A practical guide to maximizing marketing budget during uncertainty

Category:

Every once in a while life gets tough and it seems like everything is out of our control. The first thing I do is try to flip the script and focus on how I can provide value rather than whatever hardship I am experiencing.

Needless to say, this is not an easy time to be in marketing. Many of my friends — brilliant and talented individuals — have been laid off. The lucky ones who still have paychecks are reporting slashed budgets. Everything is laced with uncertainty and no one knows how long it will last.

Like any big shift, we are presented with both challenges and opportunities. Personally, I believe this is a chance for marketing to step up and become champions for the organizations. It is the time to ask “what am I offering?” and in the process, make yourself an invaluable asset to your organization.

As the shock wears off and we settle into this reality, I wanted to share my professional reflections. This is the strategy I am using for my marketing — I hope it can help some of you.

 

My kids trying to help our toddler flip the script

A step-by-step guide to taking action amidst chaos

Uncertainty makes it hard to decide how to act. But it has never been more important to take action. Things have changed, they will keep changing and waiting till the fog disappears isn’t an option. We need to develop our own fog-lights that will help us see further down the road.

Step 1: Gather intel

  • Read up on industry reports
  • Find benchmarks and other helpful data from reliable sources
  • Track your competition
  • Talk with other marketers, brainstorm to share and learn

There is no shortage of content. The challenge is to find relevant and accurate information you can trust. Zest is a great place to start. They filter information pretty rigorously and have a strict content policy.

But even then, once you find content with relevant information — keep digging.  Go to the source of the data to validate its accuracy.

 

Zest.is content board

Step 2: Analyze research and find opportunities 

Sift through your gathered and come up with ideas on how to leverage this data for achieving your marketing goals.

 

Step 3: Build a plan for execution

For every project, I always include both short-term and long-term goals. Quick wins help to drive momentum and get the ship moving. Long term goals are important but take time to show their value. Stakeholders can lose their trust and patience if they don’t see progress quickly. In times of uncertainty, long term goals should be dynamic. Each step is a chance to validate your long-term plan or pivot when circumstances change and plans become irrelevant.

 

Step 4: Budget meticulously 

This is critical. Coming to management with a plan and a budget helps ensure that even when some parts of the plan fail, they can be mitigated.

  • Find cost-effective alternatives. Map resources and tools you can use that don’t require extra costs.
  • Evaluate the costs and estimate ROI
  • Budget for testing. A solid plan will include a phase of experimentation to evaluate the risk and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Get feedback. Share your plan with management and peers — more opinions are better than one.
  • Monitor and optimize
    • Track and analyze your plan and compare it with your initial assumptions
    • Share periodic reports (weekly if possible) with your team
    • Optimize the activities that work and replace the ones that fail

 

Step 5: Continue to optimize

Just because you put a plan in place does not mean you stop researching, seeking facts, and data inputs. Your plan should have moving parts that are adjustable based on not just internal outcomes but also what’s happening in the world.

 


 

Here is what the process looked like for me 

This section is a live example of how each step in the process has guided me to actionable insights. Naturally, it will be the most relevant for B2B marketers, but it can still be valuable for others to see a practical application of these concepts.

Getting clear on the facts

  • Offline marketing is on hold and no one knows when it will be back
  • Databases are inaccurate. Many people have lost their jobs overnight and this information isn’t necessarily updated on their digital platforms.
  • Work from home is disrupting every industry — daily routines and availability are changed and inconsistent
  • There is a shift from mobile to desktop. People are spending more time on the web, desktops, and local news sites.
  • Digital ad costs have shot down in many sectors due to a decrease in budget spend

 

Finding the right benchmarks

To ground my findings, I needed industry benchmarks.

I stumbled across a report from Hubspot titled Benchmark Data: How COVID-19 Is Impacting Sales and Marketing Performance. The data is based on 70,000 companies in their customer base so the statistical sample is sufficiently large. Hubspot is a trusted source and the report is updated weekly so insights are always relatively fresh. Data isn’t segmented by industry or country, but it offers a solid overview of global trends.

 

Source: Hubspot

Key takeaways:

  • New deals dropped by 23%
  • Number of deals closed (won) fell by 21%
  • Monthly website visits are increasing by 13% along with online chats increasing by 5%
  • Sales teams are sending more emails (27%) but the response rate is declining
  • Marketing has also increased email outreach (29%) but unlike sales outreach, marketing open rates increased by 53%

 

Human graph showing the increase in web traffic

Keeping an eye on the competition

I use a tool called competitors.app as well as Google Alerts to keep an eye on competition. Because this is sensitive information I won’t share live examples. But here is what I would look at when I perform my analysis:

  • What they are writing about
  • Which channels they are using
  • Announcements

If you have LinkedIn Premium, you can also look at which LinkedIn ads they are promoting and see if they are growing or downsizing teams, which departments are affected, and which senior roles were filled or let go.

Talking to fellow marketers

Because CliClap offers marketing technology for B2B companies, I found the best people to talk to were our users/customers. But this time I wasn’t asking for feedback on the product/roadmap. I was looking to learn how they are adjusting their marketing, where they are cutting cost, and if there are certain channels that they are focusing on.

