Stop Checking Those Digital Marketing Reports!

Attention to detail is a valuable asset in digital marketing campaign analysis. Obsessively reviewing those details is not.

Data-driven digital marketing is an ideal path to improving your digital marketing performance but you have to allow time for that data to illuminate trends, opportunities, and inefficiencies. If you are reviewing the same data more than once a week (monthly is appropriate for most trainers, consultants, and professional coaches) then you need to stop checking on the data so frequently.

A surplus of time and resources is rarely a problem for digital marketers.  Instead of constantly fixating on the data, invest your time and effort into other digital marketing activities.  Scaling back on how often you run reports allow for meaningful analysis and frees up time to take action on that analysis.

Over or Under Qualifying Leads

Ease of conversion is a common goal in digital marketing but is it at odds with your sales process?  There is a balancing act in allowing users to easily access offers while not overburdening the sales or delivery team with a lot of qualification requirements.

Years ago I was confronted by a sales person after leads came back from a direct mail campaign.  After making calls from his lead list he grew frustrated from lackluster results and said, “Why do I get all of the goofy ass leads!?” While I think that the leads were only one part of the problem, he brought up a fair point.  If a lead is not a viable prospect, does it have any value?

It’s frustrating for trainers, consultants, and professional coaches to be fed “leads” that are poorly suited to their services.  However, the entire purpose of marketing is eroded if attempts to qualify leads drastically reduce marketing conversions.

To get the balancing act right, it’s important to first verify that you are working on the right side of the problem.  Lead qualification is often unduly blamed for a poor sales system or lacking an effective approach call process.

If you analyze your leads and find that there is a consistent problem with the quality then ask yourself these questions:

  • Are your marketing communications going to the right group of people?
    After all if you haven’t evaluated your audience and it’s made up of people that would be bad leads, it’s a sure bet that lead quality will be poor.
  • Is critical qualification data being omitted from the conversion process?
    If you need critical information for an offer’s conversion then it’s advisable to add it. For example, if you have an event that’s only for a particular industry then collecting industry information on the registration is a god screen to make sure the lead is viable. If there is any opportunity to populate that data from other sources (rather than requiring data entry from users) it’s a good option to keep conversion friction down.
  • Can ancillary qualification steps be added after conversion?
    Rather than trying to place all of the qualification on the user during conversion, it is often possible to do additional qualification after conversion. Using the industry specific event as an example, a survey might be triggered after registration asking people that registered to check off common problems that they would like to hear addressed at the event.  This ensures that attendees have compelling reasons to attend and provides you with some hot button issues that the group is dealing with. If you find that attendees are struggling to identify problems then they might be directed to a more suitable offer or perhaps the event is not a well targeted.

Digital marketing drip campaigns allow for even poor leads to be nurtured into good leads.  Over qualification deprives you of the opportunity of staying engaged with those people that don’t currently make a good client, even though they might become a good client in the future. Doing too much qualification on the front end can severely hinder a digital marketing campaign because the flow of leads into the ongoing marketing campaign is constricted and restrictive conversions limit your ability to analyze whether offers are broadly resonating with your audience.

Inline Formatting For Unique Instances

Almost every current website is built on a pre-existing platform that facilitates content management and site maintenance.  These tools are pre-set with formatting that applies throughout the site.  So what happens if you have a unique situation where you need to deviate from the pre-established format?  Inline formatting can often be leveraged on an isolated case to update website layouts to fit a unique need.

Typically site formatting is all driven from centralized Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).  Then each webpage references that CSS to apply formatting.  This has a technical benefit (cleaner and leaner code) and a visual benefit (consistent design throughout the site).  However, no matter how thorough a developer is, there will always be a unique situation where the user wants to use some non-standard formatting.

It’s important to use discretion when using inline formatting. Inline formatting goes against web standard and can therefore produce unexpected results.  In addition, you are intentionally undermining the layout that a designer/developer put in place, presumably for a good reason.  That means you should have an equally good reason for undoing it, preferably one that is data-driven.

Inline formatting should also be used in isolated situations only.  If you find that you have a widespread need to use inline formatting or are repetitively using the same code, it’s probably best to reexamine your template layout and make site wide updates.

