2021: The Year of Disruption

Charlie Carroll, 
Performance Director, 

In my 11 years of working in digital I have never been so perplexed and at the same time excited about keeping ahead.

It’s nearly impossible to stay on top of all the new platforms and features available to businesses and marketers. That’s why it’s fantastic to work with a team of over 50, what I’d call, budding entrepreneurs at Push.

We all know the impacts of Covid-19 and how it is affecting brick and mortar stores, the hospitality industry, learning and almost every type of organisation. From a digital marketing perspective, Covid-19 has accelerated adoption everywhere. You’d honestly be surprised at how many businesses STILL don’t do ANYTHING to advertise their products or services online.

However, now it’s a must. If you own a small retail outlet, your only sustainable way to continue making money and keeping your staff employed is to move online. If you’re a tradesman or tradeswoman, your referrals will be drying up with fewer people meeting and talking to each other. If you’re a B2B service or software provider used to getting business from trade shows* (By the way you may want to see this article from The Economist about the long term impact on exhibitions) or networking events then a complete targeting pivot is needed. And the list goes on.

So what happens when 25-30 more competitors are suddenly forced to enter your space (and not at a slow snail’s pace but in a desperate fashion to do anything to keep their business alive and thriving)? On Google for example – your bids rise, best keywords stop showing in their top positions, the offer you used to run is now being undercut by a new player, your slow page and long contact form is now dated compared to newly built websites, smaller businesses now steal traffic by serving under your brand and suddenly your cost per lead/ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend) is sent into shock.

I won’t go into detail about how this can be a steady change or a sudden shift that could send your Google automation into relearning but the point is all of a sudden we will collectively be fighting an uphill battle just to get back to where we were or reach status quo (Not even daring to dream of growth). The same can be said for other platforms too.

In the case of Facebook, for example, I know a huge amount of businesses that generate leads have had to cut back if not pause their Facebook activity for most of November and December. Why? Because a massive rush of retail businesses suddenly realised that lockdown meant they were potentially going to lose 40% of their annual turnover by not having their stores open around Christmas and effectively jumped onto Facebook to buy as much real estate as possible. This effectively kicked out anyone who currently occupied the space at a tight CPA target.

Anyways, what’s the point I’m trying to get at?

The point is we all need to think differently together because there ARE smarter ways of doing business and high growth IS achievable. More and more I hear the words ‘this just doesn’t work for my business anymore’. Despite constantly reducing our cost per lead for some businesses, the conditions have changed and so has customer behaviour so that ‘the old way’ (now) is just not sustainable.

One business we’ve worked with for 3 years in the debt space for example has always had a profitable campaign generating leads at £50 per lead. However, because of covid and the rising number of people unemployed and in debt their whole criteria of what’s serviceable and what’s not has changed. Now, without any fault of either of us, we have to generate the leads at £25 or increase their contact rate of leads that come in by 50%. We also need to do this not in 1 month or two weeks but right NOW!

We have managed to achieve these numbers by switching from Google Search only to Microsoft, video, Facebook and using a chatbot but this was only possible by being open to completely shifting our mindset to testing an absolute tonne of new ‘things’ quickly!

Here are some other examples of businesses that have experienced or fought disruption that is worth noting:

  • A gift retailer managed to grow 100% YOY by powering through lockdown and reducing ROAS (ROI) targets to buy market share despite rising costs to the business.
  • A life insurance business running Google ads only for 5 years switched 90% of budget to Facebook after reducing their CPA from £40 to £7 per lead.
  • A broadband provider switched from a managed service to a lead generation fixed pay per lead model reducing their constantly fluctuating CPA of around £9-11 to a fixed £8.50.
  • A landlord property management business had a £5k budget on Google, that brought in leads at £50 but now uses YouTube ads spending £50k and bringing in leads at £5 a piece.
  • An eCommerce retailer in the US we work with actually started running display and video ads BEFORE search and has gone from a startup to a £1m business in just 7 months.
  • Toolden, an eCommerce business has become one of the UK’s fastest-growing power tool and accessories suppliers.   They saw an increase in revenue of 199% in May compared to October the year before as well as achieving a ROAS of 1,233%, which is an amazing increase of 586% in the same period.
  • Multiple businesses that were experiencing some levels of saturation have grown their lead numbers by working on a ‘pay for result’ basis signing onto our Push Introduction website
  • The entire Trade Industry – If you haven’t read already about Local Service Ads (LSA’s), Google in one sweep has completely changed the landscape for tradesmen and how they generate leads. Now businesses will no longer be subject to the wills of the MyBuilder, Checkatrade, trusted people to bring them business but can pay Google directly a cost per lead for phone calls with no risk and no need for a website.

Disruption is everywhere and it is not going away for a breather

This year we will see more and more businesses move to invest in Tiktok, YouTube Ads, Pinterest, email marketing automation, testing new tools and tech on the user journey, native ads and so much more.

It’s more important than ever to diversify your marketing where possible. Not just for the risks associated with having all your eggs in one basket but also for the potential gold mines you might find. We are seeing results in some areas, where risks are being taken, that we previously wouldn’t have thought possible. We just need to all have an open mindset and where possible – THINK BIG.

So what can you do about what I’ve just said?

Here’s some advice I would give anyone I was working with:

  • Keep a close eye on the digital landscape you’re operating in
    Yes, we want to be first to do everything but if a competitor is a little faster to try something let’s pick it up, analyse and review if we should do the same.
  • Get used to portioning off a piece of your budget for testing purposes
    I’d suggest 10-20% but start with a smaller amount until you’re comfortable. If your account manager is going to get a ‘grilling’ for trying things that don’t work and affect your overall ROI then you’re not giving them the platform to help you find the big wins and big bets.
  • Set ambitious targets
    Yes, we want you to push us. We can have standard targets but why not set a ‘stretch’ and a ‘dream’ target too? More and more we are moving to be a performance-based agency and this is where we want to be with everyone we work with.
  • Diversify your marketing and use Adinvestor to track all channels
    Remove the risk and start targeting a new pool of potential customers. Once you have multiple channels running, have a fluid approach to budgeting and move investment to the best performing channels rather than campaigns within a channel.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail
    We have a culture that celebrates both success AND failure (You know the phrase ‘Fail Fast, Fail Often, Fail Cheap), as long as you learn from your mistakes. If you and your team don’t have this mindset you may get left behind by young and hungry entrepreneurs coming into your space.

And remember who you might be coming up against. Setting up and working in the pay per lead team last year has shown me a new world. Remember there are agencies out there with huge teams that literally spend all day, every day, working on their ad campaigns.  Making tweaks and adjustments to their conversion funnel, testing new platforms. They don’t spend any time on meetings, calls, reporting – just the doing. See the life insurance search results pages if you want a view of these businesses in action!

Whilst we’re not by any means suggesting everyone switch to that type of model try to picture this:

If you are someone who only considers your digital strategy as hours a month and has a fixed way of doing things without any testing….who do you think is going to come out on top in the long run?

 

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