Failure To Plan Is A Plan To Fail

This week I drove across the country visiting our offices and taking in the good ole US of A. Driving that long and that far in between meetings and other obligations meant I really had to know when and where I would be. Before I started the journey I planned out where I would stop for the night as well as rough estimates as to where I’d need gas. Excessive? Maybe, but I never ran out of gas, never went starving, and had a warm bed every night. This reminded me about how important having a plan is. How do you know where to go if you don’t know where you’re going?

Before you begin any digital marketing campaign it is imperative that you develop a plan, such as:

  • Who are we targeting?
  • How do we target them?
  • What do we say to them?
  • Where do we send them?
  • What is their goal?
  • How do we track them?

If you do not have the answers to all of those questions then you ARE NOT ready to launch your campaign. More importantly, don’t look at these within a vacuum. The question that is not listed above is “How does this campaign fit in with our overall strategy?” That question is so important but is rarely asked. If you do not stop and ask yourself these questions you will have gaps within your digital marketing and you’re missing out on opportunities. Do us a solid… ask these questions each and every time you launch a new campaign. You’ll be better off for it and you won’t have to pull off to the side of the road on your tip to more conversions!

Online Marketing Strategy You Say?

Current Digital Marketing Landscape

In today’s complex digital marketing landscape decisions are made on a daily basis.

  • What marketing tactics should we use?
  • Where should we drive visitors?
  • What do we do with the pages to make visitors convert more?

Often these questions are answered by pulling some data from the analytics platform and running with whatever it spits out. But what if the data is skewed, what if visitors simply don’t see what you are promoting on your pages?

This is the heart of digital strategy. Taking data, evaluating what they say, deciphering the user intent, and ultimately recommending a better approach. All too often these steps are not taken into account and the design team simply requests some data that either confirms or goes against their design theory and they move on.

The Why of Digital Strategy

Data is any marketing team’s best friend. Tracking opens, clicks, engagement and conversion happens every day, every hour, every second. But often we get lost in the data and we are no longer telling a story or creating a journey. When data alone is the only means of decision making it can easily lead you astray.

The Analytics Gap

A digital strategist can bridge the gap, translating volumes of data into actionable advice and clear recommendations.

For example, analytics may show that no one visits the “locations” page on your site. So the data would suggest that it is unimportant and can be buried. However, what if the links to the page are hidden or the color of the button/text do not stand out?

The data provided a problem, but the digital strategist can provide the solution.

The Design Gap

On the other side, a design mockup can be developed that is stunning, but when it goes live, engagement drops like a rock. Had a digital strategist been involved, they would have uncovered that 90% of website traffic views it in a browser smaller than a tablet. Since the design did not account for such a small screen size, only 10% of the audience saw its beauty.

And Before You Start

A digital strategist is the key to day-to-day marketing decisions as well as the principle of any web project. A digital strategist not only evaluates web analytics, but conducts surveys and Q&A sessions with stakeholders and visitors to gauge their needs and wants, develops website testing plans to evaluate website usability, and so much more.

A handful of hours at the beginning of a project can save you thousands in the long run and tons of frustration. A digital strategist gets to the bottom of any user problem online and helps to ensure your digital efforts are optimized for website conversion!

Digital Strategy on Vacation

Bluefin Strategy came to be because of our love for fishing, well that and it was an available domain name. Never the less tomorrow Bluefin Strategy embarks on a much needed tuna fishing vacation. While our minds drift to the thoughts of fresh sashimi and tuna salad we must first make sure all our ducks are in a row on the work front. We all need time away and so here’s a quick guide to remind you of things to take care of before you power off and how marketing automation can keep your mind focused on the beach!

Pay Per Click (PPC) Automation

If you run pay per click advertising make sure that you set up any rules that you may have otherwise been doing manually. Turning off and on keywords, raising bids at certain times, and many more tasks can be automated through AdWords’ automated rules. Also, take one last look through your keywords and ads to make sure you aren’t targeting anything vague. Vacation is not the time to be testing out brand new ideas!

