Is Your Funnel Half-Full or Half-Empty?

Inplace #2

2014 ushered in massive changes to the marketing landscape. With the launch of advertising on Tumblr and Snapchat, promoted Pinterest pins, Twitter’s “buy” button, and Apple Pay, to name just a sampling, we as marketers have more ways than ever to connect with consumers at every stage of the purchase funnel. How many of these have you considered or invested in? Which existing channels are you scaling back to fund these new ones? More importantly, are you justifying your channel investments by measuring their impact on your funnel?

Marketers increasingly are shifting their spend from traditional advertising to emerging, online channels to meet consumers where they are. According to Forrester, by 2019 marketers will spend over $103 billion on display advertising and search/social/email marketing combined—more than they will on broadcast and cable advertising. Mobile continues its rise to dominance, having overtaken TV for share of consumer time spent, and is expected to drive 50% of all online interactions in 2015. New channels and formats continue to crop up to grab their share of consumer time—and marketer’s ad spend.

In this environment, are you holding onto “what you know” or boldly venturing into new territory? Do you see rapid change as a threat or an opportunity?

Spinning today’s rapid change into opportunity requires the right mindset and approach. What worked yesterday may be different than what works tomorrow. With change as the watchword, flexibility and agility will be key to ensuring you keep your funnel full and your bottom line thriving.

As oxymoronic as it may sound at first blush, flexibility and agility should form the bedrock of your marketing strategy. It’s time to loosen your grip on the annual marketing plan. While it can be a valuable starting framework, an annual plan simply can’t keep pace with your consumers who don’t wait for the next quarter or year to jump on the next channel du jour; firm adherence to what you laid out in Q4 last year may cause you to miss valuable opportunities in Q2 of this next year as consumer behavior shifts.

I’m not suggesting a reckless approach to investing your marketing budget; on the contrary, today’s environment requires that we plan for agility. It’s important to establish a framework that enables agility grounded in thoughtful consideration, bolstered by data. A framework in which testing—and measuring the impact of—new channels and approaches is central. A good rule of thumb, I think, is setting aside 30% of your budget for testing and validation—10% going to greenfield testing and the other 20% to validate what you think were successful recent tests. The other 70% can go to channels and approaches you know are working today. While the particular allocation may warrant adjusting based on your market (e.g., if you’re after millennials, you might want to invest even more in testing new approaches), committing to a formula along these lines can help you ensure you’re staying on top of the market without betting the farm—or missing the boat.

Agile testing, of course, requires a similarly agile measurement foundation that keeps pace. In today’s complex environment, it is more important than ever to understand the truly cross-channel impacts of your investments, accounting not only for direct sales but cross-funnel influence and contributions that one ad has on other ads in the funnel. Speed, too, has become an imperative given the rapid changes in our marketing environment. Focused, quick sprints to test new channels do little good if you have to wait months for updated models to deliver relevant insights. Your measurement approach also must be flexible enough to accommodate new channels and devices that may emerge tomorrow or next month, without requiring additional setup such as tagging. And perhaps most importantly, your measurement foundation must deliver insights that are actionable; after all, what’s the point of insights if you can’t apply them right away to optimize your mix? Actionability means you as a marketer can take immediate action to adjust your mix—increasing investment in specific high-performing ads while decreasing investment in low performers. Since you’re likely buying media at the ad level, make sure you get insights at this granular level to guide you.

With an agile, test-and-measure approach, you can turn today’s market complexity into competitive advantage and make sure your funnel is never half-empty.