In Uncertain Times, Stretch Your Budget with Online Advertising

June 15th, 2020 by Alison Zeringue

Throughout these past few months, our industry has experienced roadblocks, challenges, and changes that alter the way we look at the work we do for our clients. We will take a look at three clients and how their experiences measure up to what the experts say about advertising and marketing in the current landscape.

March/April 2019 vs. March/April 2020

  • All cost metrics have improved across the board—aligning with the fact that experts say it is cheaper to advertise right now.
  • Campaigns with Brand Awareness, Lead Gen, Reach, Traffic, and Video View objectives perform especially well.
  • Engagement has increased, demonstrated by a 25% improvement in Click-Through-Rates (CTR)—the percent of impressions who clicked on an ad.

March/April 2019 vs. March/April 2020
We see that increased digital ad inventory and lower competition generate low-cost ads. Digital media and social media usage are up with advertiser competition down, which means it costs less than ever right now to reach larger audiences.

  • Campaigns leveraging video ads, Cost per ThruPlay decreased 64%.
  • Cost Per Engagement has decreased for every objective, which demonstrates a higher level of engagement.
  • CPM and Cost Per Click (CPC) decreased for every objective.
  • 32% in Cost Per Lead (CPLs) for conversion campaigns.

A Search Influence branded graphic showing CPM, CPL, PCLC, CTR from April 2019 to April 2020

Client Impacts

Audiology and Speech Therapy Client

Since the start of COVID-19, an audiology and speech therapy client found itself in flux due to restrictions on non-emergency medicine & procedures. The practice was quick to adopt teletherapy and virtual speech therapy options for its patients. New services and forced closures of the physical clinics created an urgent need to inform existing patients of these new services. It was also imperative to continue the acquisition of new prospective patient leads. The client needed a new gameplan.

Strategy & Tactics

  • Communicate clearly on the website and via email marketing for current patients.
  • Implement Facebook and Instagram Display Network ads with careful monitoring & adjusting.
  • Change advertising creative quickly to promote teletherapy options.
  • Pause all other messaging.

The client found success running advertising in March. The campaign hit a new performance threshold and exceeded the typical monthly lead volume by 69%, at the lowest CPL to date. In April, the lead volume grew an additional 25% and CPL reduced further, by 16% month-over-month. This indicates that the campaign budget is being spent more efficiently than ever on the Facebook Ads platform, with a highly engaged audience.

Higher Education Client

This client offers degree programs and continuing education for a non-traditional student with a focus on online classes. The client was poised for potential growth due to the online nature of their product, but new uncertainties surrounding the future of higher education and the traditional in-person instruction created potential problems.

Our client had to focus on yield while building their pipeline for future semesters. Also, the non-traditional student decision cycle and the journey are typically a long one.

Strategy & Tactics

  • Transition remaining courses online.
  • Play up financial aid, transfer policies, credit for life/work experience messaging.
  • Continue digital advertising—no spending reduction.
  • Leverage client-produced Facebook Live Series for top-of-funnel.
  • Shift blog post strategy focus to online learning & other timely topics.

In March, Facebook Display generated the highest number of inquiries in a single month since its launch, primarily from our lead generation campaign. We saw a 111% increase in inquiries from Google Smart Display month-over-month. In Q1 of 2020, our client achieved 47% of 2019’s inquiries and spent only 29% of the budget.

Reconstruction Surgery Client

A multi-physician cancer reconstruction client with national and international clients had their operations limited by state restrictions on non-emergency medicine. Unfortunately, cancer doesn’t stop in a pandemic, but with fewer people attending routine medical appointments, we wondered if the diagnosis would slow down? With restrictions in place requiring the practice scale back, the client also had to figure out how to be productive and build the pipeline for the future. It was clear we needed to keep their medical marketing plan running full-steam.

Strategy & Tactics

  • Communicate clearly on the website and via email marketing for current patients.
  • Add to top-of-funnel strategy.
  • Continue paid advertising with careful monitoring and adjusting.

During the month of March, our client continued advertising in paid search and saw its lowest CPL in three years on Google Ads and patient inquiries were up 27% in March compared to February 2020 (on Google). In April, based on a drop of impressions, we decided to redirect the budget from Google Paid Search to Facebook Advertising while still keeping the Google Paid Search campaign on.

After this adjustment, we hit our lead volume goal and reduced the CPL acquired via Facebook by 14%. All-in-all, this resulted in exceeding our pre-COVID-19 stated goal for leads from Facebook & Google advertising.

Search Influence branded graphic showing Facebook CPM totals between March 2020 and April 2020


  • Rapid pace of technology adaptation among the greater population has changed consumer behavior for the long haul—those who already offered online options and services see growth.
  • The low cost of Facebook Ads make budgets stretch farther than ever. On Google, while search volume is down, those who search have high intent.
  • Online courses within your industry could offer new revenue stream opportunities. Do you have a special way of doing something that you can share with others in your industry?
  • Facebook lead generation campaigns are making up for volume drops in other lead gen avenues, due to a massive increase in usage of Facebook’s platform.