Every article, blog, RSS feed, and tweet I’ve read lately talks about making sure your SEM campaigns are maximizing their return on investment.
Here’s my response: Save the white for summer.
Here in Q2, as we start planning our marketing budgets for 2012, we have a responsibility to jump off our “high level” thrones, and start defining viable strategies that will maximize the one thing better than looking good in person—looking good on paper.
Bottom line profits.
But What’s Wrong With Maximizing ROI?
It’s a fair question.
I’ve been asked about this numerous times, and I found the following analogy to help.
Imagine you’re a soda salesperson. Now, you pride yourself on being an amazing salesperson. You can sell ice to an penguin and run of network display media to a direct response marketer.
Your price for a bottle of soda – $1. Now, you can sell that bottle for $100 (because you’re that good), but the problem is, it’s going to take you a long time to move product.
People are getting too smart, and their phones are even smarter. Just one snapshot with Google Goggles, and they’ll know every soda price within a 20 mile radius and the cheapest gas stations to fill up en route to boot.
So, for the sake of example, let’s just say it takes, on average, 3 months of good ol’ fashioned hustling to sell that bottle for $100.
But hey! You just got a ONE HUNDRED to one ROI! Amazing.
In the meantime, your counterpart down the street is selling bottles at $1.25. He isn’t even close to a 2 to 1 ROI. However, it doesn’t take much to move product at this price, and it turns out that your competitor can easily sell 5 bottles a day.
After 90 days of consistent 1.25 to 1 ROI execution, you meet and compare numbers.
The 100 to 1 ROI sounds good, but at the end of the day, the second salesman ends up netting more profits. The first guy made a profit of just $99.
The second guy finishes the same 3 months with more than 10% higher profit—a handsome $112.50.
The moral of this totally, oversimplified story is even simpler.
A campaign’s success is ultimately dressed in black. Black ink bottom line numbers. Profit.
The Difference Between ROI vs. Profits
ROI is a great KPI for monitoring overall campaign health, but it’s just a rate.
So how do we evolve from an ROI-focused approach to one that’s profit-maximizing?
The first step is to understand the relationship between operational profit and your advertising budget.
Your media spend is essentially one of many line items that add up to COGS (Cost of Goods Sold), or the cost of goods sold. Once you’re able to determine average margin of profit on your goods, then factor in ad spend, you can come up with a rough estimate of what your COGS percentage is.
The next step involves some calculation, using the square root rule to predict when you’ll hit diminishing returns on an advertising buy.
Here is an example:
Assume you spent $1,000,000 on marketing last year, generating $3,000,000 sales.
Your profit factor is 35%, yielding profit of $3,000,000 * 0.35 – $1,000,000 = $50,000 .
What would happen if you cut 20% from your marketing budget.
In working with many smart business people and analysts in the past few months, I came to appreciate the ease of accessing web analytics.
Who knew that math and data would become a main revenue driving force for businesses big and small?
Every business is fast becoming a data-generating machine.
From upstream to downstream, data rewards us with actionable insights to make profitable decisions via controlled experiments allowing us to advance our business models.
And yet, this is just the beginning as the number of people connected to the web continues to grow, so too does the vast amount of information about those individuals.
According to McKinsey Global Institute, “collecting, storing, and mining big data for insights can create significant value for the world economy, enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of companies and the public sector and creating a substantial economic surplus for consumers.”
Collect and Analyzing Data for ROI
We can’t mine data we don’t have, so now is the time to focus on data gathering.
Simply put, data will produce new value for businesses whether it’s setting up web analytics, collecting email addresses or compiling transaction data, the ability to turn data into actionable insights equals the ability to make money on the social web.
In addition data is the foundation for business return on investment (ROI) that enables predictive analysis to explore highly targeted and optimized marketing campaigns.
ROI-centric businesses focus on maximizing the lifetime value of a customer, which in many cases refers to customer retention and the cost of sale.
That means leveraging weighted algorithms and attribution models to target and re-target the “next-best” opportunity.
The key is to put data in context and “translate” them into meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs).
For example, a controversial topic that I often come across is the concept of social media ROI.
In reality, social media analytics and engagement data do not have a transparent cause-and-effect ROI so analyst Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group came up with a simple formula to look at social media ROI.
By focusing on business goals, he recommended companies to develop a standardized way to measure first based on objectives, a fundamental starting point to put ROI in context.
An important aspect of reporting ROI is to put data in perspective for everyone involve. It’s indicative that social media ROI requires mapping the right data to the right role because different data sets mean different ways of measuring, segmenting and analyzing.
The Increasingly Social Search: Social Media Data
Although search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have provided tremendous insights into customer behavior, the rise of actionable social media data is adding fuel to the explosive growth of digital information.
Now that Search engines are integrating social signals into their algorithms, social is going to play an important role to increase efficiency in targeting.
Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can help generate even more granular, multifaceted customer segmentation from profiles, posts, click histories, and usage logs by identifying influencers and leaders within social groups, as well as their followers and outliers.
Not only can Social media distribute marketing messages out faster, they allow companies to gain deeper insight into customer behavior in much more detailed than it has ever been.
In addition, social media enters into early majority phase of adoption according to a recent survey by Regus, more firms are using social media to engage with existing customers than a year ago, with the following highlights:
50% of businesses in the U.S. use websites such as Twitter to engage, connect with and inform existing customers
In the U.S., 55% of firms encourage their employees to join social networks such as Linkedin and Xing
38% of U.S. companies dedicate up to 20 percent of their marketing budget to business social networking activity
Globally, the survey reported a seven percent increase in the proportion of businesses successfully recruiting new customers through social networks such as Facebook
Geolocation: Adding Space and Time to Data
Local data is one of the most valuable forms of data because it can put local business in touch with potential customers while they’re in the vicinity of the business.
