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Sunday, Mar. 23, 2008 at 3:28 pm

Recession-Proof Your Online Marketing

By Jeffrey Eisenberg
March 23rd, 2008

Yes, it’s that time again!

Recessions are the economy’s little reminder that your marketing needs to be more efficient. Lots of our friends and clients are being asked to produce more sales with less resources. (And if you’re reading this post, that might sound familiar to you.)

Traditionally, in the offline world during recessions, marketers had their advertising budgets cut, then pressure was placed on sales teams to close more sales. But in the online world, marketers are expected to deliver both traffic from advertising and sales from the customer experience.

The math is simple. More sales with the same or less advertising means higher conversion rates. If your conversion rate is higher, not only will you be more profitable but you should also gain market share from competitors.

You may not always be able to control the cost of your advertising — except for when you cut it — but you can control your conversion rate.

In the interactive marketing world, many companies seem confused about what to do in a recession. Companies need to improve their online conversion rates. It seems obvious to most of us, but not everyone.

We want to ask you, our readers, for feedback. Have conversion rate improvements become a higher priority for your organization? If not, is it because you aren’t feeling the effects of the recession yet, or does your organization simply not believe it can control conversion? Or is it something else?

. .

Read the follow-up post, “3 Steps to Recession-Proof Your Online Marketing

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Comments (20)

  1. [...] an easy way to improve your online sales to compensate for the lack of marketing spending. Recession proof your online marketing by focusing on your web site’s conversion rate. Whether your web site generates leads or [...]

  2. It has definitely become more important. The effort into closing as many leads has heightened as losing other clients due to the economy has proven to be occurring more and more every day.

  3. I had hoped one of my major clients would see the benefits of increasing conversion rates at our annual meeting. But they didn’t.

    Instead, they focused on considering different PPC mediums and developing a new landing page for a category of their products.

    I wonder why my efforts to “convert” them on the benefits of “conversion science” failed?

    By the way, it’s always a pleasure receiving Future Now emails. I also visit the website at least once every 2-3 days to see what’s happening.

    I think the answer is twofold: people don’t understand numbers and decision making is a scarce resource.

    In my annual presentation, I showed the benefits of increased conversion rates on net profits. But I think some people just have a hard time digesting a little math. There are smart people who aren’t mathematically inclined.

    The other factor is the scarcity of decision making as a resource. Making decisions in business is both hard and risky. Conversion science is a new field, a new concept, and sometimes a hard concept to sell. Some marketing people find it easier to wrap their decision making around new ad spend campaigns when the real issue is optimizing existing campaigns.

  4. Yup, we’re seeing it too. Not because of recession (it hasn’t started yet here in Denmark), but because our competitors are gaining on us.

    Richard: I think it’s because putting more money into PPC campaigns is something everyone can understand.

    But improving landing pages and conversion rates requires a lot of different skillsets. Or, if you need to pick only one, basic understanding of human psycology and customer behavior. Which is something a lot of descision makers lack, they only understand figures and bottom lines.

    So for them it’s easier to decide to invest more in PPC. It’s something they can understand.

    Whereas conversion is as much an art as it is a science, and it’s hard for a decision maker to go for something they have trouble understanding.

  5. I love this line:

    “Recessions are the economy’s little reminder that your marketing needs to be more efficient.”

    And it’s so true. Especially living so close to the tech bubble burst up here in the ‘silicon valley of the north’ it became fairly obvious that in many cases the companies that ultimately failed weren’t even trying very hard to succeed. And the ones that survived the burst were truly remarkable.

    Now it’s not as extreme (at least not from my Canadian perspective), but those companies that embrace marketing accountability and spend their money where it counts (i.e. conversion optimization) will ultimately succeed simply because they are in tune to what matters most.

    Cheers!

  6. Higher conversion has always been (or should have been) the goal for any marketing campaign. But I don’t think we should fall into the trap of considering better conversion rates a way to GET more without INVESTING more. TO get those higher rates, you’re going to have to invest something… dollars to pay an expert… time to think through, try, and perfect your site yourself… etc.

    A farmer can get higher yields from the same number of acres, but it’ll take more fertilizer, weeding, or what have you.

    The trick is to educate ourselves, or our clients, that the initial “cost” of improving conversion rates is worth the eventual pay off.

    Also, the latest recession (just a regular part of a cyclical economy in my opinion) may be a wakeup call for some businesses, but it only necessitates a change in business practices the way any desire for increased profit does. Wanting a new in-ground swimming pool or summer home on the lake would motivate me MORE than a recession — because the recession will pass, but ain’t no one gonna give me a pool!

  7. Interestingly enough, I read this after I wrote my latest piece, but my thoughts are and will always be that there is opportunity for tech in the worst of times. But now, or could it be, there is no time, to be casual with your dollars, your customers, or your competition. Are tech start-ups recession proof? http://emersondirect.wordpress.com/2008/03/24/are-start-ups-recession-proof/

  8. “Recessions are the economy’s little reminder that your marketing needs to be more efficient.”

    While I agree with the substance of your article, I find this comment particularly flippant and crass.

  9. Mark, It wasn’t my intention to be flippant or crass. I apologize if it came off that way. Perhaps I’m even more humor challenged than I believe.

  10. [...] I’ve been thinking about this topic since I saw Gerard Minack on Lateline last week, however US conversion rate guru Jeffrey Eisenberg at Future Now beat me to writing this article, so this was partly inspired by his post. [...]

  11. Yes I agree, an optimized ad is more friendly to a seeking customer. The conversion rate should be major concern for any time, not just for the time of recession.

  12. The recession does appear to be affecting site conversion. And if it isn’t, it gets the blame anyway.

    Recession proofing your conversion rates can simply be a case of breaking them down into attributable parts, e.g. by channel / site behaviour. If you’re seeing an overall dip in conversion, this may be due to your acquisitional sources not performing well and bringing down your average. If your loyal customer base continues to convert well despite the recession, then its worth reporting. These are also the customers you’re more likely to have influence over given the right marketing message.

  13. I would agree that when budget is not there to spend, you can still make more money by optimizing your conversion.

  14. Yes, agreed. This is especially true in the small business arena where there usually is not too much extra cash around to act as a cushion. Better conversion rates (and more leads, traffic) is what it’s all about.

  15. One key here is to re-align online investments towards content and not just reach or coverage. Content that is created can be utilized in multiple places. We have also seen a change in how forums and blogs are used (i.e. a lot more), so hire people or services to monitor and interact with them. Target buyers in recessions look harder for feedback and customer views and are less impressed with pure reach marketing.

  16. I agree completely. I am amazed at the percentage of search marketing professionals that focus on traffic more than conversions.

    Though there may be less targeted search traffic when spending is down, there should be a stronger emphasis on converting the existing traffic in to buyers or leads …

  17. As a blogger,I focus on writing better articles and diversifying into several small income streams.This should help keeping my business recession proof.

  18. I agree with you, we may not be able to control the cost of advertising but we can control conversion rates. We are already experiencing the effects of recession, so in my organization, we prioritize conversion rate improvements.

    sigh! recession is already affecting many online marketers.

  19. SecondEffort SEO has grown to become one of the leading full-service Florida internet marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) specialty businesses.

  20. I’ve moved on to concentrating on adsense websites. This way you don’t have to worry about sales.

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Jeffrey Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark. You can friend him on Facebook.

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