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Plus Report - By Thomas Baekdal - May 2014

End to End Marketing Management and Planning

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Avinash Kaushik
(@avinash)
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One of the key trends in our world today is that we are learning that everything fits together. Take mobile trends. Many people are still talking about mobile as a separate thing, but the real trend is that our multiple consumption pattern will become so normal that people won't even realize when they are switching between devices.

If I send you an email, where will you check it? You can't answer that, because you never actually make that decision. You just check emails on whatever device happens to be in your hand at that moment.

And this is especially true when brands communicate, connect and influence their customers. We no longer live in a world of channels. Instead, we live in a world of any-channel.

But it isn't just about how you manage your campaigns, it's also about how people behave. We see this all too often when people try to measure conversions.

If you only focus on one thing, you are likely to miss the much bigger impact your actions have, both positively and negatively.

Imagine that your web shop wasn't really working on mobile, and it was only responsible for 2% of your overall conversions. You then start a project designed to fix this, and 4 months later you launch your new spectacular mobile site. And it works. In three months, the total number of orders are up 5%, and your mobile share of your total conversions is now 27%, and it is still growing.

That's amazing, right?

But then your CFO sits down to do the quarterly report and he finds that the overall sales have dropped 7%. That's not good.

Your CFO looks at the numbers and finds that it's caused by a lower than expected 'average order value'. It turns out that for your brand, mobile orders only have an AOV of 1.2, while it's 2.3 online and it's 1.8 in retail.

The problem here is that they failed to consider their brand strategy as a whole, but rather focused on each individual channel. If you focus on the growth of mobile alone, it looks like this:

Yes, mobile is doing a lot better. And yes, the total number of conversions are up. But then when you compare it to your financial data, you see this:

Of course, this is an example of how focusing on a single channel can negatively impact your sales. Not focusing on one can effect is as well.

Imagine you have the same brand, and again, only 2% of your sales are coming from mobile. And even after years of trying to change this, mobile conversions stubbornly refuse to change. So at the next budget meeting, you look at the cost of doing mobile and you find it's not worth the cost. It's producing negative ROI.

So as any business responsible to your shareholders, you decide to cut mobile out of your campaigns in the future. Six months later, your overall sales have dropped 18%.

Oh...my...god!

What happened here was that, while mobile itself only generated 2% of your sales, it was also responsible for an additional 16% of 'influence'.

For instance, it was your mobile site that people visited before deciding where to shop that afternoon with a couple of friends. It was your mobile site that people checked when they were visiting a competing store to see if you could offer them a better price. It was your mobile site that people searched for that afternoon when they were looking for directions for how to find it. And it was your mobile blog that people were reading when they were waiting for the bus to arrive.

Another example is how sales happen.

Imagine that the same brand wants to boost their sales, so you hire one of those fancy agencies who focus on 'engagement', who helps you design a rather outrageous campaign because "that's how to make things go viral," they say.

And it works. In fact, it far exceeds all your expectations. Your traffic is up a staggering 1,200%, the video you uploaded to YouTube has more than a million views, social sharing is the highest they have ever seen, you are getting a ton of new followers, and you are getting contacted daily by the press.

On top of all this amazingness, sales have more than doubled. Life is good!

Then the following month, sales start to drop again, but you are not worried. It is still plenty high enough and it's probably just going back to 'normal'.

But over the next six months, you realize that something has gone terribly wrong. Sales didn't just drop to 'normal', they continued to drop, and after six months they had dropped so much that your total annual revenue was down by 15%. Worse, it doesn't even show signs that it is recovering.

So what happened here? Well, you bring in an analyst to look at the data who discovers several things.

First, it's not surprising that sales dropped just after the campaign was over. This often happens when your campaigns are based on tactics. You are not really generating new sales, you are merely shifting it to a different time.

And this was what caused the initial drop to happen. People simply no longer had a need to buy something in August and September, because they had already bought what they needed from you back in June and July.

But this doesn't explain why sales dropped so low, so the analyst turns to the breakdown of customers and what he finds is quite shocking.

You see, for the first five months (where nothing exciting happened), 92% of sales came from returning customers, and only 8% came from new customers. But then when you launched the 'viral' campaign, it annoyed your existing customers so much that they simply left. All your amazing sales came from new customers with a very low level of loyalty. Basically, they only bought that one product, and then they never returned.