Do you wonder why all of a sudden people are “checking in” on Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook and Twitter?
According to IBM Engineer Jeff Jonas, “With roughly 600 billion data transactions from cellular phones on a daily basis, adding space and time to traditional data objects can help predict where someone will be on a given day and time with up to 87 percent accuracy, for example. Adding space-time works because, oddly enough, of physics.”
The bottom line is that it is about giving youself the highest chance of marketing success by targeting customers that fit your business model.
Needless to say that it is important to collect the right data (context counts!), but the intrinsic value is in your ability to extract actionable insights beyond trends and patterns that reveal profitable opportunities.
The only question that remains for you is this – what data are you collecting, why, and how does that fit into the big picture?
Much has been written about Internet marketing strategies and how marketers can leverage techniques to get the desire outcome. What isn’t discussed enough, at least from my perspective, is the need to go beyond techniques, tools and analysis to get a long-term sustainable ROI (return on investment).
To be success in Internet marketing, you need to have the ability to see the big picture strategically and zoom in to the details tactically with your execution.
It’s what Steven Schussler calls the “helicopter view,” so you gain enough mental altitude to see the overall objectives while still be able to descend, hover, and see the details, too.
Sustainable ROI goes back to the roots of direct marketing and direct marketing focuses on measuring, iterating and never stop testing.
But where do you start and how do you know what you’re doing is right?
Well, I’m going to share some tips that have guided me for years.
Understand Significance vs Success
The key to online marketing success isn’t just about getting the ROI, increase conversion rates or fascinating content that gets viral social media sharing.
It’s your ability to identify the significance and success of what you do.
Let’s get into more details here.
Significance: This is about making the most impact with what you can do. This is also an area where you select the weapon of your choice whether it’s SEO, email marketing, social media, paid search (PPC) or content marketing.
Think in terms of how to get the most value out of the tactics you choose with the least effort. This requires you to further question your objectives and dig deeper to ask the question why and how.
Success: This is about achieving your goals. Sustain high ROI in PPC, be on the first page of Google organically, receive thousands or retweets and Facebook likes and finally delivering the sales target for the month.
It’s the satisfying aspect of your marketing that keeps you going and bringing you money. It’s also a confidence booster to keep measuring and testing your hypothesis.
You know you’re doing something right to attract the audience you want and your strategy is working.
Not only does this give you more motivation to be even more successful, it also aids in elevating your credibility and authority as a marketer.
Find what’s significant
Many marketers and business owners are used to the way they approach their business that often they forget business is a living, breathing thing. It requires constant innovation to develop a business model that’s sustainable for the short-term.
I’d argue that the same applies to marketing strategies.
The point is that when you do marketing, you should keep questioning yourself on what’s important and why.
Perhaps you have a goal to increase traffic by 200% but how significant is that to the business?
Does more sales equates to more profits?
How do you gain top line profits?
Are repeat customers buying high volume, low margin items?
The point is that you need to translate the value of your marketing objectives to a long-term business value. It’s not just about translating web and social analytics to business data. It’s looking at for both short-term and long-term impact of your actions.
How does social media fit into my media acquisition strategy?
What does the number of Twitter followers, Facebook fans, RSS subscribers mean to a brand?
How will it change in 3 years? 5 years?
Clarity matters but more importantly, it’s about developing a framework around the strategy you’ve developed to achieve business goals for the long run.
Define meaningful success
It’s true that you can get clients with a proven ROI, to the point that it becomes your marketing (reputation is marketing).
But ROI is really only half of the story.
The truth of the matter is, you can’t have really good ROI without really good data. And since businesses are using data as the top performance metric, it’s really important to know what to measure and how to measure success with data.
Why? Because there is an oversupply of data and there is a growing demand in manipulating and extracting meaning from large data sets. We simply don’t realize just how fast and how much data is being created that may help us make better business decisions.
Simply put, you need to define meaningful wins and back it up with data that supports your success.
In fact, I couldn’t agree more with the statement “data is the plastic of the 21st century” made by Om Malik of GigaOm said during the Structure Big Data Conference.
Business models evolve with human behaviors so why wouldn’t KPI (key performance indicators) evolve too?
This is especially true with disruptive technology that creates the perfect storm like the one we have now with social, search, mobile and cloud computing.
And to keep up with these changing landscape you need evidences to support your decisions.
The take away: If you find that your Internet marketing strategy isn’t delivering the result you want, maybe it’s time to go deeper to identify meaningful success and tie-ins that are significant.
Don’t be satisfy with the data you have on hand; simply look for new ways to access data that can help you define success once you understand what’s significant.
Check and see if the strategy fits the objective by examining the business from both high-level and granular-level to ensure your success is truly success
Although online marketing will depend on these two critical elements, it’s also important to know that this applies to our lives as well.
Like many digital marketers, I consume and create large amount of content daily. Whether it’s doing research or analyzing data, I’ve come to realize the economic value of attention.
It’s relatively easy to create and publish content nowadays because technology has made it cost-effective and efficient.
This isn’t the case when it comes to consuming content because our attention simply doesn’t scale. Just like our personal values have to be sorted and ranked in order for us to make wise and consistent decisions, so do our values for consuming information.
As more and more businesses and individuals continue to produce digital content, one trend is starting to emerge as the explosion of content proliferates – the role of curators.
Moving forward, it’s important to look beyond the value that content creates but also how it gets consumed.
