Digital Marketing In A Recession

We’re data analysts at heart, so when the numbers are telling us something we tend to listen. Many economists agree that a recession is on the horizon. The size and length of such an event is debatable, but regardless of its impact you must be ready. Digital media tactics are agile, allowing you to make quick pivots to your marketing dollars with the click of a mouse. So as the economy weather changes you can act fast and maximize your digital spend.

Marketing Mix In A Recession

It’s hard to pull a television or radio ad. It is nearly impossible to pull a print ad or billboard. While these tactics certainly have their place they are not as easy to adjust when things change economically. It is not always recommended to have a 100% digital marketing marketing mix. It is instead important to have tactics that can be adjusted on a dime when economic uncertainty hits. On the whole we see about a 60-70% mix of digital tactics for most of our clients. Your mix may differ, but shouldn’t be too far away from those percentages.

Web Analytics Are Key

First, make sure all of your digital tactics are properly tagged with campaign tracking variables. Second, review your analytics reports weekly to understand the tactics that are working best. Third, ensure that proper attribution is applied to all tactics in order to understand the full impact of each tactic. If you have offline conversions ensure that there is a tracking mechanism in place in order to properly attribute your tactics.

Optimizing Digital Tactics

As economic forces shift leverage your web analytics data to maximize your digital spend on the tactics with the greatest impact to conversion. Evaluate your attribution funnels, or a multi-channel funnel report in Google Analytics, to ensure your spend is driving results. Decrease spend on those tactics that drive little to no tangible value as economic signs start to weaken. While brand awareness may require some spend, a recession event may not be the best time to do so. Track every dollar spent and if it does not at least assist in a conversion it is time to pull back the reigns. Through these optimization tactics you’ll weather the economic downturn better than most and be ready to spend big once things start looking up.

Need help optimizing your digital marketing during a recession?

Use the form on this page to contact us or simply click here and we’ll be more than happy to help you navigate the choppy economic waters.

What Do You Stand For

At a recent breakfast event several of us got to talking about how many businesses focus on tactics versus actually thinking through their business goals. Additionally, it came up that many businesses do not really stand for anything other than making money. Hey, don’t get me wrong, making money is great. However the truly successful businesses focus on their values and don’t often stray from their mission. After all, if you don’t stand for something you stand for nothing.

Start With Goals & Work Backwards

We have always started engagements by asking an organization defining their business goals, but so many businesses come to us wanting to implement a specific tactic or two. Our process starts by sitting down and helping our partners really think through A) What do we stand for as a business B) What are our goals as an organization (e.g Why are we here?) and C) How does our unique position in the market help solve the pain points people are suffering from? Then (and only then) can you decide what tactics to use to target your audience. Take the time to go through this process and I assure you success will follow!

Tis The Season of Change

As summer begins to draw to a close and it starts getting “not so hot” outside we have begun to do a bit of reflecting. If you’re an avid reader of our blog, which most of your are I’m sure, you’ll note several articles noting the digital agency business as a whole. It’s all about tactics this, theory that, cool new buzzword there. It’s hard for any marketing department to keep up. This is why we are making a change!

Changing the Digital Agency Landscape

The tough thing about purchasing digital strategy services is that you often don’t get a tangible item in return. Even worse, how many times has the agency set the success metrics for you when it comes to the tactics they are handling? These things bother us and we have decided to change the way we operate. So starting in the very near future you will see our website morph from being ‘all about tactics’ to being focused on strategy and processes. You’ll clearly see our values as a company, our vision, and our process we implement for every engagement. Our goal is to be a trusted advisor, a part of your team, an expert at your disposal. We are there to guide you through the rough waters and help you come out on the other side with a bounty of fish!

So stay tuned and see how Bluefin Strategy will be changing the digital marketing agency relationship for good!

The Digital Agency Relationship

Not long ago I wanted to rock six-pack abs for beach season. Like many people do I got a gym membership and hired a personal trainer. My trainer gave me a list of things to do, including exercises, what to eat, when to eat, and even had the audacity to tell me I couldn’t drink alcohol. When beach season rolled around I simply rocked my dad-bod, cancelled my gym membership and broke up with my trainer.

Why Digital Agency Relationships Fail

My rock hard abs are your conversions. An elusive goal that seems far-fetched, but you know one day you can achieve it. The problem is that it requires work and we just aren’t good at that. Just like the personal trainer, an agency will give you a set of recommendations and strategies around achieving your goal. That is expected by both parties, but where the expectations differ is who is responsible for implementing them?

