An Insider’s Guide to Digital Marketing Analytics

digital marketing analytics
Courtesy of Avinash Kaushik

Forbes proclaimed 2014 the Year of Digital Marketing Analytics, summing up the problem this way:

If most digital marketing programs or campaigns have a weak area, it’s analytics. One recent study identified that the biggest talent and hiring gap in online marketing is in the analytics space. 37% of companies surveyed said that they desperately needed staff with serious data chops.

If you take a look at the image above, courtesy of Avinash Kaushik on Occam’s Razor, you’ll see a similar emphasis on “Big brains” and there just aren’t enough of them going around.

The state of digital marketing analytics today

Well, in 2015 we still find too few analysts trained in digital marketing analytics, especially when it comes to more advanced analytics. What passes for digital marketing analytics is also pretty dismal, amounting to little more than rudimentary vanity metrics.

If you look at interest in digital marketing analytics over time, you find the term first appeared in search in 2011, but searches exploded in 2013. Google forecasts continued steep growth in searches for digital marketing analytics based on the graph below from Google Trends.
trends in digital marketing analytics

So, what do these searches turn up?

A ton of tools, many of which aren’t really analytics tools, but automation tools with a little tracking. For instance, I love SproutSocial for helping share and curate content, but it’s not really an analytics tool. Here’s what you get:

Reports | Sprout Social 2015-01-16 09-55-43

I ask you, how does this data help manage your digital marketing? What insights does it provide?
The same goes for many “analytics” tools provided by the social networks, which are pitifully anemic. A couple of caveats here, however. Google Analytics and Facebook Ads Manager provide very useful, insightful data to help optimize your digital marketing results. I’ve provided detailed directions for setting up and interpreting data from Google Analytics and Facebook’s Ads Manager.

What you need to rock digital marketing analytics?

Surprisingly, the first step is to gain an appreciation of analytics. I find many small and mid-sized companies don’t appreciate how critical digital marketing analytics are for their success. Even some large businesses don’t really get the importance of digital marketing analytics and focus too much on late funnel assessment rather than top of funnel assessments.

Recognize that digital marketing analytics require a budget. Too many businesses try to go cheap here with the notion that money is better spent on other activities. And, in the short run that might be true. Unfortunately, what you’re not seeing in this cost strategy is the opportunity cost of sales you didn’t make because your efforts weren’t optimized. I call this a penny-wise and pound foolish strategy because you’re saving a little money up front to lose a lot of money on the back-end.

kpi and metricsKPIs and ratios

Next, you need to build KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and metrics from your mission and strategy, focusing on both top of funnel (consumer sentiment, reach, engagement) and bottom of funnel (ROI, conversion, etc) strategies. This is why you need marketers schooled in digital marketing analytics — they understand marketing KPIs.

Set realistic priorities because you can’t focus on every possible KPI at the same time. I recommend selecting a balance between the KPIs at the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel that have the greatest impact on market performance.

Setting goals for these KPIs allows you to develop more meaningful metrics like ratios of expected versus actual. Large ratios demand investigation (and maybe testing to figure out why the ratio was large) while small ratios indicate you met expectations.

Level of analysis

Also, think about level of analysis issues — you want both overviews of how well your strategy is working and insights into segments, such as different social platform performance, performance of different types of content, etc. As an analyst, think about what different users need in terms of level of analysis. For instance, the VP marketing needs an overview, but she might want to deep dive into why some KPIs had high ratios. Meanwhile, your brand managers want to understand the performance of their products and community managers the performance of individual pieces of content. These elements fit within Kaushik’s notion of dimensions that covers performance of individual keywords, campaigns, posts, referring sites, countries, types of visitor, etc.

Data visualization

Visualizing data is critical for easing interpretation. In his TED talk, David McCandless, said this about the importance of data visualization:

By visualizing information, we turn it into a landscape that you can explore with your eyes, a sort of information map. And when you’re lost in information, an information map is kind of useful.

Data visualization not only acts as a short cut for interpreting data, the human eye sees pictures a whole lot better than numbers. Thus, appropriate visualizations allow managers to identify problems quickly so they can fix the problem before it becomes a crisis.