The gatekeepers to quality: Content curators
Unlike traditional media authorities such as The New York Times or Wall Street Journal, new media curators are the barometers of quality content that help harness our inherent need to consume personalized information.
A video on YouTube gets 50% of its views in the first 6 days it is on the site
After 20 days, a YouTube video has had 75% of its total view
In 2008, it took 14 days for a video to get 50% of its views and 44 days to get 75% of its views.
The proliferation of video content is setting new standards in both reach and speed. However; at the same time most online video viewers watch mere seconds, rather than minutes, of a video.
According to another study by TubeMogul, “most videos steadily lose viewers once ‘play’ is clicked, with an average 10.39% of viewers clicking away after ten seconds and 53.56% leaving after one minute.”
And finally let’s check out Facebook.
The thing to keep in mind is that Facebook has their EdgeRank algorithm which determines what content users will see from the pages they “like.”
Basically it’s like the organic links in Google. If you want to grab attention you need to first format your content so it’s Facebook-friendly and then send it out at the right time.
For the optimize time to market on Facebook, I’ll turn to Dan Zarrella’s infographic on the “5 Questions and Answers about Facebook Marketing.”
I’ve seen studies that put the percentage of posts that make it through to users’ news feeds at less than 5% while post feedback ranges from 0.01% to 1.5%.
The bottom line is that Facebook is more relationship-focused than push-focused so it’ll take time for marketers to come up with a standardized metrics that measures something meaningful.
The other interesting development is Facebook’s own CPC network (like AdWords) called Facebook ads that has the ability to deliver quality traffic on a comparable volume scale.
The difference is that Facebook ads tries to look less like an ad and more like an editorial that’s of interest to the user. (I’ll be going over this soon)
The value of social
For now I don’t have the answer to the intrinsic value of social media, but I do know that it’s not just about increase advertising impressions or click through rates.
Still, as Facebook continues to roll out new products and revise its algorithm, it’s best to monitor and allocate small amount of time and resources to do your own testing.
And finally, keep in mind that the content decay data provided above are on logged-in users “actively” engaging each social media platform.
What does this mean?
Social media is just one channel and a user may engage in multiple channels (email, search, offline ads) and within each channel he/she may have different accounts for different purposes so treat each platform autonomously.
A per who uses email may have two email – one for personal, the other one for work. Personal email usually don’t get checked as often so time-sensitive content needs a clear segmentation and different engagement tactics. Or a use may only check personal email on their mobile device so optimizing for mobile experience would be a priority.
A user may have multiple social network accounts but choose to engage each at different time for different purposes. This requires tailored content for for each social network in order to deliver the optimal experience. You may use similar content from a content strategy perspective, but the ad copy or marketing message must fit the context within the social network.
Here is an overview of how often people use social media from a combination of comScore reports and research by Wedbush Securities.
Clearly Facebook is the dominating platform with a huge distance between itself and the rest of the social networks in terms of unique visitors.
There is also further data to show that people are using Facebook more frequently than did on a daily and weekly basis compare to sites like Twitter and Linkedin.
When it comes to social media marketing, keep in mind that each social network has their own unique user experience and habits thus size may not always be the most important factor.
There is no one-size fits all strategy.
The take away: As the “gold rush” to producing content continues, the need for curators will increase disproportionately to the number. The value of content on social media will continue to evolve bringing new challenges for your content to stand out in the digital realm.
Simply put, if content is currency, then attention creates leverage by serving up the right content at the right time.
Do not shortcut your best ideas for easier consumption, instead, focus on your desire outcome with measurable ROI.
As Seth Godin has said, “We don’t have an information shortage, we have an attention shortage.”
Here are some of my recommendations:
Tailor your content for each social media platform in relevancy. (short-form goes to Twitter, medium-form goes to Facebook, long-form goes to blog etc.)
Reiterate content for behavior change with an emphasis on quality not quantity. (repeat is ok but there is a fine line between consistency and spam)
Focus on optimizing your content so users can consume them in the least amount of time.
Make it simple but not simpler and as straight forward as possible.
Run experience test to see how your content performs at different time frames, 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds…etc.
Use your Google analytics to help you identify what visitors are doing once landed on your site. (How long do they stay, how many pages do they read, when do they return again…etc)
Use engaging call-to-action without been pushy or salesy.
Conduct an usability audit on your website user interface. (what got clicked, where do people go, bounce rates…etc…use In-Page Analytics from Google Analytics)
Balance your design with function that support each page’s objective.
Run simple A/B split testing, multi-variant testing and user experience testing. (mix and match images, graphics, headlines, copies and layout)
If you made it this far, why not let me know what you think?
Or if you’re just scanning, I hope you go back and re-read this post again!
Today I have some special news to share with you – I’ve joined WebMetro.
2 years ago I informed you about designdamage’s transition to become a blog. I started blogging because of my passion for understanding the impact of disruptive technology and social media has on our everyday lives.
Since then I’ve learned a great deal about Internet marketing that I’ve come to realize marketing isn’t just a job to me — it’s who I am and what I’m about. From endless nights of writing blog posts to reviewing trends and data on the weekends, marketing is a passion that’s part of my life.
This is why I share my experiences, observations and insights exploring the impact of Internet technology on marketing, advertising, media, business, communications, and culture.
But despite the unique experience, I’ve decided to take an opportunity which I feel can accelerate my growth and a good fit for my family (I just got married 6 months ago).
As of last Wednesday I’ve started my first day as an eMarketing Analyst with WebMetro, a marketing agency specializes in creating high-conversion, interactive direct marketing services via internet marketing – PPC, SEO, contextual and display advertising.
