As simple as this sounds, a lot of businesses fail to fully comprehend the products or services that they offer and what drives customer interest. Organizations that were originally centralized have now become de-centralized due to expansion. This has created silos within your organization that all seem to know "what's best" and each silo is fighting for marketing dollars or increased attention. Failure arrives when you forget what drives interest in your brand or products and lose sight of marketing from a holistic approach. Are your products or services seasonal, price driven, an impulse buy, or a necessity? Great marketing exists when you leverage the appropriate marketing channels at the right time. The marketing strategy that you choose will depend upon the nature of your business.
Rule #2 - Don't Assume that ALL Customers are Loyal
Once we gain a customer, they will be our customer for life. Not a chance. In the age of technology, it's more important than ever to stay focused on your customers and keeping a steady eye on the competition. For customers, knowledge is now just one click away on the internet. Don't assume that you can just start raising prices and keep the customers that you have. Customers are always searching for the best price and service. If you can't deliver on either, you are doomed to fail. Take the time to both listen and respond to your customers. If you start to see an increase in complaints about your staff, take immediate action. If you notice your conversion rates are starting to decline, take another look at the competition. Granted, you will never please 100% of your customers, but it should remain your goal. Delighting your customers should be your main focus. Competitive pricing and/or services should place a close second.
Rule #3 - Repeat Customers and Referrals are a Marketer's Best Friend
How much money do you invest in advertising? Advertising serves to attract new customers and keep people coming back. The overall goal is to reduce your cost per acquisition. If an ad impression doesn't have to be served, or a click from a search engine or comparison shopping engine isn't required to get a customer to your site, your brand is headed down the right path. Engagement with your customers through social media is a perfect opportunity to keep the conversation alive between you and your customers. If customers are happy with your brand they will more than likely give you a referral. How much did you spend to get that referral? Once again, it should be a no-brainer and a primary conversation topic with your employees. Providing poor service will result in higher acquisition costs down the road.
Rule #4 - Not All Advertising Channels Are Created Equally
Today's marketer has more opportunities than ever. Advertising through both online and offline channels can create a perfect synergy to keep your brand front and center. The golden rule is being able to properly assess the value of each channel and knowing the part that each channel plays in acquiring customers. Metrics such as reach, frequency, and engagement will help you determine the success of each campaign. Let's face it, our customers are very diverse and have many ways of consuming media. Not everyone watches broadcast television, only visits local websites, or spends every waking hour on Facebook. Your marketing strategy needs to provide coverage across all relevant channels that correlate to your business. For some businesses, advertising in print newspaper still may be a driving force. For others, it may be a waste. Post purchase or in-store surveys will help provide you with insight to determine which channels are the most effective. Let the data help guide your decisions.
Rule #5 - Have A Plan
Before starting any campaign, have clear goals in mind and perform a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Opportunities, Weakness, Threats). Last minute campaigns that are hastily thrown together rarely yield the desired results. Instead of simply saying, "Hey let's have a promo this weekend", examine how this fits with your current marketing strategy. If you are simply throwing a 25% OFF Everything sale, how will this affect your profit margin. In some cases, you could end up losing money. What was the purpose of the "Everything Off" sale? Granted, it's probably just one of those generic sales designed to increase traffic, but will the long term effects be worth it? What analysis do you plan to perform after the sale to determine the success? Having goals established before you begin won't leave you scrambling after it ends.
It's been a while since I last took a look at the search query volume, and it appears that not much has really changed. After taking a look at Google Insights for search for these two major brands, it appears that Lowe's still has not captured the attention of it's customers. Back in 2011, it appears that Lowe's gained some serious traction, but that traction has since waned.
