Times are getting tough with a potential recession looming, and companies are looking to tighten budgets. Typically, marketers allocate the lion's share of their spend to the advertising sandbox, but with potentially tough times ahead they need to get creative and do more with less.
Big budgets will soon be scrutinized closely by management so marketers can’t rely on extra cash to keep up with the competition and create big splashy campaigns to achieve traffic benchmarks.
Harvard Business Review found that although marketers said “they’re happy to allocate 57% of their budgets to digital marketing activities and are planning to increase spending by another 16% in 2023,” more than 30% of marketers said “they are experiencing average-to-no returns on their investments.”
These poor results mean that those marketing budgets will likely be the first to be trimmed in times of trouble. To ensure this doesn’t happen, you need to track your performance and demonstrate that you’re effectively gaining results with the budget you have.
Marketers who were part of the dot-com bust in 2000 will remember the impact. This era was our first introduction to digital transformation. We are once again entering into a complex time where marketers must justify their roles and performance. They need to be mindful and measure KPIs of all things digital – especially advertising budgets.
Thinking about how to conserve cash and go into stealth mode can be a hard mindset to transition into, so here are three key tactics that will make big, measurable changes to your digital bottom line.
Rein In Your Firmographics to Help Target the Right Companies
The first tip should be obvious but it’s not. So many marketers are guilty of casting too wide of a net with their advertising target. Bigger isn’t better.
Narrowing down your target audience is essential, or else you risk spending time and money driving the wrong traffic to your initiatives. What’s worse, you won’t be able to justify your strategic position.
The first step is to always get on the same page as your sales team. Take time to go over your sales data, ICP, and lead scoring model together. Talk about where you have sales coverage. Find out what industry the team is focusing on right now. Have they cut down the team size to conserve budget? Can they handle the volume of leads, both good and bad, that emerge from a big campaign?
These important questions must be addressed before you start campaign planning and allocating funds. Also, it’s better to have the team back your actions, so you’re all invested in the results.
Second, to keep focused on our target audience, we need to stop skipping persona creation and clearly define our ideal customer profile (ICP). Using the right language at the right time is impossible if you aren’t 100% sure who your target is. If you don’t have this information or leverage old data, you’re sure to waste your budget and you won’t achieve the desired results.
As a final step, calculate the total addressable market (TAM), serviceable available market (SAM), and serviceable obtainable market (SOM). Refer to our toolkit here for guidance. Use these numbers as baselines for your campaigns when you’re adjusting your target audience. Take steps to segment your audience and use personalization to target customers within your market.
Get to know all the functionalities provided on each platform and brush up on how to use them more effectively. Here’s a handy guide on how to navigate the changing LinkedIn advertising landscape.
Even if you’re getting good results, you can always do better as a responsible marketer. The only way to make adjustments is to ladder back up to your master plan, which should be recorded in your playbook.
If you avoid these foundational elements, your management team will eventually start questioning your performance, which will suffer.
Nix Competitive Keyword Advertising
Many companies feel that competitive keyword advertising, sometimes referred to as poaching, is a method to target their competition and get ahead. The downside of poaching is that you are watering down your unique selling proposition (USP).
These types of campaigns may drive traffic, but will you increase your win rate? Spending valuable marketing dollars on costly keywords, competitive phrases, and brand marks doesn't often pay off.
A US study found that there are only particular cases where ad poaching may work, for example, high-end brands are able to benefit more than mass-market brands. Another issue to consider is your desired result. The study did not clearly mention how this practice impacted sales.
This approach is not a science that always delivers results. Marketers must ask themselves: wouldn’t it be better to build your own brand rather than fight the competition?
Before you plan to overtake an audience, ask yourself these questions:
- Can I attract the same buyer that’s interested in my competition this way?
- Is our value proposition similar to the competition?
- Is this helping me to build brand equity and trust with my audience?
- Do I have evidence of attracting customers with this strategy?
There aren’t many cases where marketers will be able to convince themselves and their financial team that expensive competitive keyword campaigns are worth the money.
Instead, spend your dollars building a strong story for your brand and amplify your USP.
The advantage is that while other marketers burn through cash and spend time monitoring what their competitors are doing, you will be working on a standout strategy to build your brand without blowing your budget.
Understand What Resonates With Your Buying Committee
Spending a lot of budget isn't going to bring you closer to understanding who your customer or target is and what they want. Instead, this tactic has to do with segmenting your audience and testing. Two things that aren’t usually well documented and planned.
Generic phrases like “Buy now,” “Learn more,” and “Book a demo” have a place within your marketing arsenal. But those messages will fall flat and won’t drive sales. Marketers need to create a memorable identity that instills trust.
Most marketers focus on amplifying their brand message, but that’s not the most engaging and effective way to create awareness with your audience. While brand messaging may have a place, it won’t help you to connect with your target audience and drive interest.
To avoid that trap, start off by having the right tone for your audience and speak to them using the language they would use. Leverage industry-specific wording to describe their pain points in your headlines and content.
Next, offer a solution that speaks to your USP. This is a place where you can distinguish yourself from your competitors; be direct, ensure your message is easy to understand, and encourage your target audience to take action. Don’t forget to have proper SEO and keyword strategies factored into this process.
Speak to all buying committee members by creating variations of your messaging. Think about it this way, you wouldn’t address the C-suite the same way as you would managers who are sourcing solutions to specific business problems.
Finally, create a marketing playbook to organize how and when you make changes. This helps to manage less experienced team members and gives you a history of plays that are easy to pull up for impromptu strategy sessions.
How Do You Evaluate Your Success?
Bottom line, there are only a couple criteria to measure how effective your advertising is. Start by looking at click-throughs and bottom-line conversions. Are the ads converting? If not, review your personas to ensure you’re on target and make plans to start testing creative.
As a marker for success, your return on investment should be at least three times your spend. If not, you probably aren’t attracting quality leads that convert. As a first step, pause your ad spend and determine which programs are performing best. Next, halt advertising for initiatives that aren’t delivering benchmark results, and reallocate the budget. Finally, examine your campaigns and aim to replicate what’s working. This approach what is loosely referred to as a revenue R&D approach.
For a more advanced strategy, you can explore programmatic account-based marketing (ABM). Before investing in any platform, you can start with a simple test-and-learn approach. Begin with aligning your sales and marketing orgs by reviewing your campaign results, ICP, and ideally your persona(s). To replicate the experience cost-effectively, you’ll want to choose a low-hanging fruit segment and decide how to create messaging for your buying committee. If you have a positive return on investment with this approach, in the future, you can explore ABM programmatic platforms that will allow you to expand your advertising efforts and target micro-segments.
By following these advertising strategies, you can ensure that you focus your marketing dollars and resources on the most effective campaigns, creating maximum results for your company.