Is It Your Responsibility or Theirs?

The answer is that it depends. Many agencies out there do a great job at implementation, others are great at developing strategies, and some claim to do both well. However, rarely is it the case that a client can simply be hands off and things just get done. I would also argue that even if it were to work that you’d be implementing your digital strategy in a vacuum with no cohesion with the rest of your team.

How to Make Sure Your Agency Relationship Rocks

Set expectations up front. Who will handle tactical implementation? How many meetings will there be? How many of those meetings will be on-site? Most importantly, set clearly defined goals at the time of contract negotiations. We’ve always shied away from defining goals in our contracts, but now we welcome them in every proposal. It doesn’t mean payment is null and void, it simply means that we are both on the same page as to where we are trying to go. Sometimes we’ll miss the mark, and that’s ok, but at least everyone has a clear understanding of who is doing what, where we’re going, and what happens when we get there.

Until then, I’m off to the gym… then maybe the wine store.

The Death Valley of Over Analysis

Picture this; you run an eCommerce site and your revenue isn’t where it needs to be… and you’re only in Q1! You have a few options, you could say it’s everyone for themselves and recreate a scene out of Lord of the Flies OR (and preferably) you could do some analysis to see where the issue is. The only problem with the latter, you find yourself in the Death Valley of Over Analysis!

Identify the Issue

On a recent call we heard the following; “We’re going to tweak our messaging and turn off display, because it isn’t working. Our AB test is inconclusive after a week and we’re also making tweaks to the conversion funnel. We’re really hoping this moves the needle.” Umm, NO! While the issue is probably in there somewhere it most certainly is not going to help to change ALL of that at one time. When testing your digital strategy you have to make incremental changes so you’re able to identify what the root cause or driver really is.

But seriously, How do you identify the issue?

Start at the top? You could, but often times I like to start at the bottom. Why do I do this? Well, if I send more traffic to an awful funnel then my awful conversion rate will continue. Yes, I will drive more conversions, but the process certainly isn’t optimized. So start by evaluating the current funnel by looking at the dropoff at each step. If everything looks good there move on to landing pages and site engagement. Are your landing pages driving people to bounce? Are there problems with your call to action that drives visitors into your funnel? Still no smoking gun? Well now move on to your inbound marketing. Is one source engaging less than others? What messaging are you using for the failing channel? Perhaps it’s time to update the messaging before turning off the channel completely. Lastly, take a gander at your attribution report to see if perhaps the failing source is driving visitors too early in their decision process. You may find that while a source shows little engagement it may simply be the first way visitors find you and they return via another channel to convert.

While that was a very high-level look at how we approach digital strategy we hope it provides you with some takeaways to use on your own strategy. If you’d like a little help or want to dig into our process a little deeper why not send us a note and let’s chat!

Everyone has a plan, until

Everyone has heard the old Mike Tyson quote “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. It’s a good quote and is quite true, but I’m starting to hear it more and more in the context of strategy and I have to strongly disagree. If you are devising a strategy, digital, business or otherwise, that cannot stand a ‘punch’ then it really isn’t the right strategy. A sound strategy is a fluid one and not one that is stringent to the letter of the law. Below are some examples of strategy adjustments that we often prepare clients for when that punch happens.

Audience Personas

Back in my college days my roommate got a job at American Eagle and he remarked that at his orientation they showed him an image of some dude wearing AE clothes with captions saying; Male, 18-34, SUV-owner, and avid outdoorsman. But what happens when AE produces a line that is no longer ‘hip’ to that audience? This is punch #1. Focus on what you do/make best and adjust audiences as you go. You may have the same audience for decades, or you may find a new audience pops up and vanishes just as quickly. Be on the lookout in Google Analytics for Demographics & Interests to see if perhaps a new audience group is emerging OR an old one is falling behind.

Tactical Reversal

“Hansel is so hot right now.” Insert any tactic for Hansel and you have an ever changing digital environment. What I recommend today may not be relevant 6-months from now. This is punch #2. Monitor your Channel Groupings closely each week and each month and dig into each one to see what is driving the change. You may even discover issues with how Google is categorizing your channels. An example of this was that Google was categorizing Weebly and Blogspot referrals as ‘Social’ for one of our clients, inflating Social visits and engagement. Keeping a close eye at the Channel Grouping level helps you adjust to where the puck is going OR allows you to tweak a tactic to be better targeted.

