It's a fact of life in business that when there's an economic downturn, the first thing that's usually cut is available marketing spend, typically an unfortunate byproduct of accounting's inability to justify costs without hard data in place. While the argument has been made numerous times over the years in books and articles that cutting budgets in a down economy is one of the worst moves you can make, I won't rehash this old (but still valid) argument. Instead, I'd specifically like to address why cutting your search engine marketing budget in a down economy is a bad move, and why it's equally important to place your trust in your search engine marketing company during a down turn.
It's probably true for most businesses that there are fewer people actively searching for their products and services due to the economic climate. Companies reasonably approach this situation thinking, "Why should we pay the same amount in marketing that we've traditionally been paying when our current target market has shrunk?" This is a rational concern, but it doesn't always lead to rational decisions - and it's at this point when it becomes appropriate to break down the differences between push and pull marketing.
"Pushing" Your Message Out: The Traditional Method
With push marketing (by modern definition), you are essentially "pushing" your message out to various venues, such as billboards, magazine ads, direct mail, and radio and TV spots, trying to target your ideal customer. You're spending money to reach mass audiences in the hopes that some percentage of them are looking for your products or services at just the time your message reaches them. Of course, if sales in your particular market have dropped by, say, 25%, you can expect that your push marketing results will probably correlate to the industry decline.
"Pulling" Your Market In: The Value of Search Engine Marketing
Enter the modern definition of pull marketing, such as the services that your search engine marketing company provides. With pull marketing, you are able to target a potential customer at the exact time he or she is seeking your products and services regardless of any declines in the marketplace.
If your search engine marketing company is running a PPC program on your behalf, you should remain adequately represented in search engine results pages. If there are fewer people searching for the keyphrases upon which you bid, your costs for pay-per-click may decrease, but at least, in this case, it is a market-driven decrease based upon solid information rather than a decision passed down from someone far removed from marketing.
Another argument can be made for search engine optimization. Although the budget you allocate for a search engine marketing company and its services may be fixed, it's likely that many of your competitors have lost their budgets, opening up the playing field and potentially allowing you to garner more of the business that's still out there.
Establishing Long-Term Success with Hard Data
This takes us to another area especially important to businesses where long-term relationships are crucial to long-term success. In a down economy, people cut marketing budgets (including the crucial, but often overlooked online marketing efforts performed by their search engine marketing company), leaving a prime opportunity for you to use pull marketing tactics to gain market share while your competitors are left trying to "ride out the storm." As previously mentioned, fewer of your competitors will be paying for ongoing SEO efforts or even allotting revenue for PPC campaigns, which opens up more potential search engine real estate for your company in the organic and PPC arenas and, quite possibly, lowers your per-click cost in PPC.
With push marketing, it's difficult to attribute a direct ROI correlation. It can be tried - companies will use vanity phone numbers or URLs on a variety of different online advertisements or offline flyers, but nothing compares to the ROI metrics that can be provided by your search engine marketing company. Frankly, you can get as granular as you want with data - how much a lead costs, the exact amount of revenue generated by individual campaigns, all the way down to the exact amount of profit you made from particular keyphrases on the Google AdWords campaign between 4 and 5 PM on March 05. The bottom line is that it's hard to argue with this data, and while many marketing pros are understandably in job preservation mode, it's obviously valuable to be able to point to undeniable metrics that demonstrate success.
Don't Cut Marketing; Build on Existing Efforts
Ever since the marketing department made its debut in the modern business world, it has seemed to be the first to get downsized or even axed during trying economic times. Of course, I feel that any marketing that has traditionally worked for a company should not be eliminated during a downturn. However, if budgets must be revised, I recommend you focus your remaining efforts on pull marketing, gaining market share, and concentrating on the metrics (acquired with the assistance of your search engine marketing company) to prove your ROI.
August 3, 2009
Scott Buresh is the CEO of Medium Blue, which was recently named the number one search engine optimization company in the world by PromotionWorld. Scott has contributed content to many publications including Building Your Business with Google For Dummies (Wiley, 2004), MarketingProfs, ZDNet, WebProNews, DarwinMag, SiteProNews, ISEDB, and Search Engine Guide. Medium Blue serves local and national clients, including Boston Scientific, DS Waters, and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Visit MediumBlue.com to request a custom SEO guarantee based on your goals and your data.