In our premiere episode of The Couch, Salted Stone’s Chief Strategy Officer speaks ‘couch to couch’ with Dave Levett, Director of multi-award winning paid ad agency Murmur on how to be effective with your paid media strategy during COVID-19. Tony and Dave deep dive into what is and isn’t working right now, what content you should focus on and which channels perform best. Enjoy the interview, and be sure to check out Murmur here.
Tony: Welcome to the first edition of The Couch! So, joining me for our first episode is Dave Levett from Murmur.
Dave: No worries. Thank you for having me.
Tony: Okay, so let's talk about paid media. One of the big things I think that people are feeling right now, with the COVID-19 restrictions is, do I cut my marketing budget? In this current climate, which platforms would you say are working well particularly for your clients?
Dave: I would say don't necessarily look at the platforms. I think it's the activity that clients and brands should be focusing on now that is important. The platforms will be there and they will do their job.
Obviously with more people at home, we're seeing a higher engagement on a lot of those digital platforms. Funny enough as well, desktop is now designed to outperform mobile and they generally do, because everyone's working at home now and spending more time at home on the desktop, we're seeing a lot more desktop interactivity. So, previously where mobile usage was going through the roof, desktops now are kind of catching up to it. But marketers will never be given another chance like this at all.
I think the next 90 days is crucial for a lot of brands. The time now is to start looking at not only your short-term execution but really your long term strategy and brand building.
“I think the next 90 days is crucial for a lot of brands. The time now is to start looking at not only your short-term execution but really your long term strategy and brand building.”
In terms of the best platforms that you can use, Facebook is still giving a really great return but instead of conversion, you might be driving engagement. So one of the things that we would always work with our clients on is measuring the platform success against your brand objectives. And again, that comes down to strategy.
Tony: It's interesting you pick on strategy. I know some businesses are thinking let's just go back to nothing, turn the lights off, shut the doors or whatever. In history, through the war and through other crises, it's been the worst thing to do. How do you feel though that while businesses are cutting back, it's also an opportunity for businesses to spend more?
Dave: Now is the only time to invest more. You've got to. Why is it the best time to invest now? There are two things here. The first is there is a direct correlation between share of voice and your share of the market. The share of voice is essentially how much are you spending on media, how much is your brand getting out there in front of your consumers, and share of market is your market share. The IPA in the UK actually released research on this by Les Binet and Peter Field. When your share of voice is greater than your share of the market, so when you're spending more than your competitors and against what your market share actually is, those brands tend to grow. Consequently, when your share of voice is less than your share of the market, those brands tend to shrink.
So the equilibrium is obviously making sure that your share of voice is strengthening your share market. Now at the moment with a bunch of brands cutting back on their marketing spend, the only thing smart marketers will be doing is actually looking at ways to get in front of the customer, because the customers are still there. Even though we're in isolation and in lockdown, it's about generating awareness.
That's the first point. The second point is around what's generally known as the 60-40 rule. In that same research, it highlights the importance of investing in both short-term sales focused marketing and longer term brand building activity. And they reckon that the perfect split is 60-40 amongst the 60% focused on your brand and building your brand and 40% on short-term activation.
So the first thing is share a voice. Make sure you share a voice to strengthen your share market and make sure that your budget split is generally split between that 60-40.
Tony: Yeah. I think that's such an important thing that you say about the 60%. Like in the war crisis, brands that continued to market were the ones that became the leaders at the end because they were still front of mind. Wherever they were, they could see that the brands were with them through the tough times as well.
Dave: Yeah. Absolutely.
Tony: I want to just touch on content because people are struggling with how to put content out there. How should content be adjusted so they don't look like they're trying to sell something or trying to promote themselves, in a time where people are probably being a little bit more restrictive and compassionate?
Dave: I think the main thing that will change with the content is the themes and topics that you talk about. So we work with a number of brands on content strategy. The reason why a lot of brands get strategy wrong is because they don't have the time for it.
The advantage of the time now is that you have the time as a marketer to sit back and actually plan your strategy out. Same with content strategy. Content strategy is a subset of your brand strategy. So when we run content strategy workshops with clients, now we talk about the three O's and the three O's are brand objectives, marketing objectives and comms objectives, and these shouldn't have changed during COVID-19.
So brand objectives. What does the brand or business need to do? We start with that because it's the most important thing a brand has to ask themselves. The first reason why marketing budgets are always cut is because we're off doing something else that doesn't line up towards the business objectives. So make sure your business objectives are important. Make sure you've got your marketing objectives in there and form your communication objectives. So what do you want to achieve?
