The Brolik Blog https://brolik.com/blog the Brolik blog Tue, 18 May 2021 19:37:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.2 Why Marketing Goals Must Be Tethered To Strategic Planning Objectives https://brolik.com/blog/marketing-goals-strategic-objectives/ https://brolik.com/blog/marketing-goals-strategic-objectives/#respond Mon, 12 Apr 2021 14:34:48 +0000 https://brolik.com/blog/?p=4829

To set marketing goals, first define your long-term, strategic objectives and work backwards to identify benchmarks, KPIs, and ideal marketing channels.

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A seasoned financial advisor would be foolish to recommend investment strategies before understanding a client’s financial status and time horizon, even if the advisor was successful and could tout a 30% growth rate in year 1. Without knowing the client’s risk profile, expected life milestones, financial goals, and desired retirement age, the portfolio may or may not be aligned with the client’s desired vision for the future.

Short-term success is not always lined up with longer-term priorities.

The same is true for marketing.

“But we’ve doubled our leads in 6 months!”

Great. Is that putting you on track for your 3-year goal? What about your 10-year vision for the organization? How do you know? Unless you start with the long game and work back from there, you don’t, even if you’re successful in the short term. To know you are truly successful today, you must know your goal for the week, based on the goals for the month, based on the goals for the quarter, the year, and the 3-year plan.

“You can be successful in the short term and still end up at the wrong destination.”  

I’ve advised many business leaders over the last 17 years, and while growth can be achieved with a mix of good marketing strategy and sound technical execution, there is a major risk in focusing your sights too near-term or isolating your marketing efforts. Many organizations think of their marketing as a separate entity, an island, detached from the core of their business. They think that the marketing department is not connected to the heart of the organization… ops, finance, and sales drive the company. This is a mistake. Only when a leadership team clearly communicates the long-term vision and strategic objectives of the business, can it empower the marketing department to march in the right direction and grow the business in a deliberate, and sustainable, way. 

“Find us more leads” is not a motivating call to arms. Marketing should have a seat at the leadership table, but of course the seat must be earned through active participation in the strategic planning process and a desire to be more than just a tool for social posts, email blasts, and print mailers. 

Agencies must earn their stripes as well. While agencies throw around the term “partner” often, rarely do they act the part. Under the pressure to fall in line, agencies frequently slink back into the role of executor, comfortable being technicians and implementers with sometimes the most minuscule of tasks and decisions being dictated by distant leaders with no background in marketing. 

Marketers and Marketing Teams: You must be growth strategists, in tune with business challenges, industry trends, pricing strategy, and obstacles in the sales process. You must ask hard questions and challenge leaders to communicate their unabridged vision and objectives. 

Leaders: To ensure that your organization is doing the right things now, and at the same time putting you on a path for the future you want, you have to avoid getting pulled back into the day-to-day tactics and think long-term: clearly communicate your vision and develop your marketing goals to meet long-term strategic objectives. It starts with bringing all stakeholders into the strategic planning process.

“Understanding a company’s 5-year vision is the only responsible way to start a conversation about marketing.”

Why is understanding a company’s vision so important? Because that is the purpose of marketing — it’s a vehicle to lead you to that future state. Defining a company vision is one of the main tenets of strategic planning, which is fundamental to any good marketing roadmap.

What is strategic planning? 

Gino Wickman, creator of the Entrepreneur Operator System (EOS), starts his work with a clear set of requirements to proceed with his process: you must be open-minded, growth-oriented and vulnerable. Gino’s first component is “vision.” A company must have a strong vision to succeed, but even more critical, an organization’s leaders must be able to communicate that vision to their team. Gino goes on to say that often great vision goes unrealized. It’s where many great visionary CEOs go wrong — they don’t have a plan to communicate and implement their vision, and they are biased in their belief that because they see it clearly, their team should naturally visualize it as well. This is not the case.

There are many great resources to help leaders with strategic planning, and more specifically, to help with that first step of coming up with a company vision statement. EOS has a process for it, and another helpful exercise we take clients through in our initial strategy workshops is the hedgehog exercise from the book Good To Great by Jim Collins. The hedgehog exercise helps companies hone in on their best self — a sort of Venn diagram approach to seeing 1) what you are best in the world at, 2) your financial North Star, and 3) your passion/purpose. At the intersection of all three is your hedgehog state — or what you can call your vision. 

Defining Your Company Vision

Once you have come up with a vision for your company, the next step should be coming up with a long-term target. That could be 3, 5, 10 years, or more. This gives your team something to buy into and strive for, to help them stay grounded through the day-to-day, and give them a bigger purpose to work towards. 

Once you have a long-term target established, you will break that down into smaller steps. If your 5-year goal is $10 million in revenue and 15% net profit, what will you need to reach in year 4? Then back your way into year 3, 2, 1 and so on, until you have granular, achievable goals tied to your vision.

How do I develop measurable marketing goals to meet strategic objectives?

Once you have used your 5-year goal to back your way into your 1-year target, you’re now ready to establish quarterly marketing benchmarks or KPIs. These benchmarks tell you if you are on track to meet your year 1 goals. Some goals may feel intangible, but discipline yourself to make every goal SMART. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. In other words, it should be quantitative, and easy to determine whether you hit your mark or not. If there are differing opinions amongst stakeholders, that means you did something wrong. If your Q1 goal is onboarding 10 new customers, you either accomplished your goal or you didn’t — there is no in-between with a SMART goal.

With a long-term vision, yearly goals, and quarterly marketing benchmarks that are measurable, you will ensure your complete organization is heading in the same direction. Sales and marketing will be aligned and marketing will no longer be an island unto itself, flailing in every direction to reach some vague definition of success. 

Marketing can be a formless money pit or a well-oiled machine. The difference certainly comes down to the quality of execution, but before there can be sound execution, there must be a shared sense of purpose and vision for the future that runs through the entire organization. 

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Takeaways from MozCon 2020 https://brolik.com/blog/mozcon-2020-takeaways/ https://brolik.com/blog/mozcon-2020-takeaways/#respond Thu, 30 Jul 2020 17:44:25 +0000 https://brolik.com/blog/?p=4795

Our takeaways from the most interesting ideas at MozCon 2020, covering machine learning, automation, and the future of branding and promotion.

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Another summer, another MozCon to delight in and learn from. Though it was a bit different this year, with an all-virtual experience (thanks 2020), our marketing team came away with many innovative techniques and new ideas that we are looking forward to implementing, in the interest of continuing to move the needle for our clients. We’ve gathered a few of the most intriguing concepts into this post, so that it might strike an idea or two for your business, as well. Let’s get into it!

Your Competitive Advantage is Your Unique Customer Benefit

Seminar:

  • Competitive Advantage in a Commoditized Industry with Heather Physioc

As industries become increasingly crowded and commoditized, it’s important to do a deep dive into your company’s brand to uncover its unique value in the competitive landscape.

Many companies fall into the trap of creating meaningless, vague mission statements that sound like they could belong to multiple companies. For example, does your company’s mission statement sound like this? “To obtain profitable growth through superior customer service, innovation, quality and commitment to our customers.” Yah, a million other companies say the same thing. You need to rethink what your company’s competitive advantage is, or risk getting lost in a sea of sameness in your industry.

When defining competitive advantage, identify your company’s “Unique Customer Benefits” (which puts the customer at the center) rather than “Unique Value Propositions” (which puts the brand first).

Your competitive advantage should be unique, defensible, sustainable, valuable, and consistent. And once you find your company’s competitive advantage, don’t expect it to stay the same as the industry changes. In order for a company to compete and survive, it must evolve.

I like this quote from Heather because it exemplifies the importance of identifying your company’s competitive advantage: “You can’t be casual about competitive advantage. You have to be obsessed.”

Embrace Machine Learning

Seminars: 

  • Accessible Machine Learning Workflows for SEOs with Britney Muller
  • The CMO Role Has Been Disrupted: Are You Ready For Your New Boss? with Wil Reynolds

The importance of machine learning is nothing new when it comes to the digital world, but if MozCon 2020 taught me one thing, it’s that it is now both accessible and essential for digital marketers.

In many cases, tools built on machine learning capabilities have slowly but surely supplanted old-ish digital marketing tactics. Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, have both built lookalike audience targeting on their platform that has proven to outperform manual refinements. Paid search channels — specifically Google, of course — have gotten so effective at identifying intent based on user queries that general audience targeting has nearly made specific keyword targeting a thing of the past. Even written site content can be broken down and analyzed by Google’s Natural Language API in a way that lets us directly see how Google’s crawler categorizes words, sentences, and even sentiment to inform our overall content strategies – or even write the content for us.

Setting aside the terrifying notion that robots have advanced far enough to sound like us, this means our time as marketers is about to become a lot more efficient with less of it being spent on granular tweaks and more on high level strategies and testing. On top of that, it means marketers that embrace this type of automated learning can operate with more confidence that their targeting, creative, content, etc. will perform, rather than taking the wait-and-see approach.

Think You’re Done Promoting? Think Again.

Seminar:

  • How to Promote Your Content Like a Boss with Brian Dean

In 2010, Time Magazine had just announced Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was Person of the Year, and digital marketers were finding great success with content marketing. This content was ranking well on Google and bringing in new leads for businesses.

Fast forward 10 years and content marketing, while still extremely effective, is not so easy. Each month, 70 million new posts appear on WordPress blogs alone. So now, we are seeing a shift from content creation, to content promotion. Brian Dean suggests 20 percent of your time being spent on creating the content and 80% spent on promoting the content, whereas a decade ago, he would have preached the opposite.

However, it’s not just enough to throw your blog on your social media accounts and call it a day. It’s time to commit and get creative. What bloggers or publishers in the industry might be interested in your content? Reach out to them! Create social posts that make people want to click on the link and read more, and make sure to include eye catching images. On average, there are 500 million Facebook stories shared daily, how do you create something that makes people stop and engage?

If you are not going to spend the time and effort promoting your content, it’s not worth the time creating the content in the first place.

To Brand Affinity and Beyond

Seminars:

  • How to Build a Global Brand without a Global Budget with Phil Nottingham
  • How to Go Beyond Marketing for Clients: The Value of a Thriving Brand Ecosystem with Flavilla Fongang

Generating brand awareness isn’t enough anymore. It’s what you do with that awareness that counts. As Phil Nottingham said, it’s changing the mindset from getting people to know you to getting people to like you. Building a roster of brand advocates isn’t an easy task. You need to first find your audience and then create content that speaks directly to them. Empowering your community leads to customer retention, increased lifetime customer value and one of the most powerful sales tools — recommendations through word of mouth.

No Code Automation is the Future

Seminars:

Everyday Automation for Marketers with David Sottimano

Let It Go: How to Embrace Automation and Get More Done with Francine Rodriguez

Marketing automation is here to streamline some of the repetitive, menial tasks that marketers have to do on a regular basis, like audits, competitive research, and large scale data crunching. Many of the talks at MozCon mentioned automation in some form, but particularly exciting are the “no code” solutions covered by David Sottimano. No code means it’s possible to set up without writing a line of code, making automation accessible to everyone!

Putting some upfront investment into getting automated processes up and running can free up a significant amount of time in the long term, time that can be spent on strategic, deep work that further moves the needle for our clients. Some ideas, guidance, and tools can be found here.

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How to Plan Your Advertising Budget and Calculate ROI and ROAS https://brolik.com/blog/plan-advertising-budget/ https://brolik.com/blog/plan-advertising-budget/#respond Mon, 06 Jul 2020 16:16:17 +0000 https://brolik.com/blog/?p=4786

How to plan an advertising budget, keep a flexible mindset, and calculate metrics like ROI and ROAS to measure the effectiveness of your ad spend.

