A Message for Your Budget Deniers — Don’t Abandon Marketing in 2023

A Message for Your Budget Deniers — Don’t Abandon Marketing in 2023

Gianna Callioni
. 27 Jan 2023 . 7 min read

We’ve all faced a great deal of uncertainty over the past few years and it’s clear the upheaval won’t ease up any time soon. Businesses across the globe have had to manage unprecedented (couldn’t help it, sorry) pressures on their day-to-day operations, from extreme supply issues, unpredictable demand, inflation, huge increases in hard costs… the list goes on. As a marketer, there’s been a burden to accomplish more with less — ‘we need to cut your budget, but you need to keep making us money. Lots more money.’

As you kickoff 2023 in the heart of the cost-of-living crisis, it’s highly likely you’ll need to advocate even harder for your marketing budget. Klaviyo research suggests 6 in 10 small to medium sized businesses will freeze or cut their marketing spend this year.

But, what effect will that have on those businesses? And how can you convince your budget deniers there are better alternatives?

As Dr Simon Broadbent put it,

“The sales of a brand are like the height at which an airplane flies. Advertising spend is like its engines: while the engines are running, everything is fine, but, when the engines stop, the descent eventually starts.”

Message 1 — Don’t Abandon Marketing

The simple fact is the longer you go without exposing your target audience to your brand, the more likely it is they’ll forget about you. All of the familiarity and trust you’ve built up over time (and all the advertising dollars that have gone into doing so), could go to waste.

There’s been proof of that in the past three years alone.

A release by Nielsen in 2020 (right around when the spicy cough was really ramping up) stated, “brands that go totally dark for the rest of 2020 could be facing revenue declines of up to 11% in 2021.” And you know what? They were right.

In early 2020 (pre-WHO declaring a pandemic), I worked with a client who was three months into a six month contract with several influencers. When the news broke, they wanted to cancel those contracts and stop advertising. Their umbrella company’s annual revenue fell 11% in 2020 compared to 2019. And they sold booze. A household staple after toilet paper and hand sanitiser.

Conversely, brands ‘that increased advertising during a recession experienced higher sales, market share, or earnings during or after the recession.

You’d be right in thinking this isn’t true for every business. Of course, every business is different. If you’re a large business in a growth period, you’ll likely appear fine for a couple of years. But if you’re smaller or more stagnant in your growth already, please don’t abandon marketing.

Message 1.5 — Remember That Marketing is More Than Just Advertising

It seems like everyone has collectively forgotten that marketing isn’t just running ads. Including marketers themselves.

Mark Ritson calls it the ‘tactification’ of marketing. The selective memory loss regarding the rest of the marketing mix. The belief that marketing and advertising are ‘the same thing.’

At a time like this, it’s so very important to remember that marketing has (or at least, should have!) access to the other levers of product, price, and place… not just promotion.

Les Binet wrote an excellent (and very detailed) article specifically on the importance of price, and how we can respond to market pressure with price. But, of course, without sacrificing brand equity.

Message 2 — Leverage Available Share of Voice

That’s enough of the tough stuff… there’s hope for us yet!

Other brands pulling back on advertising can mean it’s cheaper and easier for you to reach your audience. Say you have 35% share of voice and your two competitors have 35% and 30%. They decrease their advertising by 10% and 15% respectively. Now there’s 25% of the market share that’s yours for the taking. That’s a very simplistic way of putting it and, unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy as that, but you get the gist.

If you skipped over it earlier (it’s ok, we all do it), 6 in 10 small to medium sized businesses will freeze or cut their marketing spend in 2023. Think about how much that will open up advertising channels for your brand to cut through. Particularly digitally, where a large chunk of your costs are directly related to how much competition you’re up against in that moment.

By continuing to advertise, you’re able to leverage the newly available share of voice and build yourself up compared to your competitors.

Message 3 — Build Your Brand Image

“Building brands is not an expense, it’s an investment and it needs to be prioritized. It’s not a choice, you have to build strong brands if you want to have a strong business.” — Brent Smart

This isn’t about boldly (and blindly) spending more than your competitors for the sake of it. It’s about carefully selecting and balancing where and what you spend. To do that effectively, you need to have a good read of the market, macro and micro factors, and competition.

It’s an oft-ignored fact that advertising is about more than just short-term returns; when done well, it also builds long-term mental availability. Consider the customer awareness funnel — unaware, problem aware, solution aware, product aware, and most aware. Building your brand image gives you a better chance at being well-positioned during the solution, product, and most aware stages. Without filling up those earlier points of the funnel, you’re less likely to experience the conversions at the bottom of it.

