Constant adaptation: performance marketing in covid-19

Why agility is the key to success when the only certainty is change

Ten weeks into lockdown, the initial shock has long since subsided and we have all settled into new ways of life.

Brands have settled into new ways of working too; those who relied on face to face interaction have adapted their offering, others are battening down the hatches with reduced marketing spends and some sectors have had to shut down completely.

Whilst government guidelines are starting to point the way back to normality, the only thing we can really be sure of is that legal restrictions, consumer habits and customer journeys will continue to be in a state of flux for the foreseeable future.

For businesses that have a product consumers still want - and a way for them to get it – that makes performance marketing more important than ever.

As well as generating vital short-term revenue, PPC, display and paid social can provide intelligence into rapidly changing consumer habits.

Here’s what we’ve learned about managing performance media in the time of coronavirus.

Leave no stone unturned

Undoubtably patterns have shifted; the way users search, the way they order and what they ultimately buy.

Now is not the time to rest on your laurels.

Instead, start analysing your recent data and find out what’s changed:
  • Are people searching different terms?
  • Are they browsing at different hours, on different devices and channels?
  • Are purchases becoming more impulsive or are they more drawn-out and considered?
There may be a golden nugget of insight which will turn performance on its head,or there may be a smattering of ideas all of which will have incremental gains - either way you need to be looking for opportunities.

A gap in the market may have emerged through these strange times so be on the front foot to ensure consumers buy from you.

Go over old ground. You may know your business inside out, but things have changed so leave no stone unturned as you may miss something.

If you find yourself struggling, talk findings and ideas through with colleagues or friends.

A fresh pair of eyes can bring alternative thinking – this is where a good agency partner can make all the difference.

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Be prepared to adapt

Some marketers are going to need to change their mindset. 

Strategic channel plans, budget allocations, messaging and target audiences that have previously provided direction and certainty might now be holding you back.

Be prepared to trade them in for a more responsive ways of working, closer agency/client collaboration and more on-going optimisation.

Trust is key – having the freedom to shift budget to the channel and campaign where it will deliver the best return can make all the difference.

Test, test, test

With consumer habits changing on an almost daily basis, optimization is more important than ever.

Tactics that were working a week ago may now be out of date and wasting precious media spend.

There are some steps to take that will make sure you get the most out of your budget:
  • Review (at least) top line performance daily.
  • Set up alerts for major changes and dashboards for ease of viewing vital stats quickly, but don’t forget to deep dive campaigns regularly, too.
  • Expect competition to be fierce and results to be more expensive – the current situation is do-or-die for many businesses.
  • Be prepared to kill your darlings; it may have been a great idea on paper but if it’s not providing cost effective results, you have to let it go.
  • Just because it isn’t working now, doesn’t mean it’ll always be like that. Don’t be afraid to revisit ideas it at a later date and test them again.
  • You think you have the winning campaign. Are you sure? How do you know? Have you tried to improve it? Test different landing pages, ad copy, creative, audience. If the results go against what you thought, great, you learnt something new too.

The proof

Since coronavirus hit the UK, we’ve been working closely with a client in the homeware sector to manage their performance marketing.

The dynamics within their competitor set have completely changed, some parts of the business have had to be put on hold whilst others have been in far greater demand.

But, by keeping on top of the results, testing different approaches and collaborating closely, we’ve managed to deliver some remarkable results. During lockdown we've seen:
  • 164% increase in impressions
  • Brand sales increased 71%
  • Non-branded sales increased 625%
If you need help managing your performance marketing in uncertain times, get in touch with Tim