Content Strategy, Blog Posting & Social Media Scheduling

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you can’t publish content! And no, I don’t recommend posting content after a few Alabama Slammers. Most Content Management Systems allow for future postings, so you can write the content piece before you leave and schedule it to post when you’re gone. The downside to this is that you’re posting something while you’re gone and technically “something” could be incorrect. Well, that’s why you triple-checked the content before clicking “schedule post”, right? Everything I just mentioned, do it all the same for your Social Media posts as well (NOTE: Many CMS’s automatically push new blog or page content to Social Media platforms, does yours?).

Email Marketing Scheduling

Combine the powers of automated rules and content scheduling and you have the tools available to you in most email marketing platforms. It’s time to do a double-check and make sure the messages are correct, in a particular order, and all links point to the right location. Any automated emails through forms or CRM’s should also be double-checked (eg: did you properly get submissions yesterday and today?).

Gone Fishin’

There isn’t really much to do with Display, nor do you have much need for auto reports from your analytics platform. Go enjoy your vacation and have peace of mind that you took all the strategic steps to ensure your web strategy keeps on truckin’ while you do… well, whatever it is you do on vacation!

Oooh look, a squirrel!

In today’s world of flashy advertising, new fangled gadgets and the seemingly limitless capabilities of the internet it is easy for us to be overwhelmed.

I’m no scientist, but as I type this Pandora plays in the background, my iPhone is at the ready to my right and I am typing this on screen number one of my two-screen setup. All of this… wait, a biker just went by on the street outside my window… where was I?

The point here is FOCUS. Although you probably need it personally, I’m not necessarily talking about personal focus. Keeping your digital strategy focused is nearly an impossible task these days. With so many new technologies, tracking and targeting tools it is no wonder marketers get so overwhelmed day in and day out. So how do we get back on track? Lets ‘focus’ on that…

New isn’t always better

If you don’t know how to drive stick shift why in the world would you ‘upgrade’ your car to a manual Ferrari? This happens all the time in the business world though. Too many companies abandon their digital strategy because a new shiny object comes out promising to pinpoint audience segments with a message specifically for them and ultimately get them to buy more. Now, this strategy works when you’re ready, but not if you don’t know how to drive stick.

Stick to the basics…

Ya, ya, the basics are boring. I get it. However, typically the sports team that wins their championship tends to focus on the fundamentals, or basics (unless you’re the New England Patriots I guess). This should apply to your digital strategy. Can your analytics track the entire visitor experience? Do your inbound marketing tactics drive visitors to the right landing pages? Are the calls to action on your site clear and noticeable? These are all digital strategy fundamentals and too many companies do not exhaust their options here before moving onto the next big thing.

It’s not working…

Brand loyalty isn’t what it used to be these days. Music tastes change by the hour. And there seems to be a new diet every second. My point is that we are always quick to jump to the next thing as opposed to seeing if what we currently have could actually work for us. Are you utilizing your tracking tools to their fullest potential? Are you driving visitors to the right landing pages? Are you taking advantage of all the segmentation features in your content management system? The next new thing won’t solve the issues of you not using your tools to their fullest. It’s sort of like a power saw because you can’t use a measuring tape when using your hand saw. Your cuts will still be way off with or without the power.

What can you do?

There are some simple questions to ask yourself before going out and spending money on that latest new technology:

  • Inbound Marketing
    • Have you exhausted your potential keyword opportunities and do you have content for them all?
    • Are you out of AB testing options for your Display, Email and PPC mediums?
    • Are you unable to target audiences any more granular than what your existing tools allow? Google has MANY targeting options…
  • Conversion Optimization
    • Have you conducted AB testing on all your landing pages through your existing testing tools?
    • Have you polled your website visitors through a usability test to see what they think you should do?
  • Website Analytics
    • Do you have more than just the basic tracking code implemented on your site?
    • Have you created Advanced Segments for several different factors including particular audiences?
    • Are you taking actions based on reviewing your analytics reports?