Personally, I can’t think of a better way to put my ideas to action when this opportunity came out of nowhere. Working for myself offers freedom and control but working at a firm like WebMetro offers scale with a wealth of great minds working together not to mention they’re a team of ROI fanatics.
Although WebMetro had exceptional success in PPC working with Fortune 500 companies, I hope to bring some perspective on a more holistic and integrated approach with social media, SEO and content marketing.
You can expect to see me working with new clients and moving the WebMetro digital presence forward.
In addition, with the announcement of adding social context into the search mix, Google just introduced a whole new set of algorithm in an attempt to make search more social.
If you’re a business, you have to overcome disruptive technologies in order to cope with the rapidly evolving landscape of social media and consumer behaviors.
That makes it even more challenging for modern marketers to get a true ROI (return on investment) out of every marketing dollar.
This is why it’s important than ever to have the right approach to creating your marketing strategy.
If you’re going to invest in online marketing you need to focus on the value of what you’re doing. So here then are some marketing ROI advices that I’ve picked up over the years and feel are most relevant today.
Have short-term goals with a long-term outcome in mind
Would you like to get a ton of traffic?
How about more subscribers? Or perhaps you could use a higher conversion rate?
The problem with those questions is that they’re simply too broad and abstract. When setting your goals for social media, SEO or even content marketing you need to know why you’re doing it and what the “specific” expected outcome would be in a given time frame.
And what does getting that outcome mean for your business?
How does that impact the bottom line?
No, I don’t mean in the number of retweets or Facebook likes, but in dollar figures.
In how long and at what cost?
If you’ve decided to invest in a 12-month campaign, you need to first identify incremental goals that you set out to achieve rather than just eyeing the end result.
Looking at your weekly traffic in a given month won’t tell you much, but give it enough time, you’ll be able to connect the dots between cause and effect, that’s when the story emerges.
Too many businesses abandon what might have been a successful strategy had they stick with the original plan. The trick is to focus on getting that first small success to build momentum and confidence.
What are the short-term goals? What are the long-term benefits?
Having a short-term goal allows you to stay on track so you can make adjustments alone the way to get to the final outcome you had in mind.
Think like an analyst, act like a startup
We want to know more about our target customer. We want to know when, where, how and why they clicked on our links.
Historically, customer data is what enable companies to increase the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. But at what cost?
Information has never been so widely available than it is today. The access to data is virtually free but what’s not free is how you translate data into useful insights.
These insights give us actionable steps to take and put behaviors in buckets.
The thing to remember is that all information and data are lagging indicators. They’re good references to help you develop your strategy but ultimately you’re using rational logic on irrational subject matter – human emotions.
It helps to analyze data but Internet marketing strategy requires adaptability.
This means listening to the market then translate the demands of the business environment into an action plan.
Develop your marketing strategy should be like a startup figuring out how to make money or survive until the next round of funding.
Not only do startups have to be nimble, they have to think creatively without just throwing money at their problems.
Social media is the perfect example. Not every brand is ready to let go of their reputation but the choice no longer belongs to the brand. It’s now in the hands of the customer.
This shift in power changes the relationship between business and its customers.
If you can’t change the customer, you have to change your business. Why not make updates to customer service procedures and distribute responsibility across multiple resources?
Change is hard but no business can stay at the top without staying with the rate of change.
Identify potential risks and rewards
Facebook recently rolled out all new Fan Page designs and now may even be phasing out the Share button entirely so how are you ever going to get your return on investment out of something that’s always changing?
This is where you need to make your planning and risk analysis commensurate with the size of your marketing strategy.
For large scale campaigns, contingency plans are critical. Again it comes down to asking the right questions.
If we put our money in A, what’s going to happen to B? If A works, how will we deal with C?
Pay attention to the risk vs reward metrics and know when to cut your losses if a campaign isn’t delivering the result you want. Don’t let your desire to succeed be the enemy of good judgment.
A good place to start is to have a clear justification on the next step with your team’s support or have outside opinions to help bring clarity to your process. Then establish a measurement framework that can be used to determine the value of your activities.
Needless to say, every marketing strategy has its own risks and rewards.
Ask yourself what’s the best scenario? What’s the worse that can happen?
Remember, most successful marketing strategies only works for a short period of time based on things that don’t account for the constantly evolving nature of the market.
When the next Facebook or Groupon shows up, it’s back to the drawing board developing, testing and executing new strategies.
Although all companies face different degrees of these hurdles, knowing how your customer’s behavior is the key to attenuating organizational risk.
Even CMOs worldwide have a dramatic difference in measuring social media ROI. According the eMarketer. “Asked about social media activities with the highest ROI based on older metrics with less of a focus on the bottom line, CMOs were most likely to say they did not know the return from any channel other than their company’s online community. Even Facebook and ratings and reviews, the two top venues with “significant ROI,” failed to win over more than about 15% of respondents..”
As you can see, marketers are trying to justify the value of site traffic, pages views, positive buzz, fans and followers on the impact of conversions.
There is definitely a shift in the way marketers measure social media ROI because in marketing, EVERYTHING is a test.
Know the weaknesses in your strategy
While there are a ton of free valuable content and strategy out there, that to doesn’t’ mean they’ll fit your needs. This is why some marketing strategies fail because of false assumptions based on irrelevant data.
Businesses usually implement Internet marketing strategies and would ask for help for the one of the following three reasons:
A company tried something, got good results and would like to replicate the result continuously but lacks resources.
The company is stuck and needs help to make their strategy more profitable and/or want some advice on how to do it (i.e. usually this happens if the strategy is no longer working as well as it has in the past or just can’t keep up with all the changes) and
Something happened recently and has hurt the strategy’s performance and the company is desperately seeking answers to understand why everything went wrong (i.e. What? Google changed algorithm again and all our SEO disappeared, please help!)
