It was an impossible situation, the question had been asked, and it didn’t matter how it was answered, every answer would lead to the same place, and not one she could come back from.
The question seemed so simple, so reasonable, and yet it would start a clock starting that would end with her needing to find a new job.
The question was from her chief executive and it was this “how much new business did that ad campaign create?”
There are several ways to answer that question. She could start by saying “Ad’s do not create new business directly; they are just one element of awareness that smooths the way for our company and product to be considered”
Or she could say “That ad created 10 new deals this year and 30 new deals over the next five years”
Or she could say “In the same way that any variable in an equation is critical to the\ final number, this ad campaign was instrumental in every deal we have closed, worked, won and lost”
It doesn’t matter what she says, because the chief executive hears “we spent a lot of money on something that cannot directly be attributed to results”, and now there is no trust, no confidence, and there is no obvious way of rebuilding these critical team requirements.
So what can she learn from this situation?\
Firstly, marketing must have a strategic plan, one that includes measures of success that are leading indicators of the goals you are trying to achieve, and not just the ultimate lagging indicator of revenue. That’s not to say that revenue isn’t important (it’s critical), but every journey must be measured by your ability to take every step, as well as the eventual arrival at the destination.
If you plan to go from New York to Boston, you have to take the subway to the airport, pass through TSA, board the plane, which must take off, travel and land, before you disembark, collect your luggage, obtain your über, arrive at your hotel, check-in and get to your room. Every step on this process demands careful planning and execution, and the more you think about it the more steps you can identify that also must be planned and executed flawlessly. Not one step on the process can be skipped if you want to succeed. And every step has choices that require investment and provide a different level of performance depending on the choices you make.
If you were to measure your trip to Boston by any one step in the process, you would get a misleading impression of the effectiveness and cost of the process. Marketing is no different. If your boss demands that you provide an ROI for a specific single element of marketing, any response you give will be equally as misleading.
The leading indicators of your marketing will vary depending on the plan you define. But here are some ideas.
I Call this model CILO (Contacts, Inquiries, Leads and Opportunities) and every single market investment can be measured against these criteria.
An email, will be sent to a number of CONTACTS. Some of those CONTACTS with open the emails (INQUIRIES), and some of those opened emails will lead to the sharing of intelligence (LEADS), and some of those LEADS will lead to an OPPORTUNITY.
Now some of those OPPORTUNITIES will end up as CLOSED WON business.
Of course, One OPPORTUNITY may have lots of associated LEADS, and each LEAD may have lots of associated INQUIRIES. That’s that nature of demand marketing, it’s not a 1:1 model, it’s a funnel!
Emails, webinars, white papers, events, web pages, blogs, tweets, adverts, SEO, SEM, everything can be reported against a CILO target. And using this level of consistency across every element of marketing ensures that the lake of data you create can be mined in the most effective way.
They don’t teach you these skills in business school, but they are critical to achieving business success.
When the Europeans implemented GDPR, every marketing automation company in an attempt to not be the poster child for evil, asked their lawyers for advice on how to become compliant.
And once let off their leashes, these legal minds went to work and functionally neutered marketing automation platforms (MAP), not just for use in Europe, but globally.
One of the most interesting features of MAP for B2B companies, is the ability to identify from IP addresses which companies visit your website, and understand the pathways they take through your website. In itself this knowledge is not per-se a lead, but it provides a valuable understanding of how you are engaging with companies. Unless you are luckily enough to have got someone to engage through a direct digital communication (email for example) or have been able to cookie their browser, you may not know exactly who you are looking at, just the company they work for. But in the world of B2B which you can be very specific about personas this can be enough to identify a department or even a specific role, and this in the hands of a B2B Account Based Sales team is pure gold.
But here’s where GDPR broke this model. Using IP Lookup is only as good as the data companies load into their name servers, and if a name server says Japan or USA, this doesn’t mean that the person who you are engaging with isn’t in Europe or a European, and according to GDPR, you need to have their express permission to use their “data” before you can report on it. So, your purer that pure, angel of a marketing automation vendor doesn’t want to provide you data that may not be perfectly GDPR compliant, even it it’s not European data… just in case.
In a world where we all receive calls at 6:30 every night while we're eating dinner from people trying to sell us insurance, you can see why the EU is so hot on policing this stuff, but there must be a middle ground.
I’ve been able to build a process using by websites log files and an open source IP lookup tool and a talented PHP savvy team member to resolve my specific need. But I know every other B2B company is feeling the same pain.
B2B marketing is not B2C and we can use focused tools without blanket bombing the world with phone calls and emails. And there are safe ways for MAP companies to set rules by which B2B companies can analyze data without breaking GDPR rules. What is not acceptable is for MAP companies to limit functionality.