Even if your ads don’t get paused completely, you may be asked to only spend on conversion campaigns (it’s not an uncommon request). If you do, it’s very likely that this reduction of coverage will be at the detriment of your brand’s reputation and goodwill. Consumers don’t want to be sold to constantly, so if your only messages are sales messages, well… good luck. Yes, you might see an uptick in response rate, but at what long-term cost?

Consider how you and your company would like people to see your brand in 3, 5, 10 years’ time. What does that look like? Are you the go-to choice for your audience? The most trusted option? Do they want others to know they use your product? This should inform your next steps.

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Your Quick Reminder to be Emotional (in Your Website Content)

Gianna Callioni
. 19 Dec 2022 . 4 min read

Picture your website. You’ve optimised your SEO, mapped your customer journey, fixed all your anchor tags, finalised your design… but your site visitors aren’t making a decision (outside of the decision to click the x on the browser tab). Naturally, you want your site visitors to do something other than leave you. If you’ve considered all the obvious things, have you also considered your team may be writing from too rational a point of view?

Whether we like it or not, our emotions typically outweigh our rational thoughts when it comes to making decisions. Obviously, everyone is different and you’ll always find some people who are more swayed by rational thinking, but it still typically comes after emotion has made the first judgement call.

Research suggests the difference in emotive content versus rational content in ads can lead to a 23% increase in conversions. Purely based on how you’ve made your audience feel.

We’re marketers though, so it can be easy to rely on data to get our point across and forget to involve emotion (a little bit of irony for you in those three sentences there). Writing with data is pointing out facts. Writing with emotion takes more effort and involvement. When you’re working in a fast-paced environment and are pushed to get a lot of content out, it can be harder to include emotion that’s not simply, ‘I can’t believe I have to write ANOTHER article’.

A quick note on why emotion is so important when writing content

If you’ve got a team of copywriters behind you, it might be good to revisit the ‘why’ with them. Why does emotion play such a big role in the effectiveness of website content?

Human psychology has unearthed the theory of dual processing — the idea that there are two parts of your brain making a decision: your emotional brain (intuitive thoughts) and your logical brain (deliberate thoughts).

When people are confident of an initial intuitive answer, they are less likely to spend time rethinking it or to change their answer after reflection.

Jonathan Evans and Keith Stanovich Dual-Process Theories of Higher Cognition

So basically, we’re just not very good at changing our minds if we think we’re right.

Sometimes, our emotions process things automatically and unconsciously, then our brains try to rationalise that emotional response. Even if our rational brain may not have come to the same conclusion originally, the fact that our emotions have already decided for us often makes it difficult to change that decision.

Is your content emotionally driven?

With the beginning of a new year comes the perfect time to take stock of the content on your website. (You know – ‘new year, new you’ and all that jazz). This could include blog articles, product descriptions, general webpages, anywhere you should be wringing out emotions from your audience.

Depending on how much content you have to go through and how big your team is, you may wish to work through it together or assign a set number of pages to each team member. Go through each piece and note down which emotions you feel when reading (or listening, or watching). Are they the emotions you need from that piece of content? Is there emotion there at all? Of course, emotions are subjective, so as part of this process, specifically look for emotionally-charged phrases, words, or editing.

Once you’ve done your ‘emotion audit’, you may need to edit some of your content. If that’s the case, we encourage you to go through each of these steps:

  1. Think about what action you want your audience to take when they read each piece of content. Remember, this action may be different depending on where people are on your site and at which stage of their buyer’s journey they’re on.
  2. Think about which emotional state is more likely to drive that emotion. Should people be feeling happiness, intrigue, nostalgia? What feelings are going to make them do what you want them to do? And to what degree? We don’t need quite as much of a connection with choosing toothpaste as we do with choosing our home.
  3. Research which emotionally persuasive words will align with that action and emotion (and then actually use them). You can try a resource like this to get started.

And now you watch and wait for the tears and laughter to help you convert more people on your site. Hopefully.

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Building Worthwhile Content Pillars to Boost Traffic and Engagement

Kailey Reinhart
. 30 Nov 2022 . 4 min read

Content pillars act as a foundation for your entire digital strategy, helping you to stay focused and consistent with your content across all channels. Successful content pillars are based on an understanding of your target audience and built from there – ensuring your content is delivering meaningful value to your audience and then, in turn, your brand.

What are Content Pillars?

Like physical pillars, content pillars are used to support the overall objectives of your brand’s marketing strategy.