For instance, P&G monitors deliveries using GPS installed in its fleet of trucks using colored digital block — each block representing the value of the customer to P&G and the color representing expected delivery (green for on time, yellow for possible delays, and red for likely delays). When a truck runs into problems (traffic, weather) that threaten delay to a major customer (like Wal-Mart), managers can quickly send replacement shipments from a local distribution center or re-direct shipments from less critical customers or shipments with sufficient lead time.

Translating digital marketing analytics into action

Unfortunately, many firms find their digital marketing analytics programs falling down at this critical step — translating insights into action. In this article, Google quotes poet, Andrew Lang who eloquently said:

He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts—for support rather than illumination

Translating insights into action often means going back to manipulate your data for more nuanced insights;

  • looking for relationships among your data – for instance, you might uncover a relationship between top performing posts and specific keywords used or publication timing
  • looking at trends rather than data points – trends often help you identify meaning in your data such as cyclical trends or when a particular data point stands out from others versus simply representing normal fluctuation
  • turn data into predictive models – don’t stop with viewing data as isolated points and basing forecasts on simple linear extrapolations. Predictive models use historical data to determine the relationship among a set of factors and desired outcomes (like KPIs). Then analysts use these algorithms to predict future KPI performance. You can even play “what-if” games to determine the impact on performance of various actions. This helps determine which changes represent the greatest impact on performance.
  • don’t forget that data analysis is part art and part science. Translating insights into action involves a certain amount of playfulness with the data to discover deeper insights.

Need help?

We welcome the opportunity to show you how we can make your marketing SIZZLE with our data-driven, results-oriented marketing strategies.  Sign up for our FREE newsletter, get the 1st chapter of our book – FREE, or contact us for more information on hiring us.

Hausman and Associates, the publisher of Hausman Marketing Letter, is a full service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and social media.

 

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Tips for Measuring the ROI of Digital Marketing

social analytics suckIn the bad old days, digital marketing was a free-for-all where instant gurus touted their money-making formulas (usually little better than snake oil salesmen) and deluded followers into spending thousands for coaching programs that didn’t work. Of course, without metrics for measuring the ROI of digital marketing, these gurus continued raking in the money from gullible and desperate businesses.

This isn’t a new problem and it’s unique to digital marketing. As far back as the late 1800’s John Wannamaker is quoted as saying:

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.

Traditional advertising faces a similar problem with companies allocating 60% of their media budget to television when only 18% of TV advertising campaigns generate a positive ROI, according to Nielsen.

Now, of course, digital marketing is much more sophisticated and it’s harder for false gurus to seduce business owners without proving the ROI resulting from their digital marketing programs. Below are results from studies showing the ROI of digital marketing:

ROI of digital marketing

the ROI of digital marketing

  1. A study by Microsoft used big data to measure the ROI of digital marketing both with and without traditional advertising. They found digital marketing outperforms all forms of traditional advertising (TV, print, radio, and outdoor), while combining both resulted in the highest ROI. Thus, digital marketing isn’t an either/ or strategy, but businesses should blend traditional advertising and new media. Also, businesses whose media spend is still focused on traditional advertising should migrate their budgets in favor of digital marketing.
  2. A case study by Google and Dove showed a 6% lift in sales, while combining traditional advertising (TV) with digital marketing resulted in an 11% increase in sales. Interestingly, the study showed the “tide lifts all boats”. In other words, advertising a single product through digital marketing caused an uplift in sales of other Dove products.
  3. Nielsen showed that CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods Companies) demonstrated the positive ROI of digital marketing was nearly 2.8%, with some industries showing an ROI of over 5% — not too shabby.

The state of ROI assessment

The state of ROI assessment is dismal, according to the Fournaise Marketing Group, which found:

Nine out of ten (90%) global marketers are not trained to calculate return on investment (ROI), and 80% struggle with being able to properly demonstrate to their management the business effectiveness of their spending, campaigns and activities, according to new research.

Why is ROI assessment so bad?

Fournaise CEO identified 2 problems in their study that account for the dismal state of measurement of ROI in digital marketing (or marketing in general, for that matter).

