The Truth Behind All Executing The Same Practises
We have all been there, in a performance catch up we are asked “why we are off target?”.
Then the follow on questions quickly follow to get to the bottom as quickly as possible:
What has happened?
What did we change?
Did Google, Facebook or Apple change something?
What happened to stock levels?
Was there a site outage or a website or app performance issue that hindered us?
Enter Dive Into The Dashboard Driven Anxiety?
You look at the dashboards, you pull in your team leads, you speak to the data team and analysts and you try and unpick what the drivers of the weaker performance were.
You spend hours breaking down what did or did not happen. What did or did not work.
You often are none the wiser…
The next action:
You speak to the team and the typical action to take is – to do more.
Enter The Emergency MORE Anxiety
Spend more, add more ads, add more keywords, add more social, add more budget to converting terms, add more distribution, more good press, more TikTok, produce and add more creative, create more subscription models, more insights, more, more, more.
We send out more NPS surveys, more feedback requests, more requests for insights, maybe more doesn’t help, maybe more hinders…
Here’s what no one really talks about:
- More is almost always what everyone else will be doing, it means, the ‘more move’ we make is what everyone else does next.
- You drive competition up, we drive prices higher by all competing in more without an or any increase in demand or intent.
- The winners are most often Google, Facebook, Amazon and more recently Apple.
- ‘The winners of more’ are those offering the best or most targeted ad-based businesses, these platforms and ad providers benefit from increased competition between bidders than between increased demand, regardless of whether there is any demand for your products, the more clicks the better for them, not always for you.
- Decreases and drops in markets, products and services actually do help these platforms, as long as there is some search intent, as long as there are retargeting available, the platforms will serve more ads on high intent search phrases and generics, and then the game to is to chase more keywords, add different keywords, wider the net, different signals of intent across their networks to serve different ads.
- Agencies will want ‘more to do more’, because this is the way they know works for the ad platforms that will work for them.
But now’s the time for all seasoned marketers aka the leaders of our trade, to take a moment to pause or to stop.
Step away from your latest shiny google sheet and assess what is actually going on in the outside world, away from your excel and anxious zoom calls.
Take some fresh air and go and seek the external influences and factors that could well be providing you with more logical answers to your marketing concerns:
Right now it is the hardest business landscape to uncover and work out, we have never had so many competitors, so many products, so much choice, so many distractions and so little time to invest into the right product at the right time.
We now fully live in the dual-screen world, two monitors, laptop and mobile, tv and iPad, tv and mobile.
We compete against more distractions, more Marketing and Sales messages than ever before.
Noise is never good.
Insider Info & Intel:
Smart people look at their competitive intel, look at search volumes, look at ad libraries, look at Google keyword data, others dive into SEMRush and survey data, many might dive into similarweb data and try and work out what’s happening.
Others ask contacts if they are seeing the same and have the same issue, groups potentially give you a lukewarm response, you then speak to partners to see what info they have.
You have to jump to conclusions.
Disconnection Of The Dots: With all of the fatigue of the last two years, the impact of constant change, we have gotten worse at connecting the dots and applying both data points and common sense data points.
Time To Apply Common Sense
I could go into every microeconomic impact, but we are all well aware of the increase in living costs and expectation of huge leaps again later this year.
I can say confidently:
- More Marketing actions were taken across the industry (look at the WhatsApp groups you are in, the private slacks you lurk in and if you want a feel for more, look at your inboxes (hint emails and SMS) you will see many more asks and messages from brands
- More ads were being served across the platforms and networks
- Competitors did the same…
- More competitors copied the same tactics
- The weather was better than expected or worse than expected
- There were more savings and discounts applied than ever before and the consumer is in a great position, there would have been the lowest price for the item(s) they needed and got it at the best price available.
Or they were floated with too much choice and they didn’t make any purchases
- Most recently something else related to covid happened and meant rush and stop, rush to get something or a stop on all purchases.
