The Director of Marketing stared at me from across the table with a slightly-confused look on her face. “Bobby,” she started. “We’ve never done digital before, and I have no idea where to start. What should we be doing to market ourselves on the web?”
I’ve been here before, I thought. Many brands – and brand managers, CEOs, marketing directors – face the same challenge. Here’s what it is:
I know our company needs to have a stronger online presence, but this is all new to me. I don’t want to waste money on a trend that may not be here in the future (MySpace, anyone?) and everything I do has to be measured because my [boss, shareholders, fill in the blank] will be watching. I don’t want to fail. Where do we start?
If you have any experience in digital marketing – even just a tiny bit – you’ll immediately know that there are A LOT of options when it comes to digital marketing. It seems like every day some new tactic is birthed. As digital marketers, we’re supposed to keep up with trends and know what’s working and what’s not.
Here’s my list of what’s working, along with the reasons why:
A World-Class Website
If your website is ugly, difficult to use, lacks updated content, can’t be found on page 1 of Google, is not optimized for mobile devices or has fewer features than your competitors – STOP RIGHT HERE. Your chances of finding success in today’s marketing landscape are somewhere less than than 5%. Face it: nearly ALL of your customers and potential customers are checking out your site before they come in to your store or contact your sales team. That’s why your website needs to be top-notch.
Sure, it’s going to take a sizable investment to do it right, but it will be much more costly to go out of business. You simply can’t afford to not have a website that’s better than your competitors. In fact, 87% of all marketers say their website is the single most important digital marketing tactic in their arsenal.
Marketing today is no longer about your product or service; it’s all about the customer and solving her problems. And what better way to show our customers some love than to give them something useful for free? That’s what content marketing is all about. Useful content that’s relevant to your audience (key words: useful, relevant) sets you up as the expert. Who doesn’t like to work with someone who knows what they’re talking about?
There are hundreds of types of content waiting to be created: whitepapers, eBooks, blog posts, charts, research papers, short videos, newsletters, screensavers, how-tos, infographics, packaging. I could use up this entire blog listing all your options. Try many different types, create content that people actually want to read/watch/share, distribute it to your audience through more than one channel – one article can easily be repurposed for email, social networks, website and direct mail, for example – and be consistent. Content marketing takes commitment. It takes time. It’s hard. Do it anyway. You’ll make more money.
Get Your Domains
Your website’s domain name is more important than ever. In fact choosing the right name for your website could be one of the most important things you can do for your company. Make it easy to say, hard to misspell, easy to remember and difficult for your competitors to mimic. Buy extra domains for specific products (ex. Coca-Cola owns dietcoke.com, sprite.com and about a thousand others), buy misspellings, buy extensions beyond .com (check out GoDaddy to learn more about the 957 new extensions that are available, or becoming available, for purchase) and buy anything you don’t want your competitors to have. Believe me, it’s incredibly cheap insurance for the future.
You do have a blog, right? Or at least a company news section on your website? Blogs are terrific for housing content on your website, search engines love fresh content (a blog’s sweet spot) and blogging software is easy to use. Writing blogs aren’t the sole territory of the marketing department; companies that blog successfully often tap into many people in their company for insight.
Think all this writing stuff is a waste of time? Consider these facts: 77% of internet users read blogs, 23% of internet time is spent on blogs, businesses with blogs generate 126% more leads than those who don’t, 81% of US consumers trust advice and information from blogs, websites with blogs have 434% more indexed pages and 97% more inbound links, 61% of US consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post, 70% of consumers learn about a company through articles rather than ads and 37% of all marketers believe blogs are the most important type of content marketing. Convinced yet?
Ah, social media. What a buzz word. If there is one aspect of online marketing that is the most difficult to keep up with, it’s social. It changes nearly every day.
The good news is that you can focus on just a handful of social networks and get great results. Here are the heavy hitters in social media and some stats for you analytic-loving folks out there:
- Facebook – 1.15 billion users. 750 million access via mobile devices. 23% of Facebook users check their account more than 5 times a day. 74% of all marketers use it for lead generation. Excellent for distribution of content and targeted advertising.
- Twitter – 500 million users with 288 million monthly active users. 400 million tweets sent per day. Great for targeting a younger (think under 35) audience; however, the fastest-growing user segment is 55-64 year olds.