The first is the poor training of marketing majors in assessment of marketing ROI and the second is the influx of non-marketing majors into the marketing discipline (over 1/2 of all marketing employees have non-marketing degrees, most often in the social sciences). He sums up the problem with this statement:

In other words, every Tom, Dick & Harry is a Marketer, lacking the scientific and financial knowledge necessary to inform and optimize the creative side of Marketing. CEOs have told us again and again: they want ROI Marketers, i.e. 360-degree performance machines trained to deliver (real) business results and prove/optimize ROI. As long as Marketers continue to fail to get trained in, master the use of and optimize Marketing Performance & Marketing ROI, they will struggle to demonstrate to CEOs that they are not ‘money spenders who jump on (and hide) behind the latest fads and blow smoke’, but real business generators

ROI of digital marketing and market performance tips

First, let’s take a look at digital marketing and where it fits within the spectrum of traditional marketing. Here’s a very cool infographic I created with the help of Matt Valvano from Ideas and Pixels — a first-rate graphic designer.

digital marketing strategy

The infographic shows the various elements necessary to achieve positive ROI of digital marketing campaigns. Basically, 2 things account for positive ROI:

  1. bringing more visitors to your store (or estore)
  2. convert more visitors who show up at your store or estore

Period.

Unfortunately, many attempts to measure the ROI of digital media focus on these end results, totally ignoring the variety of factors that generate positive outcomes — a very dangerous practice.

Tip #1: Think beyond outcome measures

So, my first power tip for measuring the ROI of digital marketing is understanding the complex set of activities and interrelationships among activities resulting in positive ROI. For instance, a focus on building a social media community backfires quickly if you have problems with customer satisfaction due to poor product performance — all you’ve done is give disgruntled customers a platform for complaining about your product or service.

Tip #2: Measure what matters, not what’s easy

Often you’ll find digital marketers measuring the easy things — likes, clicks. Sure, these things matter (somewhat), but they’re not the most important (or only) important aspects of a successful digital marketing campaign.

First, set clear goals for your digital marketing campaign — goals that go deeper than just outcome performance measures. Then, create KPIs (key performance indicators) related to those goals.

If you’re convinced customer satisfaction impacts market performance (as is the case for most businesses), assessing sentiment makes a lot of sense. But, don’t stop with sentiment analysis — look at the totality of KPIs and measure all of them. Better yet, chart performance across all KPIs over time, which is much more insightful than putting all your faith in point measures.

Tip #3: Metrics aren’t enough

Don’t simply create dashboards with displaying your metrics. Statistics don’t speak for themselves and require interpretation by skilled analysts combining both the art and science of analytics to uncover actionable insights from your metrics.

While we’re on the topic of dashboards, think about issues related to the level of analysis appropriate for different users. For instance, the VP marketing needs a broad overview of metrics related to the entire product bundle, while brand managers need a more detailed view of just the products they handle.

A good dashboard allows users to dive deeper or take a broader overview of metrics. Also, adding the ability for users to create ad hoc reports and alternative visualizations increases the effectiveness of your dashboard.

 Tip #4: Tie compensation to metrics

One of the biggest challenges firms face (once they get over the hurdle of generating meaningful metrics) is translating data into insights then applying those insights to actions. So, it’s a good idea to tie compensation to metrics — this ensures your employees pay close attention to metrics and try to optimize market performance by using insights provided through these metrics.

I have 3 caveats, however, when it comes to tying compensation to metrics:

  1. Balance the compensation to ensure it’s challenging to achieve higher levels of compensation without being too difficult to achieve. If you expect too high an ROI of digital marketing employees (something unrealistic) they won’t try. If the expectation is too low, they’ll leave money on the table by not doing everything possible to optimize your digital marketing campaigns. You also want to pay attention to the degree to which compensation fluctuates based on performance. There should be adequate incentives to optimize the ROI of digital marketing.
  2. Be very careful that you’re compensating employees for metrics that correlate highly with the ROI of digital marketing. Tying compensation with vanity metrics, like # of Facebook Fans, will drive behavior toward achieving a large Facebook fan-base. However, there’s strong evidence that absolute size of your Facebook community matters little while the engagement of your community provides a stronger impact on the ROI of digital marketing. Pay for what matters.
  3. Employees must have control over factors impacting metrics. For instance, marketers might have little control over customer satisfaction if the production department turns out a really crappy product or logistics can’t get the product delivered in a timely manner. Employees quickly become dissatisfied with a compensation plan containing elements they don’t control.

Tip #5: Don’t stop with descriptive analytics

Move past descriptive analytics (how many, how much, how often) to employ predictive analytics.

In essence. predictive analytics build models using big data to uncover relationships among the factors that impact the ROI of digital marketing (or any other variable of interest).