All that said, if the web platform allows for direct code formatting then a user can leverage inline code to update the layout.  Inline formatting is basically CSS code placed within a HTML page.  It’s most often used in the following tags:

  • <div>
  • <span>
  • <p>
  • <font> – Careful with this one as it is an old tag that will not be supported in some browsers. However, it can be used on platforms that strictly remove other types of inline formatting

Web platforms will often omit or ignore certain inline formatting tags from deploying so trial and error is essential.  Experimenting involves two questions:

  • What – The code that will render your page/element in the way you want.
  • Where – Putting that code in the appropriate location that your site will accept.

For the times where you have an individual need for one-off formatting on your site, inline formatting can allow you to modify the typical layout to meet the unique need.

Should Your Digital Marketing be AGILE?

It’s no secret that technology greatly influences how we work.  In recent years those influences have been bleeding outside of the realm of technology and becoming general principles for project management.

Sometimes these principles are skillfully applied outside their original intended purpose but in many cases they serve as an inefficient construct.  The most prevalent technology concept that has bled into digital marketing conversations is applying the Agile Methodology to digital marketing campaigns.

To apply Agile Methodology to your digital marketing you first need an explanation of what Agile Methodology is.  As a high level description, Agile is a process for software and system development where developers create a piece of software, review it, get feedback, then refine it.  Other pieces of the software are likely being developed for the same project and using the same process.  These bursts of development are called “sprints”  and allow multiple people or groups to review and provide feedback so that all the elements create a cohesive whole throughout the project.

The benefit of the agile methodology in software development is that it lets developers focus on a single element of the software, get immediate feedback, and refine it before moving further into development.  It also prevents any element from being set in  stone so that improvements can be made later in the project. In this way, elements of the software don’t become siloed by function and it ensures that the software is evolving into something users want, rather than what the developers think users want.

The agile methodology has been widely converted into a project management philosophy. While elements of it can be used effectively, it is also easy for trainers, consultants, and professional coaches to misapply the methodology.

The basic structure for any good digital marketing campaign is:

  • Set a strategy
  • Develop the content
  • Launch an element of the campaign
  • Review the results
  • Refine the campaign using the metrics

This process can be adapted into an Agile framework:

  • Project backlog (list of all projects)
  • Sprint backlog (individual elements of the project)
  • Burn chart (Visual tool of what is complete)
  • Task board (Visual tool of what needs done)
  • Sprint (Do the work)
  • Sprint review (Gather feedback)
  • Retrospective (Set plans for correction/improvement)

The real risk of misapplying Agile is over complicating what should be simple.  Here are some common misapplications that makes Agile slow your marketing progress to a crawl:

Not really understanding the Agile Methodology – Agile is widely used as a management fad or for its buzzwords.  It’s not uncommon for someone to state that they want their marketing to follow the Agile process when what they really mean is that they want rapid deployment of marketing communications.

Unnecessary meetings –  SCRUMS are daily meeting to focus a software development project.  That’s very useful to a large group of developers trying to build a single cohesive software offering.  For a small group of people where only a few are actually executing the marketing, it’s a waste of time.

Sprints are too fast – Sprints in the Agile methodology almost never go over a month.  Many digital marketing campaigns require at least a month’s data to effectively analyze it.  Speeding up the analysis often means taking action on incomplete data.

Retrospective on what you already know – Software developers rely on user tests to verify what works and what doesn’t.  An advantage that digital marketing has over software development is an actual data set on what was effective and what isn’t.  In an effort to follow Agile some people feel compelled to survey their audience on what they like/dislike about the marketing campaign. If you diligently analyze the data then you can see what your audience prefers rather than what they think they prefer.

Using complicated software tools – There are a lot of project management tools that offer the agile methodology.  For large groups this can be a valuable tool for keeping everyone on the same page.  For a small group it takes a long time to do what a simple flowchart or summarized email string could accomplish.

 

Agile methodology was designed so that software development was flexible in what it delivered rather than developing an entire software offering only to find out its not what people really want.  That flexibility and constant evolution process is what digital marketing should take from the Agile Methodology.  If you’re taking more than those core principles from the methodology make sure it’s increasing your efficiency rather than hindering it.

 

 

 

LinkedIn’s New Company Page Gets Even Better

Have you accessed the new LinkedIn company page?  The new design started deployment several months ago and most of the company pages I administer have now been converted.  LinkedIn has been kind enough to retain access to the old administration page but states that once all company pages have been migrated, the old admin experience will be retired.  So if you’ve been avoiding the upgrade, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the new admin dashboard. To make it easier LinkedIn has made updates in the last week  to eliminate two primary frustrations.

