Getting the right marketing mix has always been a challenge, but never more than now with the explosion in social and digital channels. Businesses are investing more to market across these emerging channels in the race to acquire customers. But the key question remains -- how does the complex relationship between traditional, online, and social media affect your customer acquisition costs?
One video or infographic that goes viral, for example, expands the number of people touching on a brand exponentially, leaping across buyer segments and communities often in unpredictable ways. The traditional marketing funnel was comprised of three stages: attracting (reach), engaging, and converting customers. However, virality adds a new dimension, expanding on reach that traditionally came directly from paid media. We are beginning to recognize the growing significance of virality, but there is much debate over how best to measure, optimize, and monetize its power. How does a buyer attracted through a viral "event" move from simple awareness to engagement and conversion? How does negative or positive customer sentiment on a Facebook page change campaign responses and purchase patterns? And how do you measure the affect of virality on paid marketing campaigns and your budget?
In the past, marketing teams placed media "buys" in a limited number of traditional channels, such as broadcast or print ads. These channels acted largely independently. Measurements were straightforward, typically in the form of reach and audience. Social and mobile media are different in every respect. The new engagement channels are deeply inter-dependent, and their performance linked tightly to each other. This phenomenon has a name -- it's called media convergence.
Consider this data point. By 2013 lead management campaigns across four or more digital channels are expected to outperform single- or dual-channel campaigns by 300 percent. That's because of the way customers use social and mobile media.
Yet CMOS are struggling. One study conducted by SapientNitro revealed that 82 percent surveyed believe improving marketing coordination across traditional, online, and social channels is moderately or extremely challenging. And the number one obstacle cited to digital marketing growth was lack of a single, cross-channel digital marketing platform.
Here's why. Customer behavior is extremely nimble across this landscape and buyers are influenced -- and influence others -- in buying decisions and brand loyalty as they move in and out of various websites, social platforms, and mobile media. For example, 83 percent of consumers globally are likely to visit a website recommended by a friend on Facebook, and more than half say comments posted on retailers' Facebook and Twitter pages, whether positive or negative, also influence their opinions. Here we see the complexity of what influences buyers given the overlapping relationships of traditional, online, and social media. Social engagement is reinventing direct response marketing, while the mix of channels demonstrates the power of convergence.
What are paid, earned, and owned media?
The new equation in customer acquisition requires knowledge of how these three types of media interrelate:
This is corporate content owned by the business, including digital assets like websites, twitter accounts, Facebook pages, branded blogs, and YouTube videos. Internal social marketing efforts fall in this category.
This includes forms of traditional and digital advertising such as online banner ads, pay-per-click search, advertorials, sponsorships, sponsored links, and pay-per-blogs.
This is content produced by users, including social media posts, product reviews, tweets, online communities, and media mentions.
What the marketing team must do is align the company's content marketing and campaigns (owned) with media "buys" (paid) while also leveraging and measuring earned media.
This multichannel marketing approach must be supported by an analytics capability that produces real-time data on the relationship and performance of each channel across an array of devices (i.e., PCs, tablets, and mobile phones) and in-store activity. Correlations between traditional, online, and social channels -- across various devices -- can be complex and difficult to identify unless they are viewed holistically as an entire system. Multichannel analytics can provide the information about the direct and very often indirect connections between channels that prompt customers to act.
How one company does it
Let's look at how one company -- The San Diego Union-Tribune (U-T) -- is using digital analytics to better engage its readers and drive ad revenue. This company is a national news outlet that has began by looking at the relationship of website activity with social engagement. The goal is to assess the effectiveness of content, as well as the writers themselves. It comes down to this -- it's great for the writers to engage with readers using social media, but the writers also needed to connect their social media followers back to published content on the publisher's website, the key to the media model. The newspaper sells advertising based on the number of visitors to the website, enabling it to achieve ad revenue targets. And in this case, the target had been explicitly set -- increase revenues and each writer's online traffic by 15 percent this year, despite a June paywall (paid subscription system) introduction and declines in the publishing industry.
The U-T leverages digital analytics to connect to and analyze multiple data sources in real time. The information identifies how reporters and photographers drive content monetization, both on the website and by referrals from social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). The analytics also show how much social engagement influences readership for each writer. These insights give content creators and advertisers a better picture of content and ad performance. And in some cases, writers have been able to improve their readership by as much as 400 percent with this information. This is all about data analytics that produce insight into media convergence with benefits to the company, advertisers, and the writers themselves.
The interplay between "earned" and "paid" media can radically alter the cost of customer acquisition and disrupt how companies allocate marketing budgets.
In today's world, customers leave a trail of data behind them, telling the story of their wide-ranging "conversations" online and on social networks, "liking" products and services, buying through multiple channels, and influencing the degree of success or rejection of your company's offerings with recommendations, reviews, and a host of other interactions. The data they leave behind holds the key to better understanding demographics, social engagement, and buying behaviors. As we start to monitor and get to know the many dimensions of the new social buyer, we can now do a much better job of micro-targeting to ensure relevance, resulting in higher and more cost effective conversions -- the ultimate goal of any marketing funnel.
Pelin Thorogood is CEO of Anametrix.
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