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CRO Customer Engagement Highlights Paid Media Reaching New Customers SEO

The road to victory: Paid media strategies in an election and Olympic year

For a few months every four years, the U.S. presidential election and Summer Olympics dominate the media landscape and create major challenges for advertisers trying to establish reach, maintain ad frequency, and meet cost per acquisition (CPA) goals. From roughly mid-July to early November, election campaigns and Olympic promotions overtake ad inventory, limiting supply and driving up costs for other advertisers. 

In 2020, the Tokyo Olympics attracted $2.25 billion in U.S. ad revenue and the U.S. election cycle totaled an unprecedented $2.5 billion of ad revenue. And that’s just for TV ads! With all of that extra competition in the market, breaking through the clutter and maintaining effective reach and frequency without breaking the bank becomes a major challenge for most advertisers.

Let’s explore how a thoughtful election- and Olympic-year paid media strategy can help you emerge victorious from this quagmire. After all, who doesn’t love a good underdog story?

Politics and pentathlons: The negative impacts on marketing

Before we discuss strategy, it’s important to understand what is at risk during these quadrennial events. Here are some of the ways your current paid media plan might feel the impact of the election/Olympic year:

Limited inventory

Channels like traditional broadcast, out-of-home (billboards, transit, airport advertising, etc.), and even CTV, have a finite amount of ad inventory. As politicians, advocacy groups, super PACs, the Olympic Games, and the likes buy up ad inventory, it becomes a challenge for other advertisers to secure inventory for themselves. 

For election candidate advertising specifically, the FCC requires broadcast stations and cable systems to charge legally qualified candidates the lowest unit prices, making TV advertising more affordable, and increasing the likelihood of those candidates purchasing a lot of inventory. Additionally, because candidates are guaranteed the lowest unit price that other customers receive, this means that you likely won’t be able to secure any zero-cost added value spots during this time.

In an effort to treat competing candidates fairly, the FCC also requires broadcast stations to abide by the “equal time” rule. This means that if one candidate gets a spot in the 6p news, the other candidates must also be able to receive a similar spot. As such, many non-political advertisers get preempted (“bumped”) during this time and may not receive makegoods during the desired window. This rule makes it especially challenging for advertisers who are operating within very specific promotional windows.

With political and Olympic ads taking over the airwaves, it becomes difficult for other advertisers to secure any ad inventory at all, yet alone enough to maintain an effective reach and frequency that will grow brand awareness or compel action from potential customers.

Cluttered ad space

As politics and Olympic promotion overtake traditional advertising outlets, many non-political and Olympic advertisers will move into the digital realm to secure inventory and lock in flat rates. The political and Olympic advertisers will be here too by the way. As you can imagine (or have experienced first hand in years past), the digital marketplace becomes inundated with heated political messaging and inspirational (usually sports-themed) stories, on top of all the normal ad clutter. 

It can be extremely challenging to break through all this noise. Consumers often get overwhelmed by excessive advertising, making it less likely that they will engage with or be influenced by ads.

Increased costs

While broadcast stations are required to keep costs low for advertisers, digital channels are not. Costs on Google, Meta, and other auction-based platforms will surge as competition increases. Cost per clicks (CPCs) and cost per conversions (CPAs) will increase as advertisers bid against each other to win ad space. Target CPAs are going to take more work to hit as each impression becomes significantly more expensive to secure. While you can still serve ads within a set budget, your paid media dollars won’t go nearly as far in auction-based platforms as they normally would outside the election and Olympic seasons.

Taking the podium: Overcome obstacles with a winning strategy

While the challenges that exist during an election and Olympic year may seem daunting, it’s not too late to implement a winning strategy. Strategically planning ahead can help mitigate these challenges:

Adapt your channel strategy

Perhaps the most obvious response to the challenges highlighted above would be to adjust your paid media channel strategy. The limited inventory on traditional broadcast channels will make it difficult to maintain an effective reach and frequency and auction-based digital platforms will experience increased costs. While you may not want to exclude these channels altogether, consider countering those challenges by:

  • Secure broadcast sponsorships and packages: These often guarantee a minimum number of impressions without the possibility of being preempted.
  • Extend your broadcast impressions with digital video and streaming audio: These channels have more inventory and often allow you to negotiate flat CPM rates.
  • Invest in podcasts: Podcasts break through the clutter by speaking to highly engaged listeners.
  • Incorporate flat-rate digital platforms: Plan ahead and collaborate with digital partners that will guarantee flat CPM/CPC pricing to avoid the increased bidding costs.