The new layout is cleaner and offers some useful administrative tools.  That said whenever I hear that an interface is going to be “cleaner”, I immediately try to identify what they’ve removed and how that might affect me.

The better news is that the two frustrations I had with the new admin dashboard have just been updated to improve the experience.

Embedded Images

Clearly LinkedIn is trying to make the new company pages more scanable and is relying on images to keep the content from getting cluttered.  To do that it pulls the featured image from a page.  As long as you’ve set that image, LinkedIn seamlessly embeds it into the post.

But what if the page you are linking to does not have a defined image or has misassigned one? Before the update I found it frustrating because LinkedIn used that wrong image or created a basic title text post which doesn’t exactly draw attention when placed in a sea of graphics.

The most recent update corrected the deficiency by reinstating the simple add image icon and making the title editable.  It’s still most efficient to have a defined image but if you are linking to a page that you don’t have administrative access to or need to make customized changes within LinkedIn, it’s an option again.

Sharing from Your Profile

LinkedIn does not currently let you sort your feed. The content defaults to “featured content” so finding a particular post can be a frustrating experience.  LinkedIn says that sorting your feed by date posted will be returning soon but, for now, sharing company news to personal accounts can be a headache.

While I’ve not seen research to prove this, the new update seems to share news from a particular company. That company’s posts then become more prevalent in my feed for additional sharing. A good workaround is to alert anyone that might want to share your company news that they should do so when it’s featured on their feed and not delay.  This typically happens soon after the content is posted on the company page. After a few shares it becomes easier for individuals to find the company posts.

The added benefit to a group sharing company news as soon as it’s available is that once one user shares the content, other users can locate that share in the first users profile and share the share.  This prevents multiple people from having to hunt down a post to share it.  Once one user shares it, the other users can navigate directly to the content via that share.

 

Avoiding these couple frustrations has let me appreciate the scanability of the new company pages and the addition of several useful tools.

 

Photo credit: Flickr, Nan Palmero

The Copying and Pasting Checklist

Copying and pasting is probably my favorite command on a computer. What’s not to love? It saves so much time when you can use a past communication, setting, or tool on a new project.

I didn’t realize my dependence on copying and pasting ran so deep until doing a demo on a web platform with the vendor. As I explored the functionality I asked, “How do I make a copy of this page?” The vendor told me that they eliminated the copy function because they found that administrators were overusing it and repetitive data and tags were creeping into sites.  As a “best practice” they required admins to start pages from scratch.  While my impression of the platform was not great to that point, that remark ensured I was not going to implement it.

How can a function that saves so much time be a bad habit? While I don’t agree that eliminating copying and pasting from a platform or marketing processes is appropriate, I have to admit that there is a grain of truth in what the vendor was saying. Duplicating content does require diligence to ensure that all the appropriate settings are updated to prevent outdated or inaccurate information being placed in updated communications.

Let’s use an event webpage as an example. When copying and pasting an old event, obvious changes like updating the graphics and text are rarely missed but the entire user experience should be reviewed to make sure that all the information they receive is correct.

Graphics – Have the promotional or speaker images been updated?
Text – Has all the appropriate text been changed? Pay attention to minor text mentions for things like specials or length of the event.
Meta Tags – Has the page’s header information been refreshed so that the people searching for the event are able to find it and land on the right page?
Form – If you are not using an automated app, is the form saving to the right database? Do the data fields need updated?
Landing Page – Does the confirmation for the event’s landing page need updated with logistic info or other instructions?
Email Confirmation – Has the automated email been updated with logistic info or other instructions?
Event Surveys – If you survey attendees before the event, has the content and/or the link been updated so that they are surveyed on the appropriate topic?

This checklist shows that something as simple as duplicating a page requires verification on many aspects of the user experience. This checklist might only be a starting point for more complex digital marketing activities. Use this example to customize your own copying and pasting processes. These checklists will ensure that you get all the benefits from copying and pasting without it becoming a bad habit.

Responsibly Re-use Content

Online marketing has become a voracious beast that devours content. Keeping quality content flowing at a pace that can feed your email, social media, and/or blog can be a daunting task. If a trainer, consultant, or professional coach responsibly re-uses their content it can help fill gaps in their online marketing campaigns and still provide value to their target audience.

