It's All Just Marketing: Episode 5

How to Deliver With a Tight Marketing Budget


n this episode of It’s All Just Marketing, Helium SEO’s CEO, Tim Warren and VP of Sales, Andrew Squibb discuss how to win in marketing when you need to cut marketing costs. They give tips on how to know what items to cut, like the lowest performing spend and how to know what items to keep, like the Attribution App. If you’d like to talk with Andrew Squibb further, you can email him at or by phone at 513-563-3065

Tim and Andrew draw from their years of experience in digital marketing to provide valuable insights and practical tips on how to create successful marketing campaigns in today’s ever changing digital world. Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or just starting out, It’s All Just Marketing, provides you with the information you need to be successful. Thanks for listening!

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Tim Warren: Hey, guys, welcome back to the It’s All Just Marketing podcast. I’m your host, Tim Warren. Today we’re going to be talking about budgets and what to do in potentially tough economies. So Andrew, thanks for coming back on the show. I know we got great feedback about the last one. Really appreciate you coming on and talking to us again.

Andrew Squibb: Thank you very much for having me.

Tim Warren: So you’ve been in the marketing world for ten plus years and you’ve seen a bunch of different things. You’ve probably been through different economic cycles. One of the things that we wanted to talk about on the podcast today, and it’s a question out there, is, you know, banks are failing. Is there is there is there a recession coming? You know, this has been asked for a while. Is there a correction coming? And I would say we’ve seen from you know, we have a lot of clients across the nation and we’ve seen just a general tightness of budgets. 

Andrew Squibb: Yeah.

Tim Warren: Right? Now, whether that’s recession or not, you know, I do think it’s it’s debatable whether we’re in a recession. But I want to talk about right now, if budgets are not infinite and they’re not overflowing and, you know, a lot of executive leaders are finding themselves with a leadership team coming to them and saying, hey, the budget’s either flat or it’s shrinking.

Andrew Squibb: Sure.

Tim Warren: Right. How do marketing leaders who are watching this make the right decision, what to keep, what to cut, what to keep doing, what to stop doing right.

Andrew Squibb: Okay. So my my answer to that and what we tell our customers is, we you should be investing where you can do where you can tie an attribution to it or you can attribute the dollars. The reason is because if you’re going to be held accountable to every dollar, you should be able to tell them what’s working and what isn’t working. So if you’re buying mediums or solutions that you can’t attribute to but your budget is the same or smaller, you’re putting yourself in a bad position to go to your boss and say, Well, I want to keep doing this. I have no idea how it’s working. And I know you just gave me less money and I know you’re going to give me less money next month, but I still want to do it. But I don’t know. If you listen to yourself and you say that that doesn’t sound really good going to your boss and saying, Yeah, give me keep giving me the a little bit of money you want to give me. It’s less than last year and I have no idea how it’s working. That’s probably a bad idea. So what can we do as an agency and what can an advertiser do to make investments where they can tie in attribution, whether that be using a software like we do, we use a software called attribution app, which allows you it’s a linear attribution model which allows you to tie everything that you’re doing back to an attribution.

Andrew Squibb: So you can properly give credit to the right channel. 

Tim Warren: Right. 

Andrew Squibb: So you can know in real time what’s working and what isn’t working across anything that you want to do. So we recommend that and then we recommend really looking at low funnel where you can drive a result immediately. Paid social. Paid search. Where can you really do to drive traffic and get convertible traffic for the exact desired audience that you want? But really, Tim, to me the answer is you need to be thinking about channels where you can drive an attribution. And drive and show a return using data. Especially when budgets are cut or budgets are tighter. If you can, you have to use data now more than ever. And so attribution allows you to do that and allows you to tell a story. So that’s really what we’re telling customers and what we’re trying to help customers with our partner and attribution app.

Tim Warren: And we obviously one of the benefits of helium attribution partnering is that we have a basically an enterprise discount.

Andrew Squibb: We do, yeah.

Tim Warren: So if you if customers use us, we can get it for them at a cheaper rate than if they were to just go direct.