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“How much should I be spending on digital ads?”

It’s one of the top 5, maybe even top 3 most popular questions I get from prospective clients. The interesting thing is that usually the person asking the question wants a fixed monthly number to enter into a budgeting spreadsheet.

Prior to doing a more in depth analysis, the best answer I can give is, “As much as possible, assuming you have a path to being profitable.”

But that’s not my complete answer. 

Start with a Fluid Mindset and Flexible Budget

When it comes to budgeting for digital advertising, your mindset needs to be fluid. A fixed annual marketing budget mindset is no way to manage digital advertising. In other words, you should think of your digital advertising budget as a range of possible spending that (if you are doing it correctly) can change based on holidays, seasonality, day of week, time of day, consumer behavioral patterns, and even changes in weather.

You’ll start with small doses of testing. As you test and collect data, you’ll see trends and behaviors that can be leveraged. Once you unlock a reasonable CPA or CAC (reasonable as determined by your LTV), you can focus on conversion rate. Once your conversion rate is in a good spot, you can focus back out on the full picture of your ad spend with ROAS. For every dollar you spend on digital ads, how much is coming back in sales revenue? Then you can zoom out further to look at your ROI. Once you crack profitability on your digital ad campaigns, you can ratchet up spend incrementally to 2x, 4x, or 10x what you were spending in month 1.

Confused by those acronyms? Don’t worry — we’ll define those terms and explain the process, so by the time you’re finished reading, the above paragraph will make perfect sense.

Here’s what we’ll be covering in this article:

Determine Your Business Goals

Before even thinking about budget, the first step is to define your business goals.

Are you willing to grow at the expense of profit? The answer to this question determines how you move forward and your overall strategy. If you are willing, you can operate on thinner margins for a while and focus on acquiring and retaining customers. If not, you’ll want to start with a more conservative advertising strategy, focused on efficient campaigns.

The second thing to decide is what are your marketing goals? What are you trying to achieve with your advertising strategy? Is it brand awareness, website traffic, leads, or purchases? Your objective will determine what your advertising strategy looks like and the size of your budget.

Start Small and Test

Why Do I Need to Test?

Testing is important to determine which ad sets are most profitable, so you don’t waste money on inefficient or ineffective ads.

What Am I Testing?

A lot goes into testing ads, as there are many variables to test. Audiences, targeting, keywords, messaging and positioning, ad copy, the call to action, visual design and assets, landing pages,  and many more factors can be tested to ensure the campaign is as efficient and effective as possible. Of course, tests should be run scientifically, with only one variable per test and the rest of the ad as a control.

What Does a Legitimate Test Look Like?

A legitimate test is one where you can see a clear winner and can trust the results of the test. This means it’s statistically significant. Statistical significance is the likelihood that the results from your test will continue after the test — in other words, it’s the likelihood that your results are accurate. A good benchmark to shoot for is a 95% confidence rate that your results are accurate.

Minimal data requirements are another important factor. Online behavior isn’t the same from day to day, or even within the same day. For example, people have different habits on a Sunday versus a Wednesday. So tests need to run long enough in order to gather enough data to eliminate variety in behavior.

The main factor in a legitimate, statistically significant test is volume. If you have a relatively large amount of ad spend, impressions, and conversions, your tests will be able to show clear results within a short time frame. If you have a small amount of traffic and conversions, or a long lead time, it will take longer for tests to show clear results.

When testing ads, it’s best to measure solid, bottom-of-funnel metrics like conversions and purchases over top-of-funnel metrics like impressions and clicks. The reason being that you’re tracking the funnel all the way from ad impression to conversion, as opposed to tracking half of the funnel, which leaves you with an incomplete picture of how the ad is contributing to your bottom line. However, with small campaigns that have few conversions, you can look at those softer metrics to get a sense of how ads are performing without having to wait months to get significant conversion results.

A Real-World Example

One of our clients, a company that creates technology for car dealerships, came to us with an ad budget of $5k/month and a goal of growing fast enough to be acquired in two years. With the acquisition target, we worked with them to define awareness and revenue goals.

When we crunched the numbers with our budget builder, we couldn’t create a scenario that allowed them to grow fast enough to reach the goals in the timeline that was set. We doubled the ad spend budget in month 2, and helped to get them on the path to success.

They were acquired 18 months after becoming our client, 6 months ahead of schedule.

Once a test is done, you should have a clear picture of which variable was most effective. Then, you can extrapolate that variable to other ad sets and build on it to continue testing and optimizing other aspects of the ad.

How Many Channels to Test?

It’s a good idea to start by testing multiple channels in order to see which platforms are most effective at reaching and converting your target audience. Each channel has a different audience — think of the difference in demographics between Facebook users and Snapchat users. Channels are also differentiated by user behavior and/or intent. For example, someone searching for a product on Google is likely in a different stage of the buying process than someone seeing an ad pop up on a social network.

Typically, we’ll start with at least Google and Facebook. People searching for products are already primed to buy them. We love to use search as a platform to test because of the volume and high user intent. It’s useful to test product positioning and messaging, and use the knowledge gained from test results to inform the brand’s web presence, and the marketing and advertising strategies. Facebook is another great platform for getting early insights because of the flexibility and power of their audiences and targeting.

A Real-World Example

Houwzer, an innovative real estate agency, came to us wanting to push more into traditional media to spread awareness. We discussed it and ultimately decided that it was better to go digital-first in order to test messaging and creative on Facebook before investing in expensive out-of-home advertising. Instead of making decisions based on instinct and personal opinions, it’s more efficient to let the data — and the results — guide the way.

Once we had the results of our tests, we chose the best performing tagline and image to scale up for billboard placement. With the help of our advertising campaign and the new website we built for them, the company’s target metric, number of closings, was twice as high as the previous year, and they closed a round of funding.

The beginning of any ad campaign is all about learning. Testing multiple channels at once accelerates the learning and results in lessons that can continue to be used throughout the lifetime of the campaign.

Once you understand how the different channels reach different audiences, stages of the buying process, and convert differently, you can start to apply those lessons by adapting campaigns, eliminating wasteful channels, and experimenting with new channels — for example, if Snapchat is working well, then Tiktok (which appeals to a similar demographic) might be a good channel to test next.

Validate With Metrics

The key to understanding how your digital advertising strategy is affecting your bottom line is to look at the metrics. These will help you trace the buying process of your potential customers all the way from initial contact to purchase to retention, measure the effectiveness of your ad campaigns, and optimize your campaigns for peak effectiveness.

Marketers tend to throw around a lot of acronyms, so let’s take a minute to define some of the common terms here.

Term Definition
CLV or LTV The lifetime value of the average customer. This term represents how much money one customer will generate for your business over the lifetime of their relationship with your brand. One of the most crucial numbers to know and understand for any business.
Conversion Rate The ratio of audience members who convert. A conversion can be any event you determine, like a sale, a signup, or a sales lead.
CAC Customer acquisition cost. This represents how much money it costs to acquire one customer, taking into account all money spent in the acquisition effort. This can be generalized across your entire customer base or calculated individually for specific channels, campaigns, or ad sets.
CPA Cost per acquisition. Sometimes used interchangeably with CAC, and sometimes the two are used differently, where CPA refers to non-paying customers and CAC refers to paying customers.
ROI Return on investment, to calculate the efficiency of your marketing efforts. It’s determined by the ratio between net profit and cost of investment.
ROAS Return on ad spend, to calculate the efficiency of your advertising efforts. It’s determined by the ratio between net profit and cost of advertising investment. ROAS can be calculated across all channels, or for one channel, campaign, or ad set.
CTR Click through rate. The rate of people who saw your ad versus those who clicked on it.
Retargeting An advertising strategy to literally re-target your audience members, by serving ads to people who have already interacted with your brand in some way — visited your website, signed up for an event or whitepaper, added a product to their cart, or engaged with one of your ads or organic posts. These people are already engaged; so it’s typically more effective than targeting those who are brand new to your business.

Should I Use ROI or ROAS?

This is a common question that we get, and the answer is, there’s a time and a place for both.

ROI takes all expenses into account, so it’s great at looking at the big picture, and understanding how your investments lead to your bottom line.

ROI = Net Profit / Expenses

Read more about what goes into calculating your ROI in our article about how to predict ROI with confidence.

ROAS is more granular, and is obviously looking specifically at ad spend. It’s calculated by looking at revenue over ad costs. ROAS is useful for gaining a broad understanding of the efficiency of your ad spend, and especially for knowing which ads are performing best.

ROAS = Revenue / Ad Spend

The issue with ROAS is that to get an accurate picture, you need true attribution set up. True attribution means that you can track customers all the way through the funnel, from clicking on an ad to making a purchase. It’s calculated by looking at the revenue generated by your ad spend, so obviously, you need to be able to tell how much revenue is generated by ad spend. Many companies don’t have proper attribution set up, so it can be hard to properly calculate ROAS.

What Should My ROAS Be?

The answer is, of course, that it depends. Because ROAS doesn’t take expenses other than pure ad spend into account, every company’s ideal ROAS will be different, depending on their operating costs and marketing expenses. At the end of the day, you want your ROAS to be positive — that is, you want to be making more money than you’re spending — and you want it to be as high as possible, to maximize profits. The industry benchmark is between 3-4 ROAS, meaning for every dollar spent on ads, your revenue is between $3-4.

How Do I Know If My Strategy Is Profitable?

In addition to looking at ROAS and ROI, it’s good to look at additional metrics to evaluate the profitability of your advertising campaigns and overall strategy. Ultimately, how much money you spend on advertising comes down to your LTV and CAC. Just like ROAS (and everything else in the business world), at the end of the day, you want to be making more money than you’re spending. In other words, the cost to acquire a customer should be a fraction of your customer lifetime value. A good rule of thumb is that if your LTV is more than 4-5x your CAC, then you are probably underspending. It’s time to look at upping your budget!

The great thing about these metrics is that once you have your model nailed down, increasing growth or revenue is simply about pulling levers. To increase revenue, you can lower the CAC or raise some levers in the LTV, like average order value or number of transactions in the lifetime.

Here is an example of an ROI projection for one of our e-commerce clients. You can see the different factors that play into the calculation, from the fixed costs, to revenue per unit, to adjustable costs like CAC.

how-to-calculate-roi-roas

Below is projected ad spend for the same client. The cost per click, site conversion rate, and CAC are all subject to change, which is a good thing. Part of a marketing team’s job is to improve those rates: lower the cost per click and CAC and raise the conversion rate. As those move in the right direction, the ratio of spend to revenue will improve and each dollar you spend on advertising will go further.

calculate-roi-roas-plan-ad-budget

Scale and Diversify

How Do I Know When to Increase or Decrease Spend?

With digital advertising spend, there’s always a sweet spot. Spend too much and there’s a tipping point of diminishing returns —there’s only so many people in your audience, and if they are seeing the same ads over and over, this will cause ad rot. Fewer people will click through, which will in turn hurt your quality score, resulting in lost impression share — in other words, fewer people will see your ads. If you spend too little, your campaign won’t max out its effectiveness. The sweet spot is different for every brand, conversion goal, and campaign, so it’s a matter of optimizing and tinkering until you find that sweet spot.

There are some general rules to follow, though: It’s good to increase spend when a campaign is optimized and profitable, as determined by your metrics of CPA and ROI or ROAS. It’s good to decrease spend if it’s being wasted on badly optimized campaigns — in this case, it’s good to decrease spend a bit while tweaking and testing to get the campaign back on track, then spend can be ramped up. This can also apply to badly performing retargeting campaigns: often that’s an indication that you need more brand awareness before you put more money into retargeting.