The second part of content strategy is about audience. So that's where we start looking at your audience breakdown, your segmentation, your demographics, psychographics, triggers and barriers, your brand tone of voice and things like that.
Then we start talking about what we call the three T's of content. The three T's are essentially themes, topics and type. Themes are generally about the interests that you have with your audience. Once you've done the first two phases of the content strategy, you'll have a really, really tight understanding of your audience and you'll be able to know what those themes are. The second is the topics, so what are their questions, concerns and curiosities? And the type is your distribution. And that's generally, again, you hop back to the audience research that you've done. You will know exactly how to get in front of your audience.
Now in COVID-19, what's going to change is the first two T's, the themes and the topics. Because suddenly the things that are interesting for your audience are shifting and moving around.
But I would say from a content perspective, being able to look at the themes that your audience is interested in, and then breaking each theme down into the topics. And then you can scatter that through the content calendar that you have, and the type of content that you have is basically the distribution. That won't necessarily change at all. It'll essentially be your own social pages, your blog pages, your email.
Tony: Yeah, awesome advice there. I like your three O's and your three T's.
Dave: Make it simple. Make it simple. We've got a template I can share that we work through with all of our clients and it's basically split into the O’s, T’s and audience. Work on that and you’ve got your plan on a page.
Download Murmur’s free resource, ‘Your Content Strategy Plan on a Page’ here.
Tony: So we talked about spending more if you can spend more. Let’s just say you’re a small business and you’ve got a grand to spend on paid media. Once they’ve done their strategy, how would people best spend that to get the best return?
Dave: It's a funnel choice. That customer funnel of awareness, consideration, preference and acquisition, you find that out in your audience research. So in your strategy you'll know exactly what percent of the market is aware of you, consider you, prefer you, and acquire you. And then once you've got that you'll be able to see what your conversion rate is through those pieces of the funnel.
What I would say is work from the bottom up. So look at that funnel, look at what your conversion rates are between them, it's going to weigh where each segment within your market is actually dropping off. And if you've got a really high drop off rate, you lose 80% of your customers between acquisition and consideration. Well, you know that you need to do a fair bit more acquisition. And so I'd be putting a thousand dollars in there.
The first thing I would do is make sure I know where my funnel is and what the audience breakdown is there. The second thing is I would look at what kind of media I use. Generally, media, we talk about owned media, paid media, and earned media. Owned media is media that you own as things like your Facebook page, your email list and your website. Paid media is things like your Google ads or Facebook ads. What is your reach? Ads, TV channels, it's out of home advertising. Anything that you pay somebody else for to put your message on and get eyeballs. And then earned media is virality. It's the amplification of media as well. So things like PR is earned media.
I would say especially for small businesses, and we work with a lot of small businesses. We work with a lot of brands on paid media. But I would always say the first thing that you've got to absolutely know is your own media. The reason for that is because you're not paying anyone. You're not paying Facebook. You're not paying Google. You're not paying Channel Nine. You're not paying owned media to get a massive billboard. You basically can control the narrative.
“The first thing that you’ve got to absolutely know is your own media. The reason for that is because you’re not paying anyone… you basically can control the narrative.”
You can control the publishing platform that it's put out on, so I would make sure that all of my social channels are up to up-to-date. I make sure that if I'm doing blogs, that I make sure my email list is current, and I'll be focusing the money on there and making sure that those are tight. And then once they're tight for my owned media perspective then on, I know that I can go and do paid media.
Tony: Yeah. Yeah, that's a good comment. Because again, people can invest there with a minimal budget. They can invest their own time and probably have more time now than they would normally during the isolation that we're going through.
Dave: Just on that as well. One thing I would say is that when you look at owned media, a lot of brands especially in COVID-19 are shifting to an eCommerce model, so they're shifting things onto their website. If you've got a 1% conversion rate on your website, if you start driving traffic to that, you're better off saving that money, investing in some conversion rate optimisation or improving your website, speak to some designers and developers to come in and basically improve your conversion rate from 1% to 2% or 3%. Then the paid media you put out there is going to do such a better job of actually converting to the end customer that you need.
Tony: Great advice. Just to finish up, let's look at platforms. So regardless of budget, what are some of the tips that you're finding in terms of conversion, say on Facebook? What's working on Facebook more so now?
