Brain Vibe

marketing muses to stay engaged

Web Analytics: Caught Up In the Click

When I talk to my fellow search and online display marketers about web analytics, they look at me like I have two heads and crossed eyes.  They focus on optimizations made at the conversion – its the old marketing funnel. I care about who is converting and who is not.  Internet marketers say, “Who cares if you hit your target conversion volume at the right price when they could be the people that will leave you in a heart beat rather than be real customers with ongoing revenue?  Customer satisfaction, customer retention, that’s the job for Customer Service.”  Well, you should care.

Internet marketers need to think like their program marketers.  They need to be asking the same questions and align to their organizational goals.  The way to do this is through analysis of converter profiles and behavior analysis.  This way you do what we all say we should do:  target the right people, at the right time, with the right message/offer.  It isn’t enough to drive volume, you want to drive quality in that volume.  It is much more expensive to acquire new unfamiliar customers than it is to convert those that are already considering you or are you customers.  This is true whether it is internet marketing or offline marketing.  Why convert customers that will make a small purchase, then dump you later when you can convert a customer that is interested in your products now and later on?  Keep the short-timers in the mix at an optimal rate to maintain revenue, but it’s the long term customer that will be profitable in over time.

Think about your over arching marketing plan.  A key component is who your ideal customer is and how do you bring them in, keep them, and grow their value.  Somehow this is getting lost when you put in your big ad spends on paid search and display advertising.  In the tactic, the measure is at the ad group, placement, key word, creative, offer/call-to-action.  It is all about optimizing increases in conversion volume to site at the lowest cost.  We need to flip this over and go back to also looking at if we are converting the right people.

Converter Analysis

Take your campaign analysis down one more level.  Look at who is making a purchase on your site and what they are purchasing.  Are the purchaser profiles aligned to your broader targeting strategy?  If you were going after 30-something new mothers in affluent metros, were a high proportion of those purchases in this group, or were they 50-something grandparents in retirement communities?  The first may offer repeat purchases as new mothers will continue to purchase items over the growing years of their babies.  Grandparents or relatives may only complete a one-time purchase for the baby-shower.  You’ve already done the research to say where to get the most opportunity short term and long term, make sure your internet marketing effort supporting this.

Behavioral Analysis

Now that you know what your converted customer looks like, move upstream to their internet behavior.  Analyze your ad groups and key word searches and compare customer segments.  Recognizing attribution as it pertains to segment targeting will allow you to optimize more surgically.  On the surface particular tactics may appear to be driving the greatest conversion.  But, this may not be the case as it pertains to who you want to attract.  Through behavioral analysis you’ll better position your ad spend for behavioral targeting and optimize your online display dollars.

Becoming a better internet marketer is as much about effectiveness as it is about efficiency.  Effectiveness comes not only from volume of conversions but having the right volume of quality conversions.  Optimize not only to the volume.  Optimize to the segment you wanted to reach in the first place.

Filed under: business intelligence, Lead management, metrics, Web Analytics

Marketing Analytics: Why Trust the Numbers?

marketing analyticsSsshhh.  Come here.  Let me tell you a secret.  Those numbers you just presented.  The presentation you spent hours on.  The meeting that immediately after you got kudos for.  It was crap.

How do you know?  Remember that presentation you gave showing the incredible lift on sales by the optimizations made in your messaging strategy?  Turns out, there was an article that provided data conflicting with your methodology and results.

The standard slice and dice of numbers to prove the ROI of ad and marketing spend doesn’t cut it anymore.  There are plenty of others out there that are ready to pounce on your methodology and offer a better way of doing things.  They’ve found a way to take a complex methodology and turn it into a turn key solution or service that makes it easier to track and positioned as more accurate. The pitch: You have results instantly and can act on them with new messaging, offers, creative and strategy.  Oh, and by the way – check out that lift!  Even if you used an advanced analytic technique, someone has a better one to sell.

What should you trust?  What should your managers and executives trust?  Well, that’s your job – create credibility in the numbers and be prepared to defend the results.

Sorry, there is no silver bullet in any testing methodology or analytic modeling.  Each serves a purpose and each mitigates one issue better than another.  No manager or executive wants to be burdened with the fine points of the statistical model you use.  Less is more after all, and they only care about results.  The answer to the secret is how you position your results and anticipate questions that may be brought up during the presentation or after as it has had time to soak in.  Assume stakeholders will look to better inform themselves after your presentation.  They want multiple data points pointing in the same direction to confirm or disprove your recommendation.

Regardless of whether the stakeholders understand a test or modeling method, you should.  The strengths help you tell the story of results.  The weaknesses are where the astute will hone in.  For instance, if you use a sampling methodology, be prepared to present your insight in a manner that underscores not just the the positive impact noticed.  Your listeners will always look for the tarnish in your insights and you need to show why sampling was still accurate and the effect of selection was not a contributing factor to a change in results if ignored.  This doesn’t have to be in the presentation, but you need to be prepared to put the question to bed.