Your turn

What advice and tips do you have for improving the ROI of digital marketing?

Need help?

We welcome the opportunity to show you how we can make your marketing SIZZLE with our data-driven, results-oriented marketing strategies.  Sign up for our FREE newsletter, get the 1st chapter of our book – FREE, or contact us for more information on hiring us.

Hausman and Associates, the publisher of Hausman Marketing Letter, is a full service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and social media.

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The Internet Economy

Saul Klein
Saul Klein of Index Ventures — author of the Klein Report

The Internet economy is bright — very bright according to Saul Klein of Index Ventures. But, are investors getting returns like Facebook and Google when they invest in tech? Or are they missing some of the secret sauce that makes these investments almost bullet-proof?

Returns like Facebook and Google

Look at recent investments by Facebook and Google — Instagram (by Facebook) and YouTube (by Google).

Facebook paid $1 billion to acquire Instagram in 2012 – not a paltry sum. Begun in 2010 by a couple of Stanford grads, the app today boasts over 200 million users with more than 75 million logging on each day, including both the Obamas, the Royal family, and most celebrities.

What did Facebook see in Instagram? The fast growing users base on dedicated users fit Facebook’s business model and the photo sharing over Facebook (and other social networks) created synergy, but maybe the thing that drew Facebook to buy Instagram was because they were afraid of Instagram — afraid users would desert Facebook for Instagram … afraid users wouldn’t want to split time between the 2 apps and would choose Instagram … afraid Instagram solved a problem — sharing photos — that made Facebook obsolete. Just as General Motors acquired Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Chevrolet (once competitors) to eliminate the competition, Facebook did the same with Instagram.

Google’s purchase of YouTube for $1.65 billion 4 years earlier made it the most expensive acquisition by Google to date — topping what they paid for all acquisitions the year before. Again, the purchase was a strategic fit for Google, who grew from its search roots to become a major player in many aspects of life for its target demographic. Following the successful strategy of Apple Computers, Google seeks to be everything to this target market from search to wearables to automation (self-driving cars, for example), to communication and productivity, to every aspect of innovation (life extension, for instance). Buying YouTube meant not only acquiring more folks in this target demographic, but convincing them to spend more time with Google properties and, through its single sign on, making easier to bundle everything a consumer needs into one package. Acquisition of YouTube also provides synergy — making Google’s chief money-maker — adsense — even more valuable and driving more businesses to the advertising platform (which also operates on YouTube).

No wonder Google sowed up 70% of search!

A good question is what Facebook and Google see that eludes other investors? And, how can other tech investors get returns like Facebook and Google?

Investor barriers

According to Saul Klein, investors today are investing like investors of 20 – 30 years ago — not understanding the ecosystem changed forever with the rise of the Internet economy.

According to Klein:

The Internet isn’t really a technology, it’s a belief system

And, ecommerce companies, software, and online travel outperform the traditional markets (creating tangible products) where investors traditional focused their resources. With the exception of smart devices, these markets just don’t perform that well anymore.

And, Klein isn’t alone. The prestigious Boston Consulting Group (which created the infamous BCG matrix taught to generations of marketing students) estimates the growth potential for the internet economy at $4.2 trillion. In their report, BCG analysts say:

By 2016, there will be 3 billion Internet users globally—almost half the world’s population. The Internet economy will reach $4.2 trillion in the G-20 economies. If it were a national economy, the Internet economy would rank in the world’s top five, behind only the U.S., China, Japan, and India, and ahead of Germany. Across the G-20, it already amounted to 4.1 percent of GDP, or $2.3 trillion, in 2010.
the internet economy
Courtesy of BCG

Because Internet growth is exponential, not linear, opportunities in the Internet economy far exceed those available through any other opportunity — which also fueled not only the growth of Facebook and Google, but their acquisitions of Instagram and YouTube. Take a look at how the Internet economy is shaping up next year in this chart from the BCG report

And, they expect continued growth means the economic impact of the Internet economy will double in just 6 short years — between 2010 and 2016. Beyond 2016, exponential growth continues — shortening the time it takes for economic impact to double.
Developed markets in the US, Western Europe and much of Asia (including a surprising strong showing by South Korea) lead the way in the digital economy in terms of BCG’s e-intensity, which assesses a countries Internet infrastructure, online expenditures, and online engagement online, but new comers in Latin America, China, and the Middle East (except Israel, which maps to Western Europe in e-intensity), are leap-frogging directly into social the way they leap-frogged directly into mobile rather than land-based telephones.