Understand your audience

As inventory shrinks and costs rise, efficiency is key. Don’t let your advertising dollars go to waste serving impressions to people outside your audience. 

Many marketers use demographics to define their target audience, but demographics have little to do with why a person takes a particular action. Well ahead of the Opening Ceremonies and primary elections, consider investing in values-based persona research to more clearly define who your audience is and what motivates them so that you can tailor your messaging and creative accordingly. Effective ad messaging and creative that resonates with your audience will help break through the ad clutter and drive action during a time when consumers are faced with significant distractions.

Additionally, make sure you’re investing in your first-party data to understand consumer behavior. Today, marketers collect more data than ever before, but often struggle to harness the power of that data in a way that yields actionable insights. Effective data quality management enables you to analyze the right data points that help you understand your customer, enhance their experiences, and optimize campaigns for more efficient and effective results.

Invest in Conversion Rate Optimization

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategy is the insurance policy for any paid media plan. A strong paid media strategy can drive significant traffic to a landing page, but if users are met with a poor website experience, they might leave without converting, thus creating a leaky bucket situation. A strategic CRO program systematically tests various iterations of website design and functionality to weed out points of friction and increase conversion rates. 

By investing in CRO strategy ahead of the election and Olympic year, you can help prevent valuable paid media traffic from trickling away pre-conversion during that time when paid media traffic is more expensive and harder to come by. During election and Olympic years, when digital costs increase and consumer attention is being directed elsewhere, decreases in conversion rates are almost guaranteed. An effective CRO strategy will help offset the anticipated decrease in conversion rates.

Learn more about CRO and other Integrated Digital Marketing Services from Tallwave.

Emerge victorious

Strategically planning ahead is key to ensuring strong paid media performance during election and Olympic years. Ready to get started? Let Tallwave help you get the most out of your paid media budget this election and Olympic year.

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Customer Engagement Reaching New Customers Strategy

Mastering full-funnel marketing for lasting growth

Many companies have shifted their focus to bottom-of-funnel tactics, like paid search and retargeting ads, as economic uncertainty drives budget constraints and increases the pressure to make sales. However, this imbalanced approach will almost certainly have a lagging negative impact on revenue and ROI.

Implementing a full-funnel marketing strategy can fix the imbalance and ensure long-term growth and sustainability. Let’s look at the full marketing funnel, why stage-specific engagement matters, and how to bring them to life.

What are the stages of full-funnel marketing?

Marketing strategy is often compared to a funnel because of the shape it takes as consumers move through the purchase journey. 

A chart showing the conversion funnel.

Stage 1: Top-of-funnel

Awareness tactics (at the top of the funnel) are broad and cast a wide net to reach consumers. This might include things like radio ads, billboard ads, blogs, or public relations campaigns. 

The purpose of top-of-funnel tactics is to get your brand in front of your audience and generate brand awareness. As such, success for these individual tactics should be measured by publisher metrics like impressions, reach, frequency, and video completion rates or through survey metrics like lift in brand awareness and ad recall. A common misstep we see marketers make is trying to measure the success of a top-of-funnel tactic by the number of conversions it drives. Billboards aren’t going to result in a click-through conversion, but they do influence consumers who may not even know they want to buy your product or service yet. Similarly, an attribution model that ignores the role top-of-funnel tactics play as part of the confluence of factors that ultimately drive conversion can work against you.

Stage 2: Mid-funnel

Consideration tactics (in the middle of the funnel) focus on consumers who are familiar with and evaluating the brand. Tactics deployed at this might include product-specific emails, FAQ pages, and organic search strategy. 