Andrew Squibb: Yeah. So our relationship with them allows an advertiser to get all the bells and whistles of attribution app without the price that they would normally pay if they just went direct. 

Tim Warren: Right.

Andrew Squibb: By working with us. Not only do you get our services, but then you get access to the attribution apps. And also to, we’re building it correctly so that when everything goes live, it’s all organized right within attribution app and it’s all getting the right amount of credit that it should.

Tim Warren: And can customers actually just use us for attribution apps?

Andrew Squibb: Yes, they Can.

Tim Warren: They can.

Andrew Squibb: They can.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Andrew Squibb: So if they if they have all five channels and they just want to do attribution app, we can do that and we can just set it all up for them. And then we can tell them what’s working and what isn’t working.

Tim Warren: Now that’s great. So back to the original piece. Your recommendation is if budgets are going to be flat or cut, you’re recommending the first thing you should spend money on is attribution software correct? To really actually understand what is happening with your dollars. Which is interesting because I feel like that’s counterintuitive for some marketers who might say, look, I have less budget, which means I have less to spend on paid, I have less to spend on agencies working non-profit media. I was going to add attribution app as an additional thing to my budget, but my budget got cut. So now I can’t.

Andrew Squibb: No, I’m saying.

Tim Warren: You’re saying you’re thinking about it all wrong. Yeah. You actually shouldn’t spend a dollar on any of these other ones until you have attribution to be able to tell you what you’re actually getting for the money. Spending, is that right?

Andrew Squibb: That’s absolutely right. Because the microscope. Right. Everybody’s now under a microscope. So if you’re, if I’m under a microscope, if I’m in their shoes and my budget gets cut. And I’m getting asked every week, how’s it working? I would buy a software or get connected with a software that told me how it’s working so that I at least could walk into my boss’s office and say this this much I do know. These three things are driving this much revenue and this much traffic. 

Tim Warren: Right. 

Andrew Squibb: That’s a lot better than well, I saved money on attribution, so that’s good. But I don’t know what’s working. Right. So, yes, I think spending money there and then taking time to think about which channels to use. So if your budget’s decreased and you’re going to invest in an attribution software, well, that means that a channel probably has to go away. So I would, and what we tell our customers is stack rank. So the one that’s driving the least goes. Attribution comes in in its place and then you’re only spending on the things that drove the most traffic. If there’s five, these four are the best. The fifth one goes, you buy the attribution software and you’re driving against the ones that are driving the best results anyway. 

Tim Warren: That’s smart.

Andrew Squibb: You know, something has to go in a time like that. It shouldn’t be the thing that’s telling you what’s working. It should be the thing that’s driving you the least amount of leads.

Tim Warren: Yeah. 100%. And if you’re not tracking what’s driving the most amount of leads, then you’re probably getting you’re probably your marketing results are probably all over the board anyway.

Andrew Squibb: Yeah. And you’re making guesses. And if your budget is tighter, you might as well take as much guess out of it as you can. And what could come from that is the third channel was the best channel. Okay, great. Now the other two channels get decreased. You go in on the third channel and you look like an absolute genius. But you wouldn’t have if you didn’t invest in the software or you didn’t invest in a software that allows you to do that, you know? So yeah, we think about it a little differently.

Tim Warren: So what about when if budgets are tight or they’re getting cut, What are your thoughts on, high funnel, middle funnel and bottom of funnel and and what to pare back on? Because obviously there’s benefits to each part of the funnel.

Andrew Squibb: Yeah. 

Tim Warren: You need to fill the funnel. You can’t only do the lowest, you know, you can’t only do bottom of funnel because then you don’t have top of funnel, right? But what are your thoughts in terms of like what costs the most money and what is the best to cut when times get tight?

Andrew Squibb: You know, to me it’s you got to cut from the top down. I think you cut the top funnel. I think you go more in on low funnel because I think you have to maximize the conversions and you have to maximize the people who are interested in your brand in a recession. If there’s a recession and somebody is still interested in buying from you, you have to take advantage of that. You have to. Yeah. So so to me, it’s let’s go low funnel and win where the people are wanting to buy now and then let’s sacrifice a little of the high funnel where they’re still shopping. And they’re not as convinced. But if they’re converting or they’re about to convert or they’ve done a conversion action on your website, let’s go get that person. Because they’re probably thinking, well, it’s a recession, but I still need this thing. 