And if you compare your sales between your existing and loyal customers, with new (and mostly disloyal) customers, it's suddenly easy to see why things went wrong. Yes, your 'viral' campaign doubled sales in June, but it also slashed your loyalty customers in half. And the longer you kept talking about it, the worse it got. By September when the campaign was completely over, your loyal customers had dropped to one-fourth, and the momentary influx of new visitors had drained out.

The common element in all of these examples is that they could have been fixed early (or even prevented) if this brand had approached their media strategy as a whole, rather than just looking at one specific element at a time.

The last example, for instance, could have easily been identified if they had planned their campaign with reputation management in mind as well. Then they would have found the rather instant backlash that came from their existing customers, and they could have acted to prevent it.

Whether or not they would have done this, of course, is an entirely different matter. Most Sales people would be extremely reluctant to kill a campaign while sales were booming, regardless of what the data is saying.

And it also illustrates the vital importance of making sure everyone has access to data, not just from their own work, but for how that impacts other parts of the business.

For instance, back when I was working for a big fashion company, marketing wasn't allowed to see any of the sales data. We could measure exposure and partially conversions of our own campaigns, but we had no idea what the average order values were, or whether people decided to buy more or less products per order. We only knew about the marketing data.

Take social tactics like posting images with more than one product on them, like in the example below:

Here, one brand has posted two updates. One is with a single product, the other with two items to show a 'style'.

Which one works the best? Obviously, Marketing can look at engagement data and see which post creates the most shares, likes, comments and clicks... but what about sales?

Do the posts with two products cause more people to buy either one of the styles? Does it influence people to buy more on each sale? Does it entice people to look around more when they come to your web shop?

You can't measure any of that unless you can look at the financials as well as the marketing data. Simple things like average order values can tell you a lot about the behavior of your customers.

What if you learn that people spend more, and buy more if you combine products? How would that impact the story of your next campaign?

Multi-channel SEO

Another important element of marketing planning is understanding how you reach people. A good way to do this is through SEO. Yet too many companies today still focus on SEO as an activity targeted at a specific site. For instance, a brand would hire a company to optimize the SEO of their web shop or blog, not considering that for SEO to actually work they need to consider far more than just that one site.

Let me give you a simple example. Below is a screenshot that one of my readers, Jakob Rosenfeldt, sent to me. After Googling 'weather', one of my posts came up as a top hit.

Here is another one sent to me by Josephine Hagger. She was searching for 'analytics' and again, one of my posts came up just after the official Google Analytics sites and Wikipedia.

Both examples are pretty awesome, except this is not the result of SEO. This is the result of a 'connection' between these two people and me.

And this is the new reality of SEO. It's not about page ranks, optimizing your blog, or writing posts with exactly the right use of keywords. That was the old world. The new world of SEO is 'multi-channel'. And instead of a specific keyword defining who gets to see what, the rank is increasingly about how strong a connection we can build with our audience.

Here's a case in point. If I search for 'analytics', my search results page shows me Avinash's site as one of the top hits instead, because Google has determined that I have a strong connection with him.

And notice that the site I'm linked to is not one of Avinash's Google+ posts, it's his blog. That is my strongest connection.

But this new world of SEO is even more fascinating than just our own connections, because as search starts to focus more and more on our connections, much of the SEO focus shifts towards influence, rather than top ranks.

Imagine that you are a friend of Emily Tippins (the awesome Copy-Editor of Baekdal Plus), but you don't know who I am, nor do you have any connection to me.

If you then search for, say, "future of newspapers", you will likely not find any of my content, because we don't have a strong connection. Instead, you will likely find the big all-purpose sites, like Poynter, Nieman Lab, or PEW Research (who all have a better SEO rank than I have).

But because you know Emily, search engines will identify that connection and instead show you this:

And just like that, content related to me is once again at the top of Google Search, even though I have a lower general rank.

What's truly amazing about this is how that changes your whole approach to SEO. You used to just be able to hire a web agency to help you optimize your SEO for your blog, but that wouldn't work in this new world of connections. All the old SEO tools have become obsolete.

Instead, SEO is no longer a separate function that you can buy as a service. It's the 'result' of the combined effort of your overall strategy for influencing and connecting to your customers.

