Advertising agencies and platforms are great for creating leads and they’ll be the first to tell you how the conversions are going.
You can see the results in the bottom line.
Sales are coming in so the leads are converting as good quality leads should.
Your social media accounts seem to be growing and although the social advertising is getting results it’s difficult to assess which ads are performing best.
It’s tempting to let the agency just get on with it without asking too many questions. That’s what you’re paying them for right?
So, what happens when the monthly sales figures start to slide?
You’ve got some new product ideas, and wouldn’t it be great to see what options would work best with your client base?
You may be feeling that everything in the garden isn’t quite as rosy as you’d like.
Perhaps you need to dig a bit deeper!
It’s around now you suspect that you possibly don’t know enough about why people are buying your products and where they’re coming from.
Worse, your account manager has moved on and the current incumbent is less than forthcoming with answers to some of your more detail-oriented questions.
You may be starting to realize that you don’t have access to any of your real marketing data.
A ‘black box’ approach to managing your marketing data can lull you into a false sense of security. Good sales figures are wonderful, but if you don’t know what’s driving them, you’re missing valuable insights that could help you build the success of your company.
Business owners need to be proactive. Creating an audience for your product involves a clear understanding of how your ideal customers think.
You need to know what drives them to your products so you can do more of the stuff that works and less of the stuff that doesn’t. If you only see the ones that turn into leads you’ve missed out on all that market intelligence. If you can see that fewer people are clicking on some links then it just might be an early warning that your messages are not resonating.
A simple adjustment may be all that’s needed to get interest back on track. You may not be surprised to find that most of the big lead generation platforms and marketing agencies are plugged into all this. Your data is certainly fuelling their almost magical predictions of consumer trends. Your data is valuable to them.
You may be surprised to find many will be hesitant to pull back the curtain.
In holistic medicine your practitioner considers your whole body and how you use it. They diagnose and treat disease as well as advise on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You should treat your business marketing in the same way.
View everything you do as a test and measure the results. Keep your content fresh, up-to-date and above all relevant to the people in your audience. This is not just return on investment. You need to get much deeper into the statistics.
For each channel, whether it’s your social accounts, email list or website there are important data points. If you publish a piece on your blog, then the traffic stats are important. Unique impressions, sessions and bounce rates can give you a good idea of whether people are bailing out as soon as they see the headline or sticking with it to the end.
You’re sharing your posts on your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Are you getting likes and retweets? Are you getting engagement from newcomers?
Your social advertising accounts hold a treasury of useful information. Your engagement stats will tell you which ads and posts are resonating with which part of your audience. Every channel and platform has its own analytics dashboard and data can be downloaded to put into your own spreadsheets.
Your email list is a mine of valuable information too. A weekly newsletter can reveal a lot about how people are reacting to your content. A rising subscriber count is a great indication that your call-to-action boxes are doing their job. If you include a few links to interesting content in the body of your newsletters, then the number of click throughs can tell you a lot about what is attractive to your subscribers.
Monitoring all this data tells you how your content, email and advertising channels are performing. You’ll be able to see if activity is falling off before it starts to affect lead generation and sales.
But which step? And where do you put the welcome mat?
Your website is the core of your online presence. This is Marketing HQ.
All roads lead here, and this is where you gather your market intelligence. If you set things up right you can see exactly where your readers came from, how long they stayed and which parts of your pages they spent time on.
Hook-up your site to Google Analytics, set some tags and watch the data roll into your dashboard. The key here is to minimize friction. If you see that people are spending time reading but not clicking the buy button there may be something wrong with the sales copy. Abandoned carts may indicate that expectations weren’t managed.
It isn’t just about conversions and abandoned carts though.
If you can track where your prospects came from you can make sure they see what they are expecting as they hit your landing page. If your Twitter ad makes promises that your landing pages don’t keep, they will “bounce”. Using a link shortener like Bit.ly can help you join the dots. You can make sure that traffic coming from each source goes to the right funnel.
Even those who don’t buy immediately can still be valuable. In the long run an email list subscriber may turn into a valuable customer or advocate one day.
Don’t neglect the after sales experience either. First person data acquisition in the form of satisfaction surveys and return reports is valuable.
It’s common to send a note to purchasers to check that they’re enjoying the product or service. This information is a useful source of insights into the way customers are using your product and you can ensure things go smoothly.
One often overlooked area is the data associated with customer returns. It’s easy to write these off as a poor fit (sometimes literally!) or just time wasters, but if you ensure that each return is properly registered with reasons linked to customer buying patterns this can reveal a great deal about the customer journey.
Many customers will buy several items with the intention of returning those that don’t suit. This is an opportunity for you to get some engagement. Without making the process too onerous, you can offer alternative solutions which may lead to up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.
If you make this data acquisition a key part of your procedures, it can reveal a great deal about the management of expectations and the accuracy of the information that customers use to make their choices.
Your marketing strategy should be based on the fulfillment of your SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals. Having the data close at hand enables you to set these properly. Equally, you need to know how close you came to achieving them.
Most organizations have KPIs (key performance indicators) which departments use to monitor performance. Marketing is no exception. These form the basis of reports which are generated by pulling together the information from the disparate sources. This doesn’t have to be a big data management system. A small business can probably manage with a set of interlinked Google Sheets or Excel spreadsheets. (send us an email if you’d like a copy of ours!)
Tackle each area of engagement and regularly download the stats from each platform and create summaries. These can then be combined into a single page showing the up-to-date totals against the weekly, monthly, quarterly results and the goals set for each.
You’ll find that the trends start to reveal themselves. You have the detail in the background so you can “drill down” if you need to.
As your business grows you may find that it’s worth employing a data management developer to create a simple cloud hosted database. You can easily use the spreadsheet structure to specify tables and SQL queries to create live reports. Most of the sources of your marketing data can be accessed via APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). Your developer should be able to hook your database up to these and the whole system can then be automated.
There are services available that will aggregate all your data for you, but you need to be sure that you own and have access to all the underlying data.
Never allow agencies or platforms to use their own accounts to access your data. You should register all your own accounts and have owner/super administrator privileges. You then give consultants or aggregation services access as needed. You need to be in control of the logins. If you need to change your service providers, you can do it immediately.
If you are using services, make sure that you read and understand the terms and conditions. Any that do not allow you to control access to your data should be a “hard pass”.
It’s never too early to start digging into the statistics.
As your business grows the number of platforms you use for your marketing and communications efforts will grow. The complexity will also grow. If you start early, it’s much easier to incrementally add new KPIs and data sources without losing track.
Don’t wait until it becomes a major job.
Every data point tells a story, you own it so use it!