A very important point to keep in mind is that Facebook recommends making changes only in 20% increments: any shift larger than that will reset their algorithm, eliminating everything that Facebook’s algorithm learned about your campaign, and essentially resetting the entire campaign.

A Lesson on Diversification

As a final note, it’s important to not put all your eggs in one basket. The internet is ever-changing and if you’re overinvested in one channel, just one move by Facebook, Google, or a competitor could put you out of business.

For example: say your search campaign is performing really well. It’s efficient and well-optimized, with a low CPA and a high ROI. It’s bringing in tons of customers and fueling your business growth. What happens when a competitor starts bidding on the same keywords and drives up the price? If your strategy isn’t diversified across multiple channels, it could throw a major wrench in your profits.

Just like your investment portfolio, your digital advertising efforts need to be diversified to protect against unknown future developments or changes by ad platforms. For more reading on diversification, refer to our past article on Optimization vs Diversification.
So: You understand ROI and ROAS. You know your business goals and LTV (or you don’t know your LTV, and you’d like to). You’re ready to start spending on digital advertising. We can help! Contact us and we’ll set up a time to talk about how we can grow your business.

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Why Invest in SEO: A Lesson in Compound Interest https://brolik.com/blog/investing-in-seo/ https://brolik.com/blog/investing-in-seo/#respond Thu, 11 Jun 2020 15:14:38 +0000 https://brolik.com/blog/?p=4760

SEO is similar to the effects of compound interest. With patience and consistent investments, growth becomes exponential.

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What a time it is — sitting here writing this article amidst the chaos of spring 2020. There is confusion, anxiety, and panic, which causes bad decisions, lack of clarity, and sell off. What people really need to do is be calm, consistent, and make as few large overhaul changes to their approach as possible. Simply, stay the course.

I’m speaking as an investor and business owner. With all this chaos, it’s hard not to focus on only the short term, shut down all future horizon projects or investments and just get through the day. However, it’s the discipline to persevere and stay focused that will have compounding positive effects in the future, 3 months or 3 years from now when this chaos is in the rear-view mirror.

I often think of investing and long term marketing investments in the same light. It helps me to make sense of what’s happening and have some structure to my approach. Applying my financial learnings gives me perspective when building out a long term content strategy or SEO initiative for Brolik or one of our clients.

But let me take a step back: a lot of people don’t understand what SEO is and how it fits into their marketing strategy. I don’t blame them. There are a ton of scammy tactics and misinformation out there that lead people to think SEO is more complicated than it really is. In reality, it’s very straightforward. It’s not easy, and it’s not fast, but it’s straightforward.

It’s useful to think of investing in SEO like investing for retirement. The growth you see from SEO is shockingly similar to that of compound interest. It’s exponential.

Growth is slow at first, but it builds on itself. Until one day, the return you’re seeing is miles beyond your initial investment. And like investing, the best time to start was 5 years ago. The second best time is now.

What is the purpose of SEO?

Before we get too far, let’s define our terms. SEO, or search engine optimization, is all about making sure that your website shows up in search results, as high on the page as possible, by offering users the content that’s most relevant and useful to them.

Organic search drives 53.3% of website traffic, meaning if you’re not appearing in search results, you could be failing to reach half of your potential customers. In the same study, it was found that B2B companies get two times more revenue from organic search than from any other channel.

For local businesses, a solid SEO strategy is even more important. Google found that 28% of smartphone searches for nearby businesses result in a purchase. If you’re not showing up in those searches, your potential customers are buying from your competitors.

When deciding which search results to show to the user, Google uses the E-A-T guideline. E-A-T stands for expertise, authority, and trust. They’re constantly training their algorithm to recognize content that lives up to these guidelines. They made 3,200 changes in 2018 alone.

But their goal has never changed: serve up high-quality, relevant answers to searches. Every change they make is in service to that goal.

By providing what Google is looking for, you’ll appear in organic search results. It’s a bit more complicated than that — there are other crucial tactics, like link building, on-page SEO, and technical optimizations — but that’s the gist.

Is SEO worth it?


SEO is to compound interest as paid search is to simple interest.

Compound interest has been said to be the most powerful force in the universe. Years ago, I saw a graph that illustrated the difference between investing money at age 22 versus age 40. Take a look.

Image: Index Your Way to Retirement

Just through the power of compound interest, investing early and consistently results in a higher balance than investing much larger amounts later in life. If you’re waiting for the right time to invest, you’re waiting too long. Start now even if you must start small.

I have been actively investing for decades and seeing what time alone can do to your investments, there’s really no way to beat it. It was years of investing in good solid companies, adding money consistently into my portfolio, and adding a little more when a good company seemed undervalued. Then simply waiting and letting time do its magic. This long term approach is crucial to being successful as an investor, and some of the lessons learned as an investor can apply so well to SEO.

Small actions add up to big things over time. Prioritize consistency over hacking the system and long term mindset over short term gains.

This is exactly how SEO works. It’s additive. The work, time, and money you put into it don’t go away. They build on each other. And build, and build. Slowly at first, but it’s exponential. So eventually it reaches a point where growth far outweighs what you’re putting in.

In fact, the analogy stretches even further. We can say that SEO is to compound interest as paid search is to simple interest.

Image: Junto Digital

This graph illustrates my point perfectly. You can see the exponential growth of SEO. And you can see the 1:1 growth of paid search, where every dollar you spend matches each customer acquired. Clearly, SEO is a better long term play.

Yet, on the whole, we spend way more money on paid search. Why? In part because with paid search you can see immediate results. In part because paid search can directly track every dollar spent to actions taken and revenue generated.

Paid search can be a powerful part of your overall marketing mix, don’t get me wrong. But if you’re focusing on paid search and ignoring SEO, you’re missing out on massive untapped opportunities. Consider this: when you stop spending money on search ads, traffic and sales drop off immediately. It’s like that channel never even existed.

Compare that to SEO, which can continue to produce results for years later with minimal effort. Think of it this way — the more you spend on SEO now, the less you’ll need to spend on paid search in the future.

In addition, paid search and SEO complement each other. You can use paid search to guide your SEO strategy. It’s especially useful for testing keywords and informing your content strategy.

Plus, many people don’t click on search ads at all — and around 25% of people use an adblocker on their browser so they’ll never see search ads. Investing in SEO means that you’ll have visibility on SERPs, even when people don’t see your ads.

Let’s take this analogy all the way: just like investing, SEO is part of a balanced, diversified portfolio. You wouldn’t put all of your money in one stock. It should be spread across stocks, bonds, and funds, different industries and countries.

It’s the same with marketing channels. You want to spread your investment around so that the life of your business isn’t tied to just one or two channels. The internet is always in flux, and you don’t want to run the risk of one channel tanking your business.

How to get started with SEO

The first step is to determine your goals. Do you want to focus on brand awareness, customer acquisition, or something else? You need a goal that is measurable, so you can measure how well you’re doing.

Going back to the investing analogy, what’s your risk tolerance? Basically, how much time and money can you put into SEO before you need to see a return on your investment?

It’s always useful to know your business metrics before starting a marketing campaign, so you know where you stand. What’s your current CAC (customer acquisition cost)? What’s your CLTV (customer lifetime value)? Basically, how much money can you spend acquiring each customer, and still be able to make a profit? Here’s a helpful guide to get you started.

You also need to know as much about your ideal customer as possible. Do you have a target audience analysis? Customer personas? Do you know what’s important to them, what they value? Do you know where they hang out on the internet and what kind of content they like to consume? Do you know their browsing habits? Do you know what language they use when they’re searching for products like yours?

If you’re doing any marketing or sales at all, you should already know the answers to these questions. Otherwise, you’re flying blind, and you’ll have no idea if your campaigns are working properly. And even worse, you won’t be setting up your campaigns properly to begin with.

SEO is all about finding your customers out there in the wild west of search results. How will you find them if you don’t know what they’re looking for?

How much does SEO cost?

I get this question pretty often on sales calls. I usually try to push back, because it’s best not to think of SEO like a line item. SEO is part of a big picture, well-rounded marketing strategy. It does not exist in a silo, but rather is a companion to all of your other marketing efforts.

In particular, SEO is such an integral part of content strategy, from content marketing to brand messaging to website copy, that it’s just not useful to separate out the costs. Remember, the key to both marketing and investing is a diversified approach where your overall efforts are unified and your specific investments are working to balance each other.

And other SEO tactics, like link-building (where you get external websites to link back to your website), have more effect than just increasing your search ranking. After all, it’s not just Google’s algorithm that will see those links across the internet. Potential customers will see them too.

If you’re looking for an exact dollar amount, it’s not that simple. Just be prepared to invest consistently over time for best results. In other words, it’s not a one time cash infusion – think back to the saving for retirement analogy.

How do you know if SEO is working?

Remember, SEO is a long-term game, just like compound interest. In fact, you might not see a significant return for 6 months or more. How long the process takes is also dependent on other factors, like the age of your website, the competitive environment, and the quality of your current content.

But there will eventually be signs that your SEO efforts are working. If you’re focusing on more relevant keywords, your traffic may drop as conversions go up — because you’re reaching more relevant customers. Or you may find that traffic and conversions are slowly rising. Other website metrics, like time on page and bounce rate, might improve, meaning you’re appearing in more relevant searches and your content is of a higher quality, which is keeping people’s attention for longer periods.

I urge you to be patient, and keep (or start!) investing in SEO. Invest steadily, and growth will be exponential. Starting now, even in small doses, will make you much happier (and more successful) five to ten years down the road. As you continue to invest, the work will get easier and you’ll benefit from the positive momentum. Your content ideas and quality will continually improve, and you’ll get better at seeing the opportunities beneath the surface. It’s one more way to solidify a competitive advantage… you do the hard thing while your competitors fall behind.

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How Food & Beverage Brands Are Adapting Post COVID-19 https://brolik.com/blog/food-beverage-brands-adapting-post-covid/ https://brolik.com/blog/food-beverage-brands-adapting-post-covid/#respond Wed, 22 Apr 2020 19:15:01 +0000 https://brolik.com/blog/?p=4724

The Brolik team digs into some creative ideas and strategies that Philly-area food and beverage companies are implementing to reach customers at home, grow their audience, and make it through the crisis.

The post How Food & Beverage Brands Are Adapting Post COVID-19 appeared first on The Brolik Blog.

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This article is the second in our “New Normal” series, where we take a deep dive into the ways that businesses are creatively responding to the unique challenges COVID-19 is imposing on them. Click here to read our first article on identifying opportunities during a crisis.

Estimated reading time: 20 min

This article includes:

  • Changes and new trends in consumer behavior and shopping behavior
  • Analyzing the difference between essential and non-essential food and beverage consumption
  • Examples of regional food & beverage brands investing in online + off-premise sales
  • Opportunities for food & beverage brands to take advantage of lower costs or better performing channels
  • Examples of food and beverage brands shifting strategy to reach their customers in new ways

One month after Pennsylvania’s order to close down bars, taprooms, and restaurant dining rooms, one thing is certain: no one was prepared for this. Everyone has been impacted, from mom-and-pop operations to large corporations. So how have they been coping?

Out of sheer strength of will to survive, we’ve seen some really creative solutions from many companies to get through this crisis and still have an operating business on the other side. Across the board, restaurants, bars, manufacturers, and distributors are pivoting, making nimble moves and quick decisions to replace some of the revenue that’s been lost — and to help out their community.

While no one is having the time of their lives right now, these creative tactics are encouraging for everyone. It shows other companies that there is a way through this crisis, even if it means changing everything. Because even though we’re all staying home, we still need to eat.

“Good food and drink is one of the few joys we have right now, and food and beverage brands can be a bright spot during a difficult time, if they can seize the opportunity.”

