We’d like to let you in on a secret about our business:
2020 has not gone to plan. Not even close.
- We planned for continued growth in Q2.
- We planned to move to a new headquarters office in July.
- And, we planned a series of content-rich in-person client sessions across H2 2020.
In spite of this, our business remains incredibly healthy because the value we’ve been able to deliver to our clients over the past five-plus months has exceeded even our own lofty expectations.
The Basement’s Integrated Operating Model
The Basement’s Integrated Operating Model was developed and implemented as a solution to aid modern CMO’s in the complex effort of orchestrating activities to optimize the experience of the customer and create business value. We speak of it not as a system so much as an architecture upon which to build successful experiences and outcomes.
While 2020 isn’t running to “plan,” the unprecedented nature of the global economy over the last four months, compounded as it continues to be by the COVID pandemic, has highlighted an inherent value of our model: agility.
When agency and client are viewing, evaluating and activating from the same set of marketing and business metrics, proactive strategic pivots are easy to implement, analyze and iterate. In a word, the cohesive operation is, you guessed it, agile.
- Agile enough to mitigate cost liability when revenue opportunity erodes.
- Agile enough to anticipate changes in consumer behavior and optimize accordingly.
- Agile enough to maximize yield when demand spikes.
An April 2020 survey conducted by the Dentsu Aegis Network found that 95% of marketing leader respondents had adjusted their 2020 marketing plans and 73% were actively planning for an uncertain “recovery.”
When this much change occurs on such a short time horizon, marketing leaders depend on the agility of their partners.
An Unforeseen Preview
In late January, we attended Ad Exchager’s Industry Preview conference in New York City. During the conference, we listened to rapid-fire, forward-looking presentations from business leaders representing Verizon, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Comcast and others, heard the opinions of top economists on the future of advertising and collectively planned for a cookie-less programmatic environment. Little did we know that the lone passenger who boarded our return flight wearing a face mask would be a better harbinger of the trends most impacting our client’s businesses in the coming year.
The agility inherent in our operating model has enabled us to deliver client value in the face of this drastic change in plans. Here are a few examples of that agility at work:
Entertainment and tourism
We are privileged to service a handful of brands in the entertainment and tourism industries. On February 27, 2020, we held our first internal-only proactive planning activity to implement cost mitigation procedures across these accounts, especially where significant investments were contracted for the balance of Q1 2020. On March 10th, we began surfacing these mitigation procedures to our clients and by March 16th, all were fully-implemented. By March 25th, revenue opportunities for our clients in this industry were entirely extinguished for the short term.
While timing is important, it means nothing without the processes to deliver.
Our proactivity in cost mitigation and agility in implementation enabled us to return more than $1.3M in contracted cost for our clients in this vertical (98% of planned cost, only sacrificing expenses associated with completed asset production). Furthermore, the cost mitigation activity in late February prevented contractual commitment on another ~$1M in planned cost.
And our transparent partner approach has allowed us to retain and shift much of the anticipated added value benefits associated with those dollars for a time when investment is more appropriate.
Nothing can rewrite the drastic impact of COVID-19 on our clients in this vertical. That said, the agility to return contracted monies to our clients in this space is critical to their long-term success.
When the pandemic forced hundreds of millions of US consumers to shelter in place, our creative process easily supported appropriate adaptations and our trend monitoring powered tactical agility.
We constantly monitor consumer behavior in the home improvement space for our client, Schlage. This includes trends in online behavior (search, social, web and ecommerce), offline behavior (foot traffic), and conversion (ecommerce and brick and mortar point of sale).
Our own cabin fever led to a hunch that surfaced copious early indicators of a now well-proven trend: interest in do it yourself home improvement has spiked nationwide during the last quarter to historic levels.
On March 13th, more than a week before a plurality of US states enforced stay-at-home orders, we engaged solutions from Pinterest and Google to dive deeper into consumer trends in the category, PlaceIQ to understand foot traffic trends in the vertical, and Amazon for SKU-level category ecommerce activity.
With this information in hand, we recast our market activity plan for Schlage and collaboratively considered product-level investments and the resulting revenue scenarios. We’ve continued in this effort for the subsequent months and have architected all initiatives in the market to allow for minute-to-minute adjustments at the state, market, sales channel and product level. Giving us the ability to optimize the campaign to reflect the nuances of consumer activity in the micro environment.
This shift was made possible by the integrated nature of our partnership with Schlage. Our team’s ability to evaluate strategic options in the context of their extended impact on Schlage revenue, supply chain, sales channel inventory and the myriad factors in the advertising and consumer environment ensures that our recommendations are vetted for their downstream impact before they are ever presented for client consideration.
While the agility to pivot for cost mitigation or refined targeting are critical to success when revenue opportunity or consumer behavior change swiftly, agility to maximize yield when demand spikes is equally important to a value-driving agency-client relationship.
Higher education has felt the profound impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in myriad ways: giant campuses are shuttered, dorm rooms mothballed, and 500-person lectures conducted via Zoom are all placing stress on the collegiate value proposition.
For our client, the American College of Education, virtual education is core to their business, as is delivering a positive impact to the community (B corp). Their value proposition has never been more relevant than it is today.
The new advertising strategy we deployed at the start of our fresh partnership with ACE in January 2020 helped drive 20% growth in core enrollment metrics through the first two months of the year.
That growth rate pitched upward in the March through May period as more and more students began to explore educational opportunities that deliver knowledge in a manner consistent with the societal demands for physical distance. In concert with this trend, our team employed the agility of our operating model to aggressively manage cross-channel investments day-to-day to maximize enrollment yield against core KPIs. That agile effort delivered.
As the dust settled on one of ACE’s key enrollment periods in May 2020, the combined efforts of ACE’s marketing team and our team at The Basement delivered a 55% YoY increase in enrollments, a mark that exceeded aggressive growth goals by 33%. Equally as important, during the same period, our integrated efforts drastically improved yield by driving significant reductions in core KPIs, including a 26% decrease in the cost per enrolled student.
An agile partner
2020 has not gone to plan.
For our company, our clients and our country.
That said, the first half of the year has proven the value of true integrated partnerships and a thoughtfully architected operating model that powers the type of agility necessary to double down when the tide is in and get lean when it invariably goes out.
At a time when Board trust in CMOs and client trust in agencies is low, while the need for value delivery is high, agile processes and transparent partnerships, like ours at The Basement are extraordinarily important.