When will the recession end? That’s the billion dollar question at the moment. We don’t have an answer for that I’m afraid, but we do have some advice that will ensure that when things do improve, you’ll be in a better position than before the world went mad.
Even if we don’t know quite when, we know that at some point the economic downturn will upturn and things will start to get better. When it happens it may well happen quickly in your industry, and for the companies best placed to capitalise on the return to consumer (and B2B) spending, it could be the next gold rush.
Marketing for tomorrow
Although for many companies the recession has meant a curbing of marketing spend, smart players are using the slump as an opportunity to strategically align themselves ready for the turnaround.
For most, the internet is the NOW medium. Instant access to live information. Direct response marketing. Fast ecommerce profits. But it’s easy to forget that building a successful website is a time-consuming process, for example:
Website design & conversion rate optimisation – The best websites are constantly evolving, testing and refining themselves. Even the most mature online businesses like Amazon are constantly making improvements to their design. Getting it right takes time.
Search engine optimisation – Despite the illusion of the instant results given by services like Google News, it takes months or even years for websites to achieve top positions for competitive keywords.
Paid search – Although you can be online and advertising in about 15 minutes with Google Adwords, refining campaigns and landing pages to maximise your return on investment is a product of ongoing testing and becomes easier the more data you have. Due to Google’s quality score metrics, mature campaigns tend to cost less on a cost per click basis than a brand new campaign.
Compound your marketing efforts
To be a successful internet marketer you need to consider the compound effect of your marketing and invest in the tactics which are going to offer you a return now and a bigger return later on.
What to do now
Time for a redesign?
Although marketing budgets might be tight, consider bringing forward that website redesign project which was scheduled for 2010. If you consider the average web project will take 6-9 months to complete from the initial plans to the ‘go live’ a project which kicks off now will be ready just inside the new year. If the latest predictions of a turnaround in the second quarter of 2010 reign true this will allow you to hit the ground running once business picks up, putting you in a stronger position than you were before the recession.
Invest in (good) SEO
While display advertising, TV or print may be a fleeting investment at a time when spending is low, search engine optimisation is an investment in the future of your website. For most SEO campaigns it takes 6-12 months to start seeing great results, but once achieved search engine rankings can continue to pay for themselves over and over again. In the recession one of two things will happen in your search industry:
- Your competitors will give up on SEO because profits are dwindling – making the market less competitive
- Your competitors will move their budgets into SEO because it offers the best ROI – making the market more competitive
Whatever the situation in your industry waiting for the upturn is not a feasible SEO strategy. If you wait for the economy to recover it will still be another 6-12 months before you’re taking advantage of all the extra customers out there looking for your products and services through search engines.
Make sure if you’re looking at SEO for the medium to long term you’re investing in good SEO. Some SEO tactics will deliver quick results but could ultimately damage your site in the long term. The SEO work which is going to continue to benefit you for the foreseeable future will revolve around improving the content of your website to make it more useful to visitors and more relevant to search engines.
Pay for quality traffic
Although there may be less search traffic available in your industry at the moment (if less people are looking to buy your products) that’s no reason not to capture the searchers who are still looking to buy. The main benefit of paid search is its scalability – you can move your budgets into campaigns and keywords which are still producing a positive ROI and pause campaigns for products which aren’t selling or aren’t profitable for you at the moment.
If your paid search campaigns are still providing a positive ROI then make sure you’re capturing every possible click – this might mean venturing beyond Google Adwords onto other PPC ad networks like Yahoo search marketing, Microsoft AdCenter or even social networks like Facebook and MySpace who offer their own cost per click ad models.
Again don’t forget about your long game. Getting your paid search campaigns performing now, when conversion rates might be lower, will mean when traffic and conversions increase your profits will soar. In tough economic times you will also want to think long term with your valuation of new customers. For example, a new customer you acquire today who spends £1000 might be the customer who comes back to you next year with a £100,000 budget. For many businesses it makes more sense to calculate ROI based on the lifetime value of a customer than on their value at the point of first sale. Investing wisely in search services which can generate new business even in a tough climate will build the customer base which will propel your business after the downturn.
Understand your conversion rates (and how to improve them)
The last piece of the internet marketing jigsaw is often overlooked, but can be the most profitable. Conversion rate optimisation is the process of analysing and improving the performance of your pages to increase the number of visitors who go on to complete a conversion, which might be a sale or a new business lead.
The first step is to establish what a conversion is, what it’s worth to you and what rate your website traffic is currently converting at. You’ve almost certainly got a web analytics package which will allow you to do this. If not, get Google Analytics installed on your website and start paying attention to visitor behaviour and conversion rates.
The most appealing thing about conversion rate optimisation for marketers, particularly during a downturn, is the extraordinary effect a small increase in conversion rate can have on profits from your online marketing. The graph below illustrates how an increase in conversion rate from 5% to 10% would alter your profits from online marketing. Even without getting a single extra visitor to the site you can double profit from your website.
Conversion rate optimisation redresses the balance of the website traffic which costs you money against that which makes you money.
What to do next year
If the economy does recover as predicted towards the middle of 2010 you’ll be busy running your business and fulfilling orders. The investment you make in your marketing now will ensure new customers can find you, and when they do your website is well prepared to convert them into fee earners.
Remember, a successful internet marketing strategy will have a compound effect. The more you put in now, the more you’re going to get out when the economy improves. Which it will, promise!