While many brands are just trying to survive, a lot of them are also thinking about the future of the industry and what that looks like in a post-shutdown world, where social distancing is the norm and people are reluctant to venture into crowded spaces.

  • What will restaurants look like six months or a year from now?
  • How will this change the industry that has barely changed in the past fifty years?
  • How can food and beverage businesses start to adapt to make sure that they not only survive the shutdown, but can keep up with long-term effects on the industry?
  • Can Wine & Spirits get their act together? (Just kidding, this won’t happen)

We’ve spent the last few weeks reaching out to food and beverage companies in the Philadelphia area, looking to understand what they’re going through and how they are pivoting to take advantage of opportunities — and survive. We’ve spoken to companies with a variety of business models, all of whom have had to adapt in some way. Hopefully this article will provide some insight and spark some ideas about what your company can do to make it through the crisis, too.

This is a long read, so if you’d like, you can use the links below to jump ahead to a specific section:

Navigating the Economics of Delivery and Pickup

Adapting to the Future of the Food Industry

Now is the Time to Launch and Expand Your E-commerce Push

New Offerings Designed for Strange Times

Go Where the Conversation is Happening

Support Your Community and They Will Support You Back

Navigating the Economics of Delivery and Pickup

The most obvious transition that brands are making is shifting to a delivery and pickup only model. For some companies it’s an easier transition than others. Restaurants tend to have a leg up here, because many of them were already offering delivery, whether in-house or through a third party. For restaurants that weren’t already delivering, and for breweries and distilleries, it’s been a big change as they scramble to set up delivery and no-contact pickup infrastructure for the first time.

Love City Brewing is one of those breweries. Their revenue came entirely from their taproom and from selling to restaurants and bars, so they’ve had to completely change their business model in the past few weeks in order to survive. Luckily, under their liquor license, they are allowed to deliver directly to consumers in their homes.

brewery-delivery-covid

“Home beer delivery is the only thing keeping us afloat right now,” says owner Melissa Walter.

They managed to get the delivery service up and running within 24 hours of their taproom being forced to close. “Home beer delivery is the only thing keeping us afloat right now,” says owner Melissa Walter. “It’s something we didn’t think we’d ever do, because we have the taproom. But now, we’re considering what it would look like to keep this as a part of our business going forward.”

 

Similarly, when Boardroom Spirits had to close their tasting rooms and their restaurant orders dropped off, they started offering drive-through pickup of pre-batched cocktails and bottles of liquor. They quickly spun up a Squarespace website for placing orders. “It has helped us provide a viable business model that reaches people who normally might not have the chance to visit our tasting rooms,” says co-owner Zsuzsa Palotas. “We are selling out of product listed on the site daily and continue to update it with new items as they are ready for the public.”

For brands like Boardroom Spirits, keeping up with new online demand and servicing customers off-premise is a big change that takes some getting used to. With the PA Liquor Control Board scrambling to serve the needs of online customers, distilleries are forced to be their own distributors.

alcohol-delivery-covid

Takeaway: Offering delivery can expand your audience reach, allowing people to test something from a local brewery or distillery that they may never have ventured into.

So We All Just Become Delivery and Logistics Companies? Not So Fast

One trend we’ve noticed is that almost every company we’ve talked to is struggling with the finances and logistics of delivery. One business owner we talked to said, “The economics of home delivery are really bad. It’s keeping cash flowing, but it’s tough.” Margins are already slim in the food and beverage industry, and even more so now, so it’s a challenge to figure out the logistics of delivering at scale without sacrificing profits.

Many companies have taken to third-party delivery services like GrubHub and Caviar to fill that gap, but that comes with its own set of problems and for many businesses it’s not a sustainable practice. Typically the third-party services charge high fees, further slimming down margins, and overall cause a lot of headaches for restaurants. It’s not a partnership; the third-parties hold all the power in the relationship, and as a result they feel free to throw their weight around and disregard the best interests of the restaurants they work with.

This is why some companies have decided to set up in-house delivery, but it’s much harder  than it may initially seem. Many business owners we talked to were trying to figure out how to deliver efficiently in order to waste as little money and time as possible, while still showing the customer savings  — offering free delivery, for example.

Workhorse Brewing, another local brewery forced to change their business model overnight, has identified one major trend that serves as a clue for how to solve this business problem: an increase in average order size per customer. “The average sale per customer is nearly 2.5x (~$20 before, $45-$50 now) since we shifted to the new model. Seems like people want to limit their transactions and instead stock up,” notes owner Dan Hershberg.

beer-delivery-pickup-covid

Taking advantage of this trend from a business perspective means structuring deliveries so that they are concentrated around a reasonably-sized location, instead of backtracking all around the city. But that assumes you are driving sales of your product in a very controlled way, both in terms of scheduling and geographic targeting of promotions.

The team at Brolik has been supporting some of these brands with ideas for their paid advertising strategies, to help generate awareness and drive profitable conversions. One strategy that can help with batching sales & deliveries is using geo-targeted advertising. Digital ad platforms allow you to advertise only within certain zip codes or target a radius around a specific address. If you build out a highly-targeted ad campaign, you can reach only the people in the locations where it’s easiest for you to deliver.

Structuring delivery windows to allow for batching is also helpful here, at least if your product is conducive to non-instant delivery. Set a high enough goal for sales and meet a threshold of deliveries that is going to be profitable in one area of the city, and then deliver them all in the same efficient route.

Takeaway: Geo-targeted, goal-oriented marketing can improve the profitability of delivery.  

One benefit of this shift to deliver-your-own (outside of not having to deal with third-party problems) is the ability to completely own the relationship with your customers, from end-to-end, just like you would if they were going to your business in person. Owning the marketing relationship is important because it gives you the control over how your business is presented to customers, the entire customer experience, and you collect crucial information about your customers that you can use for all future marketing efforts. This is something that simply can’t be done when using third-party ordering and delivery platforms.

For example: if customers are ordering directly from you, you’ll naturally collect their contact information and their unique preferences around your products. You can use this information to build out email marketing lists and run future campaigns, re-engaging these same customers for life. You can also use this information to build out lookalike audiences for your digital ad campaigns to find similar people who you can then target and nurture into customers.

Key Learnings

Unsurprisingly for Philly, we’ve seen a lot of scrappiness in the way brands are adjusting to the crisis, setting up ad-hoc delivery services and throwing up simple websites in the blink of an eye. Remember, everyone is living on the edge right now, and no one expects perfection.

Your strategy doesn’t have to be complicated or over-engineered, and experimenting with new tactics is better than waiting for things to go back to normal. Batching deliveries, using geo-targeted advertising, and doing the math on third-party service fees versus in-house delivery or courier services, can all help to keep your margins intact. While we’re all thinking about the short term, there is long term value of investing in your own capabilities and benefitting from the learnings that come from it.

Adapting to the Future of the Food Industry

With so many restaurants losing their dine-in revenue almost overnight, it has become a struggle for survival. Let’s talk about the potentially scary future for restaurants. If the dine-in traffic never quite returns to normal, then what? For now, they’re trying just about anything to bring in revenue from their local customers, like becoming grocery stores to meet a need. But many companies are starting to think about the long-term effects on the industry, and how they will need to adapt for the future.

There is one business model that may be a sign of the future to come: ghost kitchens. Ghost kitchens are believed by some to be the future of restaurants. A ghost kitchen is essentially a restaurant without a public location — it operates solely through delivery, cooking in a rented kitchen space and using in-house or third-party delivery services to reach their customers. With lower overhead costs due to no prime-location rent or wait staff, it’s a more economical alternative to a traditional brick and mortar restaurant. And in the age of coronavirus, these features set ghost kitchens up for success.

We talked with Tyler Wiest from Zuul Kitchens (which recently acquired Philly startup Ontray), who sees the current situation as possibly jumpstarting the growth of ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants, pushing companies away from expensive locations and towards delivery-based business models. Tyler says, “Ghost kitchens will become a bigger piece of this. You limit overhead and dine-in space, combine space with other brands and offer pre-packaged foods for delivery and pick up only.”

Another company that was perhaps in a better position to quickly adjust is Simply Good Jars. The company provides pre-made meals and salads in jars, typically to offices. So while they didn’t have any public-facing locations to shutter, they too have had to make an adjustment in their business model. They quickly moved to offer residential deliveries of 5 or 8 packs of jars. They’re relying on organic social media and email marketing to promote their new offering, with no paid campaigns yet, resulting in around $6,000 worth of orders each week.

meal-delivery-philly

While residential delivery wasn’t initially part of their business model, it’s opened up a long-term opportunity to capitalize on the growing trends of meal-prepping and zero-waste movements. Margins are low right now but ideally, with some strategic planning and investments, the company can work to raise the margins and build out a sustainable aspect of the business.

They’re not just focused on delivery, though: in the months before the crisis, the company was focusing on building out retail-based sales, which has become even more important in the short-term due to the low margins of home delivery.

As a result, Jared Cannon, CEO of Simply Good Jars, says they’re going to focus primarily on their retail model moving forward, as it is effective both during the crisis and post-COVID given the way their product is packaged. In fact, similar to ghost kitchens, much of what they’re working on right now will be relevant in a post-COVID world. They’re taking additional measures to ensure a sanitary packaging process and final product, all of which they’re planning on implementing permanently.

The company has also been contacted by food and hospitality organizations who are rethinking the idea of salad bars and are looking for other options. Even once life goes back to a more recognizable state of normal, salad bars and buffets are going to be one of the last things to come back, if at all. This opens up a valuable opportunity for Simply Good Jars and other businesses that can supply a sanitary alternative. As Simply Good Jars works on surviving this crisis, they’re thinking long-term about the future of food in a post-COVID world, and how their product can fill a need for no-contact, social distance-approved meals.

Key Learnings

While business locations will reopen sometime in the nearish future, this situation may permanently alter the way the food and beverage industry does business. In any case, things won’t be back to “normal” for some time, as people will be hesitant to pack into restaurants and bars or load up at the salad bar. What does your business look like in a socially distant world? Are there adjustments you can make to your business model, product offerings, or target audience to reach a new group of people, like Simply Good Jars did?

For now, focus on reassuring people that it’s safe to eat your food and drink your beverages. Start by examining the way your product is made to ensure that CDC guidelines are taken into account, then work on communicating that message to your audience — whether that’s by taking a video camera into your facilities to show how you are focused on your employees’ and customers’ safety, updating the language on your website and other content platforms, showing your audience on social media the work you are doing to make sure they are safe, or ideally, all of the above.

Now is the Time to Launch and Expand Your E-commerce Push

E-commerce and direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands that sell packaged goods are faring okay, comparatively. They already have the infrastructure in place to sell products virtually and don’t have to scramble to set up shipping or delivery logistics. They tend to already have digital marketing set up as well, with proven tactics to reach their audience and levers to increase conversions.

Wise Ape Tea built their business around e-commerce from the beginning. Over time they built up a nice wholesale business, and sold a decent amount at live events. When Covid-19 hit, they lost all of their wholesale and event revenue, but they positioned themselves well to respond with an increase in their digital efforts, and as a result, online sales have been up.

tea-delivery-covid

Based on increases in online activity, in the last month they’ve put extra spend behind digital marketing, including new tools for email marketing, SMS, and conversion optimization. They see this as an opportunity moving forward to test new methods of collecting and leveraging customer touchpoints. 40% of their monthly purchases are from returning customers and they are dedicated to building a strong community around the brand, as well as building robust email and SMS lists to reach their audience. In specific, they’ve started using Klaviyo for email marketing and Postscript for SMS marketing. This is leading to really high conversion rates.

Wise Ape Tea founder, Joe Scola, said that maybe the most valuable thing they’ve learned is that tea (their tea in particular) falls in the essential category for consumers. People aren’t going to skip on caffeine even in difficult times, or so it seems. They are riding the wave right now and being a lean startup with very little overhead, this may actually propel them in ways they weren’t expecting.

