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Taking a Break

  |  September 24, 2010   |  Comments

Nine things to expect when your digital efforts have pause periods or experience wild fluctuations in budgeting or support.

We all need a break every once in a while. For me, a break conjures images of relaxing on a warm beach, exploring somewhere exotic or new, or just curling up with a good book without interruption. We encourage this occasional disruption of our everyday existence as a way to recharge our batteries, reconnect with our loved ones, goose our creative juices, and recommit ourselves to our own best practices for life, health, and work.

But what happens to our online marketing results when programs have to take a break? When budget, environmental, or operational issues stipulate a temporary or protracted halt to programs in progress there are often negative impacts and, of course, very few of the compensating benefits that we humans enjoy when we pause.

What can you expect when your digital efforts have pause periods or experience wild fluctuations in budgeting or support?

  • You leave the door open to competitors. Not only can they now bid cheaply in the open landscape of your brand terms, but they can entice even your most loyal customers with promotions and special offers if those customers are ready to buy and find your competitors but not you in their digital path. When you cede customers, this strengthens the competition with not just sales but also builds their e-mail list for future CRM efforts, their cookie pool for effective retargeting, and their intelligence with additional data. Prioritize your current customer base if circumstances force you to make drastic cuts or pause programs. If you can do nothing else, hang on to regular communications with them.
  • You won't grow new customers. If your programs shrink or stop you are limiting your potential sales or leads to those who already know about you. You may benefit from some limited passive referrals but you are sacrificing scale. Scale brings efficiencies and a more stable position in the marketplace. You are also narrowly focusing on your current verticals, markets, or demos without testing new audiences or approaches. It's often the beginning of a downward spiral.
  • You lose credibility – especially in social media. What you have in the public domain very quickly becomes irrelevant and dated. You can't drop out of a conversation in the middle of that conversation.
  • Learnings from optimization can be halted and become stale. In display media, pausing and restarting imposes a small reramp-up phase for the program to regain traffic and then data from that traffic to optimize again towards the best placements, messaging, creatives, etc.
  • Trending data is lost. Seasonal learning is compromised or missing when activity is frozen or dramatically altered during key periods, including those periods just before and just after. Gleaning actionable data from intermittent periods of activity with wildly different objectives does not provide a clear picture of year-over-year or month-over-month trends. It's much harder to get a macro view of direction with spotty data.
  • Complacency may set in. The discipline of regular program testing, maintenance, optimization, and reporting creates a feedback loop that encourages constant improvements across an organization that extends well-beyond the interactive team. Without that critical feedback, sites, language, promotions, and approaches can decay and staff can get lazy. There may be less incentive to watch and learn from competitors when you don't have the means or opportunity to respond to what you learn.
  • Staff cuts. If you handle your digital marketing in-house but have no or little budget to manage, you may have to do layoffs. Losing good people with institutional knowledge hurts. The same could be said for agency fee reductions if you have an agency partner. You will lose continuity with people who have intimate knowledge of your business because they may be reassigned or even laid off. Good people may leave on their own when faced with a reduced or handicapped program. Good people want a challenge and the opportunity to succeed.
  • Inefficiencies. Not only will a lot of relearning have to take place, but each time a campaign is paused and relaunched there are a myriad of small tasks that can rack up labor hours with hard costs attached to them that could be used more productively as actual media spend. Longer and more consistent campaigns also provide negotiating leverage to help make your media dollars more effective.
  • You may miss out on the unexpected or fail to see or capitalize on things you would not have predicted. Any pause creates a disadvantage with the landscape moving so fast.

Sometimes we have no choice in pausing or stopping a program - inventory levels are off, budgets are slashed, a sea change has occurred in your corporate strategy, and planning needs to be revamped. There are a myriad of reasons when pausing is inevitable. It's important, however, to recognize that the perceived short-term cost savings have associated and, possibly, long-term impacts.

How have you handled your paused programs to reduce negative consequences?

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Robin Neifield

Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.

Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.

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