Essentially, content pillars are the overarching themes that each of your content pieces should sit within. For example, ‘Audience Education’ may be one of your pillars and include pieces like, ‘how to change a tire’ or ‘how frequently you should check your engine oil and how to do it’.

Sometimes we need to include sub-pillars to ensure content aligns with various segments of our audience. If we were a modelling agency, our ‘Audience Education’ pillar may include ‘Child Modeling’ and ‘High Fashion Modeling’ as two of our sub-pillars.

Creating Content Pillars

Understanding your audience

Understanding your target audience is arguably the most essential stage of this process. In particular, it’s important to understand what their values, pain points, and desires are, and which channel/s they’ll be using at each stage of their customer lifecycle. Knowing this information will help you gauge what type of content needs to be on each platform. Your pillars should remain the same across your digital presence, but you may need to adjust the ratio of content you post under each pillar depending on the channel and what information your audience needs/wants at that particular moment.

Identifying your key themes

Consider what themes and topics most closely relate to your target audience and industry. The content itself will vary widely from a lawyer’s office to an e-commerce store selling women’s clothing, however, the overarching goals behind your pillars may actually be fairly similar. It’s essential to think about the shared values you have with your audience and what you want to achieve from your digital presence.

We’ve been working with our sister agency, Chase Studio, to develop their content pillars based on what they value as a brand and where they know they can provide truly worthwhile insights to their audience. We came up with: Share Knowledge, Tell Stories, and Champion Chase. A mix of providing insights, storytelling, and selling their brand.

We recommend focusing on three to five key pillars as anything more can have your content spread too thin or risk unnecessary overlaps. Start by listing out what your values are and what messages you want to get across to your audience. There should be some links between them that you can then use to help create groups.

During this stage, it’s helpful to bring in a few people from your team (or wider support network) to broaden your creativity. It can be easier to come up with new ideas when you’re able to bounce them off other people.

Planning your content

Within each pillar, it’s best practice to create one or two hero content pieces which are then supported by many smaller pieces. This can help with the ideation process and is a good search engine optimisation strategy for your website content.

Based on your brainstorming from the previous stage, come up with one hero piece for each pillar to begin with (you can add more later on). From here you can use Google’s predictive search feature to get ideas for individual topics that could come from your hero piece.

This may be something like:

  • The Complete Guide to Employee Recognition Programs (downloadable hero piece)
    • 7 Tips for Encouraging Peer-to-Peer Recognition (supporting blog)
    • How to Launch an Employee Rewards and Recognition Program (supporting blog)
    • Building an Inclusive and Supportive Workplace Culture (supporting blog)

Once you’ve come up with these rough ideas, you can begin building out a content calendar and decide which ratio of content should fall under each of your chosen pillars. For your brand, the best pillar ratio may be an even split or it may resemble a 60/20/20 split. This split ratio can change depending on which channel the content is going on and if there are any upcoming events coming up within your business that are relevant to certain pillars.

Your content calendar should be a central document that your team can reference regarding any upcoming content. It’s also a good visual to show an overview of how you will break up pieces within your pillars. By colour coding each pillar and putting content ideas in relevant calendar days, it gives you the opportunity to make sure you aren’t talking too much about one topic and ignoring another.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle

You’ve got your pillars outlined and a content calendar drafted, now it’s time to start creating! To be as efficient as possible, we recommend recycling and repurposing existing content. If you wrote a blog about a certain topic, see if that can translate to an infographic to use across socials. If you have a high performing video, repurpose that content into a blog post. Sometimes coming up with new topics can be difficult, but if you’ve got a high performing piece of content on one platform, you can always repurpose it for another.

Creating content pillars is just one way of making sure the content you create for your business is well-balanced and tailored to your goals. If you need any support with your strategy or the content creation process, please reach out to our team via the contact form below. We’re always here to help!

Here’s a draft content calendar you can use for your Q1 & Q2 2023 content plan! Just hit ‘Make a Copy’ to save a version to your own Google Drive or download it as an Excel file.

Get Your Copy

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Are Podcasts Worth it For Boosting Your Brand?

Sequoia Cardoso de Sá
. 20 Jan 2022 . 4 min read

We love a good list post at Agora, so we’ve blended two lists into one post. Read on to find out why podcasts are worth it for boosting your brand, and how to get started!

Podcasts may not be on every business’s radar, but there are certainly some businesses that should be considering this channel to boost their brand awareness. Before you dive into podcasts, consider your business’s current goals and needs. There may be other channels to test, invest in, and further develop before dipping your toes into podcast ads.