Tim Warren: Right. 

Andrew Squibb: So let’s go get them to buy the thing from you before they buy it from somebody else because they’re only going to buy one thing. 

Tim Warren: Right.

Andrew Squibb: Or in that category because it’s a recession, they’re not going to go buy two extra couches. They’re going to buy one or they’re not going to go buy, you know, three of one thing. They’re going to buy one of one thing because money’s tight. It’s probably tight for the general consumer.

Tim Warren: Right. 

Andrew Squibb: Does that make sense?

Tim Warren: No, it does. And so, you know, when we think about like bottom of funnel, what would you put in the bottom of funnel channels versus top of funnel?

Andrew Squibb: So I would put in things that we know drive conversion. So I would put anything in search that’s driving traffic. So like. 

Tim Warren: Organic search.

Andrew Squibb: Organic search, paid search, you know, paid social.

Tim Warren: Would you put remarketing retargeting in bottom of funnel or middle funnel. Where would you put that?

Andrew Squibb: Put that middle funnel middle because they’ve if I’m getting a return, I have to go to the website to get retargeted generally. So if we speak generally so I would say they’ve already come to the website, they’ve for a reason, right? So right then retargeting is probably middle, you know, it’s, I wouldn’t call it high flown, I would call it high funnel things that this whole push versus pull model. So things that are push mechanisms; like TV, like billboard, like radio, like newspaper or any print, those are all push. I would consider those high funnel.

Tim Warren: Yes. 

Andrew Squibb: Low funnel or pull. So I’m going to the search engines to pull information. I’m going to a website to pull information. I need a new heater. I need a new air conditioning unit, I need a new car, whatever that is. I’m going because I need something. I’m pulling that information. That’s why I go to that website. So that would be my definition.

Tim Warren: What do you think about programmatic? Yeah. Excuse me. And display ads. Do you think would those live in middle funnel or those are those high funnel as well would you say.

Andrew Squibb: I think they’re high funnel.

Tim Warren: So in a in a recession or a budget’s tight, you would keep search, but would you pull back on programmatic?

Andrew Squibb: I would.

Tim Warren: Like paid display.

Andrew Squibb: I would.

Tim Warren: Just because you think it’s high funnel.

Andrew Squibb: I do because I think it’s more push than pull.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Andrew Squibb: So I wouldn’t pull back on the retargeting. Because they’re coming there for a reason. Stay in front of those people.

Tim Warren: That’s fair.

Andrew Squibb: I would not pull back on paid search. If you’re doing it and you’re seeing a return, keep doing that. I wouldn’t pull back on organic. If it’s driving results, keep doing that. You’ve invested a lot of energy and time in that. Keep doing it. Paid social same deal you’re finding the exact audience. You’ve probably tested the channels so you know which social channel works.

Tim Warren: Right. 

Andrew Squibb: You’ve probably dumped the other ones that don’t work anyway. You’ve probably already done that. So stay with the one that works and anything that’s push, you know, I wouldn’t consider as much of a necessity as I would those channels we just listed.

Tim Warren: So what else? This has been great. What else should brands do in if budgets are tight or being cut? Excuse me, what else should clients do or companies do in that scenario? Are there other things they should look to change if marketing dollars were relatively abundant and now they’re tight?

Andrew Squibb: I mean, I think if they haven’t. Invested time in the data and pushed their partners for data and results. Not just results, but the data behind the results. They need to be doing that. So now is the time to really understand what’s happening, what’s working, why, what changes were made, what data is it driving? What is being seen in the data that’s driving the positive result? I would just be pushing for all the data because you’ve got to understand every number in a recession because every number matters as to why we’re going to keep a channel or dump a channel. So I would be pushing there heavily. And then I would also look at, you know, how can we do things that are going to continue to drive the channels that are working. So if paid search or paid organic are working, how do we then think about can we produce content at a really affordable level to keep driving that? That’s something that a lot of brands can do now with, you know, with all the changes and new technologies that are coming, how can you create more content at scale in a recession?

