Your conversion marketing practice is actually a “stack” of disciplines or online marketing strategy components each of which you will have to master or have some level of capability with.
Mastering all of these online marketing strategy components may sound like a tall order, and it is. However, if you are marketing online, you are involved with conversion issues by definition.
The Quintessential Guide to Online Marketing Strategy Components
You may be wondering if marketing automation is really worth the investment. But if you’re a performance-oriented marketer–focused on the science of turning prospects into future customers, always concerned about knowing exactly which of your marketing efforts worked and why – that’s like asking if you’re getting your money’s worth from Microsoft Word; it’s something you just can’t do your job without.
In this article, I’m going to walk you through the modern online marketing strategy components – a strategy that cannot be implemented without automation.
To automate something, we must first understand it. Performance marketers are focused on turning their online channels into lead generation engines or revenue streams. They focus on conversion.
“Conversion” is the term given to a series of magical events in the life of a customer,in which a stranger becomes a suspect, a suspect becomes a prospect and a prospect becomes a customer.
In online marketing, a marketer focused on converting visitors to prospects or sales must embrace a set of capabilities, each enabled by and depending on its predecessor. These steps create a capability “stack” (see Fig. 1) that is helpful in planning the implementation of the efforts that make conversion marketing possible.
The Online Marketing Strategy Components or Conversion Stack
Today, when one thinks of conversion marketing, one generally thinks of Website Optimization or Conversion Rate Optimization. These practices focus on measurement and optimization, and represent the top of the stack of capabilities that online marketers must master to outpace competitors online.
Before a business can begin measuring and optimizing a website or other online marketing strategy, the foundational issues of business goals, visitor profiles, content requirements, and delivery channels must be addressed.
Every business with a Web presence has invested at some level in the conversion stack. However, those companies that embrace these capabilities develop a momentum and velocity in their online strategy that allows them to accelerate past entrenched businesses.
These businesses use the conversion stack to leverage their marketing efforts, changing the math of marketing in their favor. The goal is to grow revenue while reducing real marketing costs.
Marketing automation helps marketers define and carry out each capability in the stack with a precision that would be difficult if not impossible to achieve otherwise, and therefore plays a crucial role in an organization committed to performance marketing.
Business Goals: The Base of the Marketing Strategy Components
Knowing exactly what you want your website to do for your business.
The digital space cannot meet all of the goals a business has for growth. However, your business can accomplish things online that are impossible or cost prohibitive through another channel, such as:
- Improve the quality of leads, reducing sales costs and increasing close ratios.
- Reduce inbound calls for information by moving interactions online.
- Eliminate expensive marketing channels.
- Reach prospects not found via other media.
- Add online services that make your offering more valuable.
- Increase cross-sells and up-sells.
- Increase average sales price.
- Steal market share and mind share from our competitors.
At this stage, we seek to define the integration points of our marketing automation system, and to establish our baselines performance metrics.
Defining Your Marketing Automation Integration Points
While we can measure many things with sophisticated marketing automation tools, it is critical that we focus on those capabilities that are necessary to our business goals, and ignore (or defer) those that are not.
If our business has a long sales cycle involving direct sales efforts, integration with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is crucial; it is how we track our leads through the sales process.
If we are tasked with reducing the sales cycle, we will want a two-way integration between our CRM and our marketing automation system so that we can monitor our success over time. Otherwise, a simple one-way integration may be sufficient.
Likewise, if we seek to increase the average sales price of new customers, we will need to integrate with our financial system to retrieve and measure that goal.
Choosing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
There is a metric that we can use to either define our success for each goal, or approximate it. For example, “reducing sales costs” means that the sales efforts are converting more leads into customers.
However, there is no off-the-shelf metric for “sales cost” reported by our marketing automation systems.
Instead, the close ratio – the number of leads converted divided by leads generated – would be a reasonable proxy for reducing sales costs.
Likewise, the success of cross-sells or up-sells may be measured by the frequency of repeat purchases or by the average lifetime value of existing customers.
There should be a small set of KPIs that define your top-level online business goals. All other metrics help you answer the question of “why.”
Don’t let the metrics drive your curiosity. Let the business goals drive the choice of metrics.
Defining Your Baselines
There are lies, damn lies and analytics, to paraphrase author Mark Twain. Analytics are rarely accurate.