Take Emily's post above, which is what people will see on Google Search. It's not just a link to something I wrote, it's also a personal endorsement from her. That's a million times better than just a link.

So if you ask me, what would I rather have - a link to my site, or a link to someone telling people to see one of my articles? Well, both... but if I had to choose just one, I would much prefer the recommendation. Those types of links have a much higher conversion rate than just a random person clicking on a link they found by themselves.

This leads back to the need to approach SEO as a part of a complete strategy.

If you just focus on SEO itself (the traditional way), you are likely to write articles that aren't very influential but filled with the right keywords. But in doing so, you are missing out on everything search has become in the last couple of years.

SEO is not a task or a tool. It's a result of being good at creating influence across your channels and with your audience.

It also heavily influences how you measure your SEO impact. Traditionally, you would merely track how many inbound clicks you would get from Google Search. But this doesn't take into account the real impact of search influenced by people.

I wrote about this in my last Plus report about "The Mystery of Our Social Traffic", but it goes even further than that. Since search is increasingly being ranked by the connection we establish to people, one key measurement to look at is what you get from your reputation management and social listening platforms.

Are you making an impact in people's lives? Are more people talking and sharing what you do? While this cannot be directly attributed to SEO (obviously), it's part of what makes it work.

I would be far more concerned about my reputation score than the number of clicks I get directly from search. Or rather, I would look at both to see if the patterns are moving in one direction or another.

Ecommerce... and the empty store

Another example is with ecommerce. Many of the brands I have worked with have the common problem that they have divided ecommerce and Marketing into two.

It's Sales who are responsible for the web shop, while it's Marketing that are responsible for the blog and their social accounts. And often this results in 'engaging' marketing posts that aren't really about the products they make, along with some semi-automated posts announcing that a new product has been added to the store.

Like this:

That's a weird way to sell a product, isn't it? Neither posts are creating influence. The marketing post creates engagement but rarely any real conversion. The shop post is just "oh... we have some new products ... with 20% off".

Do you feel motivated by any of these? But more to the point, why are they doing marketing and sales differently?

Note: L.L.Bean is not a bad company by any means, in fact, they do many things right too. I just happened to come across these posts when writing this article.

This is a common problem that I see all the time. When it comes to ecommerce, the Sales team use different people, tools and platforms, and they think their role is just to post the products... and maybe offer an occasional discount.

It's then up to Marketing to build excitement, completely separate from the sales process.

This approach did make sense before the internet. Back then, a print ad, billboard, or TV spot were all activities that focused exclusively on creating exposure... all very far away from the actual store. So marketing was an activity that happened outside your store, while sales/retail was what happened inside your store.

But that concept doesn't exist in the digital world. Everything is just a click away. So, you need to approach the way you connect with people as a complete experience. You need to monitor and measure it across this entire experience. And the tools you use should reflect this.

Why is it, for instance, that so many ecommerce platforms don't include any tools for creating influence? Why can't your ecommerce tools measure how people talk about your products? And why can't your marketing tools measure sales? Why is managing your marketing campaign done using different tools than those you use for ecommerce? Isn't selling and marketing part of the same overall activity?

Real-time

Another good example of the need for end-to-end thinking is all the fuss that we hear about real-time tools.

First of all, real-time tools make no sense, unless you can also act in real time. This is the most common problem I see when people ask about real-time. They want the data, but they never consider changing their business so they can actually do something with it.

If you have this problem as well, forget about real-time tracking.

But there is an even bigger issue with real-time tracking. It's often limited to single channels.

Most brands only measure real-time for very specific activities. For instance, they might have a real-time traffic monitor, giving you insights into exactly how many visitors are on your site at any given moment. Other tools might monitor real-time social sharing, such as links to your site shared on social channels, or mentions of your brand name.

But the true power of those real-time trackers doesn't really materialize until you combine it with your other tools.

Let me give you one example from Baekdal.com.

Earlier this year I wrote an article about the problems with in-app purchases in mobile games: "How In-app Purchases Have Destroyed The Industry". The article apparently hit a nerve, and within just a couple of weeks, it had attracted more than 650,000 views.

Here is a view from GA's real-time tracker of how that looked. Yes, that's about 700 new pageviews every minute.

The problem with this report, however, is that it only tells you something about the result (i.e. how much traffic you are getting), but not why you are getting it, or who it is.