Research versus buying online

We probably already knew this — or at least suspected it. The amount of money spend online is really tiny despite years when gurus predicted this would be the year when online sales (desktop and mobile) would take off. But, don’t underestimate the importance of online marketing and retailing. A large percentage of consumers do their research online, then buy what they want in the store — the brick and mortar kind. Mixed channels — using 2 or more channels — are common, especially in the US, where almost twice as much stuff is purchased in a brick and mortar (after researching online) as is purchased online.

Multichannel retailing goes the other way, too. With companies like Best Buy complaining about customers taking up time (and time IS money) shopping in the stores, then buying online. Shoppers even shop the price of an item right in the store before making a purchase. If they find a TV or Blu-ray for less on Amazon, there goes the sale.

Of course, not all research is intentional. We get recommendations from our friends all the time on social networks. It’s also common for folks to ask their friends for recommendations before buying. I recently had a friend ask whether to buy a Sleep Number or Temporpedic mattress to replace his existing foam mattress. We trust our friends because they don’t have any hidden agendas — they give it to us straight. This, of course, explains the true power of social media.

Not to mention all the brands building their image through social channels. Branding sends subtle messages about the positioning of the product and it’s suitability that have a subconscious influence on the brands we choose in both online and offline settings.

Even though a small number of purchases actually occur online (about 4.3% of GDP according to BCG), the power of the Internet in influencing offline purchases is enormous.

So, what does it all mean?

I’m glad you asked. The Internet economy impacts much of how we market businesses today. Like Klein said, its a belief system supported by technology, not a technology.

As an investor

You should probably think like Facebook and Google — investing in the Internet economy by building synergies with existing business and stopping competitors by gobbling them up. Stop investing the old way and supporting startups who are doing things the old way. Today, that probably means stop looking for the next Facebook or Google and, instead, look for firms like Instagram and YouTube who expand the internet economy.

Two suggestions — the Internet of things and email substitutes.

As a marketer

The Internet economy presents great opportunities, but also great challenges. Learn to harness the power of the Internet economy by putting on a different set of glasses than the ones you’ve used to view the world so far.

If you’re not online (and mobile-friendly), you’ve missed the boat. A digital presence is just the price of admission now. And, don’t go creating an app unless you provide some enhanced capability over your website. Just make you website mobile friendly. The high cost of keeping your app at the top in the app store is too high to do anything different.

Joining today’s Internet economy means becoming part of the new ecosystem — an ecosystem that’s consumer-driven, not like the one we all grew up in.

As a consumer

The Internet economy offers great opportunities to increase your buying power and get things that truly make your life better. Demand more from brands — make them earn your $$$$ every day. When they do something wrong, vote with your dollars to drive them out of business. If they offer greater opportunity, give them a try and tell your friends if it works out. We certainly need that more than sharing another cat video!

Need help?

We welcome the opportunity to show you how we can make your marketing SIZZLE.  Sign up for our FREE newsletter, get the 1st chapter of our book – FREE, or contact us for more information on hiring us.

Hausman and Associates, the publisher of Hausman Marketing Letter, is a full service marketing firm operating at the intersection of marketing and social media.

 

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Crafting the Perfect Viral Share

secret to viral sharing

Crafting the perfect viral share

If sharing is caring, then we’re all head-over-heels in love with social media. It’s not just Facebook anymore, there are hundreds of social platforms besides, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn where we’re meeting and greeting new friends all over the world. While these platforms create a great place for sharing cat videos, pictures of what we had for lunch, and talking about our last vacation, businesses use social media as a way to engage with customers and prospects. Sharing amplifies a business message, while making it more relevant because the share comes from others in your social network.

Sharing is the core of these sites and often, given the right set of circumstances, you can create the perfect viral share. Once associated with disease, the term viral now has a more positive definition. Rather than the spreading of germs, it’s now images, videos, content, and other material spreading rapidly from one user to the next.

The ability of free or low cost sharing of information reaching millions of people is a marketer’s dream come true, so how can we create the perfect viral share?

