I've got a terrific book from 1931 called "The Book of Ballyhoo." It's a compilation of satirical ads from one of the Depression era's best humor magazines. My favorite ad from the collection is for The Smilette (see it, left).
OK, maybe the smile's a little forced, but the idea is a good one. When economic times are tough, your choice is to complain and blame - or to push forward and take action. Back in the '30s, Hoover didn't take sufficient action (Smilette's little political reference), but FDR did. Jury's out on Obama.
So what are you going to do?
We've seen many marketers and media staying out front by simply acting. Here are six cost-effective performance marketing actions that can help marketers take advantage of today's remarkable conditions:
Partner with the publisher on cost per lead: Many online publishers seem to be featuring a permanent 50% off sale, and yet too much inventory remains unsold. As a result, a growing list of publishers has begun embracing performance tactics.
Why? It's not just accepting basement pricing for remnant space. It really is more about the potential upside. A fair CPL payout can boost the effective CPM well beyond remnant filler rates. It can also improve the quality of the advertising sites and e-letters run and the placements marketers can afford.
Further, this kind of partnering means that the marketer and publisher can prove value to one another. That can set up a long-term relationship to benefit everyone. Just open up the dialogue. There are no ridiculous offers.
Partner with the publisher on hybrids. We've seen a middle ground emerge between CPM and CPL, particularly in the email space. Hybrid deals involve a low guaranteed CPM plus a performance component. This ensures the list owner gets at least a minimal payment with the opportunity for a better upside.
Be aware of the language you use to promote your offer. Nothing is more important. It can't read as business as usual -- it really needs a taste of Smilette. There's panic wearout among your target consumers. And there's negativity wearout. So you need a balance that says it's OK to spend, as long as you spend smart. Leadership is realistic but optimistic.
Do some informal research on your offer language. Be sure you don't have a tin ear in how you speak to your prospect. In this climate, too many campaigns and offers feel patronizing or simply phony.
It's about value and values. There's been a lot of talk recently about major brands' use of positive themes. Coke wants us to "open happiness.". This optimistic outlook was also a popular theme in the Smilette era ("We're In The Money"). But again, there's something substantial behind it.
When consumer priorities have changed from prestige and acquisition to price/value and ethics, your offers need to reflect the times. Show target users that you share their concerns -- and offer them a new deal. This could mean sampling or trial to get reluctant consumers started. Or try a community connection that shows how we're all in this together.
You need an inventory of offers. Timeliness is key to making performance campaigns work. That means a supply of dynamic content, to be ready to address changes in market conditions as soon as they happen. Think of investing offers, for example. When the markets go down every day, investors want to know more about protection or bear strategies. Three up days on the Dow and they want to know how to take advantage of the big rally. You want a version of your pdf or your webinar, and the copy that promotes it, ready to change as soon as there's a whiff of change in sentiment. Same with mortgage, retail or any discretionary category.
Build your database now. Performance marketing has an enormous side benefit, of course: building your list. Even if only 2% of your leads convert, the remainder is a rich vein of potential business. And CPL campaigns often ask for more than contact information. Input from your prospects helps create segmentation, which enables you to customize follow-up and close more business later.
So what are you going to do? This is the time to use performance strategies to build new business in the midst of the chaos, without big investment.
And one more thing: Keep smiling...