There’s been a great deal of talk about a US reces­sion. It’s com­ing. It’s here. It will be mild. It will be dev­as­tat­ing. There is no short­age of spec­u­la­tion. I’ll leave the debate to the experts because no mat­ter which way you slice it, con­sumer spend­ing is slow­ing and com­pa­nies are strug­gling to deliver growth rates they achieved in the past few years. That much is unde­ni­able. And with this in mind, it’s a crit­i­cal time to look at how you’re spend­ing your mar­ket­ing bud­get and oppor­tu­ni­ties you may have for improve­ment. In this post, I’d like to share some thoughts on how you can spend few dol­lars, smarter and faster, dur­ing reces­sion­ary times.

Over the past cen­tury or so, com­pa­nies are noto­ri­ous for slash­ing bud­gets left and right dur­ing times of eco­nomic slow­down, and one of the first to come under scrutiny tends to be marketing.

Mar­ket­ing is often per­ceived as a vari­able expense, one that can eas­ily be tossed by the way­side in lean times. Yet numer­ous stud­ies have shown that the com­pa­nies that invest in adver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing aggres­sively dur­ing times of reces­sion are those that are the most suc­cess­ful, both dur­ing and as the reces­sion starts to turn. Coop­ers & Lybrand, McGraw-Hill, and ABP/Meldrum & Few­smith are just a few stud­ies that sup­port this con­trar­ian real­ity. Those com­pa­nies that invest in mar­ket­ing more than their peers have greater growth in, and fol­low­ing, a reces­sion­ary period.

Of course it’s not real­is­tic to say that mar­ket­ing bud­gets should not be cut at all — when money is tight, bud­gets are slim­mer across the board. That means that the projects that do remain on the books need to per­form bet­ter than ever. Dur­ing eco­nomic growth peri­ods, a mar­ket­ing team may imple­ment 20 ini­tia­tives, with 10 of them turn­ing a profit (hence the famous adage, “I know 50% of my mar­ket­ing dol­lars are wasted, I just don’t know which 50%). How­ever, in a reces­sion­ary envi­ron­ment, a mar­ket­ing team might imple­ment only five ini­tia­tives — and all five must be tremen­dously suc­cess. Fail­ure is not an option.

To make that hap­pen, a mar­keter must be able to invest wisely and quickly, and to be nim­ble enough to change on a dime to oust under-performing ini­tia­tives and imple­ment bet­ter ones.

In other words, while it is impor­tant to con­tinue to spend in mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing, it is equally impor­tant to be extremely judicious.

But what does that look like, exactly? For a start, I believe you should focus on the areas that are imme­di­ately mea­sur­able. For example:

  • Search the poster child of online marketing

Let’s look at TV vs. search. For most mass mar­keters, the abil­ity to mea­sure TV is debat­able. There are pan­els and focus groups, but they are slow and unwieldy. In fact, unless you’re track­ing sales via direct response meth­ods like ded­i­cated 800 num­bers, it’s very dif­fi­cult to know just how effec­tive your TV ads are. Print is often equally slow in terms of return­ing mea­sur­able results.

Online search, on the other hand, pro­vides a near real-time win­dow into cam­paign per­for­mance and return on adver­tis­ing spend. In a tight econ­omy, this real-time infor­ma­tion is crit­i­cal to quickly adjust­ing your mar­ket­ing spend to avoid costly missteps.

An ana­lyt­ics pack­age that allows you to get an instant sense of your ROI, to see what’s work­ing and what’s not and allow you to cut the fat in real time, is vital.

  • Email mar­ket­ing the gift that keeps on giving

It’s rel­a­tively easy to suc­ceed with email mar­ket­ing, and it’s a tac­tic not likely to be aban­doned by com­pa­nies even in a time of reces­sion. Even here, though, rapid mea­sur­a­bil­ity can mean the dif­fer­ence between suc­cess and failure.

Email sys­tems that require you to tag the emails and then track them man­u­ally are labor-intensive and there­fore unwieldy and slow.

Look to a plat­form like Omni­ture Gen­e­sis, which auto­mat­i­cally tags the emails and tracks them, to dra­mat­i­cally improve your agility with email cam­paigns, chang­ing pro­mo­tions or offers as you dis­cover what is work­ing and what is not. The abil­ity to change offers quickly and eas­ily allows for incre­men­tal and con­stant improve­ments in ROI.

  • Stream­ing video – Lift up the hood

With the increase in the use of video online, the use of rich media dis­play adver­tis­ing and rich media on-site has surged. We now have the abil­ity to offer richer expe­ri­ences to our users — but we must be care­ful to avoid the pit­fall of using video and other rich media tools sim­ply because they look and sound good. We may be cer­tain that they’ll be attrac­tive to our users, but the real­ity may be dif­fer­ent than what we imagine.

Video is very expen­sive. The same rules apply as with email and search – you need to quickly fig­ure out which video ini­tia­tives work and which do not. How is that shiny new video dri­ving your site KPIs?

But because online video is newer than email and search, you need to do more. You need to lift up the hood and expose the inef­fi­cien­cies inher­ent to this emerg­ing medium.

As you may already know, you can use Omni­ture to do just this. Dive into the video stream itself to under­stand, for exam­ple, how much of the video a viewer watches, how long they spent watch­ing, and where in the video they stopped watching.

Such close mea­sure­ment allows you to know not only whether a video is work­ing or not, but which parts of the video are more effec­tive than others.

The same holds true for other Web 2.0 tech­nolo­gies such as wid­gets and user-generated con­tent: they are emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies and they’re excit­ing, but they also mean big invest­ments. You must pin­point the effi­cien­cies and quickly reduce the inef­fi­cien­cies to make the most of your mar­ket­ing spend.

Mar­ket­ing dol­lars may become harder to come by. When you have the data sup­port­ing where and when to invest those dol­lars, you’ll con­tinue to be smarter, faster and bet­ter than the competition.

What do you think? In these leaner times, is your orga­ni­za­tion embrac­ing ana­lyt­ics to sharpen your com­pet­i­tive edge and not lose mar­ket share?

Barrett Peterson
Barrett Peterson

Very insightful article. I am interested in learning more about Omniture, but a little leery about how much it might cost a small business