At the end of the day there are some really great tools out there that can absolutely help your business succeed online. However, make sure you’re utilizing them to take you to the next level, not to simply stay where you’re at. Remember that any new tool requires implementation and strategy time that adds to the overall cost. Instead of looking at the next shiny thing why not try and take full advantage of what you already have? The power is there, it is installed, but perhaps just needs a little TLC. It all starts with a strategy though… a failure to plan is a plan to fail (or in this case spend money on tools you don’t need).

We all need help!

Digital Marketing HelpI had a conversation with a small business the other day where after presenting them with several issues that are easily fixed on their website the marketing person responded with, “ya we know all of that”. I guess this is why so many of us keep driving the car despite the engine light shining a Texas orange glow on the dash? How is it possible that in today’s landscape a business can dismiss such easy wins? Below I will outline a few of the common issues with the digital marketing landscape and how to overcome them with a digital strategy partner.

Lack of Knowledge

Many marketers in top positions have come from the Baby Boomer generation and haven’t grown up in the digital world. This isn’t bad, it just means there’s a larger learning curve, and we always fear what we don’t know. Another thing I have seen in my career is that many marketers don’t want to rock the boat for fear of getting the ax. Therefore, they just do the same things every year and don’t worry about upsetting what might be ‘sort of’ working today. Trying small things can reap huge benefits, but the quickest is implementing web analytics on your site complete with Event Tracking and Campaign Tracking Variables included. This is all offered free by Google and has very minimal upfront cost when working with a knowledgeable small agency to implement a rock solid analytics strategy. Knowledge equals power and web analytics provides it!

Lack of Time

There are hundreds of mediums and tactics to get your marketing message out there. Just within the digital marketing world there is SEO, PPC, Email Marketing, Social Media… etc. Many marketers today have a traditional and digital mix and really don’t have the time (or so they think) to monitor all of these moving pieces. Therefore they simply dip their toe in the water or keep it out all together, meaning not much attention is being paid and the results will suffer. Once web analytics are implemented on the site automatic reports can be setup to show how your inbound marketing is performing as well as where abandonment points may be on your website. This may take a couple of hours upfront, but then the reports are ‘set it and forget it’. Yes you still have to read them, but you won’t have to dig for the data every month to see what is working and what is not. Now you can answer with certainty to the question “what is our best online marketing medium”.

Lack of Money

When you add the word ‘digital’ to anything everyone expects the price tag to jump wildly. And in many companies’ defense digital agencies have been taking advantage of them for years with high margins and outrageously padded proposals. It’s like your electrician. If he charges you $50,000 for a job and says it will take 3 weeks you say, “OK, if that’s what it takes”. The truth is that many companies can get real digital strategy help for as little as $500 a month or quarter. Obviously the greater investment the greater the return, but the point is that it doesn’t have to be an ‘all in’ approach when it comes to your digital marketing investment. Additionally, many companies often think they need to spend $60,000 or more bringing on an internal resource. The point is, for a small investment (as little as just $2,000 per year) you can have a digital partner by your side guiding your digital initiatives and ensuring that your strategy is optimized and driving conversion success!

Bringing it all together

You don’t have to save the world all alone. I personally know nothing about an electrical circuit breaker and my electrician knows nothing of web analytics. But I also know that when I need an electrician I go for a small shop with a person I trust rather than some large regional company. My needs are smaller and therefore I want someone on that level. Hiring a digital strategy company is no different. On the flip side, larger companies can benefit from bringing on smaller agencies with lower costs for better resources. Many large agencies hire young kids out of college, so you’re paying top dollar for junior talent. You want a firm that understands that you do not have the knowledge, the time, nor the resources to do this on your own. Bringing on a digital marketing agency helps you focus on what you’re good at and lets them focus on what they are good at, driving website success!