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How to Handle PPC / Biddable Media in a Marketing Slowdown

Darko March 23, 2020


For many companies, the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic reached a tipping point in the last couple of weeks as more marketing departments and marketers opted to switch their campaigns off.

There is very good reason for this, of course. Individual and community priorities and purchase habits have shifted dramatically, almost literally overnight. Holidays and travel have almost universally been cancelled, cities and entire countries are in lockdown and consumers are changing their habits as people adjust to staying at home.

The hospitality and travel industries have been the hardest hit, as the bulk of footfall and revenue disappeared within a matter of days. However, many other industries are not far behind. Retail may be particularly hard hit, even in the longer term, and financial services are hurting as investments are either put on ice or kept liquid in uncertain times.

However, when circumstances change and you need to react quickly, not every marketing account is necessarily an on-off switch. If your organisation is struggling but not necessarily to the point of switching everything off, it’s worth remembering some intermediate steps you can take to be measured and sensible while navigating choppy waters. Here are a few.

Decide What to Remove First

In an age of automated bidding, algorithms can usually be relied on to reduce spend over time across groups of audience targeting or keywords that are not converting. However, when consumer demand changes drastically, manual intervention can often be a good thing.

One of the first things to do is to map out what consistently converted for your business over the last few months (or, if you are in quite a stable sector, a year). If you spot any sudden fall-offs in revenue in specific targeting or keyword segments, make a note of exactly which these are, and proactively pause the lowest performing while the storm passes.

Zero Keyword Reporting

If you work with a marketing attribution partner, take a look at multi-channel and multi-touch attribution and identify any recent touchpoints (that you’re paying for) that do not contribute in any way to a conversion. When times are good, we can use this data as a tool to increase the effectiveness of our PPC, as shown in our case study where we achieved 95%+ converting keywords for a growing client.

At VEN, we work together with Fospha on a number of clients to try and identify and further upper-funnel dropoff that we can temporarily pause.

Consider How Marketing Channels Interact

Similar to using an attribution partner is taking a look at how your marketing channels interact. If you market a product with a long purchase cycle, for example, then as user’s priorities changes you may find your top-of-funnel marketing starts to exhibit a much poorer engagement rate. Depending on what’s happening elsewhere in the business, this could be a sign to switch off branding and upper funnel lead-gen activity to preserve your budget for lower funnel consideration campaigns, which may still be proving effective.

Conversely, also consider what happens if you are in an industry that may experience an increase in sales during turbulent periods. If a market is opening up further to your services, then having lean bottom-of-funnel biddable campaigns but putting additional budget into discovery campaigns, could bring the most positive outcomes for your business.

Get Feedback from your Sales Teams

This is one important point that many marketers and service providers ignore – and is also an area where Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other media platforms won’t necessarily be able to provide any insight, so you need to trust your organisation. Check what is happening in your existing sales funnel. If you are bringing in leads as normal and things are looking okay, but leads are not converting because their priorities have changed, then this is also a major (if not the most important) signal to act, even if you think your campaigns are performing fine.

Constant communication with sales teams and reactions to increasing or decreasing conversion rates from lead to sale, is critical to long term success. If this isn’t already in place at your organisation, it would be a good time to start this excellent habit, and keep it going even when the sailing is smoother.

Finally, please remember that while the above are (hopefully!) useful tips for managing marketing budgets in uncertain circumstances, at the end of the day they are just that – marketing budgets. Above all, stay safe, be considerate, and look after yourselves and others. 🙂

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