I was recently introduced to the Dutch word averechts which Gavin Finn used in his recent post on MarketingProfs to explain the notion of someone doing one thing to avoid a problem only to realize that the ‘one thing’ they did actually backfired and caused the issue they were trying to avoid in the first place. And upon reading his analogy, I thought, “Yes! This is exactly what I’m trying to relay to companies who slash their marketing in an economic downturn.”
So thank you, Gavin Finn.
I’ve witnessed this before (I started my agency during the Great Recession). The economy takes a turn and marketing budgets are slashed. Leaders try to avoid losing money and there is this thought that by cutting marketing spend they’re doing the ‘right thing’.
In actuality, marketing can save you during a time like this.
I get it. It’s scary. And depending on the size of your business, it make feel like a risk. When we continue to invest in marketing in a down economy, we do so with some trepidation. While we know it’s the right thing to do, it’s even more important to us during times of uncertainty to understand what’s truly successful and where our dollars are best used.
This is where your metrics play a key role. Understanding what to track and what it means for business (present and future) can help you answer the always-looming question: “How do I know my marketing is working?”
Marketing metrics to help gauge success
1. Website activity
Use Google Analytics to assess the effectiveness of your website, what users do when they are there and how they get there in the first place. Dig in to the following as a starting point to assess user behavior and traffic:
- Organic traffic from search
- Bounce rate
- Traffic sources
2. Email marketing performance
The frequency of your emails, subject lines and content inside each e-newsletter or e-mail campaign can provide information on what your audience needs. If you haven’t already, track:
- Open rates
- Total clicks or click-throughs
- Subject lines (A/B test within your platform)
- Opt-out rates or unsubscribes
Sales are not the only conversion to track as an indication of success during an economic downturn. If sales are slow, dig deeper to understand what your customers are doing with your information. This can include:
- Form fills
- Class sign-ups
- Event registrations
- Survey responses
Shift your mindset from how many followers you have to how many are engaged in your content. It does the brand no good if you have 2,000 followers on any given channel, for instance, but an insignificant engagement rate. This tells us a few things: Either your audience doesn’t care about the kind of content you post and/or your audience isn’t even seeing the content due to inconsistency of posts, relevancy or channel algorithms. Instead, focus on:
- Content shares and referrals
- Mentions, tags and comments
- Touch-points to existing customers
- Overall engagement percentage rates
- Times of day/days of the week that provide top top reach, impressions, engagement
As you learn from the metrics above, assess your resources and make decisions based on the data. It’s true that not everything will generate sales right now; that doesn’t mean your marketing isn’t work. We live in a world of instant gratification however, as you continue to pursue marketing during this time, think of the bigger picture. You’re building your lists, you’re working to increase your website traffic, inquiries, form-fills and downloads continue to happen.
You are building your pipeline.
The sales cycle for your industry may be a long one. Or, you could be used to a short sales cycle only to experience longer lead times in a down economy. Regardless, know that the support, education and services you provide through marketing is making it possible for these sales cycles to happen at all.
Marketing keeps you in front of prospects and engaging with customers.
Keep an eye on the metrics and continue to invest in the areas that provide you with opportunities for the potential sale in trying times. And heck, if you’re in an industry that sees an uptick when most others are feeling the strains of their businesses, continue your marketing efforts. Because in all reality, the question everyone needs to be prepared for is this:
If sales stop and our current clients were no longer an option, do we have confidence in our pipeline (i.e. our additional contacts and connections whom are not yet clients) to continue?
The fruits of our labor may look different in a down economy. It doesn’t make them invalid. Studies show that cutting our marketing budgets or initiatives in times of crisis actual decreases your ability to pull ahead or recover as things move back to normal (the Harvard Business Review is a great resource for this, demonstrating a similar situation we all found ourselves in during the Great Recession).
Keep your budget, spend wisely
Use your metrics as an opportunity to re-assess spending. It doesn’t mean you cut your budget but it may mean that you re-allocate dollars to strategies or channels that make more sense. Scale up the tactics that drive the most results for the lowest CPA (cost per action). For many of us, that means turning our focus to digital. It could also mean creating new opportunities that align with what the metrics tell us.
Put it in action
Here are three examples of how you can use metrics to pivot:
- Website metrics. If you see a regular increase in your website traffic during this time, figure out which pages are seeing the most pageviews and think about what you could either add to those pages in way of downloads or other pieces of information. Is there a form you can ask users to fill out as a way to capture leads?
- Email metrics. If you notice that when you send emails out you see a higher-than-average open rate, is it possible to increase the frequency of those emails or use them in other marketing campaigns?
- Social media metrics. Are you noticing an increase in user engagement on a particular social media channel? Host weekly video chats or information sessions with users as a way to stay in front of your audience.
Focus on the highest impact areas. Pause tactics that aren’t moving the needle. Continue to focus on what you can do during this time and use your metrics to lead the way.