This is the stage where we start to see consumers interacting with the brand so success metrics look different than those in the top of the funnel. Here, we are interested in engagement metrics like click-through rates, social media interactions, rich media interactions, average time on site, pages visited per website engagement, scroll depth, and non-conversion website events (e.g., PDF downloads, webinar registrations, video completions, etc.).

Stage 3: Bottom of the funnel

Conversion tactics (at the bottom of the funnel) get in front of consumers who are ready to make a purchase. Paid search is a major tactic at this stage of the funnel, but tactics might also include website content like comparison charts or savings calculators.

This is the stage at which we measure tactical success in terms of conversions. Consumers, influenced by the awareness and consideration driven higher up in the funnel from other tactics, are now ready to make a purchase or submit a lead form.

But it doesn’t end there! After consumers convert, they move into the loyalty part of the funnel. The tactics in this part of the funnel keep consumers coming back. It might include things like personalized content, rewards and loyalty programs, or incentive campaigns.

The success of your loyalty program can be measured by customer retention rate, customer lifetime value, and repeat purchases.

The lowest part of the funnel is advocacy, which is all about getting consumers to tell their friends about your brand. This often takes the form of customer reviews and referral programs and can be measured by metrics like customer satisfaction scores, online reviews and sentiment analysis, and social listening insights.

Why does a full-funnel marketing strategy matter?

Although marketers like to position their strategy into a nice, neat little funnel, the reality is that the consumer journey is not so nice and neat. It’s also not linear. On average, it takes 8-12 touchpoints with a brand to convert a customer! 

An image depicting the unclear path that often occurs between the first point of contact and conversion.

The beauty of a full-funnel marketing strategy is that it helps you meet consumers where they are in their journeys. It is a holistic, integrated approach that drives repeat exposure and facilitates multiple touch points with customers at different stages of their journey, which is critical for ensuring your brand is top of mind when the moment of truth comes and a buying decision is made.

The negative impact of a bottom-of-funnel approach

Conversion-focused tactics often get the most attention because they produce the most conversions. But consumers can’t convert if they aren’t aware of your brand. Consumers won’t convert if they know about your brand, but haven’t taken the time to consider what it means to them. By neglecting the upper parts of the funnel, you choke the funnel and restrict your ability to drive conversions in the long term.

Unfortunately, many companies get overly focused on the bottom-of-funnel tactics due to the very real and understandable pressure that marketers get from leaders focused only on transactional KPIs. This is especially true in times of economic uncertainty (check out our white paper on how to optimize your customer experience for recession resilience) when driving revenue takes on a heightened priority.

A broken funnel can manifest in many ways:

Poor engagement rates

If you skipped over the awareness part of the funnel, consumers may not be familiar with your brand. Trust and credibility have yet to be established and so they are not prepared to engage with your content.

High engagement, but low conversion

Similarly, if consumers are clicking, but not converting, may not be meeting them at the right point in their journey.

Conversion stagnation

Often a symptom of low-funnel strategies, you may have tapped out your available audience by ignoring critical awareness tactics.

Unintentionally over-indexing on first-time customers

It is 5-7 times more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones. If your customer base is over-indexed on new customers, you may need to double down on your retention efforts.

Decrease in branded searches

Customers can’t search for you if they don’t know about your brand. Investing in top-of-funnel tactics is crucial to driving brand awareness.

Increase in costs to convert

Persistent increases in cost per lead (CPL) or cost per acquisition (CPA) signal that you are competing for a finite, over-indexed audience and would benefit from upper-funnel tactics.

Bringing a full-funnel marketing strategy to life

If any of the scenarios above sound familiar, it’s probably time to evolve your marketing strategy to adopt a full-funnel approach.

Here are some key considerations when establishing a full-funnel marketing strategy: 

Teamwork makes the dream work

A full-funnel marketing strategy requires collaboration across multiple teams (think strategy, brand, paid media, creative, content, design, PR, email, loyalty… the list goes on!) to ensure thoughtful, cohesive customer experiences. Make sure you are pulling in representatives from all the appropriate teams to drive alignment and ensure consistency.