Another company thankful for their online store right now is Hank Sauce. They sell their hot sauce to retail stores, direct to consumers through their website, and also have a restaurant on the Jersey Shore. While grocery stores are still ordering sauces, many smaller shops that buy and sell Hank Sauce, like gift stores and surf or tackle shops, are currently shut down which has put a significant dent in sales.

hank-sauce-hot-sauce

Luckily, online orders are up 10%. To help drive e-commerce sales, they’ve upped their budget for online advertising, using Google ads to drive more customers to their website. They’ve also seen a spike in followers, mentions, and engagement on their social media channels, presumably because people are cooking more than ever these days. To capture some of this increased interest, they’re pushing up the release of some specialty sauces that were originally going to be launched later in the year.

Although Hank Sauce doesn’t know what the future holds, or how their supply chain will hold up, their diversified revenue streams have been a huge benefit in the last two months of quarantine. The loss of one revenue stream (non essential mom-and-pop retail) has been somewhat offset by online and restaurant takeout sales, and grocery sales have been the backbone, giving the company a lot more stability than many others in the industry. Having an online presence and e-commerce infrastructure put them in a good position to take advantage of people cooking at home and ordering supplies online.

While it may seem daunting to set up e-commerce for your business, in reality it can be as complicated or straightforward as you’d like. It’s not too hard to get a barebones operation going. Set up a simple Shopify store, order shipping supplies, pick your package delivery service of choice, and begin selling products directly to consumers. It will be a learning process and there will definitely be some bumps in the road, but if you can navigate those bumps, it’ll be worth it in the long run as an additional revenue stream. If you’re already accustomed to selling online, then perhaps now is the time to double down on investing in improving the user experience, adding customer service and/or shopping features, or building up your paid promotions.

This can help you increase your revenue and customer base during the crisis and it also provides a foundation for the future. Let’s face it: no one knows what the future holds right now. But there are a few things we do know for sure, and one of them is that online shopping, already a huge industry, is only going to become more lucrative and popular in the age of social distancing.

Key Learnings

Outside of reaching customers via the internet (which is obviously a plus right now), one of the biggest benefits of e-commerce is the fact that you have more control over your customer base and how you reach your audience. With properly planned and executed end-to-end digital campaigns, it’s relatively easy to reach your target audience and convert them into customers.

With high internet usage across the board and increased traffic to e-commerce sites, there is an opportunity to learn more about your target audience and customer base in a shorter amount of time than ever before. Analytics can be set up to track the entire customer journey in order to identify what’s working and which levers you can pull to increase sales. Like Wise Ape Tea, you can run engagement campaigns to re-capture previous customers — with e-commerce, it’s trivial to set up these kinds of campaigns because you already know your customers’ information and buying behavior.

New Offerings Designed for Strange Times

Many food and beverage companies are turning to new products and offerings to continue reaching customers and keep the revenue coming. From turning their restaurants into grocery stores, delivering bulk meal prep kits, and offering DIY meals and family style meals for pickup, these businesses have gotten pretty creative.

Restaurants like South Philly Barbacoa are supporting their communities and their businesses by offering family meals for great prices. By paring down their menus and offering food in bulk, they’re simplifying their operations while still bringing in revenue and feeding their customers. South Philly Barbacoa is selling food by the kilo (or half kilo) with meat, tortillas, salsa, and everything you need for a wholesome Mexican meal.

Dock Street Brewery and Lost Bread Co are going the single-serving route, offering DIY pizza kits for pickup. Making homemade pizza is easier than you’d think but making your own dough can be intimidating, so these companies have stepped up to fill that gap, offering kits with dough, sauce, and cheese, and of course, instructions. Lost Bread Co is going one step further and offering a sliding scale on payment for people facing financial hardship. This is a great way to keep revenue coming, keep your brand top-of-mind, support your community, and of course, keep the people supplied with delicious pizza. Because if there ever was a time when we need that sweet comfort of some delicious pizza, it’s now.

Taiwanese restaurant Baology has teamed up with El Merkury and Jezebel’s to deliver meal prep kits to Philly and the suburbs. Argentinian restaurant and bakery Jezebel’s is selling empanadas that can be kept in the fridge and reheated at will, as well as bulk offerings of soup and sides. Central American eatery El Merkury has a huge menu available, from ready-to-eat family meals including prepared protein by the pound, to kits to cook your own pupusas, dobladas, and taquitos, and all the bulk sides and sauces anyone could ever want. Baology is offering everything from ready-to-eat meals in bulk, to frozen dumplings and build-your-own bao kits.

One trend that has taken not just Philly, but the entire country, by storm is pre-selling gift cards for restaurants to be used once dining rooms are allowed to open. This lets customers support their favorite local restaurants so that they’ll still be around once everything returns to a more-normal state. #SavePhillyEats popped up to sell not only gift cards, but experiences, packages, and discounts from local restaurants to be redeemed after the crisis. It’s something like a silent auction in terms of what’s on offer, but without an auction — you just purchase what you want.

Triple Bottom Brewery got creative and teamed up with a few local businesses to create and distribute the Joybox, the “essential non-essential” items to make your sheltering-in-place a whole lot more fun. The boxes are available for pickup or delivery (within Philly) and contain items from Weckerly’s Ice Cream, Càphê Roasters, Lil Pop Shop, Third Wheel Cheese, Mycopolitan Mushrooms, and of course, Triple Bottom. And happily for these companies, the boxes are being sold faster than they can stock them. In times like these, we all need a little joy and indulgence in our lives, and these companies have stepped up to provide it.

Key Learnings

There’s a recurring theme here: customer needs and wants have changed. These companies have made moves to capitalize on those changes and as a result, have added an additional revenue stream. While some moves are more involved than others, even a simple product offering like the DIY pizza kit can go a long way towards supporting revenue and keeping staff employed.

Think about what your customers want right now and how you can adapt to continue to serve them. What makes your business unique? How can you tweak that right now? Is there something you can do in the next 24 hours to get something out the door? If you have relationships with any other business owners in your position, reach out to them and see if you can team up to provide a joint offer that benefits your customers and your businesses.

And don’t forget: just because something may not be “essential” for your customers, that doesn’t mean they don’t need it right now. As the popularity of the Joybox shows, for a lot of people, a little comfort and joy is absolutely essential.

Go to Where the Conversation is Happening

One challenge that food and beverage companies have all experienced to some extent is how to reach their audience when everyone is stuck at home. Customers aren’t necessarily in tune with which of their favorite or nearby restaurants are still open, which delivery services they are on, if they’re doing in-house delivery, or what products are even available. And customers don’t really have the time to check each restaurant, one-by-one. So it’s crucial for brands to find their customers and relay the message about the current state of the business.

How do you do that? Well, for one, by going to customers where they are hanging out. And we all know where they’re hanging out: on the internet. People are more engaged than ever on social media, with usage up on Snapchat, Twitter, NextDoor, and Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. As our previous article in this series discussed, for most of these platforms ad revenue has dropped as well, resulting in extremely low ad rates for businesses looking to invest in digital advertising.

Many local restaurants have turned to Instagram as the lifeline to their customer base during this crazy time, some even accepting pickup and delivery orders through direct messaging on the platform. Mostly, brands are providing updates on their hours and instructions on how to order food, as well as menu updates, and general delicious food content to get their fans’ mouths watering.

beer-delivery-next-door

Another trend we’ve seen is brands taking to the neighborhood social network NextDoor to provide business updates, connect with the community, and even offer ad-hoc delivery services.

The founder of Triple Bottom Brewing got on NextDoor and offered to deliver orders door-to-door in her neighborhood on her way home in the evenings. This achieves two things: one, she’s providing value to her community, who will remember the gesture for a long time. Two, she’s generating revenue for her company in a lean and agile fashion — there’s no fancy delivery service to take cuts, no digital infrastructure needed, no driver to pay. Of course, this isn’t a scalable service and isn’t sustainable long-term, but it’s a way to survive right now.

It seems obvious to be active on social networks right now, and it is — but it’s also genius, because your customer base is already on these platforms looking for meaningful information and updates, even more so than under normal circumstances. This makes discovery passive for customers, which greatly increases the chances of a customer ordering from your business. Instead of the customer having to do a ton of work researching which restaurants are open and what the status is, they have that information handed to them on a silver platter as they scroll through their feed.

This is brand awareness at its finest. The way customers interact with food and beverage brands has completely changed as a factor of staying at home. They aren’t out and about, hitting restaurants as they get hungry and popping into bars after work for a drink. Ordering food and drink is a much more conscious decision now. It’s still based largely on convenience, but what convenience means has changed. So it’s essential to get your brand in front of the eyes of your audience, because that’s the only way your brand will even cross their mind.

Key Learnings

Social media has always been a great way to increase brand awareness and connect to your audience, but right now it’s both easier and more important than ever to do so organically – meaning at a significantly reduced cost to businesses than before. E-commerce spending in the US in March and April is up 30% compared to the same time last year. Your social channels can help you capture this lift in online spending. There is tremendous value to meeting your customers where they are, so they don’t have to step one inch out of their way to find you. Staying top-of-mind, participating in the conversation, and connecting with your audience as individuals can make that crucial difference between your audience ordering from you or from some other brand.

Support Your Community and They Will Support You Back

One of the best things you can do in this moment is foster goodwill in your community. Right now, people are highly attuned to how brands are reacting to this crisis. Brands that are helping right now will be remembered when this is all over.

La Colombe Coffee Roasters has stepped up, sending draft lattes to the front lines, supplying medical workers with their signature drink. They haven’t publicized this move much, beyond retweeting thank you posts from grateful hospital staff, but they did get a shout out in the New York Times.

Simply Good Jars has also joined in on the good vibes. They’re supplying free jars to hospital workers. By reaching out to some Philly philanthropists who agreed to pay the cost for the jars, the company is able to benefit the community without sacrificing their own chance at surviving the crisis. They’re currently supplying $2,500 worth of food each week to Philly medical staff which is also keeping their production active even if its producing at cost.

One trend that has blown up in the past few weeks is distilleries stepping in to manufacture sanitizer. Boardroom Spirits teamed up with Free Will Brewing and Sand Castle Winery to produce ethanol and start pumping out hand sanitizer. They’re providing sanitizer in bulk to essential businesses and giving it out for free to members of the community.

“The hand sanitizer production has helped us stabilize our business and keep members of our staff employed,” co-owner Zsuzsa Palota says. “Buying from others has helped maximize production and has helped create purchasing programs to put money back into our local economy.” One Brolik team member recently headed over to Boardroom to pick up some bottles and was told that out of the ten people in line ahead of him, eight were there just to pick up hand sanitizer.

Many other distilleries in the area are also manufacturing sanitizer. New Liberty, Faber, Bluebird, Five Saints, and many more — it’s amazing how quickly these brands were able to pivot to producing an entirely new product and start distributing it to essential workers and the general public.

Key Learnings

Supporting your community in a time of crisis is wonderful in itself, and that’s enough reason to pitch in and help — but there’s something more to consider here. When consumers hear about brands reaching out to the community and helping people, they are more likely to buy from those brands in the future. In particular, the younger generations take this into account when making buying decisions. So while you’re benefiting the community, your company also benefits in the long-run. There’s no better win-win than that, really.

Next Steps

Most companies didn’t have a plan for the kind of mass global upheaval we’re going through right now. That’s understandable, but now is the time to create a plan and start moving forward. Look at your market and the behaviors of your audience. Some industries are trending up, some down, some pivoting towards one offering, but all are seeing new and creative business and marketing tactics take root.