But now that we’ve given our ‘evaluate your own business needs’ disclaimer, we can ask the question we’re all here for: are podcast ads worth it for boosting brand awareness?
Our vote is a resounding yes!

For brands ready to dive into podcast advertising, there’s a lot to be gained. In fact, studies have found podcasts can boost brand awareness from 24% to 79%. That’s a pretty hefty figure and speaks volumes by itself, but let’s break it down some more:

Four simple reasons podcast ads are worth the investment

1. Podcasts are portable, on-demand content pieces that audiences can easily slot into their day-to-day life in short bursts. And the most important part of this – they actively choose to listen. Aside from the people who seem to be able to focus on two things at once (ahem Kailey), most podcast listeners are actively engaged when they choose to hit play.

2. The huge range of podcasts out there in the world means it’s easy to find ones that align well with your specific target audience and who you are as a brand. Find podcast hosts that share your interests and values, and you’re one step closer to building relationships with your ideal audience.

3. More than a third of listeners have made a purchase or conversion after being introduced to a brand from a podcast ad. And they’re more likely to have a high household income (hellooo purchasing power).

4. Podcast ads are 4.4 times more effective than display ads. Enough said.

So, since we've now convinced you to try podcast advertising, here are five tips to get started

1. Don’t obsess over the audience size

Instead of focusing on the numbers, focus on the podcasts that relate to your brand or industry. The ultimate factor to consider is the ‘fit’. Podcasts are aimed at defined audiences, so the right fit is the most important and impactful decision. It’s often most worthwhile to purchase multiple ad slots for small shows rather than one for big podcasts. You may consider a podcast audience solely based on the show’s topic and the audience’s clearly defined interests, or you may focus more on the audience’s age, income, and education level. And remember, size isn’t everything, it’s how you use it.

2. Understand the pricing of different podcast ads

Pricing on podcasts may be more transparent than you thought. While it’s not always the case, the simple formula below can provide a fairly good estimation of what you could expect to pay for a standard ad slot.

This will usually fall between $10 – $50 for a standard ad in a podcast… however, there will be a premium charge for large, popular podcasts.

The cost will sometimes vary quite dramatically depending on the ad structure you’re looking for. This could be anything from sponsoring an episode to running an intensive promotion across multiple episodes. The latter can be incredibly powerful since it feels more like a friendly recommendation than an ad, but with this comes bigger costs.

The two options above are essentially the two most prominent forms of advertising via podcasts: audio ads and branded podcasts.

Cost of Sponsoring 1 Episode = (# of Downloads per Episode / 1000) X CP

3. Verify you’re getting accurate numbers

Smaller, less reputable podcasts should provide metrics to prove they’re worth the investment. There are some metrics, such as downloads, that are easier to make up. So, to verify a podcast host is honest about their metrics, look at all the sites they’ve posted on. The platforms themselves generally provide view numbers. If they have a loyal audience, they most likely also have followers, likes and visual signs of engagement on their social media pages. You can also opt to work with a credible network, as they’re generally quite transparent with advertisers about their performance.

4. Consider the promotion you’ll run

McAfee – yes, the software security company – has their own podcast ‘Hackable’. Likewise, Lyft had a short podcast series, as did McDonalds. Having a branded podcast is an opportunity to contribute to the personality of the brand and the brand story, support the messaging and value propositions given, and for many brands, will also lend credibility.

With your own branded podcast, you can target a niche, tailored audience for your product/services, providing value and building relationships with potential customers. Listeners tend to be very loyal to the hosts of their favourite podcasts. So, if you have the means, it’s a great option. While podcasts are easy and affordable to produce, it does take time and dedication to build a loyal audience.

So, if you want to reach people immediately, or if hosting a podcast just isn’t feasible for your brand right now, podcast ads could be a better option. You can reach out to podcast hosts directly or speak to a third party to organise podcast ads. At Agora, one of our partners is Southern Cross Austereo because their audio network Listnr is a super robust platform.

5. Consider your ad placement

There are three different placements for podcast ads: pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll. These play before, in the middle of, or after the episode. Pre and post-roll ads are shorter and tend to be lower cost. However, it’s easier for the listener to miss them. Mid-roll placements are a little longer and a little more expensive but are placed at a point in the episode where listeners are engaged with the host and the content. The mid-roll ad is particularly engaging when host-read, as it allows the ad to seamlessly integrate with the organic episode content, which leverages that engagement we just mentioned.

Now that you're geared with more information about podcast advertising and some tips to start, go get ‘em! If you have questions or want an agency to help with podcast advertising, reach out to our team today.

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