Without knowing any inside information, it easy to see that the Lowe's brand isn't driving consumers online. Typically, this can be attributed to a lack of brand advertising. You know, the part of the budget which is usually one of the first to be slashed when profits begin to dip. It's easy for people in finance to make the suggestion because of the poor ROI when traditionally compared to other channels. What the finance department doesn't understand is the waterfall effect of building a brand and the amount of influence that this channel plays in the overall health of a successful business. When you take a moment to think about it, it really does make sense. Every day we as consumers are marketed to all day long. These brand impressions, whether they are delivered in an audio or visual form get lodged into your brain. Granted, if you visit a website that is covered in banners, more than likely you won't remember anything about a majority of them. However, when one particular advertisement becomes the center of your undivided attention, value is gained.
Offline survey data. How many times a year to you look at these reports before pulling the plug on the campaign? Three months after pulling the plug, do you ever go back to the surveys and perform a comparison against the previous time period? There's a good chance that the surveys will provide a lot more insight than a roundtable discussion with stakeholders voicing their opinions. You may be surprised to find out that tv, radio, billboards, and yes, even web banners drive consumer interest in your brand. It's the old adage, out of sight out of mind. If your competitor is constantly in the minds of the consumer and you're not, where do you think people will go? Of course, you may win the battle due to outside factors such as location, quality of service, etc., but more than likely the competition will win over the consumer. A major problem that brands face is the idea of customer loyalty. You know, the customer for life mentality. A quick reality check would be a visit to your customer service department and spending some time reading emails, checking Facebook, and fielding a few phone calls. One bad experience can send that loyal customer running to your competitor.
Are you checking your social signals? If not, don't be surprised to see your business fail. Like it or not, today's shopper researches on the internet and takes advice from friends and family. A good practice is to not only stay on top of what people are saying, but also taking the time to respond. If the comment is negative, take the time to offer assistance in correcting the situation. If the comment is good, take the time to thank the person. It shouldn't be a difficult concept to grasp, but for many it is simply overlooked. Once again, bean counters want to attach a dollar figure to anything that anybody does. Customers are not expecting to walk away from every purchase being mesmerized by the over the top service, they just expect a pleasant transaction. Employees that are willing to ask if you need assistance goes a long way. In fact, just having employees visible on the floor goes a long way. Not every business can run like Costco in a warehouse type atmosphere.
This could happen sooner than you think. Let's face it, we all know that Facebook advertising is in some serious need of help. The performance results are dismal and Facebook's strategy is on par with most content publishers. Basically, they are shouting to the world, "Hey we're Facebook. We gets lots of traffic. Buy ads on our site." What Facebook lacks is a long term vision in regards to advertising and monetization. Facebook has more personal information than any other social website on the planet. What they lack is an understanding of what they can do with this data. So far, it's been a few sub-par efforts with advertising networks. In order to take things to the next level, Facebook needs to own the relationship between advertisers and the Facebook data. Simply get rid of the middle-man.
Quantcast technology offers a perfect solution. Combining Facebook's data with Quantcast's ad serving technology can accomplish the perfect winning combination. After all, that's why Adobe purchased Efficient Frontier. It wasn't the client base that Adobe was after, it was their proprietery technology. To be more specific, their algorithms. As Google has proven over time, algorithms are the key to success. Either you have it or you don't. No matter how hard you try, sometimes you can't get the secret sauce right and it's easier to buy a company that has.
Currently, Quantcast relies upon customer behavior in order to perform lookalike modeling. So far, this has been very successful in the display advertising world. If your cookie pool is large enough, you have a pretty good chance at serving relevant ads to the right person. What the system lacks is the next layer of detail. That detail being actual customer information. Through clickstream analysis we are able to make some pretty reliable assumptions that if a large group of people perform a set of given actions, then the same must be true of the next group of people that perform similar actions. Playing the simple percentages game, we know that we will have a decent success rate. Wouldn't it be nice to fine tune your advertising based upon (lookalike modeling + persona data + geo-location)? Imagine the results that could be achieved. Personalized targeted ads, served at the right time, in the right location. Imagine this banner ad:
How wonderful would the world be if all the ads that we saw were actually relevant to the individual? No more ads about stuff that I don't care about, but only stuff that matters to me. We certainly aim to achieve this level of personalization on websites, why not the rest of the internet. Ads being delivered that knew if I was sad or happy and knowing exactly the cure. Something that read," Hey Rich, feeling blue? Come get the frozen yogurt that you love!". Or what about, "Hey Rich, Buy that AMD Processor Locally and Save 10% Today at Fry's." After all, Fry's knows my name, that I frequently shop there, and I keep checking the prices on the latest AMD FX processors.