This is not an argument for, or against science or religion, but a challenge that modern marketers face.
Over the past decade the technology of conversion rate optimization (CRO) has grown into a powerful tool in the marketing mix. Previously known as A/B testing the tools available today have turned the art into a science. Everything can be tested on a website, every word, every graphic, every color, every font, every tag, every sound, everything. And by understanding the statistical relevance of every visit against controlled questioning you can continually improve your websites.
This technology can become all-consuming though. With continual changes being made to drive up specific conversions, it is possible to lose site of the artistic/business requirements of a website.
The reasons for a business website to exist, start and end with the people you are communicating with. It is critical to understand your audience intimately. Who are they? What problems are they looking to solve? How do they want to specifically solve these problems. The more detail you know then the better you can create content to fit their needs.
Of course, the devil is always in the detail. Much of what you innately know about your audience can be subtle and hard to document.
And this is where the art and the science can clash.
What happens when you optimize your website in ways that drive up conversions of a section of your audience which is less likely to actually become a paying customer? Well if you’re A/B test criteria are met, then that will become your new websites reality.
When you designed your website, you sat down with a team of experts covering user experience, creative design, web design and your business needs. Then you handed off the built website to the CRO folks and they have tested and changed everything element by element over an extended period of time. Visitors to your website are spending longer on your site, visiting more pages and completing your registration forms, but somehow your lead quality has been going down, and sales are complaining. So, you come up with changes that will filter out earlier, visitors who are less likely to become qualified leads, but your CRO team doesn’t want to implement them, because that will lower their achievement.
You have hit the barrier between the business goals and the goals of your CRO team. But the CRO team will always have the “data” to prove their method is working.
You need to choose if you are going to allow the creative/business team to direct the website or you are going to allow the data driven CRO group to run the website. Whichever choice you make will slow things down.
And this is where great managers live, ensuring that every part of the marketing and sales organization have the same vision, the same views of success and an understanding on the relevance and importance of each team.
CRO should never be a silo’d activity, but a business focused group deeply matrixed within your company.
Why is it that some companies dominate the first page of organic search, even when their offerings don’t seem to be the best fit?
There is a trick that many companies use, that significantly increases their search position. Here’s how they do it:
This is an intensive process, and needs a lot of content to be written. No one said it was easy, and this is where off-shore resources come it. You can have teams of people sitting in India, Pakistan or China writing this content for pennies on the pound. It doesn’t need to be good content, just relevant to the terms you want to own. The content itself may never even be seen by the visitor, as their visit to this “hidden” content can push them directly to your main webpages. But it will show in search results.
The fact that the content you are creating is 100% in-line with the search term, and talks in detail about the subject that the search term relates to is all that is relevant to search. It may even have terrible grammar. Machine learning AI systems are not grammar Nazi’s they are relevance Nazi’s.
What I am describing gives creative writers, English majors and most marketers hearth burn. But if your goal is to drive up your search results, this is the dirty, nasty way that works.
Of course, when you start down this path, there are lessons you will learn about what works and what doesn’t work as well. You will also learn how to optimize the process to drive the most relevant prospects to your site. And you will have to make sure that the people you attract actually find relevance on your websites, so that you can capitalize on your improved search results and actually convert visits to value.
Improving search is just one part of the marketing journey. And this is just one of the tricks used to improve search.
Many businesses (of all sizes) make the mistake of over committing the impact of a single part of a plan, and lose sight of the true metrics of success.
There are some really basic concepts that must drive everything you do.
In the simplest and most profound way, this is the very reason your company exists. Do this better than the other choices your prospects have, and help your prospects understand that you do this, and you win.
Fail to offer this clear differentiation, or fail to tell the right people about it, and you lose.
I’ve seen companies worry about the number of visits to their websites, without caring about who visits. If you set your digital marketing teams that goal, then they can very easily bring millions of visitors to your website, by presenting powerful images and messages throughout social media or via email that has absolutely nothing to do with your companies aim. Millions of people will click on a free entry to a lottery or to download an evocative image, but so what!
The hardest thing to do is to promote exactly what you want to sell, as this will filter out all the people who are not prospects. Create an ad explaining the importance of high quality batteries for you’re lawn mower, and only people who want lawn mower batteries will click on it. That will be a very small number compared to the billions of souls online, but will represent your target audience quite well. Present this ad in the places that people who care about gardening visit will of course be best.
Give your digital marketing team the goal of reaching “the target audience” and measure success not just by the volume of clicks, but the depth of the relationship each click results in.
You can apply this same logic to all areas of sales and marketing. Volume is only part of the measure, you must measure the qualities of who you reach against the target audience criteria associated with your target market. Anything else creates failure and waste.