- LinkedIn – 238 million users with 50% having a Bachelor degree or higher. This is THE social network for business. 81% of users belong to at least one LinkedIn group (of which there are 1.5 million to choose from) and nearly 86% of all users say they’ve gotten business through LinkedIn.
- Instagram – 130 million users. Ideal for brands that use photos and video to engage fans. Every second, 8000 users like a photo – and more than 5 million are uploaded each day. Audience is heavily skewed toward the 13-24 year old crowd.
- Pinterest – 70 million users. 71% are female. Food is the top category, with 57% of all users discussing food-related content. Recipes, crafts, and anything that looks yummy do well on Pinterest. The most repinned Pin? Garlic Cheesy Bread. ‘Nuff said.
- YouTube – 1 billion unique monthly users. According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults than any cable network. It’s a global phenomenon; YouTube is offered in 61 countries and 61 languages. Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth.
Again, the key to social media marketing success is the same as all other channels: have a plan with defined goals, measure performance, post interesting content, keep it relevant for the audience and use it consistently.
Email is to digital marketers what direct mail was to direct marketers. Email, aka The Moneymaker, offers so many advantages for measurement and personalization that it’s hard to believe that some companies do little to no email marketing. It’s also surprising how many don’t take email marketing seriously, considering that for every $1 spent on email marketing, $44.25 is the average return on investment.
Professional email marketing – with a strong emphasis on professional – is pretty sophisticated stuff. How do you define a professional email marketing program? The pros use A/B testing and personalization, set up behavior-based triggering, leverage data to create dynamic content, understand compliance law, test timing, utilize prospect lists and develop mobile email strategies. Amateurs set up a boring template in Constant Contact and blast out a bunch of words and stock photography to their list, praying for success.
Pros make (lots of) money with email. Amateurs see email as a waste of time. Which one are you?
If you’ve ever been to a website, and I’m pretty sure you have, you’ve seen display ads. Most commonly known as banner ads, these ads are embedded in millions of websites and use tracking tags, i.e. cookies, to show ads that may interest the individual viewing that particular webpage. Just like email marketing, there are plenty of ways to do it wrong.
Whether you’re using display ads, or want to, here are seven tips to get the best ROI out of online banner ads (and avoid wasting money):
- Target the right audience for your product. That’s a no-brainer.
- Address the needs of those customers in an ad. This is a challenge. Work on it.
- Make them exciting. Boring ads are ignored.
- But this ain’t Times Square. Avoid anything that flashes or has too much information. White space is your friend.
- Use smart creative. Stock photos are overused.
- The only way to get clicks is with a strong call to action. No call to action = no clicks.
- Use proper tools to help make your ads successful. There are many options out there, from competitive intelligence to placement services to multiple-network aggregators.
I spend a good bit of each week using Google Analytics…and Facebook Insights…and Hootsuite…and email analytics…and AdWords…and Excel…and eCommerce software…and a ton of other programs to see exactly how consumers are engaging with our marketing efforts. The days of guessing and gut-feelings have been replaced by click-through rates, time on site analysis and conversion goal tracking. It’s never been easier to measure and track your efforts.
As with most things in life, analytics only make a difference in business if proper time and effort are invested in understanding what should be measured and benchmarks are set. Many of our client find that they don’t have the time or experience or desire to pour through statistics and compile them on a regular basis. Even the ones that do put in the energy to use analytics sometimes need help understanding what all the numbers really mean.
Analyzing the performance of your marketing efforts is critical if you don’t want to waste money and opportunities. Remember that famous quote by John Wanamaker, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”? Analytics will tell you what’s working – if you know what to look for.
Using data to gain insight on your customers and then using that knowledge to personalize a message to them is nothing new. Why do we as marketers stress that simple-to-understand yet difficult-to-implement idea? It’s simple: personalized, relevant messages perform many times better than generic one-size-fits-all content.
Remember that oft-quoted statistic: the average American is bombarded with 2,000 marketing messages each day? That’s bunk. It’s now up to around 5,000 per day. Everywhere we look -on our favorite websites, on the smartphone screen sitting in our pockets, even in the games we play – marketers are trying to grab our attention (and share of our wallets). The age-old question still begs: how do we, as marketers cut through the clutter?
