Published: 21 October 2014
By Nolan Collins, Blunt Brit Marketing
Everywhere you turn right now, the experts are talking about digital this and digital that. KPIs, Metrics, Analytics, Facebook, Omniture, Video and on and on.You have to remember that these are just tools, no more than a hammer to drive in a nail and a level to make sure it is straight. Tool and analysis. But ask yourself, what are you measuring? That the picture is straight? That the hammer did its job?
The analysis really comes after the tools are put away and you see people stop and look at the picture.
When I go into people's homes (I am usually invited!) I love to look at the family pictures.
They are not always straight, but they evoke questions and emotions. Through their inadvertent revealing display of who they are, I can see what interests them, where they have been, if they are one of those families that wears the crazy jumpers for the family photo!. Lots of pictures on display usually portrays them as extroverts, socialites and people who like to get involved. Few pictures means I'll have to work a little harder to get to know them!
Whatever they display, it allows me to relate to them on a new level. But remember also that they are at a disadvantage. Where I can easily see what interests them, it is I who will have to deftly insert what interests us on a common level to earn their trust.
As the evening goes on, if I was observant at the beginning, and stay observant during conversation, I can interact with them by talking about things that interest THEM, not me. By doing so, they'll get to know me better and will engage and parry with their own questions. Conversations get more interesting when old slides and photo albums are pulled out and you really capture their emotions when they pull up the videos of the last holiday, staying at the Villa in Spain with the ocean in the background.
I have, on occasion, mentioned something that I didn't realise was a sore point. A pet who has passed on, a member of family no-one talks to, or an interest that isn't there any more. The conversation starts to close down and I've had to think quickly to re-engage and bring back the level of passion and engagement that was there a few moments before.
Asking their opinion or viewpoint is an easy way to re-ignite a conversation and can lead to stories, experiences, triumphs and, of course, failures. Through it all, we listen, observe and adjust our tone and content for the next segment of the conversation.
By the end of the evening, we both know more about each other and we decide in the final moments if we want to do this again. Sometimes, it's our wives arranging a get together with other families. This is what our goal was… social acceptance and a desire to meet others! Other times, it's the promise of a new ale we'll be trying. Even the kids make connections and sometimes the kids are the only ones who make the connection, and that's ok.
As we leave, we're already thinking about what we forgot to mention, and things we should talk about, or ask, next time we see them.
My point behind all of this is that digital strategy is no different than an evening with friends.
Like developing a friendship, digital strategy is also a perpetual cycle of planning, engaging, interacting, assessing and adapting. Or as Dr. Dave Chaffey puts it, RACE. (With some planning first, of course!)
Now that you've experienced how it plays out in real life, let's take a look at the business side of things using the RACE system from Dr. Dave Chaffey of Smart Insights. This is, of course, a simplified account!
Before you start, here is something to think about:
“Digital marketing is not about spending £1 to reach one customer. It is about spending £1 to reach one customer who will tell hundreds more about you.” Bud Cadell, Digital Strategist
So through all of this you have to ask yourself; is what I'm putting in front of my ideal customer worthy of being shared?
First, you plan ahead. Define your objectives, evaluate yourself, your competitors and your existing knowledge of your clients or prospects (especially if you are new to market) Defining a clear persona of your client is also critical at this stage.
A great tool for understanding one aspect of your (successful) competitors is to use a tool like Topsy. Focusing on Twitter, you can go back and see entire histories of tweets and see how and why their audience engaged with them!
Another great tool for spying on your competitors is SocialMention. Simply enter a company name, keyword or search term and Social Mention will display content from social and blog spaces.
Next, you’ll engage your audience using paid, owned and earned media. Paid, of course, being paid advertising. Owned includes your social accounts, website, blog and videos. Earned media will be referrals, retweets, guest blogs and partnerships.
Constantly review what is working and consistently optimise your content to increase brand awareness and integration across multiple channels.
(In real life, paid would be the bottle of wine you bring with you, or the round of drinks at the 19th hole! Owned would be your own stories that you tell to interact with your audience and earned, well that’s when your friends tell others how cool you are!)
A couple of great tools for analytics are Google Analytics and, for the more advanced users, Omniture. Both have a learning curve but can offer great feedback when used optimally!
