Welcome to hard times

The US economy is in serious trouble, and it’s hard to pass a newspaper without seeing a headline indicating that “the good times are over.” While it is impossible to predict the depths of the current economic slowdown, how long it will last, or its ultimate effects on the so-called “search ecosystem,” it’s clear that many marketers will need to take steps to adapt to the rigors of this new climate.

Here are a few things that I believe marketers will need to do to survive what may be a year unlike any we have seen for a long time.

1. Relentlessly squeeze out inefficiencies
Search marketing is an intrinsically efficient marketing channel, but the CPC model is flawed in a way that allows for considerable waste in any search campaign. As long as clicks, not orders, are the units governing how search engines are paid, marketers will overpay for their campaigns; a happy situation for the search engines but poison for marketers who have not done everything possible to reduce this waste.

Reducing waste isn’t rocket science, but it’s hard work that entails leveraging everything you know about your prospects into your search strategies. Who are they? Where are they? When are they most likely to exhibit buying behavior? What paid listing/landing page combinations are most likely to convert to your offer? You may think you know the answers to these elementary questions but only rigorous testing of all significant campaign variables can determine the truth. The search marketplace is littered with the corpses of those whose elegant theories were “murdered by a brutal gang of facts” don’t let your company be one of them.

2. Maximize the use of automation
As I’ve said before, search campaign automation is a “force multiplier” that can mean the difference between success and failure in the competitive search marketplace. Not only does it help you realize efficiencies, but also reveals previously unidentified opportunities; and yet a sizeable percentage of search spenders fail to make full use of it. Search campaign automation systems are complex pieces of software requiring skilled operators guided by strategic analysts, but the reason for using them is dead simple: they let your scarce, expensive people do more with less.

3. Be aggressive where and when it counts
What markets are being ignored by your competitors that you can exploit? Which group of high-converting prospects are being under-served? How much additional order volume can you achieve by strategically bid-boosting to a given audience segment? The real beauty of maximizing efficiency is that it can release funds to expand opportunities to target those audience segments most likely to add to your bottom line, without over-stretching your marketing budget. When times get tight, and marketing budgets get squeezed, using this process can be a real career-saver.

My hope is that the worst fears about the future of the US economy won’t be realized, but no marketer can afford to be complacent in these uncertain times. By eliminating wastage, using smart software to let people “do more with less,” and aggressively pursuing your most profitable online opportunities, you’ll be well on your way toward triumphing over whatever these hard times have in store.

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