Businesses everywhere have heard the dire — and often conflicting — predictions by economists on what the near future holds for the U.S. economy. Is consumer confidence up or down? Is a favorable investment climate just around the corner? Should you buy or sell?

One thing’s for sure — in uncertain times, many businesses make the mistake of placing their marketing on hold. But this approach can quickly do more harm than good, with short-term savings coming at the expense of visibility and market share.

Instead of putting your marketing on pause, why not look for ways to beef up your efforts without increasing your cash outlay? That way, your shop will be top-of-mind when customers need your services, rather than completely off their radar screens.

Try these five sure cures for the economic downturn marketing blues:

Renew relationships with past customers. No-brainers like an inexpensive postcard mailing are sometimes all it takes to rekindle a business relationship. Consider a special offer or savings discount on ancillary services like detailing or windshield repair.

Cut the generic advertising in favor of more highly targeted efforts. View every piece of marketing as a direct-response vehicle, and make them work hard for you by spelling out your value proposition and including a compelling call to action.

Sharpen your pencil! Submit an article showcasing your knowledge to the local paper or online forum regularly read by your target audience. How about tips for dealing with your insurance company, or the first thing to do when you’re in an accident?

Network, network, network. Raise your visibility by joining a trade organization or lead generation group. The most effective groups are those that don’t focus on member-to-member selling, but rather encourage participants to become knowledgeable about each other’s markets and look for qualified referral opportunities. What shop couldn’t use an unpaid sales force?

Finally, enlist the aid of your customers. Two things to request: testimonials and case studies you can use in your marketing efforts.  Also, don’t forget to ask for referrals!

Tough economic times needn’t put a crimp in your marketing style. Weather the storm with a little creativity, and the competition down the street will be wondering, “What’s their secret?”