- Habits and behaviours actually did change, two years of varying change did change our habits, it changed our behaviours, we changed numerous simple habits (it takes 21 days for simple habit change), we had way over the 66 days for standard change and our expectations changed for complex habits to form (88 days for complex habit change).
Importantly when WARC data for 2021’s UK adspend leapt to a record of £31.9bn (£21b+ was on digital alone), which is more than £8.2bn than expected, it shows you where everyone turned and is throwing money into.
Hint, more is spending more, not acquiring, keeping or delighting ‘more’ customers.
Pull It Forward, Promote Early & Often
Here is what many are overlooking, almost all Marketing activities were brought forward in 2020 and 2021 and we are seeing it again in 2022.
This meant anything that was predictive and modelled was highly probable that it was impacted and whoever went first ensured everyone else went early and went often, all resulting in noise, a lot of noise.
Hitting Target(s) But…
I remember sitting in a successful QBR with fellow business leaders and bringing in department heads, reviewing the previous quarter; our total performance hit the aggressive target that we all finally signed off on, however, in the last check-in we were trending 11% up and performance flattened in the last three weeks of the quarter.
The question, was simply, why?
“Did We” then happens:
- Did we do less?
- Did we have someone important leave?
- Did we have a lot of illness or holidays?
- Did we instruct a change with the agency?
- Did we see something underperform?
- Did we stop something?
- Did we see a channel break?
- Did we see a channel get popular for a competitor?
- Did we change suppliers?
- Did we discount enough?
- Did we lose out for not discounting?
- Did we experience bad delivery from our partners?
- Or did we see something go viral?
All questions about did we do or see something to hinder performance?
We spend so much of our time trying to understand channel performance, sales performance, reviewing our pipeline, analysing the performance of the leads.
We look to uncover what the driver was, we spent hours unscrambling noise, determining what the signals are and navigating through the numerous performance indicators we can get a little lost.
In the end, we often come up with hypotheses that we are not confident in and likely won’t inform us for the weeks and months to come. We then miss the point of reviewing the campaign or quarter, learning from what we know and don’t know and many do not apply these into the next Marketing campaign or Growth initiative.
Choice Paradox & Brand Loyalty
We have seen the articles that have accused customers of being less loyal and more being more ‘brand promiscuous’, it is most likely true.
As previously mentioned, with the most amount of competitors and products on the market all competing on price, we are adding to the complexity to the consumer, there is too much choice!
Fudged Funnel: You have likely seen fewer repeat orders and less frequent ordering, we overlooked the importance of retention and re-engaging our customers rather than having to re-acquire them after we lost or neglected them.
Product Problem Solutions?
We liaise with Product and Tech teams to run growth tests, we crave more PLG (product-led growth), we look for changes to the product to be implemented, we look to improve our product lines, all needing more and improved product marketing. These tests are months away
The question that is often not asked or answered: Did others win?
The hard truth is your competitors often didn’t win, they often didn’t pick up more sales, or take more market share, something else was happening or a shift happened that wasn’t considered, predicted or modelled out.
However much of the competitive intel we gather, won’t give us the number that actually was made.
Consider the impacted shifts: cultural shifts, seasonal shifts, political shifts, covid shifts.
The C Word
Change not Covid.
Maybe something happened, something subtle, consumers realised we don’t need more. Consumers don’t need more product(s), consumers don’t need numerous products to sit there and not be used, maybe consumers became more considered at an important reflection point in our lives.
For a lot of the population, we stayed more local, we commuted less, we were around a lot fewer people.
With less ‘in real life’ judgement and peer reviews, we were more comfortable with what we wore, what we looked like, leading to less silent judgements and chatter, being judged by pixel meant we didn’t perform, there wasn’t a need to dress up or put product in our hair or put expensive creams on our faces.
We shifted to wanting experiences, ‘better not more’, and potentially with fewer people.
Shift Changes Vs Metrics
The battle that is going to be the most frequent discussion many leaders will have for years to come, the guessing game of change and how to forecast to keep CEO’s, CFO’s, boards and investors happy enough.
