Home SEO ‘You’re only taking so many bets’: How an online veterinary care startup is slashing its marketing budget ahead of economic downturn

‘You’re only taking so many bets’: How an online veterinary care startup is slashing its marketing budget ahead of economic downturn

by Lottar

As the industry braces for the possible economic downturn, online veterinary startup Dutch is working to recession-proof its marketing budget, cutting it by 90% and reducing SEO efforts.

Dutch is not alone in rebuilding plans to deal with ongoing economic uncertainty. Most marketers have been looking for ways to get the most bang for their buck in recent weeks, which requires more hand-holding from agency partners, according to previous Digiday reporting.

As a startup with a tight budget (and limited funding as investors hold on to their dollars a little tighter with a potential looming recession), “you’re only taking so many bets,” says Dutch founder and CEO Joe Spector.

SEO is a channel the startup has experimented with in the past, increasing paid search and keyword efforts after seeing initial success in its first year of business, Spector said.

“We are making a bigger investment in SEO because now we clearly see that it leads to results and conversions,” he said, adding that the change has led to higher website traffic and customer retention.

Historically, the one-year-old, California-based startup regularly spent up to $750,000 on advertising and marketing on channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Google Display and Google AdWords, according to a spokesperson for the brand. But by March of this year, that figure had been reduced by 90%, allocating a larger share of spend to paid search. Around the same time, per Spector, Dutch went from an estimated $25,000 a month in SEO to $75,000 a month.

There are plans to increase that investment in SEO, according to Spector. He added that although the budget decreased, the optimized efforts and intensified SEO strategy resulted in higher website traffic and increased customer retention. He did not provide specific figures.

That’s not to say that paid search and SEO are the end all be all of Holland’s marketing strategy. Given its limited budget, Facebook has narrowed from a brand awareness channel to a way to retarget customers, according to the CEO.

Brands are increasingly nervous about their media investments ahead of a potential recession, said Shalanna Clark, chief marketing officer at Code3 digital marketing agency. She said that while not many Code3 clients have tried to reduce budgets, there have been discussions about maintaining budgets or testing other channels that could become cheaper with a recession.

“It does pay, but it’s a slow build,” Clark said of the brand’s SEO investment, adding that SEO is often an investment that takes a while to see results. Still, media channel diversification is key in the long run, according to Clark. “If you have some sort of test budget, even if it’s small, there’s an opportunity to get a part,” she said.

With at least a year in business, Dutch has found its footing and where it fits in the market. That said, they want to invest in brand awareness with experimental channels next year, according to Spector.

“Trademark is a tax that you have to invest in all the time. It’s something we’re going to revisit now that we’ve starved ourselves a little bit,” he said. “We’re ready to eat a little bit on the brand side.”

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