You need context to know what to do next: Is your audience motivated towards your product or service, or away? Is that true across all of your products or services? How could you change your marketing channels and product or service distribution to reach them now?

If you need help determining next steps, are looking to shift towards digital marketing, or just need some guidance in uncertain times, we’re offering marketing consultations for businesses, free-of-charge — it’s the least we can do right now to support our community! Contact us today to set up your complimentary consultation.

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Finding Opportunities In A Turbulent Time https://brolik.com/blog/finding-opportunities-in-a-turbulent-time/ https://brolik.com/blog/finding-opportunities-in-a-turbulent-time/#respond Wed, 01 Apr 2020 20:44:17 +0000 https://brolik.com/blog/?p=4694

The Brolik team digs deep into data and trends to find business and marketing opportunities to help companies to succeed during a global crisis.

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This is the first article in a series examining how businesses are adapting to the pandemic and identifying opportunities to make it through the shutdown. Our second article in this series looks at how food and beverage companies are adjusting.


Estimated reading time: 14 min

This article includes:

  • Trends we are seeing in consumer behavior, online habits and shopping behavior (based on hard data)
  • Examples of movement towards digital products or virtual offerings in specific industries
  • Opportunity areas where businesses can take advantage of lower costs or better performing channels

While navigating the day-to-day complexities of the pandemic, we’ve shifted our focus from marketing-as-usual to a mode of intense observe-and-adapt, ready to make decisions and take action for our clients in a moment’s time. We’ve been digging into data and looking for trends to understand what the pandemic means for our clients. Most importantly, we’re looking for opportunities for them to succeed in an uncertain time.

Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen a consistent trend towards online marketing and web-based business models. With the pandemic, this trend is accelerating at rapid speed out of sheer survival. Some companies are nimble and will be able to adapt and even grow, while some will fail to adapt due to inertia or fear. But there is opportunity here, even if it’s just staying top-of-mind while your competitors pull back.

Our perspective is this: there will be no turning back. Embrace the change and find a way to survive and thrive in this new age.

According to Ogilvy, brands that get it right in a downturn capture up to three times more market share in the two years following recovery. Bain & Company’s analysis of the 2008 recession backs this up, showing that winners grew at a 17% compound annual growth rate during the downturn, while losers grew 0%.

In general, the winners went on the offensive, investing in strategic areas of the business, while the losers were too slow to react, or chose to aggressively cut spending. Hesitating or pulling back caused damage to the brand that was hard to come back from, as by then, the winners had captured most of the market share — for good.

Pull back? Accelerate? Shut Spending Down Completely?

Every business owner is wondering the same thing: “What should I do right now?” The answer is that it depends on your business model, industry, and specific circumstances. Now is not the time to make impulsive decisions — it’s time to use the data you have and think critically about the future and how your business can adapt, both now and for the long-term.

Shutting down marketing is an option, but it’s not the only option right now, even if it feels like it. When your marketing and advertising is sitting idle, you’re losing crucial ground to your competitors that can take months or years to regain. Additionally, no one knows how long this pandemic is going to continue, so companies could be paralyzing themselves by halting their marketing completely.

Depending on your business and current outlook, it may be time to pull back spending, adapt your business model, or shift your strategy to focus on a few specific channels. However, before you make any decisions, it’s important to dissect your business offerings, assess if there are any changes in demand or consumer behavior based on data, and know what other companies are doing to successfully navigate these challenging times. There could be an opportunity that you are not seeing (because you are closing your eyes, bracing for the worst).

Start By Analyzing The Competition

In the past couple of weeks, we’ve looked at each client’s competitive landscape to see what their competitors are doing. This is helpful to get ideas of how similar companies are handling the situation and to identify opportunities for our clients to take advantage of. Here are the kinds of things we’re looking at:

  • Messaging and customer outreach (including website content, ad copy, email, social media, and other communications):

How are competitors addressing the situation? What are they communicating to customers? Have they updated their messaging on their web and social platforms? How are they interacting with their audience right now?

  • Business model, products, and services:

Are competitors making any pivots to certain aspects of the business? Have they shifted or changed their business model? Are they moving towards online content or events? Emphasizing one product over others?

  • Media Mix and Ad Spend:

Have competitors changed their strategy? Have they cut or increased spend in general or for specific products or services? Have they shifted their spend to focus on certain channels or ad types?

  • Deals/Offers:

Are competitors offering discounts, opening up digital services, content, or products for free use, or supporting customers in other ways?

  • Experiments:

Are competitors doing anything outside of the box? What about companies that are not direct competitors but have a similar business model?

Now, let’s get into a few trends and themes we’ve noticed, and some examples of opportunities we’ve identified for our clients. We’re looking primarily at Google Trends data because it updates in real-time and is most useful for reflecting the rapid changes we’re experiencing as a society. We also pulled from internal data and studies published by research firms.

This article is fairly in-depth, so if you would like to skip ahead, you can use the links below to navigate directly to a section. However, each section covers a wide range of verticals and business models, so we recommend reading the whole thing — you never know what might spark an idea for your company.

The Rise of Virtual Appointments

Social Media Usage is Up and CPC is Down

Customer Priorities Have Shifted to Essential Needs

High Demand for Online Content, Classes, and Events

The Rise of Virtual Appointments

Even though it seems like everything is shut down right now, life still goes on. People still have needs, so many companies have taken to virtual appointments to continue serving their customers. This trend is industry-agnostic, affecting everything from home services, to doctor and therapy appointments, to retail businesses like wine tasting, bridal shopping, and hair salons. Essentially, if there’s any possible way to meet with clients and customers over the internet, companies are trying it out.

While this is partly due to companies trying to stay afloat after closing their physical location, there is a staggering amount of demand from consumers, as reflected in Google Trends below. It’s a win-win relationship: companies need revenue, and customers need services.

 

Google Trends Search Volume Data – “Virtual Appointments” virutal-appointments-google-trends

One of our clients provides HVAC installation and maintenance services, and as a business that operates by going into customers’ homes, they’re looking for a way through the crisis. In order to continue providing a service for customers without going into their homes, we recommended offering video consultations for maintenance issues, where customers can hop on a video call with a technician and walk through diagnosing and fixing their system virtually. Our client is working to implement this new service as quickly as they can, like many home services companies who never had the pressure to implement this type of technology pre-coronavirus.

We’re seeing a similar trend in other home services based sectors, like the residential solar market. Door-to-door sales are out the window. Companies are needing to pivot aggressively to online sales and virtual appointments.

The spike in virtual appointments is also happening in the health industry. Telemedicine has been on the rise for years, but it still hasn’t broken into the mainstream. In 2019, only 10% of people had ever used a telemedicine service. This crisis will likely be the catalyst for finally breaking through. Demand has already spiked for established telehealth companies in the US. A March 2020 study found 60% of people would consider using a digital health service.

People are understandably freaked out about going to hospitals, urgent care, or doctor’s offices in general, but they still need everyday and preventative care, and digital healthcare can provide that for them, from a safe distance.

 

Google Trends Search Volume Data – “Telehealth”

telehealth-google-trends

Looking at Google Trends, it’s pretty clear to see that interest in telehealth is skyrocketing since news of coronavirus started to grow in the US.

One of our clients is a concierge medicine practice planning on launching this summer, but current events have encouraged us to move up the timeline. Having a physician who is available over video, text, and phone is a major benefit right now. The option of having unlimited healthcare — available at a distance — is incredibly alluring at the moment for many consumers, and our client is looking to launch as soon as possible to provide care for their community.

Another opportunity to note is that, during this crisis, many people will be signing up for new services for the first time. There is an opportunity for businesses to grow their customer base and retain these customers when the crisis ends. We’ve recommended that our client capitalize on this increased demand now, and then work on nurturing new customers who otherwise might have never considered using such a service.

Takeaway: For consultants, service providers, and health clinicians, use the current situation as motivation to expand your top-of-funnel and awareness marketing and advance your virtual offering. Even though physical locations are closed, consumers still need these critical services. It’s a great time to build brand awareness and goodwill, and work on acquiring new customers at a lower than usual cost per acquisition.

Social Media Usage is Up and CPC is Down

As people have moved into self-isolation around the country (and the world), online behavior has changed. People are expanding their web surfing habits to feel more connected and informed, and traffic for social media networks is through the roof.

Facebook is seeing a record-breaking amount of usage, with people returning to the platform to connect with friends and family, find entertaining content, and stay up-to-date with what’s going on in the news. Despite increased traffic, Facebook is facing a massive drop in ad revenue. Not  good news if you own shares of Facebook stock, but if you are a small business, you have to look at the opportunity that is presenting itself. Consumers are generally showing less inclination to buy at the moment and most brands are pulling back their spending to conserve cash or because the effectiveness of their campaigns has dropped. The result in many cases is that CPC (cost-per-click) has dropped across the board.

Overall CPC in North America on Facebook has halved, from $0.64 in December to $0.32 in mid-March, with a similar drop in Western Europe. You can spend less money to engage your audience because your competitors aren’t bidding as aggressively against you. Not to mention, your audience on Facebook is likely bigger and more engaged than ever due to the increased traffic, assuming you can meet them with the right message.

While we haven’t found data on recent CPC drops for Twitter, they are also experiencing both a surge in traffic and a drop in ad revenue, making it very likely that your dollar will also go further on Twitter than it has in a while.

 

Difference in Ad Rates Between March 2019 and March 2020

ad-rates-cpc-dropping-march-2020

While many non-essential brands are seeing sales drop, some product categories are trending up as people seek safety and comfort during the pandemic. One of our clients is an e-commerce brand selling these kinds of goods, and we’ve seen a spike in sales over the past week.

In response, we’ve actually increased their Facebook ad spend to capitalize on this increased intent to buy. As a result of lower CPCs and increased spend (and because our advertising strategy is highly optimized around the messaging we’ve developed for them), sales have increased even more:

data-social-media-campaign-covid

Our client is lucky to have a product people are looking to buy right now, but other businesses can still take lessons from this case.

Keep in mind that even if sales are low right now, it’s important to keep up brand awareness and stay top-of-mind, because it’ll be that much harder to recover if your audience forgets that you exist and your competition takes your place in the minds of your customers. Plus, if a customer is looking to purchase and your brand is nowhere to be found, they’ll turn to the next brand.

Takeaway: Think about how your product would be getting used right now — and by whom — and make a push for that audience by shifting your marketing messaging, targeting, and spend to capture that audience where they are spending time right now. Dig into your data and see if moving your ad spend towards one or two social platforms would help you reach your audience.

Customer Priorities Have Shifted to Essential Needs

While most businesses are understandably looking to cut costs and conserve spending right now, there are specific trends we’ve seen that shouldn’t be ignored. One of the most evident themes is that customer priorities have changed, and it’s more important than ever to follow your customers’ lead and give them what they perceive as essential right now.

On the B2B end of the spectrum for instance, we’ve been tracking massive increases in “contingency” related search terms as companies plan for an uncertain future. Opportunities are presenting themselves around products and service offerings that offer solutions to the current crisis, as companies put contingency plans in place, adapt to the current reality, and develop their remote work infrastructure.

 

Google Trends Search Volume Data – “Contingency Planning”

google-trends-covid-analysis

Even more interesting, is that the popularity of these terms can be seen tracking with stay-at-home and quarantine orders nationwide.

 

Google Trends Geographic Data – “Contingency Planning”

brolik-analysis-marketing-covid

Our client Powerhouse, an industrial boiler business, has seen a huge surge in emergency boiler rentals the past week or two. We assume that organizations are putting contingency plans in place to be prepared for what may lie ahead.

