The Best Laid Plans of Mice, Men and Cross-Channel Marketing

February 24, 2016 Jeff Meola

Yarn MiceImagine this… You’ve spent hours working with your team to get marketing budgets distributed by channel, only to later realize you’re facing a major shortage of conversions and the overall performance is threatening to negatively impact the entire quarter.

Sound familiar? Once that happens, how do you address it? How easy is it for you to adjust your media plan, and how can you better prepare for similar situations in the future?

Because marketing is no longer static, the best laid plans of (mice, men and) cross-channel marketing often go awry. Use the tips below to better prepare, plan and adapt your campaigns when they do!

Focus on Long-Term Trends: Use your historic conversion data (ideally 12 months’ worth) to identify channels that deserve the largest share of your marketing budget. Your top performers are the channels with the highest conversion rate and the lowest cost per conversion for the time period, and you should max them out before you put dollars anywhere else.

Plan Media Spend Based on Needs: If you have monthly conversion goals, a relatively flat plan is probably your best bet. But if your goals are quarterly, you have more of an opportunity to leverage seasonality for volume pushes.

Treat Every Program/Product/Location Separately: What works for 75 percent of your business might not work for the other 25 percent. Make sure your marketing plan is not based on broad campaign averages, but instead on actual market performance. Pricing trends are impacted by your competition, program demand and more, so it’s important you customize your campaigns and optimize them individually.

Keep a Slush Fund: You can’t always rely on the underperformance of channels to feed the opportunities of your top ones. When you map out your marketing budget, save about five percent to be released at a later date. This creates the flexibility that enables you to pounce on an opportunity to scale a top performing channel without sacrificing any others.

Plan to Adjust: A number of unforeseen circumstances can alter the performance of your campaigns. Never let your guard down.

To name a recent exampleGoogle just eliminated ads on the right side of their search results page, and its impact on campaigns is still unknown. Clicks may increase due to fewer choices, but the cost per click (CPC) and cost per lead (CPL) may also rise due to increased competition for the top spots. Paid search campaign adjustments are inevitable. But it’s too early to know if deploying additional funds or pulling back is the right decision to maximize overall, cross-channel performance.

Stay the Course: Once you’ve made a plan, don’t be too quick to change it. Monitor early performance indicators, but don’t allow yourself to be prematurely alarmed if your conversion rates don’t instantly meet your expectations. One week of high CPCs does not undermine 12 months of strong cost per acquisition (CPA) data. Monitor it closely and track performance, but be patient.

Double Down: If you’re actively building your brand through traditional and digital advertising, make sure your paid search campaign is set up to reap the rewards. Be aggressive with your branded campaigns, and don’t pull back until your spend slows in the other channels as well.

Don’t Skimp on Branding: Your branding campaigns are likely drivers of the success you’re seeing, even if you can’t directly attribute it to these efforts. If you need to cut media spend, target channels and sources that you know are not performing before you cut your branding.

Know Your Budget Constraints, But Be Flexible When You Can: Budgets are typically developed based on conversion goals, with underlying metrics used to calculate needs. When those underlying metrics change, you need to act quickly to still achieve your goals. If, for example, the CPL of your paid search campaign is 25 percent higher than budgeted, you will not generate the same number of leads as planned. So, unless your conversion rate rises proportionately, you’ll be short on your conversion volume goals. That means you need to make adjustments immediately. If it’s a hot month and your overall CPL (across all channels) is below plan, you may be able to keep things going. With quarterly or flexible budgets, move dollars around so you ride the wave a bit longer. Especially if this happens during a strong month, like January, this will enable you to get ahead of plan prior to seasonally anticipated slowdowns.

Photo credit: 2 mice with inspiration book via photopin (license)

About the Author

Jeff Meola

Jeff Meola is the Business Intelligence and Analytics Director at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients grow their businesses and realize their marketing goals. In this role, Jeff is responsible for managing and analyzing DMS industry data and customer trends. Since its inception, DMS has evolved into a full-service performance marketing company that services firms within highly complex and competitive industries including mortgage, education, insurance, consumer brands, automotive, jobs and careers. DMS has achieved incredible year-over-year growth, which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

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