E-commerce Link: Take Action
Is your digital marketing budget perceived as an expense rather than an investment in generating revenue? Are you perceived by chief executives as a money spender or a money maker? In spite of honest efforts, most marketing departments remain ill-equipped to create financial accountability or support enterprisewide goals using digital marketing.
I challenge readers to push the envelope tactically, and I recommend connecting renegade Web marketing tactics with vital business outcomes demanded by chief executives with the following action items.
Prove It: New Metrics
The new economy demands we connect day-to-day Web marketing tactics to tangible outcomes. Why? To prove campaigns work. From customer acquisition to driving increased revenue and retention—all eyes are on digital to create strategic outcomes with precious budget dollars.
Today we're increasing conversion and improving shopping cart abandonment. Tomorrow we're tying these tactical success measures to bigger metrics: customer acquisition costs, lifetime value, average order, lead conversion to sale and churn/abandonment rate. We're running an organized, behavior-inducing system. We're business advisers, not data reporters.
Whether it's Amazon, Newegg, eBay or Zappos, behavior has become the metric for today's success stories. Branding efforts that tell customers how we want them to feel or desire and assuming they eventually purchase are no longer enough.
Today's new digital model prompts continual customer transactions—monetary or otherwise. It nearly guarantees customer purchase and repurchase. Call it lead nurturing if you like; today's new metric is strategic, not tactical. Behavior—not crafty ads—spans the entire customer experience to create a brand.
• Action item: Tie tactical results inside search, social, e-mail, display and affiliate marketing to behavior-driven metrics by examining each for measurability—based on actual outcomes (subscribers, sales, leads converted, etc.). Make sure they're working in unison to push customers down the sales funnel.
Ask each campaign manager, "Can X campaign be tracked back to an eventual customer action?" If not, consider eliminating it or inserting a tracking mechanism.
If yes, ask, "Is it part of a larger system/process that prompts customers and pushes them toward purchase?" If so, you're ahead of the game! If not, identify ways to organize the campaign—prompt customers to take purposeful actions using other campaigns.
Use It: Interactively
Advertising is inherently mass and one-dimensional; it's quantitative. We "talk at" customers. However, the Web is inherently interactive—we "talk with." This opens the door for customers to fully experience what digital marketing has to offer, and that's a qualitative game.
The CMO Council reports 83 percent of marketers don't use e-mail feedback to identify customer advocates—opportunities that can be exploited. Most fail to use digital's inherent interactivity—qualitatively and strategically. It's no wonder that most Web marketers focus on quantity over quality, but this no longer serves us.
Most marketers recognize the Web's ability to create immediate results. We blast e-mails, post blogs, place Google ads. But overfocusing on quantitative aspects leads to short-sighted performance analysis—we end up focusing on open rates, conversion and clickthroughs—overlooking qualitative indicators.
Even when given social media tools, we cling to old habits. In our rush to use them, we broadcast tweets on Twitter and seek as many friends and followers as possible. The result: mediocrity.
Successful digital marketers are capturing, retaining and upselling more customers by becoming discoverers and interpreters of customers' hidden motivators. They're listening to, analyzing and interacting with customers—not sending to, blasting or tweeting at them.
They're acquiring customers using a credible approach to social media. They're listening—then publishing relevant, authoritative, compelling, easily shared content. And they realize the process only works if organized behavior generation is a central tenant. It's less about immediately increasing conversion and more about nurturing leads down the sales funnel.
• Action item: Identify when you're "talking at" customers, and stop. Literally retool to "talk with," or don't talk at all. Focus on making each digital tactic listen, analyze and respond. If a tactic doesn't do all three, stop and make it! If all your tactics do, then which one isn't working, and how can you adjust processes so it does?
Review your acquisition and retention tactics for opportunities to create "closed loops"—where you can listen, analyze and act on customer feedback.
Bridge It: How We
We are challenged to act on two simple facts: Marketing itself no longer has walls, and how we talk matters. Digital marketing creates new internal and external value. While most organizations are far from realizing all the benefits, marketers are in a position to lead and make things happen like never before.
When customers consume your content or share information in any way with anyone in your company, this is a transaction along your sales path. If it's not, act upon it and make it so. Today's remarkable marketing leaders are spreading strategic, interactive marketing know-how across the organization—from customer service to human resources and everything in between. Everyone is a marketer. What can you do, today, to become such a leader or foster this concept?
• Action item: Search engines now bring the entire organization together—by being a focal point for customers, investors, employees, etc. Consider how this affects your legal, finance, HR, communications and customer service teams every day.
Act by calling weekly cross-discipline meetings. Use simple tools like Google Alerts and RSS-powered Yahoo Pipes to monitor customer, employee, investor accolades, complaints, etc. Discuss threats and opportunities, rationalize, and prioritize next steps.
Too often we say we're working on converting browsers into buyers or driving traffic—fairly empty, quantitative terms. Chief executives expect digital marketers to speak authoritatively in business terms—customer acquisition costs, lifetime value and tangible outcomes. Rising to the challenge ensures we're reaping the rewards of being seen as money makers, not spenders.
• Action item: Move your team beyond "traffic," "visitors" and "blasts." Mandate this in a meeting next week by banning such words. Kick-start a discussion around language, and tie it directly to its effect on marketing's budget, compensation and departmental reputation among executive officers. Make a short list of better words.
Success today means proving digital marketing's strategic net worth using behavior as the new metric, exploiting the Web's interactivity and eliminating the language gap between the C-suite and marketing.
Jeff Molander is a digital strategist, public speaker and author of the forthcoming book, "Ignorance Economy: The Secret Principles of Digital Marketing Success." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and blogs at www.jeffmolander.com.