There are a few ways of re-using content:

  • Refresh Old Article/Video/Podcast Etc. – Reusing older content that has not seen the light of day in a while is often a simple way of getting more out of the effort you spent in creating it. However, it’s important not to get lazy by publishing it without a review. Be certain that you haven’t used the content lately (a year is often a safe time line). The world changes quickly and even an article or video from only a year ago might need updates on technical points or current events. The theme from Articles or videos that are several years old might be retained but frequently need a significant rewrite. For example, we just updated an article that referenced “replying to a pager” and “receiving a fax”.
  • New Spin On A Repeated Topic – This article is a partial re-use. Read the previous version about the pitfalls when you chronically re-use content. Previous content will often focus on one specific aspect of a topic. It’s possible to re-use that content by covering a different aspect. In this case the previous article speaks to the problems that can arise when you chronically re-use content. This article is on the same topic but is designed to suggest responsible and effective ways to re-use content.
  • Repackage Content – If you have newer content that resonates well or a series of articles or videos, it might be repackaged into a new offering. For instance, if you have an email marketing series on a particular topic or theme, that might be edited into a whitepaper or eBook.
  • Use Others Content As Commentary – It’s possible to re-use other people’s content but it takes diligence. The best way to do this is as commentary. This is often achieved by making a short comment on social media or by doing a lengthier review/analysis on what someone else has provided. In either case it’s important to make it clear who created the original content so that you are not taking credit for other people’s work.

Content creation is a significant effort in most digital marketing campaigns. While it’s important to provide unique content to your audience that highlights your unique expertise or offering, content re-use can be a valuable tactic in meeting a burdensome content creation schedule.

Photo credit: Flickr, Steven Snodgrass

All Leads Are Not Created Equal

There is value to every lead. Even a simple download or follow that includes a specific request not to be contacted is at least a validation of the value your marketing is bringing to your target audience.  It’s also a reaffirmation that you still hold that prospect’s attention and will get future opportunities to convert them to a proper lead.  Having said that, this is an example of a low level lead that can turn into something but doesn’t warrant a lot of time spent in immediate conversion.  It’s important to be honest about the quality of a lead so that they can be prioritized into categories for appropriate next steps.

The most common way to categorize leads is through a temperature system from cold to hot. Below are some basic descriptions and an example of appropriate next steps.

Quality

Description

Next Step

Cold A simple download, newsletter sign up, or follow that requests no follow up.
  1. Make sure that the prospect receives what they requested.
  2. Include the prospect in your marketing communications matrix.
Cool A simple download, newsletter sign up, or follow that is neutral to a follow up.
  1. Make sure that the prospect receives what they requested.
  2. Respond with a systematized and/or individual email or call.
Warm A download, sign up, or social follow that specifically requests a follow up (Priority given if it includes some potential problem indicators that your product or service can solve).
  1. Make sure that the prospect receives what they requested.
  2. Respond with a systematized and/or individual email or call (Unless the prospect can buy directly online, then a individualized email or call should be placed even if a systematized response is available).
Hot Attendance at an event or registration for a tool / trial account (Especially if it includes some potential problem indicators that your product or service can solve).
  1. Make sure that the prospect receives what they requested.
  2. Complete any systematized communication that the request requires.
  3. Respond with an individualized phone call or email (Even if the product or service can be bought online it’s prudent to make an individualized connection).

 

Now that we have a gauge of quality, why does it matter? In a perfect world, with unlimited resources, it wouldn’t.  Every marketing lead could be treated with the same priority.  However, most trainers, consultant, and professional coaches don’t have the luxury of infinite resources.

Ranking the quality lets you design responses, either in person or systematized, that a lead warrants. This prevents wasting too much time or effort on a low quality lead and ensures that high quality opportunities are addressed in a timely manner. It can also help prioritize calls to action if your marketing matrix can only support a limited number of offers.

Of course, quality is often a bit of a judgment call. Some leads might blur the lines a bit.  However, it’s important to let the prospect’s request gauge the quality rather than how we perceive the person.  For example, many times trainers, consultants, or professional coaches place a priority on a person from a big name company with not much stated interest over a person from a smaller company who is expressing more need because they perceive greater potential opportunity.  It’s impossible to know that before engaging a lead so it’s best to prioritize by what we know rather than what we hope/suspect.

Lead quality forms an important bridge between marketing and sales and having a realistic interpretation with suitable responses helps both function better.

