Tag: Digital Strategy

When the data breaks

Digital Strategy2 Comments

As a digital marketer, I’ve been raised to love data and I do. The ability to make decisions based on real-time evidence is one of the most empowering and liberating things to happen to me as a marketer. But as we trust so much of our decision making to what the numbers are saying, ostensibly to identify and take advantage of previously-missed opportunities, do we run the risk of becoming over reliant on the data?

The holy grail of marketing communications is to serve your customers with timely, relevant, targeted communications. The volume of data that we are now able to capture, track and analyse about our customers means that you no know what they’re interested in, what they’ve bought and the what time they are most likely to buy it. In fact, this is part of the strategy behind the success of several online retailers like Vinomofo and Amazon. But what happens when the data breaks? What happens when what you’re collecting is no longer accurate?

As an example, and not just because I mentioned Vinomofo 25 words ago, let’s use wine. When I first visit the site, I’m only interested in one varietal, let’s say Pinot Noir. I only click on links to Pinot Noir and that’s the only thing I ever buy. The wine retailer correctly assumes I only like Pinot Noir and stops sending me emails with any other offer and prioritises Pinot Noir when I’m on the website. But what if I go our to dinner one night and try an amazing Shiraz and suddenly want to buy Shiraz? All the emails I’m receiving still only spruik Pinots and since the website thinks that’s all I like, I never see the Shiraz deals so I think I need to go somewhere else to buy wines.

As marketers, we must avoid only just going by what the data tells. Here’s a couple of ways to avoid this happening:

When the data breaks

Give the option to fix

As the screenshot from Amazon shows, give your visitors a chance to fix the recommendation so you can continually learn as their tastes evolve.

Balanced observed with stated behaviour

Open up your customer profiles and allow customers to self-select what they are interested in rather than just relying on the data. While you can begin just by observing on-site behaviour, you can send a follow-up survey to confirm that what you’re collecting is accurate and ask if there’s anything else they’re interest in.

Don’t hide other offers

While you should tailor your communications to prioritise what the data tells you they are most interested in, don’t hide the rest either. Make other products and categories easy to find if their preferences change and they know you don’t just do one thing and there’s a whole lot more to you.

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Welcome To The Centralised Web

Digital Strategy11 Comments

The number of industry stats that get published every week is truly remarkable, but two in particular released in the last few weeks really made me sit up and take notice:

  • Smartphone and tablet sales are continuing to grow as PC sales decline [1]
  • Google and Facebook account for over 70% of mobile advertising revenue [2]

As a long-time citizen of the web, I fell in love with the Internet precisely because unlike the traditional media that it would go on to fundamentally disrupt, it grew from the premise that it is open and decentralised. Anyone could access the network and establish a presence.

It struck me then, that those two stats – particularly when taken together – are a clear signal that things are not like what they once were. While the web is still vast, expansive and continuing to grow, for many users their entire online experience revolves around just two web properties: Facebook and Google.

Facebook users check the smartphone app an average of 14 times a day, while Google handles over 4 billion search queries a day. Not being on Facebook can be seen as either a badge of honour, or being horribly out of the loop (but mostly the latter). I’ve long contended that as we continue to share more and more of our digital selves on Facebook, the gravitational pull of Zuckberg’s network will grow exponentially making it increasingly harder to leave. While in the case of Google, we have simply outsourced our memory while simultaneously gaining access to the entirety of our digitised knowledge.

Add to this the impending demise of Google Reader (and by extension RSS which gave us the ability to consume what we want, where we wanted), the pervasiveness of Android devices (750 million and counting) and the recent launch of Facebook Home, there will soon be no escaping either of these two online behemoths anytime you’re connected – which is already close to ‘always’, especially with Google Glass on the way.

Why the aforementioned mobile ad spend is important is that where the dollars are spent is where innovation and content will follow. Publishers and developers who still primarily look to ad-supported as their monetisation strategy will by default seek to develop closer and closer ties with the networks that control the ad dollars.