Measurement matters

An appropriate measurement strategy is key to keeping a full-funnel strategy on the rails. As we described when defining the stages of the funnel, KPIs must reflect where tactics sit within the funnel to properly measure success and make informed marketing decisions.

Similarly, an attribution model can make or break your strategy. Last-click attribution models in particular can influence over-indexing on bottom-of-funnel tactics by assigning credit to the last touch before a conversion. This model puts a thumb on the scale for bottom-of-funnel tactics, limiting the ability to optimize for the distinct goals of tactics that play other roles in the funnel. Linear or data-driven models are generally more effective at assigning appropriate value to tactics throughout the funnel. 

Be patient

The impact of a full-funnel strategy won’t be felt immediately. Upper-funnel efforts build future demand. Building loyalty and driving advocacy takes time. But this strategy sustains growth marketing investment in the long term by allowing you to reach more potential customers, extending the lifetime value of those customers, and generating more profit for less investment by driving efficiencies across the program.

The bottom line: full-funnel marketing strategies work

A recent Nielsen study of CPG brands showed that those with a full-funnel strategy had 45% higher ROI and a 7% increase in offline sales compared to marketing campaigns running in a single purchase stage.

We recently published a case study about how we helped a nonprofit client of ours drive efficiencies in their paid media program by enhancing their bottom-of-funnel paid media program to a full-funnel one. In the first year of running this full-funnel program, our client spent 9% more on paid media year over year, but produced 61% more donations.

Designing holistic customer experiences that drive growth is our strength. Because full-funnel marketing strategy is a team sport that requires participation from multiple teams, internal silos are the enemy of creating a holistic, integrated strategy. At Tallwave, we pride ourselves on two things: 1) relentlessly keeping the customer at the center of what we do at every stage of the journey and 2) driving integration and collaboration in the strategies that drive the customer experience so we can deliver successfully against your customers’ needs and your business goals. 

Ready to learn more about how Tallwave can help enhance your marketing program? Give us a shout!

Categories
Customer Engagement Strategy

Better Together: A Paid Media and CRO Marketing Love Story

Picture this, you’re executing a holistic paid media strategy, driving traffic to your website through a broad range of tactics like digital video, streaming audio, display, paid social, and paid search. Paid media is living the good life, racking up impressions, driving ad engagement, and generating some conversions along the way. But something is missing…

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) marketing, a strategic method of testing, iterating, and optimizing on-site functionality to improve the user experience and increase the rate of conversion (or high-value action), is sitting on the other side of town, pulling petals off a daisy, waiting to find a partner who can produce the quality traffic and insights it needs to really thrive. A partner to complete him…

Both paid media and CRO are integral parts of an efficient and effective marketing plan, but oftentimes are treated as independent tactics with little regard for one another. Much opportunity is missed by only running one of these programs or by running them in silos.

Integrate your paid media and CRO strategies and watch the sparks fly.

Two Lovable Leads: Paid Media & CRO

Our love story begins with two independent marketing tactics, paid media and CRO, living worlds apart (or perhaps just a siloed marketing team away), not realizing just how incomplete they are without one another. Existing as stand-alone tactics, paid media and CRO will generally (hopefully) produce positive results for their campaigns, but are limited in their respective abilities.

Most comprehensive marketing plans include paid media. It’s a great way to get in front of your target audience, build brand awareness, and drive traffic to your website. In fact, marketers typically spend up to 25% of their marketing budget on paid media.

That’s a huge investment!

But what happens when those prospective customers get to the website?

If they encounter a poor landing page experience, they may get lost trying to navigate through on-site information, they may abandon cart before finalizing a purchase, or — worse yet — they may just … bounce. A poor user experience on-site greatly reduces the chance for conversion, causing something of a leaky bucket situation, in which site visitors fall through before converting. And then all that time, money, and effort you spent trying to drive traffic to your site through paid media was… kind of a waste.