Interesting, Very Interesting

Back in the sixties, comedian Arte Johnson gave us many a chuckle on the popular show “Laugh In” when he carefully examined something irrelevant or just plain stupid and still found it “interesting, very interesting.” Drawing on this, crafting the perfect viral share happens when the content is practical, surprising or interesting in some way. A study of the most emailed articles from The New York Times (shown in the infographic below) found these topics common in shares by their readers.

I Want Some More

Oliver Twist surprised and saddened us when he made the bold statement, “Please Sir, I want some more” to his cruel master in the Dickens classic. According to research, our audience is also happier with more, rather than less. Articles with fewer than one thousand words get much less attention than their lengthier counterparts — weighing in between three and ten thousand words. Experts still recommend that your posts come in somewhere near the two thousand word mark.

Image is Everything

Crafting the perfect viral share often starts with a killer image. Rising tennis star Andre Agassi teamed up with Canon cameras to successfully market the “Image is Everything” campaign back in the nineties. While you can optimize your content marketing strategy in a number of ways, using images, photos, and videos helps create the perfect viral share, with your article shared by twice as many viewers as with mere text alone.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It!

This old quote associated with newspaper sales was also a song recorded way back in 1975 by Ralph Carter. The authoritative sales pitch, “Extra, extra, read all about it” captured our attention, enticing us to buy the latest paper so we could check out the most up-to-date news. Building on this, we add two more characteristics of the perfect viral share —  a catchy headline and an authoritative tone. Don’t be afraid to state your expert status on your topic with pride. People will see you as more trustworthy and genuine, while increasing your sharing numbers.

Last, But Not Least

Some will attribute this popular phrase to the theater or more specifically to Shakespeare when he wrote a short line in King Lear, “Although the last, not least.” Just as we highlighted quotes and phrases in this article, we can use them in crafting the perfect viral share. By utilizing quotations and sharing anecdotes from their journeys, we will gain further interest and more shares from our readers.

But It Ain’t Over, Till It’s Over

This pithy quote is associated with legendary baseball hall of famer, Yogi Berra who would often use this phrase when speaking to reporters. Often it is difficult to gauge on social media what is popular and what is not, what trends are just beginning and which are basically over. Using True Social Media Metrics helps us analyze the most popular posts and give us a better picture of the more powerful social media content. Using these insights, we can more easily craft the perfect viral share.

After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here’s hoping that your material is seen by a thousand people and shared with a million more.

About the author:

MeganMegan M. Ritter is a business writer with a background in marketing and telecommunications. In addition to contributing her
research to infographics, she also enjoys sharing her knowledge of business globalization, virtual technology and mobile communications through her writing. Follow her on Twitter.

 

 

creating viral content

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Content Marketing Throughout the Marketing Funnel

the marketing funnel
We focus on conversion

I found the following infographic on content marketing throughout the marketing funnel from Smart Insights — which has some great templates and training (with membership), as well as free resources. I think the infographic contains some valuable ideas, but I also think there’s much-needed to optimize content marketing throughout the marketing funnel. So, here I go with my own ideas.

The marketing funnel

The notion of a marketing funnel dates from early in the history of marketing, although it was often called the sales funnel then and some leaders argue there’s no distinction between marketing and sales funnels while others contend the marketing funnel is no longer valid because the conversion process isn’t linear. Google prefers the term “conversion funnel”. To my way of thinking, these semantic differences don’t amount to much. So, I’m going to use the term marketing funnel here to represent all these terms.

A variety of interpretations and consumer stages make up the marketing funnels you’ll find across the internet and in textbooks, but I don’t find the difference make much difference in appropriate marketing strategy at each stage. My own version of the marketing funnel is the one at the top of this post.

Generally, the marketing funnel reflects stages in the customer journey — from initial awareness of your brand to purchase. The marketing funnel gets it funnel shape because there’s a huge drop, with fewer prospects making it down to the next stage. Today, we commonly extend the marketing funnel to consider repeat purchases (and the factors contributing to such purchases) as well as other post-purchase behavior, including advocacy (often termed evangelism).

Content marketing throughout the marketing funnel

In my last post, I discussed why you need a variety of content types in your content marketing strategy to meet the needs of visitors at various stages in the marketing funnel. Be sure to read this earlier post to supplement what I talk about today.

Today, I’d like to focus on inbound marketing that supports content marketing throughout the marketing funnel, as opposed to the actual content you create for different stages. So, without further ado, let’s head down the rabbit hole, or, in this case, the marketing funnel.