And there is a huge difference between getting this much traffic because people like you, and getting it because they hate you. To understand that you need to look at your other tools as well. What is the sentiment of this activity? Are people praising it, or are they sharing it because they are annoyed by it? Both 'moods' can generate a ton of traffic, but only one of them helps your business.

In my case (luckily), it seemed that most people agreed with what I had written, so I had the potential to turn it into something useful.

But whether you can do that or not depends entirely on what type of people are visiting you. To learn that you need to do some audience profiling. My regular audience are media executives and strategizers, so in order to turn this into something useful, I needed to know if this boost in traffic was also coming from that type of audience.

So I started profiling my audience, by looking at who was sharing the link and what people were saying about it (which I did manually, because I don't have a dedicated tool for that). What I quickly found was that this boost in traffic came from four groups.

The vast majority of the traffic (about 99% of it) was coming from random people who, like me, were annoyed by in-app purchases. Another (and much smaller) group was executives and developers working for gaming companies. A yet smaller group was journalists who had picked up on all the buzz... and a tiny group were from my regular target market of media professionals.

Based on this I could then plan what to do about it. The 99% was 'lost traffic'. Sure, it was great fun to have that much traffic, but they were all one-time visitors, coming from outside my target market. And while most of them had a positive sentiment towards the article, they were unlikely to then start to read my other articles. But I did create a short infographic ("What if Taxis had in-app purchases") which I placed in the original article to see if that could create additional reach (which it did).

I could do something about the gaming executives because, while they weren't exactly in my target market, they were relevant in relation to my other reports about media and consumer strategies. The result was that I quickly rescheduled my work and wrote a 29-page strategy report about how to do in-app purchases that build trust.

It's important to note that the only reason I wrote this article was because of this profiling. If the gaming executives hadn't responded to the first article, I would instead have focused my time on something else.

As for the journalists, well... those were tricky. It's always great to get media attention, but the reality of newspapers today is that their real impact is almost zero, mostly because the target market is random people. So, I tried to respond to each journalist in a helpful way, without spending too much time on it. I gave interviews to a number of media outlets, including the BBC, but I did not show up for in-person interviews.

The final group was too small to act on in a specific way. So I hoped that they would be enticed by some of my other articles instead, and then hopefully I could help them from there.

This was just a simple example, and a positive one in my case. It could just as easily have been a negative one, like when the fashion company I once worked for was targeted by one of those anti-fur communities. This also created a ton of traffic, but the sentiment analysis and how we responded to it was very different (obviously).

The point is, though, that real-time analysis can't stand alone. It's not a tool that can be used separately from the rest of your tools. It helps you understand how things evolve, where things are coming from as they happen, but you need to combine that with your other tools to figure out what to do about it.

As a brand, we have choices. We can set out at the beginning of the year to run several campaigns. But unless we remain flexible and true to our overall strategy, we can't create smart stories that connect emotionally with our customer. We can choose to set out with a campaign to get us a ton of traffic, but if that doesn't result in an uplift in sales by loyal customers or create new long-term connections, it will just shift your problem, rather than solve it.

When it comes to planning your actions, this end-to-end perspective is vital to your success.

As I wrote in the beginning, how you do this depends entirely on what brand you have, the size of the company, and the products you make. If you are a big company, it makes a lot of sense to invest in a suite of tools that are designed to work well together because you need to scale to see the patterns.

The same goes when hiring an agency to help you. Just hiring an agency to do one thing (like SEO or building a website) means you often miss this bigger picture. Instead, you end up with something that doesn't connect you with your audience in a useful way.

If you are a small company, much of this work can be done using very simple and affordable tools. I have a very small company, so I rely on simple social monitors such as Tweetdeck and a few customized searches, as well as manually checking social sharing reports and a custom made analytics system. As for real-time, I just use tools like Chartbeat and Google Analytics. And when it comes to sentiment analysis as well as reputation management, that is entirely done by hand.

But the concept is the same whether you are big company with multiple brands or a small company with only a single brand and a few employees. The key to getting this right is to look beyond just your single channels or specific tools. Instead, you need to look at it across those channels and across different tools and activities.

You need to think about it as end-to-end, regardless of your size.. because that's how your customers think of you.

 
 
 

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé

 

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