Christmas is coming and you’re all set to close the year on a high. Sales are on track to beat your latest forecasts, but at the back of your mind a little voice is warning you not to be complacent. If you’re relying on that end-of-year bonus to cover the cost of your January ski vacation, you have to nail it.
Fortunately, you saw this coming. Back in the summer, setting aside a chunk of your marketing budget may not have been the obvious step to take — but now it’s payback time. You can spend that money putting the icing on your sales cake, but you need to spend it wisely. So what’s a savvy marketer to do?
Here are a few highly cost-effective ways to spend your digital marketing budget to get the ball rolling.
1) Retargeting (aka Behavioral Remarketing)
Whenever you see a seasonal spike in the number of potential customers visiting your website, retargeting is almost certain to deliver an increase in conversions. Several academic studies concluded that first-time conversion rates for “good” e-commerce sites rarely exceed 2 percent; retargeting allows you to continue reaching out to the reluctant shoppers who decide not to complete a purchase on their first visit.
You spent hard-earned marketing dollars driving traffic to your site; there’s no reason to waste that spend by ignoring anyone who leaves without buying. Dropping an anonymous browser cookie on people who visit your website enables your retargeting provider to serve your ads to them as they visit other sites around the Web. Retargeting doesn’t rely on collecting any personally identifying data; the cookie merely confirms the area of your site that your visitor browsed, allowing your ad to be targeted accordingly.
Retargeting can deliver an exceptionally attractive ROI; one provider claims that, on average, customers “earn $10 for every $1 they spend on retargeting.” That’s a serious return on your retargeting investment. As with any marketing spend, you need to set the ground rules carefully before leaping in; most providers allow you to segment customers based on factors that include their activity on your site, their location, their position in the purchasing funnel — for example, was a visitor just browsing or did she abandon a loaded shopping cart? — and more. Expect to pay on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) basis with a budget that’s dependent on traffic to your own site.
The degree of purchase intent exhibited by a visitor can also be used to influence the immediacy of any retargeting action and the frequency with which your ads are served. A word of warning: Don’t get carried away; powerful though it is, the technique can be a turn-off if overdone. Having ads for your product appear repeatedly on almost every site that your target visits is unlikely to inspire loyalty — more likely the opposite.
2) Targeted Conversion Rate Optimization
Don’t rely on retargeting alone; you should also be working on first-time conversion rates for your site. Pursuing the 98 percent of visitors who leave without buying is a great move, but why not convert more of them in the first place? Well, yes, you can do exactly that by identifying the reasons people decide not to make a purchase and taking steps to close the loopholes — that’s conversion-rate optimization.
Too often, businesses don’t develop an online presence that mirrors their customers’ journey through the sale process. Maybe your site structure is a legacy of a now-superseded product range and isn’t in synch with the current buying cycle. Perhaps your landing-page content no longer corresponds exactly with today’s customer needs. It’s easy for a once-seamless website to develop disconnects over time — something that’s almost certainly costing you money.
A thorough, professional review of your site structure, content, and operation enables you to address these problems. You should examine every element of your site, including:
- Headlines and visuals
- Navigation and interaction
- Case studies, social proof, and evidence
- Landing-page content and calls to action
- Shopping cart ease-of-use
- Analytics and data-driven initiatives
Conversion-rate optimization doesn’t need to be time-consuming or unaffordable. Done well, it drives more of your hard-won visitors further into the sales funnel – exactly where you want them to be.
3) Evergreen Long-Form Content
If your preference is to invest your money in something that not only plays to your short-term needs but is equally suited for continued use moving forward, then long-form content could be the answer. The power of an in-depth article to increase engagement with website visitors is well-documented, but it doesn’t end there. Long-form lends itself to repeated use as a brand-building tool, often offered as an incentive to sign up to a promotion or a mailing list; that’s a niche that delivers continuous value on the back of a one-time investment.
A major objective for companies that publish long-form content is to establish credibility with their followers — who may be customers, users, or other industry professionals. A key factor is the evergreen nature of the medium; the best long-form content doesn’t have a defined shelf-life, allowing for reuse over a sustained period of time. Commonly used examples include:
- Authoritative white papers
- Definitive guides
- In-depth features
Length in itself is not the end. What is important is to offer value to your readers, increasing engagement and making it more likely that they will become customers in due course. There’s very little that beats an in-depth analysis of a topic from a new angle, delivered by an acknowledged expert on the subject. It’s the type of content that gets bookmarked, downloaded, saved, reread, and shared.
And don’t overlook the value of those shares. Attracting new readers — and thus new potential customers — is no longer exclusively your responsibility. Each time your content reaches a new audience, it generates incremental traffic to your site, increased brand awareness and, in time, revenue growth. Not bad for a modest one-time investment.
4) Promotional Video Content
If you aren’t already producing video content to promote your brand, you’re missing out. According to comScore, Americans are viewing increasing numbers of video ads — 35 billion in December 2013 alone — and the trend shows no sign of reversing. Video-content sites like YouTube generated a total of more than 52 billion views during the same period. Video ticks all the boxes: It’s an attention-grabber, it’s easy to share, and it’s been shown to improve audience retention. What’s not to like?
While the sophistication and functionality of traditional marketing videos continues to increase, with in-play calls to action and other forms of interactivity now common, don’t let that deter you if your budget is limited. The emergence of sites like Vine and Tumblr make it easier, quicker, and less costly to produce video content that is short, often quirky, and widely shared. Major brands like Oreo have embraced the genre, launching highly popular and novel campaigns; in particular, Oreo’s use of Vine shows the wider marketing community what’s possible with minimal resources.
It’s important also to keep in mind your objectives for investing in video content. Mini-clips may work well as part of a specific promotional campaign, but for longer-term brand building, you need to identify the types of content that will work for your business. These may include instructional or informative videos rather than those developed purely for entertainment. What is undisputed is that almost every business can find a way to utilize video profitably.
5) Paid-For Twitter Promotion
Often overlooked in favor of better-known pay-per-click options, Twitter’s advertising offerings make good sense for business owners in almost every niche, including both B2B and B2C. Easy to use and suitable for even limited marketing budgets, Promoted Tweets are a great way to boost an existing campaign or to raise the profile of something new, while Promoted Accounts help develop brand awareness over a period of time.
One of Twitter’s strengths is the relatively unobtrusive nature of its advertising products; these are native ads and are thus identical to an everyday tweet save for a low-key “Promoted by” tag. Users report that engagement with paid-for tweets is often at the same level as that engendered by natural activity, making them ideal for businesses that already have an active Twitter presence.
Twitter’s targeting tools may not yet have the functionality of other PPC platforms, but they’re not that far away. As the Twitter blog confirms, in addition to promoting their tweets in search results and on other users’ home timelines, advertisers “have the option to send highly targeted and relevant Promoted Tweets to a specific audience only.” A further benefit is the syndication of Promoted Tweets through Twitter’s mobile apps and to selected third-party Twitter-management tools.
Drilling down to your audience is straightforward; in addition to keyword targeting, Twitter offers segmentation by user geolocation, device type, language, interests, and more. Setting up specific campaign parameters makes it easy to target a pre-determined period, and specifying a maximum cost per engagement and daily budget prevents cost overruns. You’re paying only for each retweet, reply, favorite or click for your tweet, so you’ll be able to decide whether it’s working for you without breaking the bank.
So now your only problem is deciding which option to pursue. There’s no universal “right answer,” so try dipping your toe in the water before settling on the tools that work for your business. One thing’s for sure: You need to get those spare marketing dollars working for you. Doing nothing isn’t an option — not unless you want to wave goodbye to that ski vacation.
So what are you waiting for?