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Online Student Again! Part 10: 5 Ideas to Transform Your Digital Marketing

Cat_McGonigle_HP
Professor McGonagall shows the simplicity of transformation when talking about digital marketing.
Get it right, Potter!

I’ve finally finished¬†the last module of the Rutgers online course on digital marketing! In some respects, it feels like I just got started, but in other respects, it feel like I’ve been doing this a LONG time, and I’ll be happy when my test and capstone project have been turned in so I can get my weekends back again! ūüėČ

This last module was taught by Mike Moran, who also taught the second module about SEO. The topic of this last module was five ideas to transform your digital marketing.

Mike started this module with a pep talk to the class by validating that the class would probably feel overwhelmed by the flurry of content that’s been thrown at us through all these modules so far (uh, yah, you think so?) and how transitioning from learning to actually doing will be¬†scary (no, Mike, it’s TERRIFYING!!). But Mike reassured us that we have learned plenty that we should be able to employ these new tools to be effective, and the best way to truly learn is to DO some of these actions to gain some confidence. (Well, I’m gonna try, no matter how terrified I am about all this!)

To prove his point, he said that it’s usually the CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) and CIOs (Chief Information Officers) who usually have the shortest tenures as C-Level executives at an average of four years because they can get overwhelmed with this stuff, too! They both have digital marketing in common! So it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, but you shouldn’t run away from it, but rather face it head on! Mike said nobody’s an expert in digital marketing–not even any of the instructors from this whole course! (You could’ve had me fooled!) Things change so often that the instructors can’t keep up either, and so even they can be nervous about this stuff, too. “You will never learn enough to be comfortable. If you are looking for comfortable, then this is the wrong profession for you!” said Mike. (Sounds like a tech comm statement!) You can feel nervous and still do this! If you are doing this right, you will make mistakes, but the trick will be learning from them. Mike encouraged us that we are up to this, because this is not the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life. (Good point, dude.) Make sure you share your fears so you don’t feel so alone. (Dude, have you read this blog?)

After this pep talk, Mike made a segueway into the five ideas that would transform digital marketing.

1) Big data is the biggest change in marketing

The world has changed from traditional media to social media in the last twenty years, and the contributors have grown exponentially, while the response time has shrunk from days to minutes. It happened because of Moore’s law–transistor density doubles every two years, and costs plummet even more sharply. This has¬†resulted in drastic changes in everything that technology touches, including marketing. So, theoretically in 5 years, today’s $500 iPad will cost $50–but that’s not what’s going to happen. We’ll have wearables that will be taking over.

Mike defines Big Data with the 4 “V”s:

  • Volume – The obvious large amount¬†of the data
  • Velocity – It’s up to the minute because it changes every minute
  • Variety – It drives the IT people nuts because you keep needing something new
  • Veracity – Nothing else matters if you can’t trust its accuracy

He then outlined that Google knows a lot about us, namely who we are, what we are interested in, what we buy, and who are friends are. Amazon knows a lot about us, too, when we are on its site, such as where we came from, which ads we’ve seen, which products we have already looked at, and it knows our previous purchases. ¬†Mike then extended it to what marketers know when we are at the mall. Soon enough, there will be face recognition which will tell¬†us gender, age, ethnicity, and maybe identity. Some of this is already in play with the use of free wifi in a store can happen because marketers can recognize your phone in that store.

It’s not just about how marketers are using technology with your phone. It can also be how consumers find out information about the products they buy. For example, in the near future, there can be RFID tags on a milk carton. An RFID tag can be on the milk jug when the cow is milked, then a new RFID tag is created when the milk is placed in the carton, then the dairy ships the carton to the store, and the consumer can see facts about the cow and its shipment to decide whether to buy the milk based on freshness, antibiotics use, and how the milk was cared for during shipment.

Mike continued by saying that Big Data is changing the market. He pointed out that according to IBM, 98% of the data in existence was created in the last two years. We think of that as e-mail, photos, and social media, but with omnipresent security cameras and sensors on almost every item in the supply chain, it’s not hard to conceive of the notion that in five years, 98% of the world’s data would have been created within the last two MONTHS. (Holy Big Brother!)