Which brings up an important point – if you don’t know the weak points in your strategy (and execution), it isn’t because they don’t exist but rather you haven’t discovered them yet!
In my experience, no strategy out there doesn’t have some sort of soft spot (or many) whether it’s because it doesn’t work in some niche markets or the audience just isn’t ready for that concept.
For example, according to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll shows that both Google and Facebook attract young, affluent, and educated Americans in large numbers. More than half of those are under the age of 50 with a college degrees and making more than $90,000 a year.
It may sound like a good idea to go after audience in those channels but looking into further details you’ll find that the report went on to say that the data does not include “how many times a week they visit the sites or how much time they spend on the sites, meaning this analysis gauges raw audience reach rather than engagement.”
This means that the report is only a high-level overview of the types of users that are in those channels. Not a good indicator.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket when making assumptions.
When necessary purchase useful data will save you time and money if you know how to use data to your advantage.
The take away: When looking at your marketing strategy, identify short-term goals that fits into the long-term ROI is where you’ll find value that matches your bottom line.
Many marketing activities are part of an overall strategy that won’t have immediate or direct impact on sales simply because they’re cumulative activities.
Positive marketing ROI are the results of incremental investment in time, money and resources. Just because some activities aren’t part of an ROI calculation, it doesn’t mean their costs shouldn’t be justified.
At the end, it all comes down to this: Business is about continuous profits (doing meaningful transactions) while marketing is about increase profits over time.
And strategy is a process to implement those profit generating activities for the business to measure the effectiveness of its marketing.
So, next time you’re working on a marketing strategy, take the time to ask yourself this simple question – What’s your long-term desire outcome?
Social media is changing how businesses find customers and how customers engage with brands. There are many reasons to believe that it will eventually overtake email marketing, but I’m a firm believer that it’s here to stay.
In fact, I believe email marketing combine with search (SEO) and social media will the best strategy moving forward.
However; let me get a few things straight. First, email is the original social network. Second, you need email to open social network account and get alerts.
And third, search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) will continue to index and aggregate social network data not to mention most social network has their own internal search engine as well.
It sounds like there is a lot of cross-over between the three, so how should you use these three tactics to help you strategize your marketing efforts?
It’s hard to realize how these tactics can impact your business without some basic understanding of the big three. Let’s look at how each works and what you can do to get the most bang for your marketing bucks.
The Big Three #1 – Email Marketing
Why email – Today it’s hard to find someone without an email account and majority of account holders have had it for a while (I still check my hotmail from 14 years ago) thus letting it go is not likely for most.
Account holders may reduce the time they spent on email but it doesn’t have the abandon rate (Facebook, Twitter) like majority of the social networks.
Almost all basic business communications are done via email not via social networks. The perception is that it’s more secure, private and user friendly (centralized contacts, integrates with calendar, easily accessible via mobile devices).
Simply put, people will use what’s easy to achieve the same goal – to get work done and to communicate.
Another benefit of email is that it’s a direct private channel of communication to alert customers on new product offerings or promotions. At the same time, customers can use e-mail to provide feedback and ask questions.
Done right, you will be kept away from the spam folder and earn a permanent spot on the white list.
This is why great email marketers tend to focus on delivering high value content at the right time, with the proper frequency using attractive subjective lines that encourage clicks and forwards.
Building your email list should still be all marketers’ top priority. Give people a reason to subscribe and to remain subscribed is the ongoing art and science of email marketing.
The Big Three #2 – Search Engine Marketing
Why SEO – This one should be a no brainer. What is the first thing you do when you’re looking to buy a product? If you do your homework you would first Google it.
This applies to almost anybody looking to learn more about a company, a product or how to do something.
Often times, people don’t even question the search results because it’s just easier to trust Google’s rankings and feel good about the decisions you’ve made based on what was found.
It’s no surprise that 79% of United States hiring managers and job recruiters search online information about job applicants according to a recent research commissioned by Microsoft.
They understand search engine is catered to “people” and people want relevant, valuable content that’s going to move them a step closer to identify the information they’re searching for.
The key is to create great content around what your customers are interested in when looking for your product; such as how things work (the outcome of your product or services), step-by-step guides or research reports that reveals product comparisons.
Then tie these high quality content with relevant keywords and over time you’ll likely to move higher through the non-paid “organic” rankings. And today you can SEO anything from websites, blog posts, videos, images, podcasts you name it.
SEO is one of the key marketing arsenals especially for retailers, direct marketers and authors.
The latest Internet Retailer Survey (some sample data below) clearly shows a growing interest and investment in search to drive more online sales. It’s not a matter of why, but how.
There is simply too much information and too little time. Search engine is our instant gratification to today’s ADD (Attention-Deficit Disorder) society.
The Big Three #3 – Social Media
Why Social – If search engine is a way for people to find information, then social media is a way for people to find conversations and be part of them.
It adds the credibility fuel to the fire of trust since social media is basically word-of-mouth. Instead of just believing in what you read from company websites or reviews you found online, you can talk to people you trust or listen to experts you follow.
Similar to search, you can get people to your site with social media, and it’s a great tool to tell customer stories, demonstrate expertise, and stack up your social proof to win business from competitors.
The goal is to connect with customers on an ongoing basis to further understand their needs, wants and concerns.
This will help you to build strong, lasting and engaging relationships with your customers for future business as well as referral opportunities by getting people to share your products on social networks to bring in traffic and find new customers.