Your digital strategy plan is a fluid document that will change over time. Your goals and product/service offering should stay consistent (with the obvious understanding that you may adjust the latter for business reasons), but how your visitors engage with your brand will most certainly need to be adjusted. So when those punches come, don’t drop everything and start swinging. Instead anticipate these areas may change and perhaps include your action plan for what to do when they inevitably pivot in multiple directions!

A Very Digital Marketing Thanksgiving

This year we wanted to give thanks to all of our employees, consultants, partners and clients. Thank you for making the last several years so great and allowing us to go on the digital marketing optimization journey together. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

And a reminder, you’re pumpkin pie might actually not be pumpkin after all


Should You Develop A Mobile App

While on our way back from MozCon in Seattle (awesome event!) I found myself sitting next to some twenty-something newly hired employees from a national outdoor brand. They were on their way to a training event where one of the topics was to discuss the new mobile app in development. As I glanced over to the slides (seriously, if you’re developing something that is confidential maybe don’t peruse it on the plane without a screen blocker) I noticed that the reasonings for building the app were simply based on the fact that “app usage continues to grow”. While this is true it is not a reason to jump into the app game.

One of the biggest reasons that a company should build an app is to make information or actions even more accessible than they already are. Ally’s mobile banking apps make it easy to deposit checks. Amazon makes it easy to purchase items on the fly. ESPN makes it easy for me to update my fantasy baseball roster. These more single-minded actions are great ways to make interacting with your customers easier. As content starts to live centrally in databases as opposed to on websites your information can be sent where ever and whenever for easier direct access to the consumer. A mobile app should be just one of the several vehicles you use to distribute your content so use it wisely!

Back to the outdoor brand. They make outdoor products and this app was more about the experiencing of those products, for instance maybe displaying the weather (NOTE: This is just an example and not specifically in their app). One the one hand this could be great brand recognition, maybe you try and upsell a raincoat when the weather is bad, but I cannot imagine those one-off purchases can pay off the investment. My advice is stick to what you know and don’t try and serve up content you wouldn’t normally serve on your website, make current actions or information easier for users to engage with, and make sure there is positive upside (brand or financial). Don’t just create an app because “it’s trendy” instead create one because it meets your goal objectives. Consider this… I wonder how much easier and cheaper it might be to simply purchase targeted mobile ads on weather sites when it’s raining?

Developing Audience Personas

I’m a fan of paddle boarding while my buddy can barely stand up on one. We are both the same age, males, similar household income & educations levels. If you were a travel site and showed a picture of paddle boarders you’d certainly peak my interest, but what about his? Understanding your audience is more important than ever but all too often the step of developing personas for your audience goes undone. Here a few quick things you can do without going too in-depth.

  • Write down a list of all the different types of customers who engage with you
  • Highlight the ones that drive the largest value to your business
  • Jot down the needs & wants of those audiences, not just of your company, but in life
  • Write a positioning sentence for each audience that you feel they’d be receptive to
  • Review the differences between them all

This short exercise can provide so much insight into how you ‘should’ be marketing to your audiences. The next step is to understand how to reach your audiences with the messaging you develop and you’ll be surprised at how this might differ across personas as well. Take the time to do some targeting and your strategy will thank you (and so will your CEO).

Choose a Path & Move Forward

There are probably more Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising companies out there than there are fast food joints. It makes sense because search marketing is a highly competitive and sought after medium. Add in email and display vendors and you’ve got quite the group. The problem we often see is that with so many cooks int he kitchen the recipe never turns into a finished cake. The reason, lack of a cohesive strategy. One vendor says ‘do this’ and another vendor says ‘do that’. Marketing teams often let vendors decide the direction, because after all they are the ‘experts’. Bonus reason, you can always blame the vendor! But in this environment digital strategy efforts fall short because of conflicting or muddled visions.

Build Your Own Strategy & Path

Don’t allow the vendors to dictate what your vision should be! Come to a new vendor with you 1) Your Goals 2) Your Targets and 3) Your Messaging to allow them to be more effective. Let them build off of that vision and devise a tactical plan that drives it forward. Need help with 1, 2 or 3? This is where Bluefin Strategy comes in so give us a shout.

Take the Path Towards Goals

At the outset of any engagement with a new vendor make sure the focus is on your goals. Let them know that they will be graded on whether the traffic they drive achieves the goals and don’t let them tell you otherwise. Many vendors will him and haw about Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and give you excuses as to why they might not be met. It’s your advertising dollars, it’s your vision, they are there to implement it.

You have the power to select your path. Choose wisely and push forward to digital strategy optimization!