The other aspect is presenting enough of the information.  Incomplete data is a deal breaker.  In attempts to simplify, there is often the risk of over simplifying.  Again, the balance is providing enough in the presentation to satisfy the obvious needs for information and having the details in your back pocket.  First, this creates the the right focus for discussion.  Second, being up on the details makes  you look prepared and informed.

In the end, it isn’t just the insight you bring to the table.  It is your expertise in presenting your findings and creating confidence that is sustainable beyond the opinions and guidance of others.  Leadership in analytics is as much about the obvious insights as it is in covering your bases.

If you trust the numbers, make your stakeholders as well.

Filed under: business analytics, marketing/advertising, metrics, , , , , ,

Is There ROI in Social Media and Display?

I sat across from a client the other day discussing how they measure digital marketing efforts. They had just committed and entrusted millions of dollars in online ad spend to our agency only weeks before. The SEM and Display Media teams had already come in to discuss ideas and strategy. Now it was my team, web analytics, to come in to measure and prove that we could get the most conversion out of these ad dollars. On the line – display dollars and social media.

As marketers, we know that display is the hidden lift behind search and conversion. We even realize that social media, beyond the hype, has as much if not more value than the a creative placement. It is intuitive. And, to be honest, executives get it as well – they just don’t know why they have to pay so much for it.  Yet, I still get the questions I got the other day, “How do we defend our display budget?  Is there really ROI in social media?”

Here’s the thing, if as online marketers we are in doubt, a definitive ‘NO’ is going to come down from above.   Research conducted by such reputable firms as ComScore Networks and eMarketer isn’t enough to change minds.  It wasn’t enough to convince the marketers across the table from me.  They wanted to know if display and social media spend was working to the advantage of our other clients.  If so, how did we know?

The current approach has been pick a few tactics, launch, and measure.  Results come in and they are lack luster; we chalk this up to not working and move on.  Why the test didn’t work is not always assessed.  The results tell it all.  Not really.  The results only tell us the outcome of the test.  It does not tell us the validity of the test.  This is the beginning of defining attribution to our display and social media tactics.

The Reality:

Not all campaigns and applications are made equal.  The trick with display and social media tactics is that you know what you want them to do for you.  What is the goal, awareness, drive to site, engagement, or conversion, or all four?  Once that is determined, what is the role of display and social media in attaining these goals – direct or supportive?

The Application:

It pays at this point to think out of the box.  Social media as commonly thought of – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. – is only an aspect of social media.  What makes social media work is the communication, proliferation, engagement, and connection it drives.  The venue of a network or blog is only a placement, the components that facilitate the experience of the venue are the engines.  Display as well is more than a billboard. Approaching display like you would an email campaign with a targeting strategy, crisp copy and creative, and a strong call to action is the key to making display work.

Next, taking into account how these tactics support the goals will define measures and metrics.  Saying that click through rate for display and social media are indicators of conversion is only a small portion of the value.  As seen, click through rates are dropping dramatically for display and marketers have yet to directly connect social media interactions with conversion.  It is not to say that conversions can’t or won’t happen.  It is just that the likelihood is much lower.  So, you need to measure how awareness and perception contribute to conversion.  And this is the crux of the matter.

Test, Test, Test Again:

The test at this point should be more clear.  You know what you will launch and why.  You have a perspective of how to measure performance and its link to goals.  It is time to develop the test plan.  Here are a list of things to keep in mind when developing the test plan:

1)  Know your baseline.  This is more than having a control.  A control segment assumes you have tested a baseline.  Don’t assume that several weeks prior or even a few months of data is representative.  You will need to measure a baseline of performance over a period that allows for seasonality, marketing cycles, and market forces.

2) Consider how long your display and social media campaigns need to be in market to be able to measure impact.  You need to attain a threshold of measurable sample and you need to take into account the length of time required for exposure.  You may reach a sample that is significant but if it was attained in a week and a display or social media standard is 3-4 weeks in market for impact to be felt, you don’t have a viable test.

3)  Start simple and progress to advanced.  Applying a simple in market – out of market approach can get you headed in the right direction and give you what you need.  As you begin to exhaust simple testing methods, this is when attribution analysis can kick-in and allow you to apply complex strategies.

4)  Got results?  Test again.  This is an iterative process.

5)  Those results you got, leverage them elsewhere.  Insights you gain from one set of tactics or a campaign can seed an expansion of activities.  Then, test assumptions in the new application.

Filed under: marketing technology, marketing/advertising, metrics, social media, social media marketing, , , , , , , ,

Social Media and Website Engagement as Business Outcome or KPI?

What is it that we really want to know when we are measuring social media engagement?  It can be an indicator of advocacy, brand affinity, purchase consideration, or actual sales.  In many cases, engagement is considered the outcome showing the value of brand.  The problem that arises in this is that all to often how it is measured has nothing to do with how the value of the brand translates into customer value or initial purchase.