Calls-to-Action Dilution

Every digital marketing campaign should drive toward a call-to-action.  Even communications that are primarily educational or informational should have some method of pointing people to a next step.  There’s often a fear that a call to action will get stale. That can be a valid fear if your audience no longer values what is being offered. However, that fear can drive digital marketers to over-produce and under-promote their calls-to-action. Focus on making a quality call-to-action and promoting it thoroughly so that your target audience is given a sufficient opportunity to take advantage of the offer.

Technology keeps accelerating the pace of digital marketing.  This rapid pace often shifts focus to what’s new rather than what’s good.   Something new will often get attention but something good will get a conversion. Effective digital marketing is built on quality calls-to-action not just something new.

We work with a client that has had success offering whitepapers.  Their conversion rates were so good in fact that it encouraged them to create more whitepapers.  After all if one whitepaper can create dozens of leads, then two whitepapers can produce hundreds, right?

When conversion rates started to slip on subsequent whitepapers they sped up production.  Producing the whitepapers strained their ability to research and analyze data on the featured topic so the depth of the content within the whitepaper eroded.  To combat that they started producing short reports based on presentations or articles they had previously released.

The reports were not well received so they started creating them more frequently hoping to cover specific topics that would appeal to their different target audiences.  But since the content was not robust and the segments within their list found little value in them. This led to the middle of last year when they were releasing a report every 2 to 4 weeks, doing a blitz promotion of it for several weeks, and then moving on to the next one.

Trying to keep that breakneck pace was exhausting their resources and killing conversion rates. It was a lot more work to offer something new with very few extra leads to show for it.

So why weren’t leads increasing as they offered more calls-to-action? Unfortunately direct scaling doesn’t often happen on calls-to-action unless the call to action is as strong as the first and appeals to an equal number of non-duplicated people. Instead of scaling there is a dilution effect where the same people convert repetitively, poorer quality offerings drop the overall conversion rate, or both. This is further compounded when the call-to-action is not given sufficient time for promotion.

If you find that you’re rapidly releasing calls-to-action but are not getting sufficient leads or sales to justify the effort, then you have either misidentified what has value to your audience or you are suffering from over-production and the call-to-action dilution effect.

Make Use of Digital Marketing Tools or Eliminate Them

It’s the New Year resolution time of year. I am a big believer in setting goals with a plan to reach those targets. The problem with resolutions is that the planning phase tends to be omitted. Rather than making a resolution, make an explicit goal because you’ll be ten times more likely to achieve it if it’s well defined. As you define that plan, it’s important to evaluate how past plans were executed to ensure you won’t repeat a mistake or experience a drag from past initiatives that aren’t as productive as you intended.

A lack of analysis on past performance typically means you are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in gyms across the country. January is flooded with people that are determined that this is the year they’ll get in shape and stay healthy. By the time February rolls around the gyms have lost that overcrowded feeling (only 60% of new/renewed member still attend). By June the gym is typically back to its normal routine (only 40% of new/renewed members attend). Gyms typically only have their regular members at the end of the year because only a fraction of the new/renewed members will hold to their resolution (8% success rate).

Why are these numbers so defined? Because most gyms track them as part of their business model. It seems logical that members that stop coming to the gym also discontinue their membership. However, that’s a false assumption. Many gyms rely on members that intend to come but never take advantage of the gyms facilities. Many of the people that recommit at the beginning of the year but stop showing up by February carry their membership throughout the year, renewing again the following year.

The obvious fact is that having a membership to a gym is not going to improve physical fitness. Making a commitment to consistently use that membership will.

Statistic Brain compiled an overarching data set on what and how resolutions are made. It illustrates that our undefined intentions are not exclusive to gyms and often fail. 42% of the people that make resolutions never analyze their performance which means that they are more likely to repeat the same fruitless process.

Has your digital marketing become a set of unused gym memberships? Set your digital marketing goals but analyze the results of past initiates. If you aren’t using services and apps or they aren’t well suited to this year’s plan, then eliminate them. It’s better to define a past plan or initiative as a failure than to repeat the mistake or make a half-hearted resolution to correcting it. This can obviously save money on unused paid platforms but will have a bigger benefit in optimizing your digital marketing toolset.

Digital marketing is evolving too quickly to hold on to unused tools because they dilute focus and increase administrative needs. Make sure that your whole toolset has a clearly defined purpose for your marketing plan.

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