Tim Warren: You know, one thing I want to riff off of that, Andrew, because,  one of our clients recently, so they spend about a couple of million a month in paid and yet organic. So when we took a look at this and for them it was not as much budget driven, as much more of they want to reduce their reliance on paid and they want to just grow the company. Right. And so as our sales consultants and experts looked at the account, they realized you’re probably about maximize on paid that you can go because you’re spending 1520 million a year on paid But organically they were very anemic. Right? It was very, very anemic because of the spend. Right. And it had been declining for a couple of years. And so as we dug in there, one of the first things we noticed, we went right to we said, let’s go to analytics, let’s take a look. And so when we looked at analytics, what we noticed was, you know, 100,000 visitors coming from paid okay, and 50,000 conversions. But we looked at organic. We said, well, there’s 33,000 coming from organic with like 30,000 conversions. So we quickly realized, just looking at the math, we said, well, this is really interesting because you spend a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent on organic that you do on paid, but yet it’s a third of the traffic of paid.

Tim Warren: And it’s like 3/5 of the conversions. Yeah, that’s super interesting because then the opportunity there is we can pour gasoline on that. Correct. Because there may not be more you can do in paid maybe for them like there’s optimizations, there’s better tweaks or whatever, maybe 10 or 15% like you could gain here. Right. But it’s not hundreds of percent. But with organic, when we looked at that, I was like, Holy crap, we could probably increase these results 700% in this one channel because it’s just under-resourced. Right? But we wouldn’t that data is really important to go look at, which is why it’s so important for brands to have their conversion tracking turned on.

Andrew Squibb: Correct.

Tim Warren: And even the dollar value tracking conversions on there so that we can see the quality. Because if we didn’t have that data, we wouldn’t be able to make that decision. 

Andrew Squibb: Right. 

Tim Warren: And we would just simply say, what drives your leads? Paid? Yeah. Keep spending paid, correct.

Andrew Squibb: Right.

Tim Warren: Correct. Versus oh, but my budget’s shrinking. What do I do? Do I just spend less on paid? And in this case, we might say, oh, if budgets shrinking, let’s go take a look. Oh, organic is pound for pound 100 times the value of cost per conversion. But paid drives you the majority of your conversions because what you spend.

Andrew Squibb: Yeah.

Tim Warren: So we need to keep paid turned on. But what if we could work more towards organic to drive future conversions? And we’re talking to another one of our large brands about this, which is what if the long term play is is is their CMO saying, what if I could turn off paid completely, but they can’t because they need the leads, right. You know, if they’re getting 500 leads a month right now, you can’t just turn them off. Because the sales team needs the leads.

Andrew Squibb: Right.

Tim Warren: But my question was, what if a great North Star goal would be to to replace the need for paid with organic in the next two years? Because for their brand they have a lot of window shoppers or people will search and come to it and then okay and they’ll search and come to it and they waste money because they waste all these paid clicks. So I was like, what if you could just organic rank for those same keywords via organic and then every click doesn’t matter because it’s a fixed cost to rank organically.

Andrew Squibb: Correct. 

Tim Warren: So just as a couple examples of showing if budget gets tighter, sometimes you have to, instead of just saying we’ll cut some paid spend, sometimes the better thing to do instead is to say what actually drives me the highest value conversions for the cheapest rate and reinvest in that versus just I’m going to cut all my paid spend 10% across the board. 

Andrew Squibb: Right.

Tim Warren: That actually might have a lower impact.

Andrew Squibb: It might. Yeah. No, that’s that’s the data that I was talking about is understand it. And if when we do that right, we understand those stories and then we make the right recommendations. Because listen, if the pressure is on them with a cut budget, the pressure is on us to deliver on less of a budget.

Tim Warren: Yeah.

Andrew Squibb: So that understanding that data deeper is really important because it allows us to make the right recommendations because the press is just as much on us as it is on them. And so both of your examples, I think, ring true with what we were talking about.