In the end, it’s still marketing! Mike said that you need to target your audience, understand what they care about, and connect with your message, because if you do, you improve your image and drive sales. The difference is how you do it! Digital marketing is actually good, because you can see the results of things instantly in such things as Google Ads and yank them quickly if they don’t work in a matter of hours instead of a much longer period of time like risky traditional marketing. The risk is much lower, and the ability to test more to find the right thing is much easier.

2) Your marketing must attract your market

Your target markets are ruled by the business that sees your ads, and you won’t even know how it happened. Attracting business is mostly about opting in. Mobile works the same way–coupons can be sent to people who are nearby searching for you, or who checks in, or becomes the Mayor on Foursquare. To target your message, digital marketing rewards pull over push, as Mike put it. More often, markets find you or you give your customer permission to search, download apps, opt-in for emails, subscribe to your blog, or follow you on Twitter to provide customers with a means to find you. Mobile makes the experience more interactive, because your customer might look at a review online before purchasing, or might write a review shortly after purchase. Because of these kinds of interaction, you need to be part of the conversation because things are so transparent now, and you need to be making sure that you are engaged and listening to what customers say. You can start to understand what customers want through digital marketing because digital marketing is direct marketing–you can see what your customers do when they interact with your marketing message and website. The customers vote with the click of a mouse or tap of their finger on a mobile device! Web marketing is the biggest opportunity of direct marketing you could have if you use your analytics tools. Websites are to sell stuff!

So, how can you drive demand for your products? Increase your conversion rate, increase your traffic, or better yet, both! Brand awareness is not the decisive factor here, it’s SALES, so sales¬†needs to be the focus.

You need to decide your conversions–would they be through online sales, making store, partner, or dealer location information available, making it easy for customers to make phone calls, create affiliate links, or allow customers to download a whitepaper, or even something as straightforward and simple as filling out a contact form?

To track offline conversions to the web is most easily done by contacting the customer. Mike advised that if the customer switches channels, it’s good to draw the customer back by doing things like offering a special phone number, providing a coupon that can be printed to present at the retailer, or make the product specifications available to print out and bring to the dealer.

Website visitors come to websites to learn (research products and services), shop (compare offerings and prices), buy (check out and purchase), get (check order status), and use (get technical and customer support) through the buyer journey. But you can look at this same journey path to measure value. Examples of this would be helping the customer find the right product during the learning stage, seeing how many customers that view a product actually put it in their cart during the shop stage, see how many actually check out during the buy stage, and the multiply the difference by your average revenue to see what the actually impact on revenue is. Each stage is a micro-conversion. You have to decide what your buyer’s journey is going to be and how you are going to adapt it for that journey. Some sites lead to offline activity, so you need to account for that.

3) Your marketing message must be welcomed

Mike asked, “How do you connect with your message?” His answer was that relevant content will be passed along by search engines, linked by other websites, and passed along by your customers in social media and mobile. It’s really that simple! You need to concentrate on creating high quality, truly informational content, because if you do, you will become influential. Influence marketing is a matter of identifying the most persuasive ideas, and getting your customers to, as Mike put it, “sing your song.” An example would be authors asking certain people to review their books to help promote it, like asking Oprah to feature it in her book club. Campaigns alone are costly with huge swings, but if you have a fan base, then with both campaigns and engagement, your consumer interest will go up.

To measure influence, you can look at a Klout score, but you look at how many people they influence and what they are influential about. If they don’t appeal to a group that you are targeting, then you don’t want to work with that person. Influencers have relationships with each other. Some players have a lot to say, but no influence, and others are quieter, but influence many. Mike calls targeting that influencer the “D-list approach”. ¬†He says to use the long tail for blogger outreach because A-listers are hard to reach who get dozens of pitches every day. Your pitch might not break through, but it would with a D-lister.

4) You must respond to your customers

To connect with your message, you must change your message in reponse to what your customers say (tweets, likes, comments, blogs, product ratings) and do (search, purchases, page views). ¬†If you’re unresponsive, customers will burn you publicly with the customer reviews. Your solution is to accept comments and trackbacks on your blogs, allow your products to be rated and reviewed, and staff your efforts with enough people to respond. Not taking these steps gives off the impression that the company doesn’t care, and any negative commentary must be true–this is anti-influential!