The unavoidable truth is that in a post-PC world, Facebook and Google will command our attention more than ever. When two companies have effectively become our gateway to the rest of the Internet, we run the serious risk as marketers of turning it into something bland and derivative as we rinse, recycle and repeat ideas we’ve seen work elsewhere in order to get a higher search rankings, likes, +1’s or shares.

Let’s hope we don’t.

i-will-follow-the-rules

 

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How To Avoid Creating A Monster

Digital Strategy, Social Media2 Comments

There’s a great quote from Jurassic Park that I’m constantly reminded of. Right after all hell breaks loose and dinosaurs have taken over the theme park, Jeff Goldblum’s character confronts Richard Attenborough’s and says “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Probably should've thought this one through...

Every time when brainstorming, planning or generally creating, I try to reflect on those words to keep things in perspective.

Our natural inclination when designing anything whether it be a new website, campaign or Facebook page, is to cram into it as many shiny new things as possible. You will no doubt be familiar with the incessant tinkering and growing functionality that occurs without a tight scope and good leadership. When you work in marketing or advertising, it’s easy to get excited about what’s new because we all want to push the envelope and stand out from the pack. The danger comes when we push things that little bit too far and  we bolt on more features then necessary that it stops making sense to the consumer and becomes a confusing mess. The secret then is to keep it simple and focused on what matters to our customers.

  • Google destroyed Yahoo, Alta Vista and all the other search engines because it did what it did really well and put user needs front and centre. You type in a keyword, hit search and get back pages of relevant results. No muss, no fuss.
  • The best mobile apps aren’t the ones that try and do everything but are focused on a particular utilitarian task. They don’t try to cram in a whole load of features that might not get used and focus on the cherry on top.

But you knew that already.

The reason why I was inspired to right this post is because of a great book – actually, more like a manifesto – I read by Steve Pressfield, author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and The War of Art. Entitled Do The Work, it addresses the challenge artists face about overcoming internal resistance, putting your head down and getting to work. One of the techniques he suggests to stay focused is to think like a screenwriter or playwright and boil your project down to three acts:  a beginning, a middle and an end. Act One, Act Two, Act Three.

For example, this is how Pressfield explains Facebook in three acts:

  1. A digital commons, upon which anyone who wishes may establish, free, his or her own personal “page.”
  2. Each page owner determines who is permitted access to his or her page.
  3. Thus creating a worldwide community of “friends” who can interact with other “friends” and communicate or share virtually anything they want.

Everything in-between is filler; the tactics undertaken to get from 1-2-3.

Next time you sit down to develop your idea, first try and explain it in three sentences. Having this fundamental understanding of the what and the why could mean the difference between setting yourself up for failure and delivering a successful project in-scope and on-budget.

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Don’t Neglect Your Website

Analytics, Digital Strategy6 Comments

An Avinash Kaushik quote that I find myself repeating almost daily is “Don’t write cheques in social media that your website can’t cash.”

While I 100% agree with what Avinash is saying, I’d go even further and say don’t write cheques period that your website can’t cash. Simply put, your website (or ‘home base’) is probably the most valuable weapon in your marketing arsenal. It’s rare to see a marketing campaign these days (unless it’s purely branding) where the website isn’t at the heart.

Despite that, so many marketers, seduced by the perceived ease and reach of social media (Hint: it’s bloody hard, and reach is an illusion – you will never connect with all 600m denizens of Facebook), neglect their website or blindly continue plugging away with traditional tactics that, ironically enough, send people to poorly constructed landing pages and websites.

Landing pages and indeed websites are the front door(s) to your business, so why spend big bucks on acquiring traffic when all you’re doing is sending them to the online equivalent of a Soviet Gulag?