Tim Warren: Do you another question on this is, I think there are some agencies that really thrive when budgets are tight. And there are some agencies that thrive only when budgets are abundant. Put it that way.

Andrew Squibb: Right.

Tim Warren: They’re great at just spilling the money, right? Just spend, spend, spend, spend, spend. But they’re not very good at being efficient.

Andrew Squibb: Yeah.

Tim Warren: Do you think for some of the marketers listening today, if we really do go into a correction or a recession, should they consider switching agencies? And if so, why? What do you look for in an agency during a recession?

Andrew Squibb: Yeah, I think you should go with the specialists. If you’re going to double down, go with the people who are really good, right? The agencies that are good when the budgets are big and can spend everywhere. Well, if you spend everywhere, you’re going to hit some home runs. You’re going to get some singles, you’re going to win. 

Tim Warren: Totally.

Andrew Squibb: But if you go with the experts, they’re going to drive you in the right path, in the right channels. And they’re probably going to deliver really good results because they’re really good at what they do. So if you focus on search and you go with a really good agency that’s good at organic and paid, they’re going to drive there. You’re going to win there. And you’re going to maximize your dollars. So I actually think that one of the decisions that we made to tighten what we do and be really good at and understanding the algorithms for a few things and the strategies and the technologies and a few things. Makes a lot of sense. And it I think it helps our customers because if their budgets are tight and they go with us, they’re getting the best of low funnel a few things rather than having to win across seven.

Tim Warren: And do you find that’s a great answer, by the way? I think it’s a really smart thing when budgets are tight, go with specialists, not generalists. Because you’re likely to get the best result in each channel.

Andrew Squibb: Correct.

Tim Warren: What are your thoughts, though, with now you have an in-house marketer who’s managing six agencies.

Andrew Squibb: Yeah. 

Tim Warren: Right. So versus one back to back to pat or throat to choke however you like to say that analogy. Right now it’s six and now spreading out all of the responsibility. What are your thoughts on that?

Andrew Squibb: I think that from what we’ve seen is if that marketer is getting great service and great results from the absolute specialist, So the agency that just totally does CRO all day long, that’s all they do. Their experience is going to be really good and it’s going to be okay that they have to do six calls because every call is really good and every interaction is really good and the data is good and the results is good and the strategy is good and the technology is good and the thinking is good. That’s a much better experience from what we found than going with one. Well, they do two really good, but four meetings that I do with them are absolutely terrible and I feel like I’m wasting all my money. What we found is, yes, it’s a little more to manage, but every experience is really good. And so what we play in that, we deliver. And then so they’re coming in in a good mood because they just dealt with an expert who delivered a good experience. They leave because we are an expert in what we do. So we delivered a good experience and they go on to the next one. So we actually think it’s okay because what we’re finding is people want they want expertise. They want good strategy. They want good data, and they want to know that they’re talking to somebody who can answer their question in the moment. They don’t have to call time out, go look for the answer, come back. They can do it because they live it. They breathe it, they eat it, they sleep it, they drink it. And so it’s all the time. And so every interaction they’re getting the best they’re getting the best answer. The best data from an expert who’s done it ten plus years, who knows the space. So they don’t have to call time out and they don’t have to wait. They get it right there. That seems to be really working for our clients and giving a really good experience.

Tim Warren: So if I had to summarize as I’m listening, which I think this is really good advice, if your budget is cut or flat from where it was last year and you’re right because everybody wishes they had more budget to do more things right. Marketing budgets could always be bigger, but if your budget is cut or flat, the kind of an order, what you recommend is very first cut the the lowest traffic source,

Andrew Squibb: Yup

Tim Warren: The lowest performing channel, cut that and add attribution, right? So for us, we use attribution app, but add an attribution tracker that does multi-channel attribution. 

Andrew Squibb: Correct.

Tim Warren: Right. And one like the one we use that allows you to track offline media as well.

Andrew Squibb: Correct. 

Tim Warren: Spend the money to track attribution because if you do not track attribution, you cannot be as efficient with marketing dollars as you can if you track. 

Andrew Squibb: Correct.