If you pose that question to ten marketers, you’ll likely get ten different answers. From my own perspective and experience, the key to “cutting through the clutter” is relevancy. Yet the only way to manage multiple messages touching multiple audiences – perhaps through multiple channels – is by using data to determine who gets what.
The keys to success when leveraging marketing data are:
1. Finding a data management system where data can be housed, analyzed and extracted efficiently. Your choices are broad, from brand name CRM systems like Salesforce to custom-developed database systems.
2. Consolidating data that lives in various parts of your company. Good places to look: old marketing databases in Excel, email lists, website queries, customer and prospect lists from the sales team and social media connections.
3. Determining how the data will be used in your marketing mix. While there are dozens of ways to leverage data, one channel that plays particularly well with database marketing is email.
It seems like everyone is selling something online these days. The reason is simply: consumers spent $300 billion online in 2013. There’s a ton of money being spent online. This topic may not apply to you, but if you are thinking of getting into online selling – or dabbling in it currently but not getting the results you want – read on.
If you want a piece of that huge revenue pie, then you should take eCommerce very seriously. eComm holds a ton of opportunity. but it’s complex and very competitive too. If your goal is to build any sort of substantial eCommerce business – let’s say, one with revenues of six or seven figures, or higher – then you need a partner that understands eCommerce web development, technology and marketing practices.
eCommerce success is highly dependent on getting consumers to your site, getting them to convert into buyers, and get them to come back again. Email, search, affiliate marketing and social are critical tools for attracts customers; excellent user experience, website features, detailed descriptions and cart abandonment systems are just a few of the many tactics you’ll need for optimal conversion and sales; email promotions, remarketing ads and partnerships will get them back to buy more. And since data plays a key part in eComm success, you’ll need to be good at that, too. Throw in mobile eCommerce strategies, PPC and SEO and your head will be spinning.
Four out of 10 corporations interact with customers and prospects in five or more channels.
So what about the other 60%? Do they not care about their communication channels? Or is there something else going on with cross-channel marketing?
Customers expect seamless experiences across all channels. That includes both online and offline channels (like in the store, for example). Yet most marketing departments are split by channel and don’t interact enough for cross-channel marketing to take hold. This makes cross-channel campaigns difficult to execute and even harder to measure. Who (or what department), for example, gets credit for a dollar spent through a cross-channel campaign?
The key is to focus on measuring customer value rather than customer activity. If a customer received two emails, a mailed catalog, liked a Facebook post and visited the website before making a decision to purchase a $100 pair of shoes, then divide that $100 transaction by five touchpoints. Each touchpoint gets $20 worth of credit. As well, if those five touchpoints cost $5 total to reach that particular customer, then each channel gets charged with $1 worth of marketing spend. In our example, email actually gets $40 total credit with $2 total spend since two of the touchpoints were email.
Mobile marketing is on nearly every marketer’s mind these days. Look around and you’ll likely to see someone with their face buried in their smartphone. Guess what? It doesn’t just happen in public; 75% of Americans admit to bringing their phone to the bathroom.
With so many consumers captivated by small screens, how can marketers turn mobile platforms into a money-maker?
For retailers, make sure you have an online, preferably eCommerce-based, presence. 4 out of 10 shoppers indulge in ‘showrooming’ – the act of checking a product’s price online why in store. Some retailers, like Target, recognize this trend and encourage their shoppers to use their phones in-store with location-based coupons and discounts. There are also simple ways to encourage the right behavior; many retailers offer instant incentives to consumers who check-in to their favorite store on Facebook, for instance.
For eComm businesses, having a mobile shopping cart (and website that’s easy to use on mobile devices) is almost required these days. Remember, 4 out of 5 consumers shop on their smartphone and 72% of tablet owners make at least one online purchase from their tables each week. Mobile eCommerce presents a huge opportunity for online retailers, so don’t miss out.
For all businesses, mobile search – both organic, local and paid – is important. The reason? Research suggests that desktop and laptop searchers are more likely to be researching a product or service using a search engine query while 70% of mobile searches lead to an action within 60 minutes. Simply put, when you grab a smartphone to search, you have an immediate intent – where should I eat, what store should I go to for my favorite fashions or where’s the nearest gas station. And once they find your business in a mobile search, having a mobile website increases your chances for conversion by 650%.
