Digital marketers are busy, no denying that. As one myself, I can sympathize as we work with small teams or large global teams driving results for our company or clients. The problem is that sometimes digital marketers can use the excuse of busyness to become complacent on the aspects that they should really be prioritizing in their business. Continual innovation should always be a priority, but if a digital marketer had to address only two key areas, they should focus on the following:
The forgotten user journey
While the idea of the customer user journey is an obvious one, it is astounding how many brands either become complacent or simply deprioritize it when it has such an impact to the business. Digital marketers who simply "check the box" with early website design activities may be seduced into thinking that they are simply done and no further updates are needed. While early design of a landing page is essential, this step is an ongoing one that should never be completely finished.
Whether marketers are playing in the consumer, commercial, or government spaces, people are spending an increasing amount of time online, especially on mobile and tablet devices, making it even more important to optimize the online customer experience. By 2016, the web will influence more than half of all retail transactions, representing a potential sales opportunity of almost $2 Trillion.
As a crash course in some of the best practices, a user journey is not a "one-time thing" but something that is ever-evolving and informed by the questions below:
- Who is your target audience?
While you may know (or think you know) your target audience, this needs to be refined and tested. There is a wealth of digital research available (both paid and free) that can help digital marketers hone in on their target -- or who it should be -- audience, and help them understand their online habits.
- What do you want your customers to do?
This question is the fundamental element of how a user journey is constructed. Do you want users to sign up for newsletter, buy a product, or simply engage with your brand? If as a digital marketer you cannot clearly and thoroughly speak to this, then don't expect your customer to either.
- Where will your consumer learn and/or consume your product or service?
Depending on the answers to the first two questions and the type of product, digital marketers will need to optimize marketing vehicles to align with the product/service. For example, the way a CPG product is learned about will be very different than that of a mobile gaming developer. If a digital marketer's primary product only lives online or in a mobile app store, they better make sure the landing environments are optimized for that experience.
- How is the best way to message your target customer?
The diversity of backgrounds, job types, and other demographics need to be matched with equally diverse messaging to speak to that target audience. For example, a female college student interested in a new tablet needs to receive a different message than an IT decision-maker looking for the latest in cloud-computing infrastructure technology.
- Are all of the steps in your customer journey aligned?
Marketers who understand their customers need to ensure that their understanding translates into every step of the brand's user journey. This means that there needs to be brand alignment across outbound advertisements, such as logos used all the way through to the final action.
Once these questions have been addressed, companies need to prioritize their customer site experience when evaluating their limited marketing budgets. The landing page is generally one of the first places the world goes to consume your brand, so make sure that it and the subsequent sections are regularly updated, tested, and optimized, so that the customer can absorb the brand in the way it was intended.
Are you focusing on the wrong metrics?
One of the primary benefits of digital marketing is the ability to track just about everything. Advertisers can tie ROI (with a high degree of accuracy) back to digital media buys, along with an incredibly large number of additional metrics. For example, outbound digital initiatives will track things like impressions, clicks, and conversions, but many advertisers are also pulling in things like reach, frequency, view-based conversions vs. click based conversions, viewable impressions, quality scores, and social and engagement metrics. Secondly, some marketers will also track a variety of site-side events such as video views, data sheet downloads, shares, likes, tweets, shopping cart drop-off, bounce rates, and so on to inform their site-side optimization.
While marketers should be fans of data analysis from digital campaigns, it is important that they focus on the ones that are actual indicators of success. Every marketer should ask themselves, "How should I be judging digital success?" and, "Are the metrics I am currently looking at actual key performance indicators?"
Here are a few metrics worth being skeptical of:
Impressions, clicks, and CTRs
Any decent media planner can negotiate cheap impressions and clicks given the right ad network. For marketers focusing on direct response or performance-based campaigns, ad impression, clicks, and click-through rates should not be obsessed over as much as conversions and click-to-conversion rates. Marketers might see a high click-through rate as a "telling" indicator of intent, but this can turn out to be false, especially when those clicks don't translate into conversions. The problem with this theory is that this traffic might not be the right audience that translates into conversions, or the ones that do may end up being fraudulent.
On the flip side, these metrics can be more valuable when viewed under the right circumstances. For example, if a digital marketer is using a first- or third-party data layer (e.g. BlueKai, Targus, Acxiom, etc.) to target a specific audience segment, those clicks and CTRs become a lot more telling, because that audience has had additional validation that helped verify that those impressions and clicks are in front of a more qualified audience.
Another example would be if a digital marketer invests in a niche publisher for skateboarders or IT professionals, the impression and clicks would be far more valuable, as there is a level of qualification for that audience. On the mobile side, clicks can be useful in pushing app store ranking higher or driving higher-quality scores on search -- however, driving cheap clicks should only be used in very specific scenarios.
Getting a high number of followers, likes, shares, retweets, loops, views, or comments can stroke the ego of any brand marketer, especially that of the social media manager who was responsible for them. These metrics can be important when getting to a minimum threshold of relevancy in the social medium, but should not be the be-all, end-all. While having a large social following can increase a marketer's sphere of influence, that large following doesn't mean very much if those metrics don't translate into sales, leads, or customers.
On the other hand, having a qualified following on the right social media channels can be incredibly powerful for driving impactful word-of-mouth among social influencers and brand advocates. If a paid social media strategy is in the cards, just make sure the channel is being used properly and evaluated on ROI, not simply social engagements that may or may not correlate to profitability or a better user experience.
When looking at branding initiatives, viewability is an incredibly important metric to evaluate the number of people who have actually viewed your advertisement, or for judging view-based conversion metric. However, this metric can be counterproductive if viewed through the lens of "direct response" or "performance-based" digital initiatives. Campaigns that drive leads, trials, sign-ups, or purchases are being evaluated on the final end action they want the consumer to do. This means that whether an ad network, affiliate, or any other publisher drives high viewability scores or not, the performance partner will either drive the low CPA/CPL or they won't. If the partner delivers low quality inventory, that should directly correspond to low performance.
The statements above are not intended to scare anyone from digging into reporting metrics, but at the end of the day, digital marketers need to look at their strategy and dig into the "what" and "why" of the metrics that they are tracking. While there are a lot of great data points, many of them will paint a very different picture than reality would dictate, especially when viewed in silo. Digital marketers too often get caught up in either industry "must do" jargon or on specific reporting elements that can drive ill-advised, knee-jerk decisions that may have been avoided if they were able to see the whole picture.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.
"Image of businessman holding drawing of upset face" image via Shutterstock.