As more data arrives, it’s time to create the conversion tools that will drive better brand interaction and conversions. Lead pages, video and landing pages all play a role as well as analyzing engagement on both desktop and mobile platforms. Adjust your ongoing strategy to allow for growth in channels that may not have shown much activity in the past.
(In real life your landing pages are the cliff hangers you tell to get people to want more from you. You don’t sell the ending before you know they WANT to know what comes next!)
If you are a smaller company and want a good landing page system, LeadPages offers great training as well as a list of landing page designs that work better than others!
With more data and better insights, your conversion funnels are now created. You’ve got the leads so use them to really focus in on what works best for each lead source. Split testing in emails, posts, and landing pages contribute to better conversion rate optimisation.
(In real life, when you’ve finished one story, and your audience is hanging on your every word, you already have the next story lined up, ready to keep them with you)
The journey has just begun. Once you have a captive audience, whether on your social channels, email lists or as actual paying customers, it is important to stay with them and keep your brand strong. Crafting detailed CRM systems to segment and track your customers ongoing journey will lead to repeat sales, referrals and advocates who will make every £1 you spend worth a hundred.
Remember this, if nothing else; Email is still the tool preferred by most brands to stay in touch with and connect with their customers. Great CRM systems allow you to segment your heart out as you keep adding more and more information about your customers to their profiles. Use this to reach out on a personal level and let them know that you don’t just get them, you get their reasons for why they follow and refer you.
(In real life, this is where you swap emails and phone numbers and start inviting each other to BBQ’s and community events.)
iCrossing worked on Virgin Experience Days (the plan) and realized that there were anomalies in the language used for search queries and what was actually on the site. Acting on this information (act) helped them improve the UX, decrease bounce rates and increase the effectiveness of paid media (reach).
What was also impressive in this campaign was that non-brand SEO traffic was increased substantially showing that knowing what your customers are looking for, and adapting quickly, can increase visibility and interaction. (engage)
See the case study here: Virgin Experience Days
While you revel in developing a quality digital strategy now, it is always wise to follow the words of an ancient Chinese proverb: Keep one eye on the past and the other on the future.
Content is king. Authentic, heartfelt, sincere, beneficial and adaptive. Knowing your customers better leads to be better content, better engagement and more conversions.
With the abundance of data to continually analyse (Big Data as it's now called) it's also important to pick the tools that work best for you. Mobile is also key with the surge in both users and online interactivity leading to online sales. It's not enough to be responsive, or reactive. Know that mobile needs to be part of your plan and adapt now before your competition does.
If your company was born mobile (e-commerce etc), you have an advantage, but never stop understanding how your UX is influencing your customers and how simple tweaks in design can increase conversions and create fanatical advocates referring their followers to join your tribe.
If my friends read this, they'll probably wonder if I'm analysing them when I visit next! The truth is, no more so than they are when we walk through the door. I recently met some extended family for the first time after discovering they live only a few miles away. Within minutes our kids, wives and the dads had all connected and we now consider them friends too. Sometimes the connection happens quickly. Other times, it may require some work.
When you look at your customers and clients, look at them as people who have interests and experiences that, when you look closer, you'll discover you can interact with them on a more personal level. After all, isn’t what all this digital stuff is trying to help us achieve?
In your personal life you live the RACE steps with every interaction. Now you have a better understanding of how to apply it to your business too.
To find out more about RACE and receive a huge amount of digital marketing resources please check out Smart Insights – Professional Academy fully recommend this as a resource.
If you're interested in learning more about Digital Strategy and Digital Marketing for your business, and taking accredited courses, please visit the Professional Academy, UK's largest professional marketing and sales training innovators.
About Nolan Collins
Nolan fell into online marketing after having to learn the ins and outs for his own local business marketing strategy back in the mid ‘90’s. When other businesses saw the results he was getting it didn’t take long for professional organisations to ask Nolan to speak and present at local and state level events and workshops.
Nolan has a strong background in developing and improving training systems for small and large companies. Some of his clients for marketing and training have included local massage schools in Florida, franchises and National Restaurant chains in the US.
Since moving back to the UK, Nolan has started his new business, Blunt Brit Marketing, helping smaller businesses understand and navigate the digital marketing landscape.
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