The first problem is that measuring engagement often has more to do with the amount of time spent on site and the amount of view, clicks, and level of content reached.  On the surface, this is a great first step.  When looking closely, flaws abound.  The reason, what is the online experience trying to achieve?  If the purpose is a landing area that drives purchase conversions, then more time on the site and an increase in pathing may actually be an indication of less qualified visitation. If the purpose is education and a first step into creating a customer relationship, then more time on the site, activity, and depth of knowledge seeking can be a good thing,  However, to be realistic, have you looked at your SEO and SEM statistics lately?  My guess is that around 70% of those visiting your site are direct visitors or searching on branded keywords.  That being the case, visitors already know a good deal about you prior to coming to your site and the more time and research they do might also not be a good thing if they are comparison shopping.

Sounds a bit dire, right?

To counter this, web analysts are starting to take a look at measuring actions as they relate to conversion.  Simply spending time on the site, views, or measuring clicks isn’t considered viable and predictive.  However, if desired actions are achieved such as downloading high value content, sharing content, participating in discussions, or taking actions that are highly linked and indicative of purchase behavior, then tracking at this level is more valuable.  Actions can be more connected and aligned to desired results and predict conversion.  Right?  Maybe.  The issue arises of clearly understanding actions that predict conversion to sales or customer value.  The other issue is that measuring the number of actions also isn’t that far off from measuring page views, clicks, and time spent.  It might be more meaningful in that it is a validated initiative, but again, is more actions a good thing?  Once again, as with traditional metrics, at the end of the day, what is your site or landing area intended to do?

Measuring engagement should actually take into account both methods for a hybrid approach.  How this hybrid is determined once again depends on what your desired outcome for the website or online experience should be.  At the simplest level, starting with actions taken and tracked as the foundation of a predictive model is a more sound approach.  These are steps in a desired process for conversion, regardless of what your conversion intent is, that are reliable and accurately measured.  However, actions are part of a process and thus need to be ordered and weighted accordingly.  Processes are relatively linear in fashion and assigning a weight based on the step in the path is important.  It can be a simple distribution or multiplicative, but a step does have relevance and weight.  In a hybrid approach, we also want to introduce the traditional aspects of views, time spent, and clicks.  Starting with views and time spent, leveraging these as coefficients in the model will provide a better perspective on weight on desired actions and ultimately the desired outcome.  Essentially, views act as impressions that influence behavior and time spent introduces the amount of exposure necessary to trigger a desired result.  Taking from online display advertising effectiveness, banner ads as an influencing factor for awareness and conversion increases with exposure even if no action is taken to click through.

That leaves clicks.  This traditional metric introduces a duplicity element that needs reconciliation.  It is important to carefully introduce this measure into the model as it can inflate engagement metrics and thus over forecast results.  Clicks also can be an issue as it is typically a component of measuring effectiveness of ad spend.  What needs to be determined is if the click is associated to intended actions taken on site and avoid double counting or inaccurately measuring ROAS.

Ultimately, engagement is an indicator of a desired outcome and not the outcome.  Combining traditional site tracking methods to weight and adjust models predicated on process actions will create a more accurate predictor of outcomes.

Filed under: business analytics, business intelligence, metrics, social media, social media marketing, , , , , ,

Is Twitter an Effective Direct Marketing Tool?

There are many uses for Twitter, but a significant use is to share content.  So, if you are a marketer and trying to get reach and conversion by feeding your blogs, white papers, and event invites through Twitter, what is the click-through rate?  How does it compare to email and direct mail?  Just how effective is it?

Pear Analytics just released a post looking at just that.  Their conclusion is that Twitter only provided a  click-through rate equivalent to direct mail.

… [A] “useful” tweet has the following characteristics:

-a shelf life of about 1 hr 15 min, and then it “dies”
-1 to 2% click-through rate on links

Which means that this is not a whole lot different than direct mail for example, without out the cost of course.

Ouch!  Alright, so it didn’t cost anything except manpower, but it is supposed to be better than direct mail and even email due to the ‘viral’ aspect of being within a social network.  That’s the hype.  That’s what the creative gurus are telling us. 

The issue with Twitter as a direct marketing tool has more to do with the fact that you cannot manage your list.  You may be able to manage your own follower and following list, but ultimately you are relying on the good will of others in the network to get out the message.  The way you manage your Twitter list is different than others manage theirs.

A big factor of success in direct marketing is the ability to slice, dice, and segment for a targeted approach.  It is surgical and scientific.  Even when you purchase lists you account for quality and alignment to your purpose, message, and content.  This simply is not manageable in Twitter if your follower’s networks are built for size rather than quality.  You can at least have negotiate money back if lists your purchase from vendors have quality issues.  But, Twitter lists are free.

Social networks like Twitter are great to keep high quality leads and customers close and then leverage to build your databases through early stage outreach.    When new leads do come into your social network, check for quality as this will tell you if your viral channel is high quality as well.  Then, If social network connections meet a threshold for quality, migrate to your central marketing database for lead nurturing.

 

 

Filed under: customer relationship, data quality, marketing operations, marketing technology, metrics, networking, social media, , , , , , , , , ,

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