You must instead measure changes in your KPIs. To measure changes, you must first establish baselines for each.
In most industries, a year’s worth of analytics data is necessary to fully account for seasonal changes in the marketplace, but don’t let this stop you. Implement your analytics tools and let them begin collecting data. In the mean time, estimate your KPIs manually, by gathering data wherever you can. Eventually, your analytics will determine your baselines.
The goal is for the current performance of any KPI to exceed its baseline. Proper reporting is done in terms of percentage increase or decrease. If a KPI consistently rests above its baseline, you have established a new baseline to beat in the coming weeks and months.
These baselined KPIs define your “dashboard.”
However, as you will soon find out, dashboards are unsatisfying because they don’t answer the question, “Why is this KPI changing.” We’ll talk about understanding “why” a little later.
Visitor Profiling: Aligning Your Business Goals with Visitor Buying Habits
Let’s review the second of the online marketing strategy components. Understanding the best visitors needs, the reason they are visiting today and the information they need to feel comfortable taking action. Traditionally, there has been a disconnect between the websites and the needs of visitors. Most business sites follow a “brochure” style approach, in which the site talks about the company and its products.
This is not what your visitors want.
They want you to talk about them and their problems.
Touchpoint Personas differ from traditional customer segments in one significant way: We are only interested in what they need at the moment they are interacting with our measurable online communications. This singular focus allows us to zero in on those things that a visitor needs. Touchpoint Personas are the important tool at this stage and you can click on the link to read my article on touchpoint personas and points of resolution.
These become the content that you will use on your website, in your outbound marketing and throughout your channels. As you will see, content allows us to answer the question “why” when our performance changes, for the better or worse.
Content Strategy: We are No Longer Marketers
What content will you create for these important visitors? Will it be articles, video, or audio? These are important considerations made easy from your touchpoint personas.
We are no longer marketers, but publishers. In almost any industry, any market, it is absolutely necessary that we provide information, guidance, education and entertainment to the marketplace. The Internet has turned our prospects into researchers, and we must provide them with the content that answers their questions.
Our personas give us a complete picture of those visitors that will move our business forward. We know why they are visiting and how they like to receive information. Their demographic profile will tell us which technologies they use and this helps us select the proper format for our content. The points of resolution tell us exactly what our content should cover.
At this point, our content strategy should unfold like the board game “Clue.” In the popular board game, we use a process of elimination to understand who committed a murder, which weapon was used, and where the deed was done.
In our game of “persona clue”, we create a list of similar actions. We deduce who we are targeting, which point of resolution we are addressing, and where this information will be delivered.
We might say, “Darla Decider will download ‘Ten Reasons Projects Fail’ as a white paper on our website.” What we have done with this step is change the conversation from, “Which landing pages do we need to develop?” to, “How can we make this important content available to our best prospects?” Content is the coal that will stoke the furnaces of your marketing automation system and one key ingredient of the online marketing strategy components you need to master.
Media and Channels: Mixing Media in the Right Proportions
How do your visitors want to hear from you? Where can your visitors be reached? Your choice of channels may include webinars, email, social media, blog posts and more.
If our content strategy is about giving prospects what they need, our media strategy is about placing content where our prospects can find it.
Touchpoint personas will be immensely helpful in identifying the right mix of channels through which to deliver and advertise content. Demographics will give you some idea of your prospects’ media preferences.
For example, prospects over 55 are still best reached through email.
Media selection is an evolving process, especially in a world in which so many new channels are appearing every year. In a few short years, we’ve moved from Web pages, email, and banner ads, to search marketing, social networks, RSS feeds, blogs, microblogs, and mobile applications.
It’s an exciting time to be a marketer.
This is where marketing automation becomes indispensable. It is your publishing and distribution system. It must help you manage a stream of content delivered through a variety of channels and track results along the way. Your investment in publishing automation will also allow you to test multiple versions of your content to see which affects your KPIs most positively.
Your System Should Be Easy to Use
You should be able to intuitively setup a variety of content campaigns and see the results. The days of the “launch and watch” website are over. In most industries changes must now come weekly or daily.
Your System Should Not Be a Silo
Producers will need appropriate access to create and stage new content. It should be easy for members of the team to check content and settings to ensure the campaign will launch successfully.