And since social media is word-of-mouth, it’s your brand’s reputation on the line. Your digital reputation is your first impression and perception is reality.
How The Big Three Can Work Together
Although you can choose to only do one or two of the three, but to get the most out of your marketing investments, you should consider doing all three.
Here are a few ideas to consider on how to leverage the big three:
1) Create Once, Recycle Many– Focus on content not just promotions and sales, it’s about facilitating people through the sales cycle. People usually don’t buy base on just one piece of data think of it as adding “trust points” to people’s decision to buy.
If prospects consumed a great piece of educational content on your landing page, that’s one point. If they read some great reviews about your product from a third party site, that’s another point.
If there is more positive comments than negative ones about your brand in social networks, that’s another point.
The goal is to accumulate enough trust so prospects feel good about why they’ve made the decision over you than others.
You want to invest your time and money on creating the best blog content, how-to articles, educational videos, whitepapers or anything that will get your audience to bookmark, download and share.
Then make sure you optimize the content for search engine with the proper keywords and deliver them to the right people in your target channel via email and social networks.
For example let’s say you have a really good article on how to do something (try not to involve your product first, focus on solving the problem then introduce your product later when appropriate), you can package it in a downloadable PDF put it on a landing page that’s highly optimize for SEO.
Then abstract the summary from the content for your email newsletter so you can send your subscribers to that very same landing page, a typical web marketing campaign.
But let’s take it a step further by turning that piece of content into a video (using screen capture tools like Camtasia, or with a webcam or FlipVideo) and upload it to YouTube, Ustream or Vimeo to drive traffic back to your landing page.
Then post the video on your blog, tweet it out via Twitter, send it to relevant groups on LinkedIn or submitted to social network sites like Technorati, Digg, Reddit or StumbleUpon. Continue to produce great content and after 3-6 month you can recycle that piece of content with some updates and do it again.
2) Streamline with Process – Think about how your customers consume information and respond to connections.
It’s NOT jamming the information down their throat like traditional one-way push advertising but allowing them to discover and get permission to establish a relationship.
Talk to your customers, ask them what they read, who influence them and why? Understand what they don’t care about (don’t be surprise if it’s a lot of what you do) is just as important as what they care (a lot of what you should know).
If you make the wrong assumption it will bring you the false conclusion which will impact on how you strategize your campaign.
For example if you know your customer reads certain blogs regularly, should you advertise on their site or is it better to build a relationship with the blogger?
Once you’ve made your decision, focus on identifying the path to your web properties.
Take out a piece of paper and map out that path and create a process to streamline every possible step that your customer may take so you can funnel them via your sales pipeline.
Remember, not everyone consumes media the same way, some people like to read while others prefer to watch videos or listen to a podcast.
It’s important to have as many media options as possible available to maximize engagement opportunities.
3) Target, Track and Repeat – Without the right data you won’t know where to focus your marketing efforts and no accountability in your actions.
What happens after your prospect conducts a search?
What actions were taken after consuming your content?
Was it shared on Facebook or forwarded to a colleague?
The biggest benefit from tracking your email, search and social media analytics is that you will be able to tie them all together and figure out your ROI.
You’ll know where your site visitors are coming from, which email links they clicked on and what gets shared so you can make adjustments to improve conversion rates.
Why continue to do something that doesn’t work?
You need to know so you can keep doing what works and stop doing what doesn’t. Perhaps Facebook is not the best social network to target your audience or is it because your marketing messages aren’t resonating with them?
Marketers must aggregate customer behavior information to build a holistic view of the customer.
This means analyzing quantitative data to measure and monitor customer-related metrics such as customer attrition rate, customer retention rate, number of products purchased, repeat purchases, likelihood to recommend, etc.
When you have the right customer insights, you’re in a position to address customer needs, improve processes (to shorten the sales cycle), and to maintain a strong connection for an opportunity to turn customers into fans and fans to brand evangelists.
Do Your Homework, Fish Where Fish Are
Before you start, you should learn where your customers are at, the tools they use and why. This allows you to make better informed decisions and build a framework for your assumptions before you jump in. You can find some valuable research data from the internet and here are two examples I’ve found.
First is the Morgan Stanley Internet Trends Analysis, which has a lot of in-depth information about all things internet, mobile, cloud computing, email, social networks and more. (Check out slide 12 on social networking vs email usage).
The second report is from Edison Research on “Everything You Need To Know About Who’s Using Twitter.” I found it particularly interesting that people actually go to Twitter to learn about products, far more than they do with other social networks. (51% of active Twitter users follow companies, brands or products on social networks)
The take away: Email marketing, search engine optimization and social media are all great, but it takes a combination of know-how and creativity to get people just to open your e-mail, to click on your search results or to retweet your messages.
Business owners and marketers need to have some technical knowledge of what methods produce positive results.
Your goal should be to have a mix and balance of the big three utilizing content strategy that is useful and easy to share.
Think like a publisher, not only do you have to figure out ways to engage your subscribers (and to remain subscribed) but also prospects, people on the fence and try to sway influencers your way.
Whether it’s for your marketing research or product innovation, the intention for gathering these data should NEVER be for spamming but to help integrate your value proposition into what people are truly interested in.
If you can become part of what people are interested in, you will have a better chance of connecting. Therefore it’s best to utilize permission marketing when executing your communication strategy.
Getting more data is great, but it’s not intended so you can just add more people to your weekly email blast.
Making quantitative analysis can help you create interesting ideas that differentiate your brand and drive actions.
So how can social media create opportunities for you?
Understand The Social Network Ecosystem
First, learn how each social network ecosystem works and the habits of the emerging “social consumers.”