Google purchased DoubleClick. Yahoo purchased Right Media.
Facebook buys Quantcast. Quantcast plays in all exchanges, thus easily adapting to changes over time. Facebook now generates billions annually from online advertising sales and creates a stable future. Shareholders and employees rejoice!
Have you ever wondered what your peers in the SEM world are up to? How is the data being analyzed and what actionable insight are they able to gain from the tools that they use? How does this differ from your approach? Today, I thought I would offer a glimpse into one of the recent tools that I constructed with Excel. The data powering this example is a standard Adobe SearchCenter data extract. Even if you are not using SearchCenter, with a little tweaking and mid-level experience with Excel, it can be customized to suit your needs.
There are two worksheets in this workbook. The first sheet contains the dashboard as seen above (Report), and the second sheet contains all of the data which powers the dashboard (dBlock). The upper portion contains information about all of the keywords within the dBlock worksheet (basically an account overview). There are four pre-built segments that I have created: High Potential, Need Attention, CTR Issues, and Budget Bleeders. Cell references can be found on the dBlock sheet in order to customize to suit your needs. These segments are also macro enabled in order to quickly see the results on the dBlock sheet.
The lower portion contains an Advanced Filter option in order to build custom data segments in order to better understand keyword performance at a deeper level. After a filter is applied, the lower graph springs into actions and delivers the results. The "Metric 1" and Metric 2" fields are designed to work together as an "And" statement. You have the option to leave Metric 2 blank and only filter on one metric. After the values have been entered, click the "Apply" button. Here's an example of a keyword segment containing "Avg. Pos >=3" & "Revenue >=$100"
The practical use does not stop here. Along with the dashboard results, your keywords are being autofiltered on the dBlock sheet that contains your data. Instantly, you can move into the data sheet and see the results.
The "Campaign", "Ad Group", and "Keyword" fields are set to a "Contains" clause. Only one field can be used at a time. After the value has been entered, click the arrow to the right of the field to run the macro.
Obviously, the "Clear" button will clear any Advanced Filter fields that have been entered.
Download your copy for Excel 2007+ (be sure to enable macros)
Analytics Path Analysis - How data can be misinterpreted
It seems like a simple analysis, but in reality finding the right answer may prove to be more difficult. Your boss comes to you and want to know how many customers are making it from Page A to Page B. If you pull the wrong reports, you could be telling a story that isn't 100% accurate. Eventually, this could result in negative changes to your website's navigation and impact the overall performance. The misinterpretation stems from the three key metrics that are utilized for web reporting: Pageviews, Visits, and Visitors. Each metric is valuable in it's own regard, but they often tell a different story. The first thing that you must accept when performing a path analysis is that website navigation is not a linear process. Website navigation to me is the same as the 'Choose your Own Adventure' books that I read as a kid. The end goal was always the same, but the path in which you get there may be different for everyone.
Your boss wants to know how many people are making it from the ATV section to the helmet area of the website. The CMO thinks that the Helmets link is buried too low on the ATV section page and wants it moved higher up to increase sales. Your boss is requesting a path analysis report to see where visitors are going after viewing the ATV section.
Your job is determine whether or not the CMO is correct and if the link should be moved up higher on the ATV section page.
Kimberly comes to your website and views the off-road section. Next, she moves into the ATV category and then proceeds to look at helmets area. While on the site, she views 10 pages of helmets. She leaves the site to view competitor pricing and comes back after 20 minutes. The next day, she comes directly into the helmet area from a bookmark that she created yesterday. This time, she only view 2 pages of helmet products.
