In the first part of my digital survival guide for the recession, I dealt with the key questions companies should be asking before they channel more of their marketing budget online. Next, I will highlight some digital media options for marketers to consider during a downturn.
1. Email marketing
This form of marketing is very familiar to many companies. It is widely used and proven to be highly effective, especially to one's own customer database. Email can serve multiple purposes, from direct responses to introducing new promotions or updating customers on latest innovations. However, the real challenge is how to incorporate email marketing with other online initiatives. How do you track the same unique user across multiple touch points, from eDM (electronic direct mail) to direct visit, or visitors from search engines who ultimately go to the physical store and buy using a promotional code? This is important because customers are getting smarter and it takes multiple engagements before they make their final decisions -- especially in tough times.
2. Display media
Gone are the days where companies could afford to blindly book media on big portals like Yahoo! and MSN and hope for the best. Marketers are tasked to think out of the box to find ways to reach target audiences at a lower cost. User surfing behaviour is very diverse. They visit a variety of sites while online. Advertisers need to get past impressions/eyeballs, share of voice or click-throughs and start looking at other post-click data like user engagement metrics, cost-per-booking, and cost-per-sale while planning a media campaign.
3. Sponsored websites (sponsored blogs and the like)
One example could be the recently-launched campaign between Visa and Matt Harding, after the video game designer became an internet celebrity with his dance video receiving some 11 millions view on YouTube.
4. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
SEM is getting quite mainstream in 2009. It's hard to believe that there are any online marketers that haven't heard of it. However, there are still some misunderstandings about search. One is the perception that SEM includes only paid search or pay-per-click (PPC). SEM strategy should always include both PPC and SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
Another important issue is the lack of a yearly plan for search. There is no greater wastage one company can make than thinking about search just like display media, with short bursts here and there. As a matter of fact, according to comScore, the Asia Pacific region has the largest number of unique searchers and the largest volume of search queries in the world (out of five regions reported by comScore). There were 29 billion searches conducted in September 2008 and this number is growing, which shows us the enormous potential for search engine marketing. The number for July 2008 and April 2008 were 27.059 billion and 22.363 billion respectively.
End users do not stop searching because marketers stop their PPC campaigns. In fact SEM has become mandatory for many companies in the region. For marketing managers, it's not a case of whether we should use SEM as part of the mix but rather how the company can use it effectively across the region. Ogilvy recently launched a new website offering guides during a recession and they rate SEM as one of the main components in any company's marketing plan during such times.
5. Widgets/applications on social media
Whether it's a game or an online booking widget, social media can prove to be very rewarding for companies with a good understanding of the landscape. I have come across an example from a regional budget airline, where it developed applications for Facebook users. How successful that initiative turned out to be is unknown to outsiders. However, one thing is certain: there is no harm testing out different ideas online especially when the cost of production is minimal compared to other mediums.
6. Affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing simply means advertisers pay publishers commissions every time they deliver a new sales/application. It's exactly the same model as the traditional sales agent but takes place online. Besides the fact that it's a purely performance payment model, the cost can be attributed back to sales and acquisition costs, not taken from the marketing budget! In other words, there should be no budget for an affiliate marketing program. It works just like another sales channel and marketers can have additional funds to spend on other activities!
Due to the importance of SEM especially in a recession, I will dedicate the next part on tips on how to choose an SEM agency instead of a media/interactive or any other kind of agency.