How will the metrics we need to hit be changed by these shifts?
A question to ask yourself:
Are Marketing and Growth constantly focused on the short term, while the rest of the business is being able to focus on the mid to long term?
Metric Driven Department
Most businesses have become completely metric-driven, whatever the north star or the annual goal (or disconnected OKR’s) is what re-shaped most teams and departments meaning there is demand for net new customers at a specific cost that is likely at a lower and lower price.
CAC, CPA, payback period etc takes over and often blinds creativity and driving the smart levers we have in Marketing.
The Hardest Truth? Don’t be fooled, many of us did this to ourselves, we chased vanity metrics and brought in to the wrong currency, a large social following does not equal huge sales, being realistic “engagement” very rarely sales and we pumped in huge resources into algorithm weighted against our organic success.
You might still be blindly trusting these platforms because they give you £x in x widgets out.
Gut Vs Data
Have we forgotten the fundamentals?
Have we moved away from what used to make us successful?
Something more simple to explain…
We have moved so far away from understanding what our common sense, gut and head is telling us, we rush for more and more data and make data only decisions. Data can often actually make it harder and harder to connect the dots when things are not working. But when things are going well it’s simple to say data shows this and we will pump more into what we can measure.
External Factors And Applying Common Sense
What many are not considering is the external factors in 2022, the increase in everyday life, increased costs in daily routines, increasing food prices, the prices of energy bills increasing and our fuel prices are continuing to increase.
These are all important factors that influence how we spend, what we buy and who we buy into.
In Marketing and Growth, we regularly find ourselves in our own bubble, not applying our best spidey sense; our common sense, or, we lack the awareness to take off the blinkers and add external factors to the needles we constantly have to move.
The Potential Secret: Available Wallet Could Be Decreasing
Often we go months or even quarters still working out what had happened.
The truth or the secret, very often is our customers just don’t buy the products, they are responding to what is going on, what their circumstances are and what luxuries they may need to cut.
The available wallet actually drops in some areas and the spending is shifted to another category, another retailer, another problem solver outside of your bubble. Your company, your brand and your problem might not be the solution, you might have done everything right, you’re not going to win the battle of keeping me and my family fed, warm, clothed and happy.
As a reminder, Marketing is the only department that has to: Predict, Build, Package, Buy & Pull the future forward, the other departments cannot offer this, this could be why rushing for more touchpoints and data might actually be hindering performance.
In the near future, consider how you are really delivering more or better results when you rush to do more. Is your more going to help take someone from want state to need state to (take) action state?
More (actions) internally may look good as it signals you are taking steps to convince, however, does more really help you externally?
Or could it be hindering your performance when it’s a rush to play into the advertising platforms’ hands and the consumer have little to no need right now?
Rather than just say problems here are a few solutions to consider:
- Dip into your archive and find out what worked and reuse them (large brands do this in cycles, I bet you struggle here)
- Look at your superfans, see how you can leverage these relationships
- Add focus on low funnel activities like retention and referral, yes new customers are good (and what we all demand) but it’s far easier to reengage than acquiring users without action state (having to take action on a product or service vs in education state)
- Run a keep, kill, cure, copy audit,
– keep what works, push it again and reshoot with a modern twist or perspective,
– kill what isn’t and hasn’t been working (and likely won’t),
– cure what isn’t working or you know deep down in your gut what will work, cure is the best way to keep your internal team happy and scale work
– copy what others are doing and put your own twist on it (don’t rush to another channel or “the next tiktok”) and
- More on cure…If something didn’t work – review previous campaigns or projects, tweak and push it again. You will be surprised how much you can cure when you make and take the time
- Be clear on what rolls up into your north star and company-wide goals and then reconnect with Marketing’s or importantly revisit and disconnect these goals (to make you successful in driving the business forward, OKR’s and North Star often disconnects department and internal teams let alone cross-functional departments) and tweak to make as applicable as possible to make you and your department successful.
Good luck and have faith!
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