What’s interesting is that although their services are more important than ever in this scenario, we’ve actually seen their competition reduce their spend. Take Google search ads for instance, where we’ve seen cheaper engagements and a greater share of voice despite no increases in spend:

As a result of these two key factors — messaging updates and competitors falling off — we’ve seen a noticeable increase in valuable leads to their business during this period, and at a more significant rate as well:

Now, let’s talk about B2C. Going back to our HVAC client, one recent trend we noticed was that while maintenance requests went down, install requests went up. A hot and sweaty summer is fast approaching, so presumably customers are looking to get their HVAC situation sorted before they’re stuck inside all summer without AC.

Maintenance is more of a “nice to have,” but air conditioning is a necessity in Pennsylvania, so increased intent around installs follows the trend of consumers pausing purchases for “wants” and continuing to make purchases for “needs.” In response, we’ve shifted our advertising campaigns to focus on installs for the time being, in order to capture that market.

We’re also seeing increased interest in home air purifiers, as shown below.

 

Google Trends Search Volume Data – “Air Purifiers”

brolik-covid-analysis-air-purifiers

To capture this interest, the HVAC company is pushing messaging around indoor air quality. This is for two reasons: one, their audience is spending almost all of their time inside, so having clean air is a plus in general, and two, air purifiers are effective at cleaning viruses from indoor spaces. While air purifiers haven’t been tested on Covid-19 specifically, they may work for ridding homes of minuscule coronavirus droplets floating around inside.

Takeaway: Isolate what has changed for your customers. A shift in their priorities can signal which of your products or services are most valuable right now. Look at how you can serve customers in this current climate, by focusing on one product or service that has retained traction, or even looking outside of your typical offerings. While diversification is usually best, focusing efforts and spending may be the better approach during this pandemic. Make sure to update your messaging and targeting to match your observations, in order to show your current value to your customers and highlight how you can help them.

Timely analysis has helped many of our clients adapt. If you are in need of strategy support, please contact us.

High Demand for Online Content, Classes, and Events

Companies that typically depend on in-person activity, whether they’re in industries like education, fitness, or events (or any businesses that depend on events for revenue, marketing, sales, or fundraising), have been hit especially hard by shelter-in-place orders and have been scrambling to adjust their strategy. Many companies have quickly moved their events and content from in-person to online, hosting meetups, webinars, and courses, streamed live or recorded ahead of time.

For any organization that is used to meeting in-person, moving events and classes online can provide value to the community, increase brand awareness, and reach a wider audience than under normal circumstances.

This is clearly displayed in Google Trends, as searches for online content and events have soared over the past few weeks.

 

Google Trends Search Volume Data – “Webinar”

Google Trends Search Volume Data – “Online Class”

online-class-google-trends

Our good friends over at Tuck Yoga and Barre had to close down their location a couple of weeks back. In an effort to provide immediate income to their instructors and offer an accessible fitness option for their clients, they started offering free streams of their classes on Facebook and encouraged fans to tip instructors directly, through Venmo.

Co-founder Hagana says, “We had no long-term plans when we launched, but because we were one of the first studios in the nation to convert so quickly, our Facebook followers quadrupled during that first week, and our teachers were showered with support from appreciative clients.” Because they were so quick to adapt, the move was written up in many media publications, bringing in new fans from all over the country.

While this may seem like a huge shift, if you’re able to move quickly and use existing digital infrastructure, it’s not as much work as it seems. By using Facebook’s live streaming feature, they didn’t have to develop any technology, and they are leveraging their existing Facebook audience to meet their customers where they already are. After that, all it takes is a tripod and a smartphone, coupled with a media push to raise awareness outside of your current customer base.

We believe that companies and organizations moving towards online content is not just a temporary solution, but will lead to a long-term change. Take it as motivation to adapt to the future, sooner. With the pandemic forcing businesses online, many will get over the hump of setting up infrastructure, developing internet processes, and most importantly, realizing that online content is actually a viable option for reaching people who maybe otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend in-person.

Takeaway: There is tremendous value in providing content that will help your audience navigate this crisis. Whether that is content that is directly related to the pandemic (if that’s relevant to your industry and audience), content that helps people take care of their health and fitness while stuck at home, content that helps people learn new skills (like cooking or professional development), content that helps people socialize and stay connected, or just content that keeps people entertained, people are hungry for it right now. There is still plenty of room for your company to add your voice to the conversation and reach out to connect with and help your audience.

Next Steps

Most companies didn’t have a plan for the kind of mass global upheaval we’re going through right now. That’s understandable, but now is the time to create a plan and start moving forward. Look at your market and the behaviors of your audience. Some industries are trending up, some down, some pivoting towards one offering, but all are seeing new and creative business and marketing tactics take root.

You need context to know what to do next: Is your audience motivated towards your product or service, or away? Is that true across all of your products or services? How could you change your marketing channels and product or service distribution to reach them now?

If you need help determining next steps, are looking to shift towards digital marketing, or just need some guidance in uncertain times, we’re offering marketing consultations for businesses. Contact us today to set up your consultation.


This is the first article in a series examining how businesses are adapting to the pandemic and identifying opportunities to make it through the shutdown. Our second article in this series looks at how food and beverage companies are adjusting.

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How To Predict Digital Marketing ROI With Confidence https://brolik.com/blog/how-to-predict-digital-marketing-roi-with-confidence/ https://brolik.com/blog/how-to-predict-digital-marketing-roi-with-confidence/#respond Wed, 06 Nov 2019 21:48:29 +0000 https://brolik.com/blog/?p=4602

It’s completely normal to have anxiety about pouring thousands into marketing agency fees and ad spend for the promise of growth. This article lays out ways to predict marketing ROI and derisk an increased marketing investment.

The post How To Predict Digital Marketing ROI With Confidence appeared first on The Brolik Blog.

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What we will cover in this article…

  • The fundamentals elements for understanding and predicting marketing ROI
  • How to predict cost per click (CPC), cost per lead (CPL) and cost per acquisition (CPA)
  • The main factors that impact marketing ROI
  • How to lay out possible scenarios and predict marketing ROI [Helpful Tool]

I checked my inbox recently to find a candid email response from a prospect that I had been talking to. The CEO of this particular small home services business was brief in his message– he asked me what it would take [in terms of dollars and time] to double their revenue. He was looking at the proposal I sent him and the sheer cost was causing him to hesitate.

He certainly had the desire to grow, or he wouldn’t have been talking to me in the first place about digital marketing, but felt uncomfortable taking the leap. Instead of getting defensive, I sided with him.

I understood the CEO’s hesitation.

I faced this dilemma with my own agency recently and it wasn’t a cut and dry decision, even for a team of marketing professionals to make.

Let’s look at a real world example…

I was pretty confident that we needed to accelerate our marketing spend, but I wasn’t completely sure what the results would look like, or how quickly we would find success. Furthermore, I was struggling to present my case to the rest of my team.

After a few weeks of contemplation, I decided to take the blame of a bad decision over endless indecision. I pulled together some historical data on conversion rate, first contract value and lifetime revenue of all inbound leads, and it was enough to get everyone on board, albeit skeptically.

So, we took the leap. We increased our monthly marketing and advertising spend by 120%. We committed team members to our own agency account the same way we do our clients.

Marketing Spend Vs Performance

While the chart looks generally positive and the investment looks like it was a smart one, you’ll notice that the October-December time frame wasn’t a home run. This is normal… whether it’s two months or four, or even longer, there’s usually a window of doubt, where an increase in marketing spend is not met with immediate results and revenue. And… this leads me to the first tip for preparing to increase your marketing budget.

Tips for Increasing Your Marketing Budget

Tip #1: Be Ready for the Window of Doubt

For some time after you increase your marketing budget, people on your team will question the decision to spend more on marketing and will challenge the ROI, and that’s to be expected. Do not be caught off guard when this happens, just be prepared. Being prepared relates to you and your team of decision makers. And that brings me to my second tip.

Tip #2: Make Sure All Stakeholders Understand The Primary Factors That Impact The Marketing ROI Equation

ROI Factors How it Can Impact ROI
Total Ad Spend or Ad Spend Per Month Increasing ad spend allows for more reach, faster iteration, and quicker decision making when testing. It also can shorten your window to generate a positive return on investment. On the flip side, a low ad spend can make it difficult to gather information quickly and lead to a slower road to positive ROI.
CPC (Cost per Click on Paid Ads) Lowering your cost per click adds more potential traffic, and therefore potential leads, to your marketing funnel. This can increase volume without increasing spend.
Conversion Rate Improving conversion rate can have the greatest impact on your bottom line, as optimization is happening at the closest point to a transaction. Improve conversion rate and your whole ROI equation can brighten up dramatically, without increasing spend or reach. 
Growth Goal (Total Revenue Over a Time Period, New Customers, etc) If you have aggressive growth goals, like double or triple digit increases over the coming year or two, expect your spend to match your appetite for growth. More reasonable growth goals can be managed with a lower spend and optimization across the entire marketing funnel. 
Fees For In House Talent, Agencies & Consultants Don’t forget to factor in the costs for your in house marketing teams, and any agencies or consultants. While internal and external team members may bring value outside of the direct ROI, don’t forget to weigh that as part of the budget and make sure you aren’t overpaying for talent compared to your level of advertising spend and performance you are getting in return.

Tip #3: Figure Out Your Average Cost Per Click (CPC)

For many early-stage companies, especially those that haven’t done any professional digital marketing in the past, figuring out what your target CPC will be is more of a guess than a science. Depending on your service/product, price point, the advertising channel and level of competition out there, CPC can vary greatly.

In a recent report, the average CPC on Google Ads across the entire search network was $2.69. Meanwhile, industries like legal and consumer services see average CPCs of over $6, but, these are averages. For highly valuable, and therefore, competitive keyword combinations that include terms like “auto insurance,” “attorney,” and “mortgage,” the cost can be in the $50-$150 range per click.

If you want a better idea of what you can expect to spend on CPC for your business, I suggest installing the Keywords Everywhere browser plugin. Then, type some of the most valuable keywords/phrases into Google that your prospective customers would search for to find you.

Along the right side of the SERP, you’ll see suggestions for popular keywords, volume, CPC, and competition that will help you gauge what you might expect your CPC to be for Google Ads.

Google Ads CPC

Tip #4: Understand Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) and Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

Wait, what is cost per acquisition?

Cost per acquisition or “CPA” is the average cost it requires to bring in a new lead, however it is that your business defines what a lead is. In the most basic advertising terms, CPA is a factor of cost per click and conversion rate.

Average Cost Per Click On Your Paid Ads / Conversion Rate = CPA
$2 CPC / 4% Conversion Rate = $50 CPA
(2 / .04 = 50)

What is CAC, then?

Taking the CPA of a lead for your business a step further, customer acquisition cost is the cost of acquiring an actual customer. To calculate your CAC, take your CPA and divide by your sales close rate. Let’s say you convert 5% of the leads that come in into paying customers.

$50 CPA / 5% Close Rate = $1,000 CAC
(50 / .05 = 1,000)

Tip #5: Figure Out Your Target CAC and Maximum Allowable CAC

To understand your target CAC and maximum allowable CAC, you need to know how the economics of your business work – or how much you make on each individual sale and on each customer over their lifespan. To know that, you need to understand your cost of goods, which then allows you to calculate your gross margin.

Target CAC = An attractive profit on each customer acquired
Maximum Allowable CAC = Break-even point

Depending on what type of growth rate you’re after, or what growth stage you’re in, you may be willing to acquire customers at a loss, but let’s say you aren’t Fitbit or Shopify.

Let’s say your average first transaction is $1,000 for a first year subscription to your service and the average customer lifespan is 3 years. Your CLV, or customer lifetime value, is $3,000. Now let’s say your cost to service/support that customer account is $50/year or $150 total. Your gross margin then, is $2,850.