By responding to customers, you can change your products, your content, your prices, your policies, your experience, and then change them again as needed to help increase your conversions. It’s a great feedback loop! Part of that is testing, and seeing how customers respond, and then adjusting accordingly, like doing A/B testing on your website. The more you test, the more you can find what works and will create greater conversions. By doing all these things, you’ll be surprised at how smart you will look! Mike made the profound statement of, “The reason you’re not confident about how to start is because you think it’s on YOU to know what to do. What I’m saying is that if you set up the feedback loop, it isn’t on you, it’s on the feedback loop.” This relieves much of the pressure that you have to come up with the perfect idea.

One of the things that makes it hard is the speed expected to expedite things. The slower approach is typically the “waterfall” approach, in which requirements and structure is documented meticulously to get to the end, but it’s too slow because by the time you get to the end, the requirements have changed. Mike made the analogy that “waterfall” is like baking, because you know what you want up front, precise measurements and preparation are needed, and nothing is done until the end. It’s not as easy to do. In contrast, the Agile process is, Mike contends, is like making soup–you can experiment as you go, you can see what’s working and what doesn’t by adding ingredients as you go along, but it’s at its best at the end. This is more flexible and faster. So, marketing and IT should be soup–something you can change as you go along. (I guess the expression of “No soup for you!” doesn’t apply here!) Mike’s message was not to do everything at once. Start small, do a little at a time, like make only one YouTube video and see how it goes rather than decide to plan out and produce 10 videos at once that could flop. See how the first one goes, and adjust accordingly.

5) Marketing ain’t just for marketers anymore.

Customers don’t want to hear from marketers, so you need to get help. Customers aren’t looking for copy anymore, but rather for information from the experts in your company that can solve their problem, and that might not be you.¬†Marketers must teach people–namely those experts–how to operate in public. There will never be a blogging department, and the PR team must teach the rest of the company to do PR through social media. You can teach them what you know, let them do their thing, and mentor them when necessary. There will always be some element of risk involved in getting others involved, but there is risk even without getting others involved. Your job is to help set parameters to minimize the risk of errors as much as possible. These experts are a big asset and to use their expertise is free! It’s all about internal marketing as much as it is about external marketing.

Another overlooked segment is reverse mentoring–there are lots of people who understand traditional marketing but don’t understand how to use the digital tools, yet younger people understand those digital and social media tools, and¬†would benefit from learning more about traditional marketing. Traditional marketers should take advantage of learning from the digital literacy of the younger ones to start learning how to take better advantage of these tools. In fact, mutual mentoring is even better!

Another obstacle to tackle is how to persuade your colleagues into joining into this digital marketing mentality. Part of that will involve more of that internal marketing that you need to do as you do with your other company colleagues. ¬†One way is to work on getting the message to come from the top down, meaning an executive puts forth the idea of what needs to be done, but this can be difficult to implement consistently. The alternative is to get department heads to get together to find a common ground to implement actions, but that generally doesn’t work well either. The solution is that you have to admit that some business units are more important than others, and work with those. Mike gave the example of the Security Council of the United Nations enforcing rules on various countries, and targeting specific groups as needed. Using a scorecard to motivate teamwork and publicizing the results internally of how these things are implemented can be helpful in getting that cooperation, as it’s tangible and driven by data. You can slowly change organizational behavior by changing the rules, setting benchmarks, reviewing business unit scorecards, demand improvement, and repeat the process again with a new agenda or raising the standards of the one you are working on.

According to Mike, if these five ideas are implemented immediately, and things are put in place to start making it happen, you are much more likely to succeed. Take it one step at a time, but you need to act, or you won’t benefit from all the new information attained in this course. (Yes, all 10 modules!) You can’t run away from digital marketing, so it’s to our benefit to move forward with all this information and succeed!

Amazingly enough, this five-step summary was a good way to end things. Mike showed that digital marketing is not magic. (Now you get the Harry Potter image reference above?) It brought together all the main elements of all the rest of the modules together in a comprehensive way to implement them. Heck, I started using these steps immediately with some people I work with both inside and outside of my job, so I guess this course helped.

BUT WAIT–THAT’S IT! I GOT THROUGH ALL 10 MODULES!

