In my latest article, I discuss how COVID-19 will affect how you work with your agency. Read more.
How does COVID-19 affect how you work with your agency?
Since the outbreak of coronavirus, many marketers have been working from home. That’s certainly the case at ClickThrough Marketing and Smart Insights, where we’re fortunate that we have the technology and processes in place to continue working without too much disruption.
The impact that COVID-19 is having on marketing investments and revenue varies sector-by-sector, which is why in this post, I’ll be giving some top-level recommendations on the kinds of changes needed across different types of business. You can also read my blog post on creating a marketing action plan in a recession for more information.
Update your brand positioning and values
In these uncertain times, we’re far from business-as-usual. This is why discussion has to start with the marketing fundamentals of your marketing mix, what the implications are for products, pricing and promotions. Changing brand messaging and tone of voice to reflect these times also becomes important, especially if your agency is managing your social media activity. We have already seen many examples of tone-deaf social media which is inappropriate given current circumstances.
Creativity is more important than ever
Keeping users engaged is likely to be harder than ever, so it’s important to create innovative, high-impact campaigns to get cut-through. It’s no secret that it’s difficult for both B2C and B2B markets to get cut-through to generate demands for products through campaigns during a recession – which is why we’re seeing many campaign budgets cut. Yet always-on search intent for products will continue, so it’s crucial to tap into this using the tips from this article.
Brainstorming campaign approaches that haven’t previously been explored by a company or its competitors is key here. Look beyond your own sector at what other businesses are doing with their campaign hooks – from concepts to humour and personality.
Refine forecasts and plans
New marketing plans need to project the best and worst case scenarios, so work with your agency on new marketing conversion models that predict return on investment based on the new reality of changed budgets.
Update your performance review process
Depending on the sector, size of budget, inventory turns and competition dynamics, your performance review process will vary a lot from monthly agency reviews down to weekly and daily trading reviews in retail. There is a clear need for more frequent review regardless.
More granular data-driven analysis
We all know digital media is measurable, so most successful agencies will already have a data-driven process in place. However, changes in consumer or business demand for services are such an unknown in this crisis that within any business, there will likely big changes across different types of services and sectors. So, understanding the changes in demand and its impact on sales and implication on budget investment is vital. Specific issues to consider are:
- Closely monitor change in search intent
We all have preferred tools, with Google tools being among the best. Whether it’s Google Keyword Planner, Search Console or even Google Trends, we’re fortunate that we can get near real-time data, as these charts show:
- Run a new gap analysis
For me, a keyword gap analysis comparing search intent for your target keywords with your organic and paid search traffic volume is far more insightful than a list of keyword rankings and changes. It’s particularly relevant at the moment to find opportunities you may be missing.
- Monitor changes in page popularity and effectiveness
The way most digital analytics tools work mean we can spend a lot of our analysis time looking at lists of landing pages or top content trying to glean insight. Yet, comparing KPIs across a matrix or pivot table provides far more insights and is much more effective. Work to build a content optimization matrix, as I discussed in this post.
- Budget reallocation for paid media
With demand changing and companies reducing spend, the big question is how we should reallocate our investment to maximize spend. These days this isn’t a simple question, but over the last couple of years Google has improved its smart bidding and smart shopping tools to make this budget allocation easier.
- Learn and improve your Google Ads testing
Creative testing and quality score optimization on Google Ads are well-established, but with major changes in bidding and budgets, consider new approaches like Campaign Experiments which enable you to test the impact of your changes.
Other more sophisticated approaches include incrementality or conversion lift testing and geo-experiments. Plus, you still have to work on attribution and review changes in budget, transactions and ROI weekly to ensure your new approaches are delivering ROI, particularly with smart bidding which if misapplied can favour bottom of funnel conversion which may aid with ROAS, but not profitability.
- Double-down on content marketing
Reassess your content strategy through content mapping and ideation. You can make the most of your online interactions with prospects if you have the very best content to support buyers through their buyer journey. Reviewing content across the top, middle and bottom of funnel compared to your competitors can show gaps. Here is a consumer example showing different types of content for each stage in the journey:
- Benchmark communications against competitors
A simple, practical tip. Keep a closer eye on your competitors than you ever have before. I keep an eye on the competitors and publishers we follow using Twitter lists which can then be followed as streams in Hootsuite. I also recommend setting up Talkwalker or Mention as simple free brand alerts that are more powerful than the better known Google alerts.
- Plan for growth
We don’t know when this will all end, although the government has suggested the tide will have turned in 12 weeks, which is presumably their prediction for when new cases and deaths begin to decline. It’s important to remember that there are opportunities. Competitors may be struggling too and businesses that ‘do right by their clients’ now will have the best prospects.
I hope you find this checklist useful when considering how you update your approach to working with agencies. Each company, sector and way of working is different, but there are common approaches which will provide the best foundation for the future.
If you want to find out more about how your digital marketing strategies will be affected by COVID-19, get in touch with our experts today.