Identifying quick wins to move the performance needle

/ by Karen Amundson

Apiary Digital® surveyed a select group of performance marketing leaders—from startups, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between—to learn their secrets to success during the first 90 days in a new position. To capture the pearls of wisdom shared through this survey, we’ve kicked off a new blog series, “The First 90 Days.” This is the first of the five-part series.

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When asked what they do to achieve success during the first 90 days of a new marketing leadership position, the most common survey response at 87% was to identify quick wins for boosting performance. This certainly seems logical, but then the question becomes: How does one go about identifying these quick wins? Look no further—we’ve got answers!

87% of marketing leaders surveyed say they go for a quick-wins approach in their first 90 days

Align with management on goals

Before you do anything else in your new position, make sure you’re clear about what everyone’s understanding of the marketing goals are for the organization—from people below you, above you, and horizontally from you. You may find there’s a lack of clarity on goals and how they ladder-up to the business, in which case it could become a great opportunity to help shape goals and get everyone on the same page. 

Once you’re clear about what the goals are, the next step is to be honest with yourself about whether the goals currently in place are even possible. If not, work with management to help set more reasonable expectations to ensure their overall goals align with the digital marketing goals of the organization. 

Chances are, if the organization you just joined has had significant long-term turnover on the team, or if it’s dealing with new leaders—typically the case with a startup organization—the timeline for hitting stated goals may just be too accelerated.

Example. Management expects a 3:1 ROI—they’ve allocated a budget of X and want to see a revenue of Y. The math doesn’t add up! A budget 5X bigger would be needed to meet the revenue goal—if that ROI could even be achieved in the first place. Management needs to be educated, and more achievable goals need to be agreed upon.

Ask dumb questions

In truth, there really is no such thing as a dumb question—more like there are questions we assume are so basic we worry we’d sound dumb if we asked them. Best to get over that mentality because asking those inquisitive, seemingly basic questions are what’s going to get you to the heart of what can be done to quickly move the performance needle!

Ask questions such as: 

  • What do the metrics mean and why are they considered important?
  • Who are the highest-value customers or gateway products that lead to higher LTV?
  • Where does this conversion go? How does the conversion relate to the business outcome?
  • Who receives the contact-us form-fill and follows up? Does it go to a CRM or a specific person that may have left their position 6 months ago?
  • What’s our customer experience like? What simple changes can be made to decrease friction at checkout?

“Dumb” questions are especially important when exploring conversion optimization. Optimizing conversion rates pay huge dividends by making the same amount of media spend and traffic generate more revenue.

B2B scenario. At a large financial institution, an online business checking application was a simple form-fill rather than a true online-based system for opening a new account. The process for following up on the new account request form was undefined. By sending each lead to a call center for follow-up, defining the follow-up process, and creating accountability, revenue grew over 20%.

Ecommerce scenario. A large ecommerce company experienced supply shortages resulting in out-of-stock products and a very poor customer experience because there wasn’t a digital process on their site to direct traffic to other in-stock products. By integrating their inventory management system into their ecommerce platform, they were able to increase conversion rate, dramatically improve customer experience, and put products that were actually available in front of site visitors.

Humorous quotation text capturing first 90 days

Follow the money

Look at the metrics in your existing analytics platforms to identify where the conversions, spend, and/or impressions are coming from. There are generally two scenarios to look out for: high impressions or clicks, but few conversions (low efficiency); or high clicks/impressions and high conversions (high efficiency).

  • If you’re seeing low efficiency, find out if this is a brand awareness/engagement strategy. Also, look at how it’s fitting into the bigger picture—is it non-converting traffic? 
  • If it’s high conversions you’re seeing, determine if you can spend more, or shift traffic to this particular channel to further boost the volume of conversions.

Other ways to “follow the money” include:

  • Looking at how the budget is allocated throughout the year compared to previous years’ historical sales data (factoring in lag time from lead to sale) and ensuring your budget is allocated to the right times of year.
  • Evaluating conversion rates for different days of week, times of day, and device types. Often with B2B, business hours perform best and a lot of money gets wasted on factors such as off-hours and geographic regions with very low potential customer concentration.
  • Looking at CPCs and conversions during top ecommerce advertiser times to see if it makes sense to scale back spend since you’re possibly getting less bang for your buck.

B2B Scenario. A B2B enterprise SaaS company improved budget efficiency by reviewing historical data to find that CPCs spiked on key consumer shopping holidays and preemptively paused campaigns on those days. Despite their targeting being strictly focused on an IT decision-maker audience, the company realized their audience is made up of individuals also being targeted by consumer brands, which has an indirect effect on B2B audience CPCs.

Ecommerce scenario. Brand A wanted to ensure it had a certain threshold of impression share on competitive brand terms in paid search. However, the conquesting terms did not convert. By evaluating specific initiatives, Brand A was able to redeploy the conquesting funds toward lower cost per lead initiatives, such as Linkedin Lead Gen ads.

Look at subscription-based vendors

A quick, low-hanging fruit approach to help move the performance needle is to do an evaluation of all subscription-based vendors your group is using to see where operating expenses could be reduced almost immediately. To do this, ask questions such as:

  • Are there any tools nobody is using that I could cancel?
  • Are there tools with duplicate functionality that could be consolidated into a single tool?
  • Are there features consistently going unused indicating they could be dropped down a level in pricing? 
  • Do any of my agencies or vendors have subscriptions to the tools we need so we can stop paying for them?

A word of caution before pulling the trigger on canceling any subscriptions: Since you’re new to your position, come up with recommendations quickly, but check in with the various stakeholders first to ensure you’re not cutting someone off from an important tool they’re relying on to do their job. This is actually a great way to get to know people cross-functionally—and quickly win over finance!

Example scenario

As a marketing leader, decreasing expenses also increases your internal team’s ROI. With significant turnover, you end up with the bones of the previous team’s software stack. For example, you might end up with 3 or 4 competitive intelligence software packages. Determine your team’s best-fit and cancel subscriptions that aren’t used.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this blog series where we’ll share considerations for strategizing, planning, and building out a roadmap for success.