Mobile apps are another important tactic to consider. 80% of mobile time is spent in apps, with the big winner being games (with 32% of mobile time spent killing time with apps like Candy Crush) followed by the Facebook app and web browsers at 18% each. From having your own branded app to in-app ads and Facebook mobile advertising, there are plenty of reasons to consider including mobiles apps in your mobile marketing plans.
Although I’m just getting warmed up with ideas for mobile marketing – and haven’t even touched on YouTube mobile ads, mobile video, integrating TV advertising with mobile, mobile ads and many more opportunities – just know this: there are more mobile devices on Earth than people. Mobile is the future. Is it part of your marketing mix?
Search Engine Marketing
93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine. In particular, 3 out of every 4 of those searches are through Google. Search drives more traffic to sites than any other channel; search beats social media as a driver by more than 300%, for example. This traffic is of a particularly high quality, too. SEO leads, on average, boast a 14.6% conversion rate.
In 2011 through 2013, Google made some very important changes to their search algorithms. Without boring you with too many details, these changes placed much more emphasis on great, relevant, fresh content and less importance on the number of inbound links. All of a sudden, marketers abandoned their link-building plans and begin figuring out how to develop and distribute interesting content. The goal – ranking on page 1 – didn’t change, but the tactics did. Among many other factors to take into account, consistently generating content for your website could arguably be today’s most important search engine marketing tactic.
Organic search isn’t the only aspect of search engine marketing. Paid search, such as the Google AdWords PPC platform for instance, delivers strong performance as well. In a 2013 study of 2,000 marketers by MarketingSherpa, it was found that 88% of marketers who used paid search ads found it to be an effective part of their marketing mix.
Long gone are the days when paid search ads showed up as blatant blue-boxed Sponsored Links. Google’s pale yellow boxes displaying paid ads have led to this interesting stat: 45% of search users don’t even know they are clicking on a paid ad – and many of the ones who do have been trained that clicking on those ads often leads to landing pages full of attractive offers. Perhaps that’s the reason why paid ads displaying in the #1 spot have an average click-though rate of 11.2%.
Every day, 100 million internet users watch an online video. 75 million of them then visit the marketer’s website after viewing a video. 80% of your online visitors will watch a video while only 20% will read content in it’s entirety. Your website is 50 times more likely to appear on page 1 of Google’s search results if it includes video.
Web video statistics like these make it pretty easy to see why online videos are so powerful. With a full third of all internet activity being spent watching video, chances are your best customers and prospects are watching videos. And it’s not just consumers watching video either; 75% of executives watch a work-related video on a business website at least once a week.
Usability & User Experience
If you haven’t found a theme to my recommendations, I’ll give you a hint: marketing is now completely customer-centric. Customers want seemless online experiences full of helpful content; they want to find it without too much effort; and they want it on every device they carry. The key to success in digital marketing is to give your customer the best experience possible across all platforms: web, social, email, mobile, search, print and in-store to name a few important ones.
User experience design, or UX, is the study and application of design theories that help users move successfully through a website, mobile app, software program or any other computer-human interface. It takes many aspects into account when creating the optimal web experience for users. These powerful stats should sell you on why creating a terrific user experience should be high on your priority listL
- 40% of all users will abandon a webpage if it takes more than three seconds to load
- 44% of users complain that mobile website navigation was difficult
- 81% of all marketers claim that improving conversion is their #1 website goal, and 78% of those respondents say creating a better user experience is the key to doing so
- 1 in 2 users say a poor mobile website experience means the company “simply doesn’t care”
If you’ve made it this far, that tells me that you are serious about building your business with digital marketing. While I’m certain that there are dozens (if not hundreds) of digital marketing ideas that I didn’t list, these are the strategies I’ve found to be most effective for the majority of companies and industries.
The biggest challenge that marketers today are faced with is the growing complexity of the marketing sphere. Unless you have a large marketing team with highly experience specialists, you’re at a decided disadvantage when it comes to implementing all – or even most – of these tactics. But that certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to do it.
How? Build a relationship with a trusted partner. Someone who knows what works, what doesn’t, and can help you determine with tactics will work for you. If your current agency partner is offering all these solutions, stand up for a round of applause. You chose well.
But if you are looking for a partner that can help with some or all of these tactics, why not start a conversation with Synapse?