Your System Should Offer a Variety of Metrics
Each content format and channel will be measured differently. You must be able to track downloads of whitepapers. You must be able to track the conversion rates of email-based content. You must be aware of how often a link is shared on social networks.
Needless to say, you will need some help coordinating all of this activity and measuring the results. And this leads us to the another one of the online marketing strategy components. If you aren’t intimate with your marketing automation tool, you’re not doing performance marketing.
Online Marketing Strategy Components: Measuring and Optimizing
Putting the analytics and processes in place to measure the effectiveness of your efforts. This often means designing your online presence differently to enable tracking of visitor behavior. Testing your assumptions is the only way to achieve the high conversion rates that make you seem invincible to your competitors. This is how you reduce the cost of all online marketing efforts.
At the pinnacle of the online marketing strategy components is optimization.
Optimization involves making changes based on the metrics you’ve captured.
Every communication is a test.
Each time you send a communication, you are testing a set of assumptions – assumptions about what your prospects want and need in their buying process, about the format of the content, and about the places they want to consume it.
Every communication can tell us the “why” of our success or failure.
For each communication, you must devise a strategy to measure the effectiveness of the content. Each communication will have a set of primary KPIs.
An email newsletter may invite readers to purchase a new line of shoes, and to join your Facebook page as well. If the primary goal is to sell shoes, you must be able to measure the conversion rate of the email.
It isn’t sufficient to increase sales of the shoe. You must have a strategy to know how many sales were generated by this email.
Watch the Results
The final step of each communication – the step too often overlooked – is reviewing your results. When the communication has run its course, you simply look at the KPIs to learn the secrets desires of your audience.
- Which articles are read most?
- Which subject lines convert well?
- Which discounts generate sales?
- Which tweets draw the most visits?
Your marketing automation system should provide easy drill-down to the metrics that define the success of each effort.
The Online Marketing Strategy Components You Need to Master: Conclusions
You are sitting in the monthly executive meeting. You have created a slide deck with your top-level KPIs as reported by your marketing automation system. They are a summary of how your individual efforts have affected the bottom line.
When the questions come, you know the “why” and the “what’s next” for your marketing efforts. “Why did our conversion rates go down, but our revenue go up?” the VP of Sales asks.
You know the answer. You tick off the four or five programs that delivered solid results, and then list those that drew unqualified traffic to the site, stating that they will be modified or discontinued.
You’re a performance marketer.
The Business that Knows Grows
Each item of content you produce will have different versions, be available through multiple channels, and will be measured differently. Today’s online businesses won’t function without a useful marketing automation system, a tool that be used by many members of the team.
The Online Marketing Strategy Components aren’t linear, and businesses can expand their capabilities in any of these areas.
However, those businesses that dominate in their industry through online marketing will be proficient in all of the capabilities presented here.
Online Marketing Strategy Components Resources
For an explanation of KPIs read “Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity” by Avinash Kaushik.
To develop touchpoint personas, read “Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing” by Bryan Eisenberg, Jeffrey Eisenberg and Lisa T. Davis.
For designing measurable social media campaigns, read “Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day” by Dave Evans
Online Marketing Strategy Components: Don’t Worry
The good news is that the folks at SiteTuners.com, lead by the always brilliant Tim Ash have put together the Conversion Conference.
The attendees will be leading the online charge in each of their industries.
I can think of no better way to get up the many learning curves that your conversion practice needs than this two day conference.
Topics at Conversion Conference include:
- Using Headlines, Copy and Graphic Design to Lift Conversion
- Split Testing, Multivariate Testing and Google Website Optimizer
- Segmentation, Personalization, and Persuasion
- E-commerce, and Lead Generation Conversion
- Landing Page Principles
- Optimizing Social and Mobile
- Design & Usability Mistakes
You’ve likely read books written by some of the Conversion Conference Speakers, like Landing Page Optimization and Web Design for ROI. There’s no question that the speakers at this conference are the folks you want to be learning from. Check it out. You can even save $250 if you use promo code CCE650 when you register on the Conversion Conference website.
If you won’t be there, I pray that your competitors won’t be either.
P. S. I do a complete writeup of the Online Marketing Strategy Components in The Quintessential Marketing Automation Guidebook, Conversion Stack: Marketing Automation for Performance Marketers. It is free and you should find it enlightening.
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