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What you can do now to drive ROI

Christopher Petix
What you can do now to drive ROI Christopher Petix

The past couple of years have been all about squeezing as much return on investment as possible from every marketing effort. As a result, marketers have a new set of parameters and broad goals for establishing a campaign. The good news for these groups is that there are a number of tools and techniques available to help them achieve these goals.

Using social media
Burger King's Whopper Sacrifice -- where the fast-food giant gave free burgers to any customer who "sacrificed" 10 friends from his or her Facebook profile -- was one of the most infamous campaigns of 2009 to have created social media buzz. One of the biggest ongoing hotspots for marketers will be to find their own way to tap into the vast resource of social media.

Social media accurately gauges consumer brand perception and sentiment, though the avenue for more direct marketing and advertising opportunities is harder to navigate. The key to using social media for marketing and customer acquisition is targeting, which helps ensure that the highly coveted user experience is not affected.

Individual organizations can use several approaches to identify customers through social media; these include post-registration offers, banner advertising, Facebook, CPC, or social media apps. All of these ensure consumer exposure, but which ones deliver measurable and effective results is individual to every organization. Those advertisers that have learned what they need to look for in a campaign should be a step ahead as they explore new avenues of customer engagement -- so by the end of 2010, most will have a coherent social media strategy producing bottom-line dollars.

New techniques for advertisers: Measurement is key
In this effort to boost the ROI from marketing campaigns, advertisers must evolve the metrics they use to monitor campaigns. You need the correct measurements in place from the start of a campaign because they provide important insight into the true value of a campaign and enable valuable insight into how the campaign is actually performing.

Traditionally, conversion rates are the flagship measurement for marketing campaigns; however, there is so much more than can be achieved through online marketing. More and more companies are already looking at engagement-driven measurements for their campaigns. Instead of looking at the black and white of sales, they value the interaction that a consumer has with their brand. This can be acceptance of free samples, sign-ups to newsletters, or more innovative outlets such as free application downloads. These avenues have a very soft sell, but they increase the reputation of and trust in the brand. This activity helps to increase the long-term value (LTV) of the customers that do convert.

Most CRM systems can assess LTV, and once the effectiveness of these brand-building activities can be analyzed, a more in-depth and valuable evaluation of marketing activity can be made. Visibility of the consumers that deliver LTV and the engagement activities that led to that loyalty informs future campaign optimization efforts.

For years, low value but sequential products -- for example, dieting aids -- have placed their campaign success on LTV. However, now there is a need for all organizations -- from Kraft to T-Mobile -- to build a stronger base of life-long customers. Differentiating the campaign activities that generate one-and-done customers from those that lead to loyal customers is the most effective way to boost ROI.

New techniques for advertisers: Partnership structure
Most activity that advertisers can engage in to boost LTV is significantly enhanced by working in partnership with the digital marketers that execute their campaigns. Successful customer acquisition campaigns require collaboration -- of campaign design, lead generation, and sales conversion.

Key metrics will fluctuate over the course of the campaign, but a quick reaction can improve the campaign's performance. Learning from peaks and recreating the conditions that caused them -- or recognizing a drop and turning it around immediately -- maximize the highlights and minimize the lowlights of the campaign.

This approach relies on the advertiser to feed back its measurement information and the marketer to establish where that success or failure has come from. With this information, campaigns can be dynamically optimized. Ongoing review is far more conducive to ROI optimization, and it is empowered by information sharing.

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New techniques for advertisers: Use niche websites
One of the unnoticed benefits of ad-based lead generation is that it provides similar levels of visible cost-per-click activity, as well as some other key SEO strategies. The ability to target those ads increases their effectiveness and makes the campaign more measurable in terms of where interested consumers have come from.

There are thousands of small and niche websites, many of which have a hidden and unrealized value for ad placement and post-registration/post-action advertising. Mainstream, traffic-heavy sites are very important for a large number of organizations because exposure -- in quantity -- is high. However, smaller sites can give a far more intense exposure to target markets -- and the results reflect this personalization.

As consumers become more web-savvy, they seek out blogs and websites that carry specialist information relevant to them. This means that the value of niche blogs and web pages will only increase. The unprecedented access to very specific demographics will enable campaigns to be very focused with their resources and achieve greater ROI.

Monetization opportunities for website publishers: Revenue vs. user experience
Just as advertisers need to drive ROI, the online community of website publishers must continually establish, maintain, and optimize revenue streams through their sites. To make this challenge more difficult for these publishers, they must balance this requirement with the need to deliver a great user experience. Every site will have a different weighting of revenue vs. user experience, which means strategies will vary slightly.

One way that websites look to generate revenue is to implement a pay-for-content structure. This will significantly alter the user experience, although it remains to be seen whether it will turn visitors away.

However, publishers that don't want to bill for their content do have other opportunities to monetize their site.

Monetization opportunities for website publishers: Post-registration
Post-registration and post-action marketing put an unobtrusive offer path behind a sign-up process or customer-centric action on a site. The combination of data capture and qualification through offers that identify key interests provides a constant revenue opportunity without harming the ongoing user experience. Every marketing opportunity is built into an action that the consumer wants to engage with. As long as the offers are relevant and there is a "no thanks" option next to the "submit" button, consumers will still click through to the page they originally wanted in close to 100 percent of instances.

The most important factor to this approach is pushing contextual offers and adverts. Once users sign up, deliver offers that best match their profiles. For example, if you are a women's interest website, you can broadly assume a range of interests that the consumer will have: Dieting products or spa treatments are more likely to be successful than baseball gloves and aftershave. If you have even more information on these consumers, you can be more specific about the offers that are presented. Relevance will not only make campaigns more successful, but it will also enhance the user experience.

Websites without a registration path need not worry -- this approach can still be used. Special offers and sweepstakes, specifically designed for visitors, give publishers an opportunity to capture data and deliver offers.

Monetization opportunities for website publishers: Let the right offers come to you
Website publishers have learned the value of relevant content and offers on their sites. However, this knowledge has led to a lot more time being spent hunting down offers that are a good fit. As important as revenue generation is, a publisher's time still needs to be spent predominantly on content creation. As we move further into 2010, publishers will require, more than ever, simple tools for acquisition and customization of offers and campaigns.

The right bolt-on tool enables publishers to host multiple campaigns, while still maintaining complete control and customization of every advertisement that hits their pages -- every detail can come under the control of the host, from fonts and colors through to sweepstake prizes.

All of this happening through the same tool enables publishers to optimize campaigns, rather than spend their time just finding them. During 2010, publishers should find it easier to monetize their sites because they won't have to chase down offers and adverts -- they simply need to put in place the right tools to manage this kind of approach effectively.

The year of optimization and monetization
The year 2010 will be known as the one where advertising and marketing began to pick up some serious steam. However, free-spending days are over. This means that advertisers need to find new ways to show how well they are performing, and publishers need to prove to advertisers that they can identify new customers, engage with them, and deliver ROI. This partnership of advertiser and publisher will create significant revenue streams for both parties.

Christopher Petix is president of Clash-Media US.

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