20/04/11

By Rob Smith – Digital Director of Blueleaf

It’s not so much about the tools you use for digital marketing, it’s all about how you can use them as effectively as possible to get the results you want.

We expect, because it’s something like electronics, that everything can be pretty much automated and run itself. We just have to set it off and wait for the results to come in. This could be your Pay Per Click campaign or your email marketing. Too much emphasis can sometimes be put on automation, to the detriment of everything else around us.

But what’s really needed is a lot of understanding, which means using our brains - really having a good old think, roasting those little grey cells. Digital marketing, more than most forms of marketing, needs deep thought.

Think of all the opportunities that digital offers the marketing professional. We can track and record so much data — much more than offline marketing. We get a better picture of our online customers and with that in mind, digital tools can make use of that data to segment, personalise and retarget. They cannot do it automatically though.

What groups do we want to segment our customers into? What messaging should we send to each group? What kind of person will be looking at this product, therefore what other products would be right for them? All these questions and so much more are raised due to the sheer amount of information we can collect online.

The problem then comes for busy business owners and marketers when they attempt to make sense of or use this information. They don’t have the time or the inclination normally to delve into the detail of what it’s telling them and make a decision based on the data. They continue to run their business on gut feel. Blanket email campaigns and the same old messaging. What it comes down to here, is laziness. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the time to do it, find someone who can. Outsource it — whatever it takes, but do not ignore it and continue in the same old way.

So how could you turn this all around? What are the steps you need to go through to make use of the information you already have?

Data audit

Before we do anything we need to know what we’ve got to work with. This does not have to be quantitative data (numbers) it can also be qualitative (opinions) and some of the best data can be subjective. So examine the following areas:

Customer database (including purchase history)
Website tracking data (e.g. Google Analytics)
Email marketing data (previous campaigns and click throughs)
Google Adwords data (click throughs and successful adverts)
Banner advertising tracking information
Previous customer surveys and satisfaction surveys
Competitive analysis
Marketing trends
Industry trends

All this and more (depending on your business) will add up to give you a picture of how your business landscape looks. You could find out that from all your website visits, only 10% come back and so you have a lot of ‘one night stands’, for want of a better term.

Thinking and Strategy

This is the part that requires the little grey cells. We have all of the information now, but how can we make sense of it all — what can it tell us? Allocate some significant time, preferably not on your own, with a team member at the least, to pour over this data and write down a list of facts that you can see. Facts are, by definition, irrefutable statements from the data. Such statements could be:

Over half of our customers think we are expensive
40% of people who land on our website bounce (i.e. leave without visiting another page)
10% of our products produce 90% of our sales
Our customers are 80% female

And so on, a big long list of facts. There are always more facts to be found - try to keep them all concise and direct, then examine them in detail to see trends. Are there groups of customers that are obviously unprofitable for you? Is your flagship product actually badly perceived by your customers and not selling well?

From this exercise, we should be armed with some insights that we can use to create a strategy going forwards. For simplicity’s sake here is one example. If we have found that:

Our top 10 clients buy from us because they love our service
Our website is price and feature led
We’re actually above average price wise in the market
The bounce rate of the home page is 70%

These are all great insights, and, I hope, you can see that there is a clear route of action from this point. The strategy action of these findings is to reposition the website based on what your clients want, and where you’re competitive. A slightly extreme example I know, but it illustrates the point.

Creative thinking

More thinking now (sorry). We have put a lot of work and thought into what data we have, what is going on by analysing this data and have some great, actionable insights. So why do we need to think even more?

Well, this area is where we think about how to solve the problem in the best way. This does not mean the easiest way. We weigh up things like long term considerations, market needs and demographics of the market to come up with the solution to our issue.

This could be in the form of a multi route proposition — changing your PPC ads, redoing the website home page, refocusing your product pages around service and value for money or adding more customer case studies and social proof. A lot of these areas will help you move forwards with your issue but they all need to work together. This requires thinking and commitment — don’t just do something small, tiny changes do not solve problems.

Test, analyse, go again

After all that, you need to make sure it works, analyse the results, and start this process over again in a continual, ever evolving strategy. I look forward to some great insights and results.