Internet Marketing: Diagram Before the Details

People tend to love designing the details of any marketing initiative.  I truly understand why too.  It’s the slick and cool piece of marketing.  Unfortunately, it’s typically the least impactful to your audience and should garner the least attention.  If you are doing any internet marketing activity, plan an overview before considering any details.

I was in a meeting where a new web design was being proposed.  A basic wireframe was presented with hierarchy and navigation for a website.  I felt the proposed layout was practical, provided good visitor flow (scent), and ultimately made a lot of sense for the company.  The company representative’s comment was that the colors should be brighter and that she couldn’t read the text.  She also pointed out a few typos.

While the presenter obviously did a poor job prepping the company representative for what she was going to see, I’m always a little put-off when I hear this response. 

The first problem was that the text was just sample text.  A lot of it was gibberish so I had to chuckle inwardly at picking out typos in the first paragraph.  The second problem was that the company representative was focusing on all the wrong things.  She was discussing design tweaks rather than hierarchy and navigation.  The latter two are much more likely to effect ROI.

When setting up, designing, or re-designing any online marketing initiative.  Get the overview down.  Clearly define a goal and then create a diagram that will support the audience taking action on that goal.  A slick layout will not convert your audience.  The detail and design is a supporting feature of the larger hierarchies.  You have to map out a trip before worrying about whether to take a left or a right. 

Many people miss the forest for the trees.  Make sure you understand what and where the forest is before deciding how to place the trees.

– Eric
eMarketing Innovation

P.S. No I am not the presenter in this story (though it seems like a “my friend” scenario.  I was involved to collaborate on how the email campaigns would update and be incorporated into a new design.

Email Marketing: Weigh Your Marketing Needs vs. Users Expectations

One of the most common questions about email marketing is how often should emails be sent to the contact list.  Unfortunately there is no magic formula to follow.  However, an educated guess can  be achieved by weighing content vs. marketing goals. 

We’ve all heard “it’s better to give than receive”.  In email marketing the rule morphs into, “If you don’t give, you won’t receive.”  Most email marketing campaigns are conceived as a way of marketing products, services, or events. So to gauge send frequency, the first step is identifying what you are looking to promote.

Ideally a 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 ratio is achieved in subscriber-centered content vs marketing promotion.  Unless there are special deals that the email subscribers anticipate getting, which double as a marketing promotion, anything less than 1-to-1 is almost sure to fail.

So let’s look at an example.  I work with a client who runs an event quarterly.  His ultimate goal is to advertise the event and get people to register.  The campaign we created uses a 2-to-1 ratio.  We run a content rich piece that provides tips and insights into his field of expertise.  The promotional piece is an event specific invitation that provides information and registration details.  We decided that two invitation were an ideal mix for the event.  So knowing we had three months to promote and needing two invitations in that time frame, we used our ratio.  Two invitations required four content rich emails.  A bi-weekly send schedule worked perfectly to make sure the contact group was getting the promised information but also met my clients goal of getting two event promotions delivered for each quarterly event.  The added bonus was that the content emails provided credibility by displaying his knowledge of the topic.

But what if the my client ran monthly events? A weekly schedule would be necessary.  What if he ran two events a month?  Then he would need to segment the emails into lists of contacts or personas that the content would apply.   If that wasn’t possible, he would need find other avenues to promote the event.  Don’t let this general equation convince you to make absurdly frequent sends.  No matter how good your content is your contact list does not want daily emails.   

Of course, this is just a guideline and a lot of individual factors come into play.  However, it can provide a basis to start a campaign and then make improvements as the numbers are analyzed.  It also forces us to take the users into consideration.  One of the most common and detrimental mistakes made in email marketing is focusing solely on what you want to market and forgetting about what the contact group was promised.  That’s the perfect recipe to have a large opt-out list or a big group of people that ignore your messages.

Improving Online Marketing is Like Managing Fantasy Football

As fantasy football hits full swing, it occurred to me that internet marketing and managing a fantasy team is a lot like managing internet and email marketing.  Its about paying attention to numbers, making educated guesses about what will reap the most reward, reacting to past trends, and hoping for a little luck.

People get obsessed with fantasy football but few people get consumed by their internet marketing numbers.  The truth is online marketing can be fun.  Yes, looking over the numbers and formulating a strategy to improve can get tedious but no more so than pouring over player stats.  Seeing the results is typically more fun than winning a fantasy game as it can show a measurable impact on the business.

The secret to motivation in online marketing is not placing bets for performance or setting up a smack talk feature.  It’s realizing that you are gambling with a lot more than fantasy football glory.  Online marketing has the power to drive sales or leads which will improve business returns and likely improve the lifestyle of the people who make up the organization. 

Think of it as a game, but one that needs to be taken seriously.  You should have some fun but also need to focus on what and how you are improving.

Why bring this up?  Too many people focus on the wrong end of improving their online marketing.  They want to do the “fun” stuff like redesigning the webpage or putting together cool banner ads.  Nothing wrong with those things but they aren’t likely to significantly increase ROI unless the metrics have been weighed and evaluated. 

Find the fun in incremental growth.  It will keep the site improving toward set goals and avoid a lot of energy wasted on “improvements” that likely won’t display measurable benefits.  That can be a lot more exhilarating than hoisting your virtual trophy.

– Eric
eMarketing Innovation

P.S. Yes, I am a fantasy football player (I limit myself to 2 teams a year to avoid the addict label) so I know first-hand how all-encompassing it can be.