I still have to take the final exam, as well as create and submit my capstone project, so I will be working on those for the next two weeks or so. Wish me luck, because my grade will depend on those! I’ll report on those as I complete them!

So what do you think? Do you think these five steps are the key, or is there more to consider? Comment below.

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Online Student Again, Part 9: Web Analytics & ROI for Better Decision Making–Decisions, Decisions

I guess the Doctor isn't that great in figuring out KPIs or reading Google Analytics.
I guess the Doctor isn’t that great in figuring out KPIs or reading Google Analytics.

Anytime I think of any kind of tech comm analytics, I don’t think of Google Analytics or Web Trends, but my mind races back to the first time I heard Mark Lewis speak and how my mind was blown at the idea that tech writing was measurable in any form. ¬†Now, a few years later, I’m looking at this latest module in my online Digital Marketing course at Rutgers about Web Analytics and ROI, as taught by Rob Peterson of the marketing firm, BarnRaisersLLC.

The idea of analytics and ROI (return on investment) sends a shiver down my spine. While I understand the function of analytics and some basics, it makes me think of complicated mathematical formulas, and that in itself makes me anxious. (I was a decent math student in school, but it was not my forté.)

Peterson started his course with a quote that I could swear I’ve heard either Mark Lewis or Joe Gollner repeat (I think it was Joe) by Peter Drucker to frame the objective, in which Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” ¬†So, the first question was, what is “it”? “It” could be almost anything. ¬†But Peterson feels that “it” is success–that your success (or lack thereof) is what needs to be measured. He also felt that the verbs “measure” and “manage” were the keys to understanding the material for this module.

Peterson broke down these by 6 steps to demystify web analytics:

  1. Know why your site exists
  2. Identify who you want to attract
  3. Find out how they find your site
  4. Know the action(s) you want them to take
  5. Create an actionable scorecard aka figuring out your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
  6. Listen to your digital ecosystem

You want to do these steps because the buying cycle has changed due to the internet. The buying “funnel” has been replaced by a flatter, more circular course of evaluation and re-evaluation before buying, but there is a subsequent loyalty to a brand after the initial buy that shortens the cycle the second time around.

Petersen then talked about how to make your digital ecosystem thrive, describing it as the intersection of earned (sharing), owned (web properties), and paid (advertising)¬†media. ¬† People come before software in analytics, he insisted, stating that there’s a 10/90 rule for analytics, namely 10% of the marketing budget should go towards the analytics software, and 90% towards getting good people to analyze the results. We use measurement to understand our role, which is understanding the customer journey with the goal of optimizing the customer experience and find more customers.

To do this, there are several (he said 12, but I could figure out which were the specific 12) measurements to know.

First, you have to understand how consumers find you. This is primarily done through keywords and links. ¬†It was emphasized that¬†page rank (aka “SERP”- Search Engine Rank Page) mattered because the first listed item in the¬†ranking outweighs subsequent 5 ranks combined, usually. ¬†The¬†metric that mattered most with paid media? He gave¬†these two equations to show how this worked:

CPC (cost per click) =¬†CTR (Click thru rate–this makes the click relevant)

CTR= clicks/impressions

He noted that a good conversion rate is actually low–2% is considered good!

So, once you’re at the website–now what? To analyze this, you need to look at sessions and users (which were recently renamed by Google, and formerly known as visitors and unique visits, which I understand better). Usually the period of time usually measured is looking at the last 30 days. ¬†An important metric in this is looking at the bounce rate, which is a percentage that means the number¬†of people who only viewed one page then left. It’s important¬†because it¬†shows if the site is relevant or not. A good bounce rate depends on your goal¬†or¬†objective. If you wanted people to come to a specific page to sign up for something only on that page, then you achieved your goal, but if not, then you have to figure out why they didn’t stay. Petersen noticed that if you notice that your bounce rate is high for the wrong reasons, it’s not easy to change a bounce rate overnight.

One also has to understand where users people come from and what they do. Traffic resources are organic, direct, or paid searches,  but can also be referral and social media sources.

