The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) provides a unique setting to study innovativeness and customer orientation in forest sector firms. Considerable research has focused generally on innovativeness in forest sector firms, but little attention has been given to the actions of firms to the chaotic market environment during the GFC. Our objective is to clarify how a customer orientation and the practice of developing new markets during a market downturn results in enhanced knowledge-based resources, manifested as increased innovativeness. Our longitudinal design includes data representing 2012 and 2015 from 89, US-based forest sector firms. Responding firms are more focused on process than product innovativeness. During the GFC, responding firms concentrated more on foreign market development than on domestic market development. Firms with a stronger customer orientation in response to the GFC realized higher innovativeness post-GFC. Also, firms actively developing new foreign markets in response to the GFC realized higher process innovativeness. Our results support a stronger customer focus for forest sector firms as it translates to increased innovativeness and potentially improved product development. In addition, allocating resources to foreign market development during financial downturns can be a strategy to build innovativeness.