Awareness — or exploration

The consumer decision-making process is a little too rational for my tastes. I talk about this here because it impacts how consumers move down the marketing funnel — in fact, it’s the engine driving consumers down the funnel. The consumer decision-making process starts with a consumer recognizing they have a problem, they then search for a solution, compare alternatives, then make a selection.

I would argue, and have repeatedly in some of the top marketing journals, that this rational process may describe some planned purchases — such as buying a new car or other high involvement purchase. But, many times we’re not actively aware we have a problem until someone provides a solution. Such was the case when Chrysler introduced the minivan — folks didn’t know they had a problem until they saw the solution. My client, hexsee, has a similar situation. hexsee provides true social interactivity by creating private layers where groups can comment right over web content; eliminating cutting and pasting URLs into email or social networks every time you want your friends/ family to comment on a purchase option, plan an event, or discuss a news/sports item. People don’t realize how annoying and ineffective cutting and pasting are until they see the hexsee solution! They just put up with it.

So, attracting attention at the awareness stage often means reaching people who aren’t looking for you. And, content marketing, because it’s the new SEO (search engine optimization), fills this need. The trick is to show up when your target audience (personas) searches for alternatives to your product.

On Hausman Marketing Letter, I know my target customer isn’t searching for a digital agency, they’re looking for information about doing digital marketing. So, that’s what I give them — although I end each post with a CTA (call to action) so they know I’m available if they want to hire someone to manage their digital marketing. For hexsee (yes, it’s not a typo that the brand isn’t capitalized), we blog about our team, our start-up journey, and searches our target personas likely use — such as vacation planning, wedding planning, online shopping, online education … We’re gonna show up in your searches even when you’re not looking for us.

That doesn’t mean you can just talk about anything — your content must relate to your brand or your target market. In fact, Facebook is cracking down on spam links from brand pages because they are annoying to users.

You want to attract attention at the awareness stage outside of your website. Building brand pages on Facebook and Google+ and a company Twitter amplify your content through social engagement and attract attention for the curated content you share. The trick with any content marketing, especially at the awareness stage, is providing value to readers.

Decision making

Finding your brand is only the first step. Decision making is where the rubber meets the road. You must convince prospects your brand offers what the need. My last post talked about using influence at this stage and recommendations from friends/ family is one of the strongest motivators of purchase.

Therefore, user-generated content makes an especially good tool at the decision-making stage because it involves a friend’s endorsement of the product.

Another powerful tool aiding consumers at the decision-making stage is reputation. A brand develops a reputation (good or bad) based on a variety of factors. Here are just a few of them:

  • product performance and quality
  • superior customer service
  • ability to generate positive reviews
  • quickly handling negative reviews or comments
  • generating consistent, high value content

Purchase

Interestingly, the purchase stage relies on traditional content marketing the least of any stage in the marketing funnel.

Once the decision is made, consummating a purchase relies on a firm’s ability to eliminate or reduce factors making it difficult for consumers to buy. A good example is Amazon’s 1-click purchase option. Amazon data showed a significant increase in shopping cart abandonment (a drop off between making the decision-making and purchase stages of the marketing funnel) for each click required to consummate the sale.

Here are some other factors that reflect a failure to launch for purchases:

  1. Poor user experience — pages that load slowly, incorrect transition between pages
  2. Confusing or multiple CTA buttons
  3. CTA buttons difficult to identify
  4. Requiring registration when not critical for the sales process — ie. buying a plane ticket on Orbitz doesn’t require you create an account
  5. Requiring excess information upon registration or ordering
  6. Not offering a variety of payment options

Remarketing and email marketing help at the purchase stage because sometimes all that’s missing is the motivation or time to order the product now. Reminding consumers they want your product (and giving them a little incentive — like a coupon) goes a long way toward closing the deal.

Advocacy

Advocacy likely pays higher dividends than any other stage in the marketing funnel.

  • Advocates amplify your market messaging by sharing, commenting, liking
  • Advocates answer customer questions when your customer reps are busy
  • Advocates create user-generated content
  • Advocates counteract customer complaint by showing why problems weren’t caused by the brand
  • Advocates encourage others to purchase your brand

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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of Hausman Marketing Letter, is a full service marketing firm operating at the intersection of marketing and social media.

content marketing across the funnel

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