Think of each social network as a town and the ecosystem is basically the infrastructure of the town.
Knowing how each social network is used is like having the map of the town.
Once you have knowledge of the streets around town, the next step is to find and connect with your customers.
This is where my last post comes in handy, if you can identify a social consumer online, he or she is more likely to have multiple social networking accounts which can help you to further profile your target audience.
This is especially helpful if you use a CRM (Customer Relationships Management) system such as GoldMine, Dynamics CRM or Salesforce.
Let’s look at B2C (business-to-consumers) social consumers; these are people that are willing to share their personal information on social networks engaging in activities such as updating their Facebook status, displaying their locations on Foursquare, leave their product reviews on Amazon or restaurant reviews on Yelp.
If you apply the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule, you can expect the power users represent 20% of the users that’s generating 80% of the activities.
Accordingly to the latest study by Chadwick Martin Bailey, “consumers who are Facebook fans and Twitter followers of a brand are more likely to not only recommend, but they are also more likely to buy from those brands than they were before becoming fans/followers…The study also uncovered perceptions among consumers that those brands not engaging in social media are out of touch.”
The idea is to focus more on the power users that command influence within the social networks. Keep in mind connecting with “medium” and “light” users also helps to earn social proof and trust via the long-tail.
They represent how social network can be utilize to build a community by providing practical value whether it’s a piece of software, platform, resource center or networking destination, they give back in return to what participants put in.
I recommend doing some in-depth research to get useful data on demographics of your target audience.
Then identify the appropriate social network(s) that fits your demographics to go after.
The key to success will be your understanding of how your target social consumers think, act and make decisions.
What and who influence them?
How much research was done prior to the purchase?
What was the second or third option?
Implementing Accountability and ROI
Now that you’ve got your customer profiles and social network(s) identified, what’s next? For businesses serious about ROI (return on investment), it’s time to increase accountability of your marketing efforts.
You can do this by using existing data or the customer insights from your research (profiling, surveys, CRM) to create campaign projections, a realistic goal that you aim for.
Then create a mix of financial and nonfinancial metrics that you NEED to measure, not what you can measure.
This is to help you understand how your marketing activities impact the bottom line and how you can optimize them by doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
Make sure you track your marketing cost as well as where the money is coming from to justify true ROI and conduct performance analysis.
How much does it cost to run a local campaign vs. national campaign?
What results are you getting targeting moms instead of kids?
Can you compare the effectiveness of your marketing investments in direct marketing and affiliate marketing?
Share Your Insights
Another great use of these valuable customer data is to share the insights with your customer service representatives, sales staffs, product development engineers, design teams, or anyone that will benefit from them.
If the sales staff knows what words or questions your target audience used most frequently when talking about your product, they can craft a better sales pitch.
If product engineers realize how many different ways people actually use the products they create, they can improve and create better products.
If the design team identifies how your customers come to visit your page and where they clicked, perhaps they can increase the conversion rate on your next campaign.
You can also involve them in the insight generation process to help increase the adoption and with regular distribution of these insights, everyone will take part to improve your business incrementally.
Ultimately you want to have a holistic view of your customer data so not only do you know what they’ve purchased, but also what they think about your industry, how they talk about your brand, and why they react to your campaign a certain way.
Simply put, it all comes down to keeping up with the shifts in how people think and act as well as the technologies used.
If you’re unable to keep up then outsource part of your social media efforts to marketers, consultants or agencies; but make sure you understand the implications.
Here is an short and excellent report on how social media influences paid search by GroupM Research.
The take away: The key to effective marketing communications is to have a solid brand strategy.
It’s indicative that social media must work together as an integrated whole of your brand strategy because your brand lives day-to-day in communication platform such as sales presentations, company brochures, product packaging and now the semantic web.
Synchronizing these efforts assures consistent communication of your brand’s strategy, helping to create brand awareness and recognition of who you are and why you matter.
Moving forward, there will be an increase demand for marketing ROI as more data becomes available and new measuring tools are developed.
As always, focus on the signal instead of the noise, maximize the value of social media to improve your business beyond marketing.
What do you think?
Love to hear your thoughts and feel free to share your ROI metrics.
he study also uncovered perceptions among consumers that those brands not engaging in social media are out of touch. When asked the question “What does it say about a brand if they are not involved with sites like Facebook or Twitter?” they said the following:
The three most important elements when starting out with marketing on the internet is to 1) define success and 2) know your target audience 3) listen to your customers.
Once you form a foundation for your web strategy, the execution becomes easy. The goal is to constantly test and use different campaigns from Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to email marketing in an attempt to achieve business objectives.
I often hear business owners talk about wanting to increase sales and generate leads but fail to define what success look like to them. In order to define success, you must first realize your current state of business from an analytical and financial perspective.
Do you have any existing data to help you take the pulse of the business? What kind of financial (Return on Investment or ROI) and non-financial (business impact) objectives and metrics are available?
Without real knowledge of your true costs, you run into a potential misconception of what your real ROI is.
Understand that ROI includes not just how much you pay for web hosting or your overheads, but also other costs associated with running the entire campaign such as, cost of time working on the campaign (broken down into average hourly wages), amount of labor burden costs (cost consisting of all indirect labor costs incidental to operations), SEO costs (monthly or accordance with your budget), email marketing costs, technology infrastructure costs etc.
Understand Your Costs and Metric
Once you have a true total cost of you running the campaign, you can run those numbers against your traffic and sales conversion rates to identify your ROI. Here is an example of how you can create a simple metric chart:
Assuming I get those numbers, with a quick glance the data shows that by spending 3 times amount of money on this campaign, the result returns 8 times more sales with the cost per sale reduced by more than half. This is a high level overview to help you define your goals for each metrics. Again, watching your real cost of the campaign will bring clarity to your true profitability.