Dave: Definitely video. I'll be trying to get video content out as much as possible. We know that video increases conversion rate 3.3 times more than it does over a static image and that's a blended approach from most of our clients. And within video, I'd be looking at six second or 15 second videos and definitely putting subtitles on them as well. So Facebook, I would definitely say video. Canvas ads are really good. Once you've got video assets, if you make Canvas ads, they will essentially do what a mini microsite on platform for you. It's a really engaging experience for consumers. It does a lot of heavy lifting for your top of funnel activity and it really helps bring people on board.
And then from a search perspective, Google Ads are great. We've got a beauty client at the moment where their cost has remained flat from March and April and then the last 30 days with the same costs, we've increased clicks by 75% and conversions have increased by 104%. That's with the same cost. So it's about trying to fish where the fish are and understanding exactly where your audience is and once they are there, capitalising on that.
Tony: Yeah, that's awesome. So that's kind of Facebook and Google search. Just incidentally on the Facebook one, as you mentioned before, the new format for ads where you can create these microsites is obviously aiding conversion because you're keeping people in platform which obviously helps with engagement.
Dave: And things like lead gen forms on Facebook, are very easy for people to conduct. So we do a lot of work with B2B businesses and we work with a couple of yours as well, Tony, in our partnership. If you're a business that's after leads, that's a huge resource I would use. It almost avoids your website. If people are interested enough in an ad and you've got enough information on that ad—either through a Canvas ad or a carousel or a video that explains your benefits—people are going to essentially drop their details in with one or two clicks and then it basically stores it in the platform. And then from that, you export it and contact them and Bob's your uncle.
Tony: So what about the other platforms? There's obviously LinkedIn, there's Instagram, Pinterest, and then also TikTok.
Dave: Look at them, invest in them. Definitely manage them from an owner perspective before you start putting a paid budget behind it. If your strategy says that our audience is on these platforms and they're requiring content in order for us to reach our brand objectives and our marketing objectives for the year, go hell for leather. If you've done your research and your strategy is basically saying, we need to draw and drive acquisition, then just focus on the channels to drive acquisition, don't be distracted.
And I would say with the strategic decision, make sure that your strategy is in place and hold the course on it and don't deviate too much from that. Because as soon as you start going and doing a lot of tactical execution without strategy, I think it was Sun Tzu that said, "Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." So definitely I would say look at the platforms as long as they abide by your strategy.
LinkedIn is a really good platform for B2B businesses. We get a lot of business clients that need lead generation through business owners and specific to job titles. So rather than a direct to consumer model, on LinkedIn you get really targeted advertising based on things like someone's job title, the company that they work with. LinkedIn just released that feature. I think it was about two weeks or so ago where you can now target companies directly.
YouTube. YouTube is great at driving awareness. Again, it's not going to drive conversion at the bottom of funnel activity, but with a six-second bumper ad, there's so much you can say and you can get really creative with that video, and likewise, it's repurposing content. So that five or six-second video you've gone on Facebook, there's no reason why you can't shift that onto YouTube and just drive your brand awareness through there.
Tony: Yeah. Awesome conversation, mate. And I think your comment before about a saying, another one that I've often heard is, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
So I think some of the key takeaways from today's couch session have been to use strategy, use your own resources to get your whole office in order first because you're not paying anybody to do that and no one knows your product better than know your product and your service. And then do that research and that strategy planning to understand who's the audience you really want.
Also, test and measure stuff. This is the best time I think in the world to be doing A/B testing right now. It's almost like fishing. You're just going to be putting a few bit bits of bait out there and see which ones nibble and then they're the ones that you need to go on. Stuff you may have never tried before, now is the time to do it.
Dave: Absolutely. I think one more quote, "You can't control the wind but you can adjust your sails." There's a lot of stuff going on out there at the moment. We're in the middle of the storm. You can't control what you can't control, but what you can control, do.
Tony: Yeah. I think to that point as well, it's not about today. Like we might be doing stuff today to get us through these tough times and they will end; all crises end at some point. But how will our business look after this? What would we have done to our brand and our positioning if we get too reactive and we forget about that pivot and go off and do something completely different that’s not relevant?
Dave: Yeah, I agree. Everyone is doing stuff differently and everyone is pivoting as the business pivots. It's just about, again, finding the opportunities, finding the hidden opportunities.
Tony: That's it. No time for another coffee, just get stuck back into it. Thanks so much for joining us on The Couch, Dave Levett from Murmur.
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