If you’re very focused on user growth, your Maximum Allowable CAC might be $2,850, but should probably be more like $1,000-$2,000 if you are interested in running a profitable venture.

Your target CAC is more of a rough goal than a math calculation, but let’s say that’s $600, or 20% of your lifetime gross revenue per customer. At your target CPA, your gross margin is $1,900 per new customer acquired. If you can scale it, then you have a strong and sustainable business on your hands.

Tip #6: Understand How CAC Can Be Manipulated

When I talk about levers or factors, what I mean is that there are a few different key opportunities to optimize the marketing funnel to improve your marketing ROI:

  • Lowering your CPC… results in… getting more people to your website/content for cheaper
  • Improving your lead conversion rate… results in… more leads without having to generate more traffic to your website
  • Improving your close rate… results in… more customers without having to generate more leads
  • Increasing your ad budget… can result in… a shorter window to achieve positive ROI

Successfully manipulating any of the levers above will help to optimize your marketing funnel for either a higher volume of inbound leads or a lower overall CPA. And when you are acquiring more customers or bringing them in for a lower cost, you’ll have that additional money to invest back into marketing and advertising. Success begets success.

It’s worth mentioning that there are a few levers that get into product, pricing and sales strategy, that can be manipulated outside of the usual marketing realm:

  • Increasing your fees or margin on each sale… results in… making more money with fewer customers
  • Improving your close rate on leads/deals
  • Increasing your CLV (customer lifetime value)… results in… making more money with the same customers by retaining them longer or offering return opportunities and essentially increasing the amount they spend with you in their lifetime.
  • Increasing referrals… results in… generating more customers using your current customers, and without the need for additional ad dollars.

And then there are things like refining your ad targeting or improving positioning and messaging of your product or service, which can ultimately lead to a lower CPC and conversion rate, and a lower CPA. A bit less tangible and direct, but extremely important nonetheless.

Bottom line… there are many ways to skin a cat.

Now that you understand the fundamentals that impact your marketing ROI equation, and know exactly what these numbers look like for your business, it’s time to build out some models so you’ll be ready to approach the ROI conversation with your team.

“If everyone in the room understands the factors that impact their marketing ROI, we’re headed in the right direction.”

Tip #7: Establish Marketing ROI Projections

It is my belief that an experienced marketer or agency partner should be able to show you what a realistic path to success might look like, based on past experience and available data. They should be able to layout a range of possible scenarios based on a sliding scale of success.

Caution: This does not mean we fall into the dangerous habit of making promises on performance before we have enough data to back them.

Instead of making specific promises, we create marketing ROI models, to show our clients a few versions of what success could look like with our pay-per-click campaigns before taking into account organic growth. But you don’t have to be a marketing agency veteran to do this – it’s part of de-risking any investment and can be done by anyone on the team.

The benefit of creating these marketing ROI scenarios is two-fold: It allows our clients to see what results are possible without giving them unrealistic expectations. It also highlights the main levers that can impact results (including some that are within our control and some that aren’t), helping clients to understand that performance falls on a spectrum.

ROI Spreadsheet

Tip #8: Lay Out Hypothesis, Play With The Numbers

There will be times where you don’t know a number. Maybe you have limited data from past advertising campaigns and only a super high CPA as an anchor. Or maybe you’re a new business and haven’t had enough experience with customers to know your customer lifetime value. Don’t freak out. You’ll just have to guesstimate, and make sure that when you do, you look at both good and bad scenarios. We all have the tendency to paint a rosy picture and ignore the possible negative outcomes.

“I’ve seen .25% conversion rates. I’ve seen 20% conversion rates. You’ll probably be somewhere in between.”

Tip #9: Be Ready For Anything, And Adapt

Over a two week period, an early-stage CPG company we were working with went from $10 per email acquisition to $2.50. The CPC (cost per click) went from $1.80 to $0.60. We continued to optimize the high performing ads and either shut down or overhauled the low performing ones to replace them with fresh experiments. Nine days in, we were able to acquire 4x the emails per day than when we started. Once we hit the allowable cost-per-acquisition, we spoke with the client and he agreed to triple his budget. What started as 15 emails a day quickly jumped to over 200.

Did we promise this success? No. Before the project began, we communicated to our client that our stretch goal was $1-2 per email (CPA). As we zeroed in on that goal, we continued the conversation with the client and decided it was time to start increasing the budget.

Our assumptions were playing out as expected. The campaign performed well – ads, messaging and landing pages were converting in a healthy way.

But here’s the thing…

Another assumption we had was that the email list would convert to paying customers at a rate of 3-5%. We thought, that seems appropriate and not too aggressive. What we failed to do when planning out our projections models is consider a massive fall off from conversion A to final conversion (purchase). We converted only .5% of our email list.

When things don’t go to plan…

When things don’t go the way you plan, and they rarely do, you must be able to adapt quickly and shift your thinking. In the case of the consumer product company, their Facebook ads and remarketing funnel were converting much higher than their email list. Also, their bottom-of-the-funnel ads were outperforming the top and middle of funnel so we eliminated the top of funnel education and went for conversions.

My point in telling you this story is that no matter how much you plan, it’s always a moving target and you must always continue to observe, learn, test new hypothesis and adapt your plan based on what you are seeing and what’s working. One of your scenarios in the marketing projections model should be a “what if this doesn’t work” scenario, and you should talk about that with your client or team before investing.

Ready to Build Out Your Own Marketing ROI Scenarios?

Ok, let’s get started.

If you’re ready to start tackling the marketing ROI equation, I would suggest gathering the following information (When I’m working on the marketing ROI scenarios for a prospective client, this is what I ask for):

  • Revenue per unit sold (initial purchase, MSRP)
  • Margin per unit sold
  • Revenue from return purchases / upsells (monthly or yearly)
  • Margin on return purchases
  • Customer lifetime value (projected sales revenue over customer lifespan)
  • Target CPA (this is your best guess, we will come up with an appropriate number through our analysis)
  • Maximum Allowable CPA (this is your best guess, we will come up with an appropriate number through our analysis)
  • If we are focused on more than one product and price point, please repeat the bullets above.
  • If you haven’t gathered the information I’ve listed above, I highly recommend you do. It will help you get a clearer picture of your business model and where improvements could be made.

Summary

At the end of the day, there’s no marketing model that will give a business 100% confidence in their marketing investment. At a certain point, it comes down to trust and good dialogue between brand and agency to give it a go.

If you agree to engage a marketing agency, just pay close attention to the way expectations are managed, how goals are set and what level of transparency there is around performance. If you have a good picture of what not-so-good, good, better and best scenarios look like, then you are off to a good start with your agency relationship.

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Brolik Expands Footprint Within the Healthcare Industry https://brolik.com/blog/brolik-expands-within-healthcare-industry/ https://brolik.com/blog/brolik-expands-within-healthcare-industry/#respond Thu, 31 Oct 2019 18:49:58 +0000 https://brolik.com/blog/?p=4598

We’re proud to announce the recent signing of two new clients, both within the healthcare industry, Merakey and Devine Concierge Medicine. With both clients varying in scope and size, we’ll be able to explore the healthcare space from the perspective of an established fifty-year-old business, as well as a nascent startup preparing to launch their brand at the same time.

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Summer 2019 was a busy season for us, to say the least. We’re proud to announce the signing of many new clients, two of which – Merakey and Devine Concierge Medicine – are expanding our footprint in the healthcare space. Each business requires a digital presence that informs and engages patients, families, insurance companies and other important stakeholders. With these clients varying greatly in scope and size, we’ll be able to explore the healthcare space from the perspective of an established fifty-year-old business, as well as a nascent startup preparing to launch their brand.

Merakey is a national developmental, behavioral health, and education non-profit provider that offers a holistic approach to healthcare for those who need it most. Committed to changing people’s lives for the better, Merakey contacted us to build a new website that not only communicates its brand story, but also shares its extensive services and offerings across the country.

Meanwhile, Devine Concierge Medicine is a startup created by two brothers currently working for Jefferson Health. The family company will provide concierge medicine services – a new concept within the healthcare space – to people in the Greater Philadelphia area. Still in the early stages, Devine Concierge Medicine partnered with us to first launch and then grow the business through an integrated approach that includes branding, website design and ongoing digital marketing services.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” says Brolik CEO Jason Brewer. “We excel when it comes to entering new territory, learning the nuances of a new market or industry, and adapting to the challenges that face us. The fact that we’re doing this simultaneously with both a startup and established business in the healthcare space is even more exciting.”

Although these projects represent the latest venture into the healthcare space for us, they’re not the first. That would be React Physical Therapy, a Chicago-based physical therapy clinic that we helped expand into a nationally-recognized brand with a new website and digital marketing plan. To learn more about that project, check out our in-depth case study.

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Brolik Launches New AAMCO Site Built With the Consumer in Mind https://brolik.com/blog/brolik-launches-new-aamco-site/ https://brolik.com/blog/brolik-launches-new-aamco-site/#respond Thu, 03 Oct 2019 14:19:51 +0000 https://brolik.com/blog/?p=4594

Brolik recently launched a new website for powerhouse automotive company, AAMCO. This website was created to support AAMCOs’s goal of rethinking what it takes to offer a superior customer experience.

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Months in the making, on September 26, 2019, Brolik launched a completely redesigned website for AAMCO, the national leader in transmission repair. With over 50 years in the industry, AAMCO is one of the most trusted and recognized automotive brands in the country. This website was created to support AAMCOs’s goal of rethinking what it takes to offer a superior customer experience.

The website’s primary goal, as well as the overall brand goal, is to help customers feel more informed and in control when they think something may be wrong with their vehicle. This starts with making the website more informative and providing multiple ways to contact their closest AAMCO location, creating a seamless user experience from start to finish. The website launched with three Connecticut AAMCO locations and will continue to grow as the website proves success.

“We built the site for the customer, first and foremost,” Brolik Senior Account Executive, Jason Monte, said. “With a particular emphasis on mobile devices, we created a simple and straightforward experience for users to find the information they need and schedule an estimate or contact their nearest location without spending time getting bogged down in site navigation.”

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Local Utility Locating Company Master Locators Acquired By National Leader https://brolik.com/blog/master-locators-acquired/ https://brolik.com/blog/master-locators-acquired/#respond Fri, 13 Sep 2019 15:56:47 +0000 https://brolik.com/blog/?p=4589

Master Locators, longtime private utility locating provider, has been acquired by GPRS. As Master Locators' digital agency, Brolik’s primary focus has been helping to position the Master Locators’ brand as an industry leader in their digital space.

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Supported by an increasingly prominent digital presence, Master Locators, the longtime private utility locating provider based out of Glen Mills, PA, have just announced their acquisition by GPRS. This represents the fourth acquisition by GPRS over the past three years, as they look to aggressively expand nationally by bringing on high-quality operators within the utility locating industry.

“This is a terrific opportunity for us,” said Gus Sareyka, President of Master Locators. “The new partnership with GPRS and CIVC gives us additional capital and resources, enabling Master Locators to better serve our customers and support our growth.”

As a partner to Master Locators for more than a year, Brolik’s primary focus has been helping to position the Master Locators’ brand as industry leaders in their digital space. Needless to say, the announcement of this acquisition speaks to the overall success of the partnership.

“The holistic approach we’ve taken with Master Locators’ digital marketing efforts has resulted in steady, repeatable growth that positioned them well for this acquisition,” Christian Bach, a Senior Marketing Strategist at Brolik, says. “From modernizing their web presence and producing high-quality video content, to developing effective customer touchpoints and messaging on the proper channels, everything we’ve developed is part of a steady foundation that Master Locators can continue to build on.”

Learn More About Brolik’s Work

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