Since paid media success is often evaluated based on its ability to convert traffic, a poor landing page experience can be detrimental to a paid media campaign. To further amplify the pain felt here, paid media marketers often don’t have the ability to control the landing page experience, which can fuel frustration and drive misalignment between paid media tactics and performance. If only there were something that could help plug that leaky bucket….

Meanwhile, still hanging out on the other side of town, CRO is becoming a more popular tactic with marketers. More companies are investing in CRO strategy to identify and address weak areas on the website that may be impacting the user experience and actively working against the company’s goals. CRO allows marketers to systematically test various iterations of website functionality to determine which iterations are most impactful in weeding out points of friction and producing conversions (or any high-value action, like a lead form submission, an “add to cart,” a search query, etc.).

And CRO isn’t limited to just major points of conversion, like transactions and lead form submissions. It can also be applied to “micro-conversions,” or behaviors that sit just upstream of the point of conversion, such as product page views, in an effort to address the larger user journey.

But CRO only works if enough quality traffic is being driven to the website to run tests that yield statistically significant results.

The Meet Cute: Where Two Digital Marketing Strategies Come Together

So paid media and CRO might get along just fine on their own, but bring them together …

Fireworks bursting on a dark sky.

FIREWORKS!

By running these two tactics in tandem, always-on paid media ensures enough traffic is flowing to the website for the CRO team to run impactful and efficient tests. In addition to traffic volume, a strong paid media plan will also help ensure that quality traffic is being driven to the site, which is crucial for producing meaningful CRO test results. The more qualified traffic coming to site, the quicker CRO tests can produce data-driven insights, the quicker actions can be taken to make UX improvements on-site, and the quicker you’ll see a lift in conversions.

Likewise, an active CRO strategy helps ensure that users who come to the website through paid media efforts can seamlessly work their way through the conversion path. An investment in CRO helps protect your paid media investment by keeping visitors on-site and increasing their likelihood of converting, which in turn boosts important KPIs like conversion rate and return on ad spend.

Building Butterflies: 1 + 1 = 3

But here’s where the real magic happens.

By running these two tactics as part of one integrated strategy, you now have a constant flow of data between the two. And data, as we all know, is king. Paid media insights can help the CRO team better understand who the target audience is. Knowing who is engaging with ads can help establish tests for how best to connect to those audiences on site. Learnings from CRO tests may impact paid media channels, placements, targeting, and creative recommendations. The constant flow of learnings between teams will increase the ability for both teams to identify tests, optimize features, and effectively connect with the target audience. And, perhaps most importantly, when CRO and paid media come together, they create a more seamless brand experience that is felt by the user.

Through an effective paid media and CRO relationship, messaging, creative design, and paid media placement will feel cohesive when a prospective customer clicks through an ad to the website, rather than feeling like two separate experiences.  Leveraging paid media and CRO together makes marketing plans more effective and marketing budgets more efficient.

No love story is complete without a montage!

The Lightbulb Moment: Recognizing the Need for a Paid Media & CRO Relationship

So how do you know when you might benefit from an integrated paid media and CRO strategy?

The following indicators suggest that your paid media traffic is being met with a poor user experience on-site and is in need of CRO:

  • Paid media traffic has a bounce rate over 80%
  • Paid media traffic is spending a lot of time on-site and/or visiting many pages on-site, but isn’t taking any high-value actions
  • Paid media users begin the conversion process (E.g., adding an item to cart), but ultimately do not convert (E.g., complete purchase)

The following indicators suggest that your CRO marketing program is in need of more qualified traffic via a new or improved paid media plan:

  • Not enough traffic to produce statistically significant test results in a reasonable amount of time
  • Poor quality of leads (suggesting that the wrong audience is engaging on-site)

Running paid media or CRO alone is beneficial for your marketing program. Running both paid media and CRO  is even better. Running paid media and CRO as part of an integrated, seamless strategy with data as a driving force… that’s a love story for the ages.

You Complete Me

Tallwave is ready to play matchmaker when it comes to marrying paid media and CRO marketing. We’ve helped many clients find success.

Interested to know how Tallwave can help you implement an impactful paid media and CRO strategy? Let’s talk!

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