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Be Prepared

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Mariana Andersen Diaz

Mariana Andersen Diaz has written this article. More details coming soon.

The Boy Scouts of America motto is “Be Prepared”. While I was never in Boy Scouts myself – although I did once spend a year as a Girl Scout for the sole purpose of eating lots of cookies – “Be Prepared” is an important motto that I like to live and work by. Having just wrapped up on my 4th crazy Holiday season working in Digital Advertising, I wanted to share a few scenarios that I’ve experienced in previous holidays, and ways to be prepared for if and when they ever happen to you.

1. Too Much Money

One extra layer of stress that gets added to the holidays is that, given its timing at the end of the year, it’s highly likely that your client is trying to balance their budget for the current year, plan for the next, and make sure all money has been spent in the appropriate channels.

I’ll start with the least negative scenario I’ve encountered which is when a client suddenly has quite a lot of money to spend in a very short amount of time. This type of thing can happen whether it’s because money has unexpectedly come in from outside channels, or maybe because you and your client been saving up underspend through the year to utilize when consumers are at their most purchase-happy.

My favorite way to stay ahead of this is to keep a wishlist of programs you are interested in or would like to test. Throughout the year you’ll undoubtedly spend several hours listening to vendor pitches, reading about the latest and greatest in tech or maybe just envying peers whose clients are testing cool things. During this time it’s helpful to keep a wishlist of sorts. In your wishlist make sure you include details on the programs you’re interested in, the primary goal the programs would accomplish (be it brand awareness, new visitor acquisition or revenue generation) spend minimums, and any KPIs you can gather. I prefer to use Google docs for my wishlists, but Evernote or even just written notes can work as well.

Having something like this easily accessible will help keep you in an organized place in case unexpected budget arises. As a bonus, it can also help avoid any awkward silences in case a client asks “what cool, new thing can we test?”

2. Not Enough Money

The next problem that can sometimes arise during the busy holiday season, is the opposite of the above – not enough budget. Maybe budgets are getting shifted towards the next year, or maybe spend was too high earlier in the year – whatever the case may be sometimes clients don’t have enough funds to support all the programs they’d like to over the holidays.

Similar to creating a wishlist I like to also have a list of top programs with projections of how much it will take to fully fund those programs, along with expected KPIs. Before deciding what to fund and what to cut make sure you know the ultimate goal. Having worked primarily with retail clients that have high revenue goals, ROI is the KPI I tend to live and die by. As such, I have a handy list of programs ranked from top to bottom by highest ROI to lowest ROI. Typically this means fully funding Brand Search first, followed by PLAs and Social & Display Retargeting. However, if your client isn’t as established and new visitor acquisition is the primary goal, it’s important not to neglect Prospecting via Display and Social channels as well as Non-Brand Search.

As a final note, it’s crucial to keep in mind that with all the increased competition around the holidays, your usual program CPCs and CPMs will likely increase, driving up your spend minimums and the amount it takes to truly “fully fund” a program.

3. The Perfect Storm

The last scenario is something that is difficult to prepare for, but can and often does happen during the holidays – your client’s site crashes or there is a critical break down on a key date. This one is especially tough to deal with given that there’s typically no way for our account services teams to help directly resolve the issue. However, there are a few things you can do to help avoid and prepare for such an incident.

  • Encourage new tags to be implemented several weeks before Cyber Weekend.

    • This could help reduce any site manipulations that may be happening close to key dates.

  • For some clients, setting up load tests weeks before Holiday may be encouraged.

    • This means helping to drive as much traffic to the site as possible to ensure the site is capable of handling above average traffic and order volume ahead of the holidays.

    • Strongly promoted Flash Sales or limited shipping offers can be explored for this type of opportunity.

  • Set up alarms in advance to make sure that if the site crashes the team gets an email instantly and equally important…

  • Set up a holiday schedule to make sure there’s always someone able to respond if the worst happens

  • If there isn’t a quick fix for the issue, be prepared to turn off all ad activity as efficiently as possible

When the dust has settled make sure you have a plan for helping to minimize the loss – whether that means shifting funds towards another key date to help maximize revenue, or exploring alternate opportunities for any budget unspent.

In the always-on world of Digital Advertising and Client Services, things tend to get pretty crazy. However, taking a note from the Boy Scouts and “always being prepared” can help you tackle unexpected situations in a calm, cool and successful manner.

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