamline your marketing efforts and modernize your digital presence.

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