In times of crisis, it is natural for businesses to prioritize austerity over growth. This often includes minimizing or eliminating marketing spends and relying almost exclusively on organic growth. The thinking behind this is that during an emergency, brands are better served using their limited resources to nurture existing clients rather than trying to get new ones.
At first glance, this line of thinking certainly seems logical and reasonable. However, large cuts in marketing expenditure should be done cautiously and strategically. This is because, during a crisis, it is likely that businesses may lose existing customers. As a result, some businesses may have fewer customers to nurture and may not be able to survive unless they acquire new ones. Given this reality, it is important for companies to manage marketing budgets in a manner that does not stifle revenue growth opportunities or weaken the company’s longevity.
One way of effectively managing marketing and spends during a crisis is the “Three Cs” method. This simple strategy looks at customers, content and conversions and how to maximize impact with minimal spends.
1. Customers: Don’t Let Them Go
Hold on to your customers by focusing your marketing efforts on retention. Your team can start by retaining existing customers at the bottom of the sales funnel, and then gradually working their way up to the middle and top.
It is important to remember that marketing at each stage of the sales funnel is different. To retain customers at the bottom of the funnel, your brand should use good old email campaigns, which incur no additional costs. You can also use features like custom audiences on Facebook when budgets are tight as it allows you to target bottom-of-the-funnel customers while they are on Facebook. Costs for this can easily be justified as people spend a massive amount of time on Facebook during a crisis.
The next step is to increase visibility and engagement with warm prospects — those ‘non-buyers’ at the middle and top of the sales funnel. These audience segments include cart dropouts, repeat visitors and first-time visitors. To engage them, your marketing team can use Google search ads and efficiently allocate marketing spends so your brand gets visibility throughout the browsing and buying process.
2. Content: Re-purpose and Re-invent
Content is extremely important for remaining relevant and maintaining top-of-mind brand awareness. It’s also an excellent marketing option when budgets are tight.
An efficient way of kickstarting content during a crisis is to dig into your analytics and identify articles that have had great engagement results. It is highly likely that these pieces of content will still be relevant even during a ‘lockdown’ so your marketing team can just tweak them and share them to customers and web visitors via online channels. The content should ideally discuss why your company is still relevant during difficult times and how it continues to innovate and deliver value and savings to customers.
To further improve the dissemination of your content, you should explore automation platforms that boost the efficiency and visibility of campaigns. Today, during the crisis, most software companies provide applications or tools either on a free trial basis or at a very low cost. Furthermore, setting up automation technology is no longer complicated and is usually just plug and play. By using automation for content marketing, your team can save valuable time and resources.
3. Conversions: Optimize Relentlessly (with Artificial Intelligence)
Conversions! Conversions! Conversions! It’s the only metric that matters when things get tough. And conversion rate optimization (CRO) is one of the best low-cost ways to get big wins. But to do it, your team needs to take a deep dive into your analytics and fully understand the ‘conversion journey’.
When companies go into stabilizing mode, it is critical that their marketing teams avoid making assumptions and rely on data. This is especially true for insights about who is converting as well as for experiments to test a hypothesis.
By following this, your company can get a quick incremental CRO wins, which have the potential to turn things around if you’ve been exposed to external shocks.
Conversion rates should also be optimized by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI). Web visitors come with hundreds of variables representing many different interests or affinities. While these are captured by web analytics platforms, many companies fail to use the data to optimize conversions. This is because marketing teams cannot manually calculate all the different combinations that lead to a conversion.
To overcome this, your business should explore data science and AI platforms. For example, Alavi is an easy-to-use SaaS application that continuously analyzes website and ad platform data to identify combinations of variables that have the highest probability of converting. Your marketing team can then target audiences who possess these variables at every stage of the sales funnel and optimize conversions during a crisis.
In sum, to completely lockdown your marketing during a crisis is like stopping the clock to save time: it really doesn’t work. For a business to survive, it needs a good balance of austerity and growth. A scenario where a business would need one and not the other literally doesn’t exist.
To see the unseen requires investment in data science. Fortunately, you don’t need to employ your own data science team, which can be very costly. Today, there many data science platforms you can subscribe to online and get immediate results.
For example, one option worth looking at is Alavi.ai (www.alavi.ai). It uses data science and artificial intelligence to boost marketing outcomes. It does this by identifying a company’s most profitable audiences so it can strategically invest its marketing budgets. It also allows marketers to better understand attribution, improve engagement and increase lifetime value. Alavi.ai, unlike many other platforms, can be quickly and easily be integrated. It is very affordable and has an excellent Time to Value because it can improve marketing results in just 4–6 weeks. To learn more about MarTech Time to Value checkout my article here.
But even with all these sophisticated tools and immense amounts of data, human experience and the power of reasoning remains irreplaceable. While AI might identify many things, people still need to play a pivotal role in deciding what really are ‘unknown unknowns’. The key to this is setting priorities and have the mechanisms in place to alert stakeholders in real time or near real time. Business leaders today nee to instill a culture of dynamism where teams have the ability to change course depending on what the data shows. This is what will ensure forecasts are more accurate and help organizations get the growth they want.
All these being said the experience of the human and our power of reasoning is still irreplaceable. You still, have to play a pivotal role in identifying “unknown unknowns”, being decisive about the outputs thrown in by AI. The secret is to build priorities and alerting mechanisms to communicate to business stakeholders in real or near real time. Business leaders today should instill a culture of dynamism meaning our teams should have the ability and geared to detour where data points you towards a new course. This is what will ensure your forecasts to be at least near accurate and may your business see hockey stick type growth
Dinesh V Dino is a Co-Founder of Alavi.ai, an artificial intelligence and data science application that helps e-commerce businesses grow and scale online profitably. Prior to Alavi, Dinesh worked with many organizations around the world to help them understand and embrace factors affecting digital transformation, innovation, consumerism and digital lifestyles.