Cardinal Path’s response to COVID-19 Cardinal Path is sharing all we know to help marketers during COVID-19.  Learn more.

This period of uncertainty isn’t going to last forever. But while it’s here, marketers need to be able to adapt and take action accordingly. 

If I’m a CMO right now, I want to know two things: 

  1. What do consumers need from my brand – and how do I deliver quickly?
  2. What changes – to spend, media allocations, content, and communication – might be necessary to keep the business whole? 

Brands need to stay in tune with their customers’ changing preferences so they can pivot with them. You’re evaluating what parts of your business you can control, and prioritizing marketing programs to support changing consumer preferences. 

Brands that are able to balance speed with an informed approach to guiding change will have a faster recovery time and better customer relationships and prospects in the long run. 

We’ve compiled a list of ways brands can leverage their existing data to positively impact their businesses now and lay the foundation for a faster speed to recovery.     

Data-driven budget changes

How are you using data to inform changes to your budgets? 

A common knee-jerk reaction to the uncertainty businesses are dealing with right now is to start shaving budgets across the board by a certain percentage. Marketers are being asked to “cut everything by 10%” or more in order to safeguard the business from ongoing volatility. 

In a recent example, a brand cut spend by 20% across the board, and while the change gave a (false) sense of comfort in terms of freeing up funds, the lack of data to back up the decision makes it hard to justify if pressed – and there’s no knowing if 20% was the “right” amount.  A deeper pullback may have been warranted, just as actually increasing spend may have been justified.

Action: Embrace data-driven decision making to support media spend adjustments. Using a structured framework for making critical decisions is more important now than ever before. Combine a retrospective view of the last two years of data with an increased weighting on recent performance to conduct an optimal spend analysis and make careful decisions around budgets that will help guide your business into the next phase. 

Benefit: Short-term, data-driven decisions that will have a long-term impact on your business. 

High-frequency website reporting 

How is your website being affected by COVID-19-driven market factors today? 

How does this compare YOY, vs previous day, etc.? 

How do you get in front of increasing internal demands for performance data?

Many brands are looking for an up-to-the-minute way to assess the impact of the pandemic on their websites – and to help arm those on the frontlines with a fast mechanism to report back to the broader organization. These insights empower them with agility and understanding so they can make quick, data-driven decisions for their business. Speed to insight is of the essence, and one simple but powerful way to inform critical business decisions is to create a daily dashboard that alerts stakeholders to critical issues or trends on their website(s). 

Action: Empower stakeholders with near real-time reporting on web data. Using Google Data Studio, Tableau, or your dashboarding platform of choice to create a daily web dashboard that includes: 

  • Highlights of error pages & barriers to sales
  • Performance of promotions and new content
  • Traffic data
  • What’s up/what’s down (trends)

Benefit: Proactive, CMO-friendly reporting on COVID-19 impacts to your site gives a baseline insight from which to start planning adjustments. It also allows you to liberate time to focus on strategic decision-making during this period.

Campaign tagging

When is the last time you updated your campaign tagging, if ever? And how long ago was that? 

Although it may have a “spring cleaning” feel to it, the task of updating campaign tagging and taxonomy processes is critically-important and not something you can afford to put on the back-burner until the world is back on track again.

This fundamental aspect of a sound digital media program is absolutely necessary for understanding performance at a level of granularity which enables precision – guiding allocations by channel, budget, and tactic.

Action: Audit your campaign tagging approach and governance structure. Be sure to set up your tagging to support all media channels across all agencies. Working with an agnostic third-party to conduct this project will ensure objectivity and empower agencies to optimize against reliable data – a must in this time of challenged investments. 

Benefit: Know with confidence which media channels are driving qualified traffic to your websites and properly attribute credit to each. Make informed and precise decisions on how best to allocate your investments.

Customer behavior detection: Digital Segmentation  

Which 20% of your customers drive 80% of your business? How is this changing amidst the recent shock to consumer’s confidence? And how can your brand be most helpful to these customers in our current global climate? 

In a downturn, brands must act quickly to hone in on their most valuable opportunities and create different relationships with customers that will help accelerate the business recovery. 

Action: Create and apply a Digital Recency Frequency Monetary (RFM) model for a quick assessment, focusing on recency and frequency to help organizations make adjustments by identifying how customers are changing their behavior and conversion intent. 

For example:  

  • Identify changes in business-as-usual customer behavior pre and post COVID-19 based on key behavioral indicators
  • Pinpoint new trends of existing customers to better understand changing needs
  • Identify the next-up customer that is valuing the brand differently in this new situation
  • Create an action plan to address audience targeting, media and content strategy

Benefit: A reusable Customer Behavior Model to inform the C-19-era customer experience strategy. 

Timely content to meet your consumers’ needs

How can you move quickly to deploy content to calm, comfort, and convert your visitors?

The content your visitors need to see from you can’t wait for the next sprint release! Just this week, we pin-pointed a drop in performance on one of our client’s websites. While the CMS leads suggested incorporating the small change into their next sprint three weeks from now, we knew the business couldn’t afford to let this performance decline continue. We were able to get an update approved that same day, and got performance back on track.

Action: Leverage traditional testing and CRO platforms, like Adobe Test and Target or Google Optimize 360, to streamline content decisions. Testing platforms present a great opportunity to get updated content into the wild quickly with a deep level of measurability to understand what’s resonating.

Benefit: Out-maneuver your competitors by reacting faster to content demands. Be the one in your organization to bring forward nimble solutions to improve communications with your customer and prospect base.

Brands have been making significant investments in building data-driven decision-making frameworks into their marketing organizations for years. To jettison those approaches in this period of uncertainty is exactly the wrong thing to do. Now more than ever, we need to find the right balance between data-driven thinking and business intuition to steer into the next phase with confidence.  

Leveraging data does not mean moving slowly!  Let’s regain a sense of control and confidence to embrace the changes we need to make.


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