As we gradually ease out of months of economic lockdown, South African businesses face a long road to financial recovery. The level of devastation differs between industries—tourism, for example, has been hit especially hard while some ecommerce and tech companies may have benefitted from new consumer behaviours—but most brands are feeling the pinch.

Marketing budgets will be under severe pressure until the economy returns to its pre-pandemic shape and size. No brand can afford to waste money speaking to audiences that will never buy its products. Nor can it squander an opportunity to convert a prospect because its messaging was wrong.

Every brand needs to use its rand to hit the right target customer with the right message – every time. As we have seen from some of the winners of the difficult pandemic months, there are already many brands that are getting this right. They know exactly who their customers are, and they reach them with messages that are relevant to their interests, needs and context.

These companies are using technology and data to get to know their customers and prospects. This can be done in ways that are transparent, non-invasive and have customer consent. For example, loyalty cards can be a useful mechanism for gathering data, which can be used in turn to create customised messages and promotions for each customer.

Learning about the audience 
Digital channels, of course, offer many powerful ways to learn about your audience and target the right person with a relevant message at the opportune time. Platforms such as Google and Facebook have made it possible for even small businesses to precisely target the right people with a message, and without spending a fortune on above-the-line mass media.

These platforms let you spend as much as you can afford and give you complete control over your budget, no matter how big or small it is. If you configure the tools correctly, you can minimise wastage by using the platforms’ data to reach appropriate people for the product or service you are selling.

These dynamic, targeted ads mean you can reach and engage customers with a small media budget – something which isn’t appealing only to small businesses and startups in these difficult times. This approach also gives larger brands the ability to rapidly launch more agile, more measurable campaigns at a time when getting bang for the buck is crucial.

You can track spending to final conversion events, provided you use tracking tags, giving you an accurate way to track ROI. If performance disappoints, you can see which target audience, platform or messaging underperformed relative to the other elements in the campaign. You can then adjust your strategy to reduce wastage, optimise performance and improve ROI over time.

Here are some tips for optimising the performance of your digital campaigns:
Set goals within your analytics platform (probably Google Analytics) and measure the results of last-click conversions.
Use tracking tags to go beyond tracking last-click conversions. These tags will enable you to measure conversions and engagements across a few days or weeks. For example, you’ll be able to track a conversion where someone clicked your ad yesterday and returned directly to your site to make a purchase today. 
Use smart bidding capabilities, allowing the platforms to automatically optimise your campaigns in line with your targets. 
If you use multiple media platforms or ad formats with different objectives, you need to understand the role of each channel in the sales journey from awareness to conversion. You may need help from an agency that has expertise in measuring attribution. 
You can build custom audiences on most programmatic and social platforms. Use dynamic ad formats with product feeds to customise ads to a user’s specific interests.
When segmenting your databases for direct marketing, leverage those segments in digital media, too.
If possible, feed data from your CRM system into your analytics data. This will give you better insight into how your ad spending influenced offline sales that are not trackable through tags. You can use these insights to refine your campaign strategy and audience segmentation. 

The good news is that the tools needed to enable this functionality are increasingly accessible and affordable. Under the tough conditions of the current market, focusing on optimising marketing spending to get the best possible return simply makes sense, and that begins with getting the right digital basics in place.