Not Another Article About How to Market During a Recession

No, nothing of the sort. But let’s face it – times are tight, budgets are tighter, and companies we talk to are all looking for ways to make their marketing investment go further. Here then, are some recommendations for how and where to spend today’s demand generation dollars for greatest effect.

Let me suggest a theme: optimization. Now is not the time to be gambling your budget on new and unproven tactics. Much better to make the most of what you have, and instead improve the performance of existing programs and strategies. With that principle in mind, here are my candidates for what should be on your year-end “to do” list:

Lead Management

I won’t be the first to say it, but if you don’t already have a marketing automation system in place to better score, qualify, nurture, distribute, and manage inbound leads, now is the time to take the leap. The flood of new SaaS vendors into the category has made the technology astonishingly inexpensive AND easy to set up, and putting a structured lead management system in place should improve the success of every demand generation program – including search, content syndication, installed base programs, Web leads, you name it. Plus it will be much easier to gauge the true ROI from those programs, meaning you’ll have greater success arguing for a larger budget in Q1.

A word of caution – as wonderful as some of the new technology is, I have yet to see marketing automation software that develops the underlying lead management workflow, or advises you on e-mail frequency and offer strategy, or designs e-mail creative. Don’t expect to spend a few bucks on marketing automation, flip the switch, and see results. To work best, these systems take planning, strategy, good creative, and a consistent application of lead management and e-marketing best practices.

Paid Search (SEM)

As much as SEM has become the demand generation workhorse for many companies, in my experience, B2B marketers waste more money on SEM than anywhere else. At CDI, we’re frequently called upon to audit clients’ SEM programs, and it’s not uncommon to see 30 percent or more of total spend invested in terms that generate no conversions, or entire campaigns, to the tune of thousands of dollars each month, lumped into one or two ad groups so that the search terms bear no relevance to the resulting ad. Or ads that all link to the corporate home page. Or not even bothering to track conversions, so that there’s no measurement of which terms and ads are really generating leads. And so on.

If you’re spending more than say, $3,000 a month with Google, the chances are pretty good that your program has untapped efficiencies. Even modest improvements on a few key metrics, especially conversion rates (click to lead) can have a huge impact on Cost Per Lead and overall program ROI. (See our white paper for more tips on improving SEM performance.)

Landing Page Optimization

Speaking of conversion rates, my experience is that most B2B landing pages stink. Landing pages are the forgotten child of e-marketing, typically relegated to a campaign afterthought, and constructed all too often with only the slightest nod to the most basic principles of direct marketing and even common sense.

What makes lousy landing pages such a crime is that not only are they easy to fix, but even minor changes can have an enormous impact on conversion rates and on the response and results of entire campaigns. If the landing page you use for Google ads, for example, generates an anemic 2 percent conversion rate, you could increase that rate to only 2.5 percent and instantly see a full 25 percent improvement in ROI.

Some marketing automation tools have landing page optimization capabilities built in, as does Google. Google AdWords and SEM in general are highly effective platforms for testing landing pages because you can make adjustments on the fly, see instant results, and optimize over time. Or you can buy into dedicated optimization technology like Omniture. However, you do it, this is a modest investment that can pay big dividends across a wide range of campaigns. (See this previous post for more tips on how to improve landing page effectiveness.)


Seriously, what is your corporate blog doing for you, besides providing an ego boost to senior executives, and headaches for your PR team? Blogging is easy and cheap, but therein lies the problem. Like Google, where all you need is a credit card and a list of keywords, many corporate blogs operate at a fraction of their potential effectiveness.

Most corporate blogs are born on a whim, and then grow organically, unchecked and unsupervised, without any kind of consensus as to their true mission. The truth is, blogs aren’t just mastheads with comments – they have enormous potential for lead generation, driving Web traffic, improving search rankings, and especially lead nurturing (through proper use of e-mail subscriptions and RSS feeds).

If you don’t have a blog, start one. (See this earlier post for a description of our own experience here at CDI.) If you already have a blog, time for some serious evaluation of what purpose the blog is serving and how it’s performing against that standard.


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