Apr 21, 2020

Marketing reporting during a downturn: How to keep track of your performance in 6 steps

7-MINUTE READ | By Mikael Thuneberg

Marketing Analytics

[ Updated Oct 20, 2023 ]

If you’re anything like us, your original marketing plans, forecasts, and budgets for 2020 have been thrown out the window by now. Over the last few weeks, your marketing team has probably been figuring out what you can do to keep things moving forward. We know exactly how that feels since that’s what we’ve been doing here at Supermetrics. 

Right now, it’s more important than ever to focus on activities that impact the most important number: revenue, but you probably have fewer resources at your disposal than you did before. In short, marketing teams all over the world need to do more with less.

Since we’re entering a downturn and we’re not sure how things will pan out, there is a greater need to manage what we can control. The logical questions that follow are how do you decide what to do, where should you invest, and where should you cut costs? Marketing reporting gives you all the answers.

If you’re not measuring your marketing, you won’t understand how the downturn is affecting your business and you won’t be able to cut costs from the right places. Here are six steps you can take to navigate through uncertain times and come out on top after a downturn.

1. Understand impact with forecasting & scenario modeling

The first thing you need to look at is what impact the sudden downturn could have on your business. This is where forecasting and scenario modeling come in. 

At Supermetrics, we created two different scenarios of how our business could be affected. One was highly pessimistic but still very possible, while the other was slightly more optimistic (but still not great). We pulled all our cohort data from our database into Google Sheets with our custom JSON/CSV connector, and built complex models to analyze and forecast there.

For each scenario we looked at how our key metrics such as monthly new customers, monthly customer value, and churn would look depending on how bad things could get. So the first thing to do is think about your most important business KPIs, create forecasts, and understand what situation your business could be in one month, three months, six months, and one year down the line.

2. Identify opportunities

Based on your analysis, identify where to invest (and where not to). If necessary, consider switching your focus from new customer acquisition to marketing to your existing customers — this is especially important for agencies, subscription, and SaaS businesses. Retention and expansion could be two new north star metrics for your marketing teams. Some industries are really struggling right now, others are actually benefiting from the situation so look for areas that are performing better and rework your strategy.

When it comes to marketing, this is a great opportunity to look at what’s working. Which channels are driving the biggest growth? Which campaigns are no longer generating the ROI they used to? Which products are performing better than others? Creating reports that answer these questions and gathering all your marketing data in spreadsheets and dashboards will guide you through these times and help you make better decisions based on your data.

3. Cut costs

If you’re among the majority of companies who’ve been negatively impacted, the next thing you want to do is to seek opportunities for cutting costs. If you had plans to attend or organize events during 2020, almost all your budgets will have been freed up. We’ve also seen some companies in this space react quickly like SaaStock did with their Remote conference coming in June.

However, you also need to find the loose performers and low-yield activities/channels from your online activities where you can save money. This is where a detailed paid channel mix analysis will help you out.

4. Set new goals

From here you’ll have a decent basis to set some new goals based on your updated strategy, objectives, and resources. The forecasts you made in step one will give your marketing team a target to aim at and align everyone behind a new goal. You should define the KPIs you want to track and then build out a dashboard that will automatically track your progress. As Sam Caesar from Sleeping Giant Media says, if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

5. Update your marketing playbook

Marketing in a sudden economic downturn requires a different approach. Your new focus and goals almost certainly means you’ll need to rethink your marketing playbook. This starts with messaging. 

A Harvard Business Review article written after the 2008 financial crisis stated that, “Reassuring messages that reinforce an emotional connection with the brand and demonstrate empathy (for example, by conveying a sense that “we’re going to get through this together”) are vital.” As April Dunford said in a recent tweet, you should also reposition your product or service and consider switching messaging from revenue driver to cost saver. 

On a tactical level, this is a great time to identify new audiences, channels, activities, and campaigns you can run to help hit your goals. Every marketing dollar matters right now, so come back to your dashboards to see which initiatives are driving the biggest impact relative to investment and focus on those.

6. Test and be agile

Speed and agility have always been important to marketers, now they’re a requirement. The quicker you can test something to see if it’s working or not, the faster you start making a positive impact on your business. Experiment, measure, conclude. These should be the three values at the heart of your marketing team right now. Once you’ve done that, you can make the needed changes to your marketing strategy and playbook.

And coming back to the Harvard study, “In recessions, marketers have to stay flexible, adjusting their strategies and tactics on the assumption of a long, difficult slump and yet be able to respond quickly to the upturn when it comes.” 

No doubt these are tough times but hopefully this approach will help set up your marketing to weather the storm. And just remember, after every downturn there is an upturn. Making some changes now will help ensure you’ll be in even better shape to ride the changing tide and grow quickly during the upturn.

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