Michael comes to your website and views the off-road section. Next, he moves into the ATV section. Michael then sees a promotion on the page for a fly fishing rod and follows the link. After bouncing around the site for a while, Michael arrives into the helmets page from a link within the clothing & accessories section. Michael then proceeds to view 3 pages of helmets. The following day, Michael receives and email promo about a sale on helmets. He clicks the link and lands directly into the helmets area. During this visit, he views 1 helmet page.
In addition, 10 other visitors came into your site, clicked into the ATV section, but never viewed the helmets area or returned to the ATV section.
How would you solve this question? Below are the metrics that would be available to you.
These are simply counting every occurrence of the pages that you visit. If you look at the same page five times, then you will be counted five times.
Typically by default, a 'visit' is defined as a session on your website that expires after 30 minutes of inactivity. If you view 'Page A' five times during a single session, you will only be counted as one visit to the page, but your pageview count will be recorded as five. As long as cookies are enabled, the visit session will still be valid even if the visitor leaves your site and returns within the 30 minute window.
This is my favorite metric. Visitors tell you how many people performed a selected action. Now that we know how many times they looked at the page, and how many times they came back, we also know how many people were involved in this process. However, you have to keep in mind that the visitors metric is dependent upon the time range that you are looking at. If you are recording your site traffic on a daily basis, your visitor count will not match up with a weekly or monthly visitor report. After all, I would be counted once during a daily report. If I come 7 days out of the week, the daily report will count me 7 times. If I pulled a report for the entire week, I would only be counted once.
Here are the metrics for the ATV section page.
Pageviews = 12
Visits = 12
Visitors = 12
Here are the metrics for the Helmets area.
Pageviews = 16
Visits = 4
Visitors (2 day time range) = 2
Does this look familiar? Before diving into a 'Next Page' report to answer the question, here's what you need to consider. The Next Page report is exactly what it says. The report simply tells you the next page encountered during the visit. As I mentioned earlier, website navigation is not always a linear path. By utilizing the next page report, you will be omitting Michael from the results. After all, he entered the Helmets area from a different section on your website. A 'Fall Out' report, such as the one that Omniture SiteCatalyst provides, would account for both Kimberly and Michael but still would not address the underlying question. Therefore, how can you really answer the question?
The easiest way to determine the answer is a simple A/B test. Create your baseline and then measure the click through rate for the helmets area. Did it increase, decrease, or remain the same? Your CMO will be happy because you are at least exploring his thought and the data will provide the answer. Remember, Google Website Optimizer is a free product just in case you don't have access to an enterprise level solution.
If the A/B test is not possible, the answer to the question will involve a lot more work on your end.
Was the link on the page moved recently?
Are helmet sales decreasing? What is the trend in conversion rate?
Does a visitor trend report show that less people are accessing this area over time? How does it compare with the other areas of the site?
Is your site receiving less traffic for 'helmet' related keyword searches and referral traffic for this product?
Basically, you need to determine if a problem really exists or if this is purely speculation. If your site sells many different products, you need to remember that not everyone is looking to buy a helmet. It doesn't matter if you put the helmets link at the top of the page and double the font size. Either your visitors are looking to purchase a helmet, or they aren't. What you can determine is if the helmets area is receiving less traffic over time. Do not compare it as a percentage of your overall traffic, because as you add more areas to your site your data can be skewed. If you add a hot new area that a lot of people are visiting, this will impact the percentage rate. You are always dividing by 100%. What you are really looking for is overall trends. Start with a 30 foot view at the section level, then move into the category level and finally into the site area level. This way you can measure your site as a whole. Keep in mind the difference between Pageviews, Visits, and Visitors. As I mentioned, each one tells a different story. Start examining the following to understand customer engagement:
Average Pageviews per Visit
Average Visits per Visitor
In the end, you should be equipped with a very impressive analysis that not only addresses the question at hand, but may also answer other questions that could soon follow. My reporting approach has been to not only answer the questions for today, but for those to come in the future. Initially, they will take more time to create, but the long term benefit is a time savings in the future.