Tim Warren: Then number two, what you recommended is, is to pay for attribution, you cut that bottom provider, then you use attribution to start looking at what are my my cost per acquisition, what are my conversion channels. Work backwards from conversion. Not just traffic, not just not just impression share. Right. Or just impressions or Oh, I’m getting 800 million impressions from this TV campaign. Great. How many conversions are we getting? We don’t know. Okay. But it’s paid ads, campaigners, SEO campaign. I know I’m getting 1500 conversions or 1,000 conversions and it cost me this. You should invest more there first because you know what you’re getting. 

Andrew Squibb: Correct. 

Tim Warren: Right. Then you said the third thing was in order to accomplish this, you may have right now an agency that’s a generalist who’s kind of doing everything but in recession times or tight times, you need specialists. 

Andrew Squibb: Correct.

Tim Warren: Because the deep specialists can get the best results with the fewest dollars. Correct.

Andrew Squibb: In the quickest amount of time, less meetings, less back and forth, we can get right to it.

Tim Warren: And I would Even riff off that too, because I feel that while there’s nothing wrong with AORS and we partner with and we love AORS, they’re great partners. If times get tight, you’re probably more likely if you go to use three or 4 or 5 specialists, you’re able specialist firms are usually a little bit smaller. Just in terms of size. And so they’re usually a little more cost effective.

Andrew Squibb: Yup.

Tim Warren:  And they’re probably more flexible with budget to work with you on a little bit lower level where I know a lot of AORS are, you know, they’re very enterprise, they’re large campaigns.

Andrew Squibb: Yup.

Tim Warren: So if you can’t spend a million, 2 or 3 million with a relationship, it doesn’t make sense for their model, right? Because of contractors and all the stuff that goes into it. Whereas in a specialist firm, you can bring in an SEO firm or a TikTok agency for a few thousand dollars a month. 

Andrew Squibb: Correct. 

Tim Warren: That you could not get that kind of service added to your relationship. 

Andrew Squibb: Correct. 

Tim Warren: Or it’s not going to be good or it’s not going to be cheap enough.

Andrew Squibb: It’s not going to be affordable enough and it’s not going to be as specialized or expert as it needs to be.

Tim Warren: Right.

Andrew Squibb: One of the things that I think we’ve seen is because of the specialization and the size, to your point, everybody you talk to knows what they’re talking about.

Tim Warren: Right. 

Andrew Squibb: So you’re getting the expert conversations with the experts all the time. So you leave smarter all the time. That’s way more valuable. And because a smaller agency has to hire experts, they don’t have the ability to hire generalists or, you know, a lot of extra people. Those are the people that are doing the work. So the work gets done faster. 

Tim Warren: Right.

Andrew Squibb: And it gets done right and then the results happen faster. So you’re getting a better experience, you’re getting smarter, you’re getting better data, and then you’re getting the result faster because you’re getting you’re talking to the person who’s doing the work and the work gets done.

Tim Warren: Love it.

Andrew Squibb: If that if hopefully that might have sounded too simple. But that’s generally how it works.

Tim Warren: I mean, the simpler, the better, The simpler the thing, the easier it is to remember.

Andrew Squibb: And that’s what we’re seeing. Yeah. With customers, it’s like, yeah, I might have six, but I know exactly what I’m talking about when I talk to these guys. 

Tim Warren: Right. 

Andrew Squibb: And this is going to get done and this will be the outcome. And then I move on and it seems to work really good for both parties.

Tim Warren: So, Andrew, this has been great. We’re out of time. If people want to have deeper conversations or there’s marketers listening who say, Hey, yeah, I want to run some specific ideas by you. That are maybe take it offline. Maybe it’s, Hey, I have this, this and this. What do you think here? Because, you know, you’ve got 15 years of experience in this space. How can they reach out to you if they have questions so.

Andrew Squibb: They can email me. or they can call me if you want my cell phone number.

Tim Warren: We’ll link it all in the script below.

Andrew Squibb: Yeah, absolutely. 

Tim Warren: Guys, thanks for, for listening. This has been the It’s All Just Marketing podcast. We’ll see you guys on the next one.

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