Using Google and Twitter to Identify Your Customers Online
Once you define your goals and know what success looks like, the next step is defining your customer profiles then search for them online.
For starters, you should at least know the age demographic, income level or occupation. After you know who your typical customer looks like, you need to find where they are online and what they’re talking about to get a step closer to engage them.
This is where you should be looking at using some free online tools to help you gather useful data.
Let’s look at using a combination of Google and Twitter to find your customers. As an example, I’m going to assume that you own a local retail apparel store and you want to drive traffic to your store.
Google offers the keyword tool so you can search and find what popular keywords people are searching around your products or services. I’ve used the keyword “evening wear” and as you can see, it returned all relevant keywords and the volume of searches for the past 12 months.
Feel free to make adjustments to show the data in different ways (I’ve sorted the list by Local search volume) and how much people are paying for those keywords.
There is no doubt that “evening wear” is the most popular keyword locally. This indicates that most people simply put in the keyword “evening wear” so if you want to target a narrower range like “evening wear tops” you will have less competition for the same keyword.
Click on Add and you can create your list (will be displayed on the right) and when you’re done adding, you can export the entire list in text or excel format.
Google Insights for Search
Once you have a basic list of keywords, head over to Google Insights for Search to compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, time frames and properties.
Now you can take popular keywords you’ve found and insert them into the search term area, and you’ll find more information about your keywords.
Unquestionably the keyword “dress” out paced all other keywords I’ve insert (evening wear, women’s shoes, handbags).
And you’ll also find that New York is the place where people search most for dresses.
Play around with the different settings and you can also export the results in excel format.
Google Wonder Wheel
The Google Wonder Wheel was introduced to simplify and arrange search results. It’s basically a pre-defined mind mapper which helps the user get all the related search results in a wheel shaped like display.
Simply go to Google.com and input your search term, click on the “show options” link and find the “Wonder Wheel” link on the bottom left to get your search terms mind-mapped.
Once you get to the Wonder wheel, you can explore around the related keywords and it’ll expand into another wheel.
I went ahead and clicked on the “discount evening wear” and the most popular and relevant keywords associated with discount evening wear shows up.
This is another great way to narrow your search term down to what your customers may be looking for in order to personalize the message.
So if I’m running a promotional campaign or sending out newsletters, I could use content such as:
“Discount designer evening gowns perfect for cocktail parties or formal events!”
Or combine with my findings from Google Insights,
“A night out in New York? Checkout our discounted cocktail dresses from BCBG! Available in plus size directly from Macy’s.”
Combining Google with Twitter
Since Google have no problem indexing Twitter’s data, you can now use Twitter’s search engine to find you target customers using keywords as well as conversational phrases.
First go to search.twitter.com and click on advanced search and start looking for conversations phrases around what people would say when they’re looking for clothing.
You can also leave it blank for broad search to view everything around the world, perhaps you have an online store so tracking both local, geo-targeted search and broad search make sense.
As you can see, the search result would return a stream of conversations with people saying “what should I wear.” You can take a moment to scan over the conversation, perhaps follow those individuals, checkout their profile and “listen” in on their dialogues.
However, you don’t want to spend all day reading people’s conversations, and searching for the same phrases every time. This is where Google Reader comes in handy. Google Reader is a great tool to aggregate all your RSS feeds into one place and it also has some analytical capabilities.
On your Twitter search results page, find the RSS feed icon on the top right hand corner, right click on it and copy the link address of the feed.
Then open your Google Reader and click on “Add a subscriber” and paste the link into your Google Reader to start building a collection of feeds around your target search phrases.
Once you’ve added the feed into your Google Reader, wait for a couple of days for the data to aggregate before you can start analyzing it (ideally you want to have at least 30 days).
You can start checking the data by clicking on “show detail” on the top right hand corner.
You’ll see data for the last 30 days, time of day and day of the week. Depending on how you look at it, you can see which day of the month people start talking about your search term.
Maybe it’s the end of the month, everyone got paid so a discussion about shopping starts; or perhaps everyone goes out on Thursday evening in LA so on Wednesday people are talking about what to wear for Thursday.
The time of the day is a good area to gauge when these people log on to Twitter to talk about your search term.
Another good use of these data is to figure out when to send out your coupons, promotions and newsletters so your message arrives when people’s minds are on your product or service.
Remember, personalized messages delivered at the right place at the right time are key ingredients to conversion.
Search Twitter Profile Using Google
Another method to find your target customer on Twitter is to search through people’s Twitter profile using Google. Go to Google.com click on advanced search and put in
and you’ll find a list of people that indicated they “love shopping” in their bio on Twitter.
Basically intext:”bio*xxxx” tells Google to search for text within the Twitter bio section. So replace xxxx with whatever you like that matches to what your target customer may put in their Twitter bio.
Now that you know from your Google Insights that shoppers in New York have the most interest in searching for dresses, how do we target people who loves to shop and lives in New York?
Notice that there is a minor tweak to the search input. You will need to add – in between the * mark. So intext:bio-*-xxxx intext:location-*-xx where the xx is now searches within that state. Give it a try and you’ll find extremely targeted individuals
I don’t usually do detailed step by step posts, but I had repeatedly explain this to many business owners and marketers so I thought to share some of my tips to help you find your customers online.
I hope you find the above information helpful and it’s a very useful way to build your customer segmentation list.
I hope this helps you to set up your social media “listening station.”
And if you like to learn more tips like this, sign up for Profitable Knowledge FREE course below!