The focus then turns on the key content (aka the webpages) by determining how¬†many take the actions that you want. Conversion, here, is an important metric. There is the macro conversion, which is revenue generating, such as person to person, B2B, B2C, WebEx to WebEx, and the like, versus micro conversion, in which users would subscribe to the blog or a newsletter or participate by making a comment on a blog, and so on. This can also be done through word of mouth, more specifically “likes”,¬†comments, shares, people talking about the site, followers,¬†retweets,¬†reviews and¬†rating, sentiment, text analytics, and email open rate. The conversion rate is determine with this equation:

Conversion rate=(Desired outcomes/total visits) X 100

There are several online tools to help you listen that are generally free tools and work better on bigger sites, but easily available to use, according to Petersen:

  • Google Trends¬†– This tool uses keywords. It can compare two different topics to see where they’ve been and where they are predicted to go. The example given was the buzz between Justin Bieber and the anticipated Samsung Galaxy 4 among teenagers as potential buyers. Fortunately for Samsung, the Galaxy 4 was¬†trending more than Bieber!
  • Compete.com¬†– This is a¬†paid tool focused on doing competitive intelligence. It lets you see how you compare to your competitors so you can figure out your strategy.
  • Alexa.com – This is another tool that looks at the competition, powered by Amazon. It¬†can use to compare your competition by providing¬†ranking and metric information.
  • Marketing.Grader.com¬†– This is a HubSpot tool that grades your website on several levels from social media marketing, blog posts, SEO, lead generation and mobile.¬†I tried this tool and¬†this blog got an 82/100, mostly because I’m not really trying to generate leads, and the mobile aspect of using WP needs help, so I considered that pretty good. I like this tool because it was really easy to use and understand. At the time of the recording of the lesson, Petersen’s business website had an 81! And I had an 82? Hah! I must be doing something right!

The course continued by using a case study using Google Analytics. The objective of this part of the lesson was to learn what to look for and how to use it. It was pointed out that it only will look up your own company due to admin rights, and to make it work optimally, you need to get specific code and embed it in all of your page (perhaps in the header, for example) so that Google Analytics can track it correctly by the correct administrators.

The main focus in using Google Analytics is looking at the audience figures. Look at the Engagement section to see who is really spending time on your pages. It¬†helps you to understand the bounce rate. Petersen pointed out that on average, 95% of the audience never views more than 5 pages, and 95% don’t spend anymore than 5 minutes on a website. You can also look at location for geographic data, drilling down from national to town level. The section labeled “Mobile” can let you see how the site is being accessed.

This information helps to frame the marketing “funnel” that is often talked about, which is where marketers start with the action of acquisition, narrowing the focus to engagement, which further narrows to conversion. If it circles back to the engagement, this signals that there is loyalty to the brand, and this cycle begins again.

Google Analytics can also identify how your audience finds you, which is mainly through acquisition, behavior, and e-commerce. Behavior metrics can show what pages they are going to. Channels section knows keywords even if analytics don’t tell, as it shows keywords that people are using to access the site. You can¬†find out about keywords from the Site Search section. All this information helps us understand the conversion rate¬†by allowing us to¬†see what’s been bought¬†and¬†look at average order value if you offer goods on your site.

For better information on keywords, Google Webmaster Tools is a better choice. It can tell you if your website is set up correctly so that the webcrawlers can find you, and helps correct errors on your site, providing rich depth of information on keywords.

So, you have all this information–what do you do with it? You do a lot of testing, because it’s an activity and a philosophy in which you build and test and repeat the cycle, using lots of small steps continually. Surveys are one way to do this, as they are essentially a tool that acts as the “voice of the customer”. Surveys use simple questions regularly executed such as, “Why did you come to this website?”, “Did you find what you were looking for?”, “Would you come back?”, and “What would make your next visit better?” There is also what is known as¬†A/B Testing, in which you show two different versions of an ad or webpage to customer¬†groups, and then seeing which people went to the goal page based on the two different models. A third way to find out some of this data directly from customers is looking at reviews, as they help searches and sales for other customers.

This is when the talk steered towards¬†the ROI part of the discussion. Petersen started by letting us know how much a “like” on a site was worth.¬†Research showed that among 150 brands researched, it was worth $71.84. Fans of a brand are 28% more likely than non-fans to continue using the brand, while fans are 41% more likely than non-fans to recommend a fanned product to their friends.

What does it tell us about “Like”-ability? It tells us how we can¬†learn from social media audiences, which can be achieved through Facebook surveys and provides sentiment analysis.

