With the high street still boarded up and all the doom and gloom on the news, you can understand why brands are increasingly panicked about the state of their business, and as such are rethinking their marketing and media strategies.

It is an incredibly uncertain time for advertisers right now. Every day new stories come out about the prospect of a second peak, a world leader falling ill or even touting a radical new potential cure. All of which wreak havoc on consumer confidence and present a whole new set of risks and challenges for advertisers on a daily basis.

As we begin to settle into our new reality, how can you promote your businesses whilst minimising risk? Here are five things businesses can be doing right now to improve efficiency and ensure the profitability of marketing campaigns, both in the short term and the long term.

1. Performance marketing

Affiliate marketing has long been looked down on as being nothing but cashback and voucher codes, but in recent years that couldn’t be further from the truth. Technology developments in various sectors have meant that partners are now able to offer long considered traditional media channels like Search, Display or Social on a pure pay only for performance basis.

Traditionally for elite paid media agency services or access to market-leading marketing tech, advertisers would need to commit to large minimum spend requirements and yearly minimum terms with punishing break clauses. Given the current global crisis committing to these terms and spend levels has become a risk that advertisers can no longer necessarily afford to take.

2. Take control of stock

One of the easiest ways to waste marketing budget is to promote goods you don’t have in stock. Don’t worry, even the greats of retail do this, every day.

Platforms such as Google Merchant Centre will stop you promoting products that are out of stock, but couldn’t you have saved all that ad spend used to promote that last XXXL size?

Pushing stock level data into your product feed will not only vastly improve your efficiency across numerous marketing channels, but can also be utilised for better goal setting. If the stock of a particular product is selling itself, should we be committing precious ad spend towards it? Conversely, with cash liquidity levels of the highest importance in the current climate, if certain stock is proving difficult to move perhaps it would be worth loosening efficiency targets to drive liquidity.

3. Focus on margins

It is one of the most obvious pieces of advice during a time of economic difficulty but you’d be surprised how few advertisers factor margin into their marketing decisions.

Pushing margin to the forefront of your strategy can help drive enormous efficiency gains in almost every marketing channel out there – from obvious things like more intelligent product prioritisation in Shopping & Dynamic Creatives to incentivising more desired behaviour from affiliates and partners.

4. Bring in external data

We as marketers are often very quick to attribute any strong performance to our expertly optimised campaigns. However, I can’t count how many times I’ve sat in on a Monday morning meeting where a poor performing weekend was equally as quickly pinned down to the weather or some big event occurring that weekend.

Obviously whilst locked indoors the weather may not hold quite as much influence and monumental events are few and far between, but why not use this downtime to try and harness the impact of these factors by building systems to account for them in campaigns? Leveraging Weather APIs or pulling in sports schedule feeds into campaigns are just two of many examples of how you can adjust for external factors as they happen.

One prime example, all the more important as cash is tight, is competitor pricing. There are tools and partners out there who will help you benchmark against your competitor set at an individual product level and I would strongly recommend you explore them to make sure you’re making the most of your comparative advantages.

5. Building for the future

This crisis has affected brands in different ways, and unfortunately for quite a few, it has meant marketing budgets have been slashed or stopped completely. This means that for some businesses, there is little to be done to improve current efficiencies. However, there is always something to be done to improve future efficiencies.

Brands we work with have been investing spare resources (both human and financial) where available into long-term projects like SEO, CX or Analytics improvements. We’ve also seen brands set up for the future by investing in training for their teams, both those still working and those on furlough (yes, this is allowed if they’re up for it!). All projects which hopefully once we return to the “new normal” brands will be set up to be more efficient and more profitable than ever.