 

Analysis: Distilling the gold nuggets

The key here is to find opportunities that align with your business goals. In our case, we just released a new self-serve version of our product. Our goal is to grow the user base and turn free-trial users to paying customers. So as I review the data I gathered, these goals are at the top of my mind.

Opportunity #1: Short-form video-based content 

The facts:

  • Offline marketing is on hold
  • Many people are now working from home
  • People are spending more time on the web and on desktops

Budgets that were allocated to offline marketing are moving towards online activities like webinars and virtual events. Attention is limited and many companies have already initiated online events — the space is quickly becoming saturated.

I decided to create video-based content up to 10 minutes long. Videos will focus on use cases or features in our product and show how they can be used to help promote webinars, events, and other trending content replacing field marketing.

Opportunity #2: Cross-database spring cleaning to remove inactive contacts

Facts:

  • Many people have lost their jobs
  • Databases are less accurate
  • LinkedIn profiles aren’t necessarily updated

I saw this as an opportunity to run a one-time database cleanup and reduce marketing automation costs. To do so, I scheduled an email to be sent out early in the morning. Because people are working from home, there could be changes in their habits.

Check engagement overtime reports (Hubspot users) to see where are the peaks and if there is a time in the day that gets most opens adjust your schedule accordingly. I would also share with your sales team which of their contacts are no longer valid.

Opportunity #3: Reevaluate ad-spend per platform

Noticed the Middle finger after I took the pic ?‍♂️

Facts:

  • Digital ad costs have dropped in many sectors
  • People are spending more time on local news sites

This is an opportunity to increase ad-spend in places where it could pay off. This will differ from industry to industry and platform to platform. Also, if you are doing ABM, you can check if there are advertising opportunities on local news sites where your top targeted accounts are based.

For us, we opted to increase ad spend on Facebook as people are spending more time there than on LinkedIn. LinkedIn might be getting new traffic from recently laid off individuals looking for jobs making ad-spend irrelevant but it is still worth checking.

Opportunity #4: Focus on tools and use cases that improve website engagement and conversions

Facts:

  • Website monthly visits are increased by 13%
  • Online chats increased by 5%

For CliClap, I wanted to focus on the features that take advantage of this increase in traffic. People are spending more time online and websites are the most important digital asset companies have. Naturally, companies want to take advantage of this increase to boost engagement with prospects and customers that are still active and showing intent.

Opportunity #5: Send highly personalized emails

Facts:

  • Sales teams are sending more emails (27%) but the response rate is declining
  • Marketing has also increased email outreach (29%) but unlike sales outreach, marketing open rates increased by 53%

While the benchmark shows that the open rates of marketing email have increased, this could be a vanity metric. We do know that the volume of emails people are receiving has grown. Inboxes are being bombarded with content from sales and marketing.

My strategy was to stop and revisit existing email nurturing campaigns. Now more than ever, review each email you send and ask yourself if you got this email, would it provide you value? Don’t send the email if that answer is not a clear yes. I highly recommend checking out Becc Holland’s value-packed guide to writing a personalized email.

 

Balancing short-term wins and long-term pursuits  

The next steps include creating a game plan, budget, internal communication strategy, monitoring, and optimizing your plan. These steps should be pretty similar to the way you are used to managing campaigns and other projects. The only part I feel is worth mentioning is the short and long term goals

Aim for quick wins

Long term plans are going to be a challenge until we know more about the situation. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think strategically but don’t invest a lot of time in something that can’t adapt if your predictions fail.

Experiment as much as you can

Break down activities into small tasks and quick wins to enable you to experiment quickly and reduce the impact of mistakes. For example, when I plan on executing our video content strategy, I won’t be building a framework for a series of 20 videos. I will create 2-3 and push them out as soon as they are ready. If I see that they are getting engagement and supporting my goals, I will build a more structured plan.

This crisis is a huge opportunity for marketing 

I believe marketing should be the strategic arm of every organization, especially during these challenging times. With sales struggling to meet quotas, marketing can help ease the pressure by bringing more qualified and better-baked leads. It is up to you, the marketers, to prove me right. Stay safe everyone.

Yonatan is the CEO and Co-Founder of CliClap, a smart, autonomous, inbound lead generation and qualification solution for your content marketing channels.

Follow me on Twitter

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE...

How AI can help Marketers generate more leads with higher quality and less effort

Reading Time: 5 minutes
An interview with Yonatan Snir, Co-founder and CEO of CliClap By Ton Dobbe – Chief Inspiration Offi...

5 Common Website Features that Annoy B2B Buyers

Reading Time: 4 minutes
The most annoying thing your website can do – according to the B2B buyers surveyed by Huff and KoMar...

The Do’s and Don’ts of Content Curation

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Don't get me wrong. Curating content is great, really. I love it. But done the wrong way, your effor...

Make a Reservation

My Full Name
My Work E-Mail

Our Website

* All fields are mandatory
Plate