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)are crucially important as they are the “scorecard” needed to keep a strategy on track. Petersen defined KPIs using a quote by Avinash Khaushik of ¬†Google, saying that KPIs are¬†“Measurements that help you understand how you are doing against your objectives.” Petersen also used the quote by Laurence Peter, saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” This, Petersen decreed, is where you define the “success” using metrics to measure.

There is a difference between KPIs and metrics, namely that a KPI is a metric, but a metric is not a KPI. More specifically, KPIs:

  1. Relate to a business objective
  2. Are chosen by the people accountable
  3. Provide context by being tracked over time
  4. Are based on legitimate data
  5. Are easy to understand
  6. Create meaning that gives control
  7. Require action

The role of KPIs, per Petersen, is that “KPIs are an actionable scorecard that keeps your strategy on track. They enable you to manage, control, and achieve desired business results.”

How do you choose the best digital marketing measurements? Start with a KPI scorecard that compares raw numbers against progress against the percentage of change.
For example:

Numbers Progress % Change
Example # of new customers 95% complete 22% increase in sales
source CRM project plan P&L
Frequency Monthly quarterly monthly

From there, you create a dashboard for the scorecard that should include both web and offline metrics that looks something like this:

KPI 1st Qtr 2nd Qtr 3rd Qtr
Sales Metric #1
Sales Metric #2
Website Metric #1
Website Metric #2
Social Media Metric #1
Social Media Metric #1

The KPI dashboard shows key areas and results from metrics, and can help you to figure out what the key points are to create a KPI report for management.

Some Metrics for KPI consideration:

  • Before: Keywords, keyword trends, indexed, links, authoritative links
  • During: visitors, segmentation, bounce rate, traffic sources, key pages, conversion rate, average value
  • After: reviews, surveys, A/B tests, social promotions

Starting from KPIs to deriving ROI is about the “Show me the money!” You need to look at the results from latent effects to direct effects. Direct online effects usually make up 16%, latent online effects makes up 21%, while latent offline effects makes up 63% of the results.

What is ROI (Return on Investment)? The equation given for this was:

(gain from investment-cost of investment)/cost of investment ($)=ROI
ex. ($500,000-$100,000)/$100,000=400% or 4-to-1 ROI

ROI is important because it reflects the idea of good management of money. Examples of gains and investments include:

  • Gains: sales increase, shorter purchase cycle, more leads, higher close rate, lower internal operating costs
  • Investments: marketing, advertising, promotion, PR, customer service, staff, overhead, time and¬†energy

Metrics we use to create both annual and lifetime customer value and help us be better marketers include:

  • Mass Marketing (Mass media, like TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, billboards — create awareness, interest, trial, sales)
  • Direct marketing (leads, conversions, retention, sales)
  • Digital marketing (unique visitors, downloads, register, redeem, convert, buy)

What ROI calculation can and can’t do:

  • Can: identify direct effect, provide relationships between direct and latent effects, give insights how to drive ROI higher, define consumer value
  • Can’t: define ROI goals and expectations, establish a baseline, identify a timeframe

What’s in store for the future? More data (aka BIG data)¬†is¬†growing exponentially coming in. “Big Data” is large amounts of data from web-browser trails, social network communications, sensor and surveillance data that form unstructured data stored in computer clouds, not servers.

The course was concluded with the statement, “It’s not the data, it’s what you do with it.”

Overall, this module was pretty good. I feel less anxious about web analytics and how to analyze the information provided, and I now have some more robust tools to use as well. The only thing I didn’t like about this module was that while Mr. Petersen was obviously knowledgeable about the topic, the structure of the module wasn’t completely clear. At the top of the course, he said from the beginning that there would be a top 12 things, but they really weren’t defined as “this is #1, this is #2, this is #3,” and so on. While there was a good progression, part of this came off as scattered because I felt like I didn’t understand how he was going from Point A to Point B and why, and no clear outline¬†on how he planned to cover the lesson. Call it the content strategist in me, but that structure was something I just needed. Other than that, it was a module that I definitely needed for a better understanding of the topic, and the information was sound.

The last module is coming up, which looks like it will tie all the previous modules together! Until then…