Here are 7 tips to keep in mind next time you’re planning your digital campaign and landing pages:

  1. Have a clear objective in mind. Know exactly what you want a visitor to do when they arrive at your page. That can be something like filling in a form, downloading a PDF or watching a video.
  2. Make sure you can track it. Whichever analytics package you are using, setup a goal for each macro and micro objective. If it’s something like watching a video or any other interaction, you might need to work with your web developer  to put in the proper code so you can do this.
  3. Design it effectively and align it with your objective. Landing pages should never, ever look like just another page on your website. They are a key conversion point that determine whether a visitor is going to go deeper into your site, buy your widget or handover their details. Not only must it look good and appeal to your customers, but it has to drive conversions.
  4. Hire a copywriter. While online video and audio is growing, the Internet is still 99.9799994392% text (don’t quote me on that). This gets overlooked incredibly often. You wouldn’t let a florist fix your car, so why leave your copy to someone who isn’t an expert?
  5. Always Be Testing (A/B or multivariate). Just because you’ve put your landing page up doesn’t mean the journey is over. This is only the beginning as now you have the fun job of refining and improving the page to eke out every 0.001% improvement in conversion rate. Test everything you can think of from colours, images, copy, fonts, forms, etc. but don’t go crazy. How much and how often you test can depend on how much traffic you get.
  6. Speaking of traffic, align your traffic acquisition tactics and creative with what your landing page. Probably the biggest contributor to bounce rate (a single page visit) and non-conversion is the web page meeting the promise of an ad, post, video, etc. It’s important that your website does what it says it does, without confusing or misleading your audience.
  7. Tell your story everywhere else. Keep your message platform agnostic and make sure it works across multiple touch points.

What do you think? What else should you do to keep your website relevant and convert traffic?

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Why most web content sucks

Digital Strategy3 Comments

It’s often said that content is king. So why then do most businesses online presence fail precisely because they treat their content like the king’s poor idiot cousin?

Here are some thoughts why:

It’s an afterthought

A disproportionate amount of time gets spent on the design and function of a website instead of thinking through content requirements, site structure and navigation. Often it is only after a website/blog/social media profile is setup that creating content even enters into the equation. If design is what gets the audiences attention, it’s the content that makes them stick. Content and the related issues such as information architecture, site structure and functionality all need to be addressed early.

It’s created for marketing (not people)

While websites in and of themselves are a marketing tool, content needs to be aligned to user objectives. In short, stop thinking about content in terms of marketing and promotion but more informing and entertaining. The old saying people use the web to save time or waste time applies here.

It’s not optimised for the web

The web is not like any other environment (it’s save time or waste time, again) and you need to respect that. Think about all the good stuff like SEO, headlines, tags, links and appropriate writing for the web when you start preparing content. Whether you’re outsourcing your copywriting or doing it yourself, make sure you check out some of great resources on the web, such as Website Criteria and SEOmoz.

It’s too brief

While web content shouldn’t be vast, sprawling amounts of text, it also shouldn’t be too short. It seems like the conversational aspect of social media has almost become an excuse for content to be vague. Understanding your audience is key to giving them the information they need quickly and succinctly without having to navigate a plethora of pages.

It can’t be found and shared

Build it and they will come is definitely not how it works. If a wicked funny video gets created and no one watches does it really exist? With so much content floating around the webs, you need to give yours the best chance of not only being found but also being shared by your most loyal customers. Think SEO and SSO (Social Search Optimisation), RSS, platforms and basic sharing/interactive functionality.

No one is responsible

Someone in your organisation whether it’s big or small needs to be responsible for maintaining content whether it’s on your website, Facebook page or blog. Stuff goes out of date really fast on the web and you need to keep feeding it with interesting, relevant content otherwise your audience will simply stop paying attention and go elsewhere. Particularly in social media, there is so much else to do that it’s critical that you give your audience compelling reasons why they should follow you. Besides, nothing looks worse than a long forgotten Facebook page riddled with unanswered questions and spammy comments.

These are just some of my views. What do you think? What other common web content mistakes have you seen?

If you’re keen to find out more, Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy for the Web is a great place to start.

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