Things used to be done differently in the marketing world. Before, you needed huge budgets and marketing experts to advertise your products and services through traditional media. Now, you can effectively market with as little effort as having a social media account and excellent SEO skills.
This made it very easy for small businesses, who usually don’t have a large marketing budget, to reach out to customers. With the average American spending 4.7 hours of their 15-hour awake time online, and 70 percent of adults having at least one social media account, you can say that the Internet provides a great opportunity for marketing.
Social media has taken the guesswork out of marketing. Most traditional media, such as television, radio and billboard are like gambling, where you put out your content and hope your target audience sees it. Moreover, you could only reach an audience in a certain location where the media is published. With social media, you can reach a target audience from all over the world, you know exactly where they are online and can advertise directly to them.
You can even get them together by creating social media pages and groups where they can follow you and keep up with your brand. To keep them interested, update your social media regularly and plan your posts around things relevant to that target audience.
This was one of the biggest problems with traditional marketing—no engagement. With social media, you can get your audience involved in conversations and get their feedback. The consumer landscape has also changed; people want to make informed purchase decisions, and social media provides platforms to do that. Also, your in-depth conversations with your customers will help them understand your brand, products and services better.
Due to the growth of customer engagement, content has become a crucial aspect of marketing. According to the Marketing Insider Group, 90 percent of companies primarily use content for marketing. To keep up with the competition, use blogs and social media platforms like LinkedIn publishing to talk about topics your audience is interested with.
This is an opportunity to build a relationship with your audience and show them that you care about their welfare beyond selling a product. Alternating marketing content with general, informative content would also work well to attract your target audience’s attention.
It’s important to know if your marketing efforts are working so you could decide which ones to improve and which ones to let go. Traditional media offered very little opportunity to do so. Now, there are very sophisticated programs and software that measure important metrics like traffic, conversion, ROI, etc.
These metrics are essential because they can assist you in making business decisions that will help your business grow and make profits. According to Oracle, 53 percent of top businesses use analytics to drive strategy while 50 percent use them to transform daily operations from which they have seen thrice the improvement on their company’s overall performance.
If you are not utilizing analytics yet, you need to start now and track the progress of your business. This will help make strategic marketing decisions for your business, which will lead to an increase in conversions and profit.
On the Flipside …
There are billions of content and marketing material online. According to The Radicati group, an average person receives about 90 emails per day. Then, there are the hundreds of articles they browse through, plus all the marketing pop-up advertisements, lead capture pages, etc. that they come across on a daily basis.
The Internet has made it easier for your content to get lost fast or, worse, to never even be seen by a single potential client. With traditional media, you know your television advertisement is going to be seen by someone. After you submit it to the agency of your choice, you didn’t need to do much work.
With digital marketing, you have to understand the mechanics of the Internet. You have to learn how to craft your content so that it can get picked up by search engines and appear at the top of the search pages when users type in words related to your product. This is known as search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO has become more complex as search engine algorithms advance. Now search engines like Google will rank content that is “overstuffed” with keywords low, hence your content may still go unseen even after you optimize it for search engines.
Also, people may decide not to interact with your page if it does not appeal to them. Thus, you have to learn to create engaging, informative content that influences your target audience’s buying decision without being pushy.
People also want value online, so if your content is always trying to sell something, people will not want to interact with your page. Content makes up 50 percent of what contributes to sales; you have to get the right mix to make a profit. Make any mistakes and you reduce your chance of getting a sale by 40 percent, according to Marketing Inside Group.
Digital marketing is more complex and demanding than traditional marketing. There are many rules and metrics that marketers have to learn, and you still need to understand them even if you are hiring someone to do it for you. You also need to know the content creation process, upkeep of a website, social media marketing and traffic generation, which could require more work than traditional media.
No one can argue that the Internet has made it much easier for businesses to market themselves. It provides a ready, targeted audience, and you can advertise on a very small budget. Companies can develop relationships with their customers while improving brand loyalty and product understanding.
However, it also made things more complex, which can be very taxing and confusing especially to new marketers. The good news is, all the knowledge and information one needs to build a strong digital marketing campaign is freely available online, so marketing doesn’t have to be such a stressful task.
Marketing is the mechanism through which a product or service is rolled out and promoted to prospective customers. The amount of success a business enjoys is derived from the strength of its marketing efforts, which span advertising, sales, promotions and public relations.
It’s vital to your business because, without it, no one would know that your products or services exist, even if you’re the best at what you do.
With so much dependence on marketing, it’s not a stretch to say your world would end if it suddenly disappeared. Here’s a quick reminder of the many ways marketing contributes mightily to your success—and why you’d miss it if it were gone:
Marketing Makes Your Presence Known
For your startup or small business to thrive, it’s essential to promote awareness of your product or service in the marketplace. That means, the community you serve, whether online or offline, needs to hear from you—and the marketing strategies you employ will provide direction to each and every message you send out.
In the absence of effective marketing, prospects and customers may never find out about your offerings. Your business would wither and die.
If you smartly leverage marketing to promote your product, service and brand, your market’s awareness level can be raised to the point where they’re (hopefully) interested, or at least curious, about your offering.
Marketing Helps You Grow Sales
With effective marketing in place, prospects and customers will become aware of your products or services and, therefore, are much more likely to make a purchase. This is an important moment in the marketing cycle because, after buying, your new customers will start telling their friends and family members about their purchases, which triggers additional sales.
If you hadn’t leveraged your marketing to promote your brand and products, these sales would be non-existent, and your business would suffer.
Marketing Establishes Your Reputation
As an entrepreneur, you’ve worked hard to build and maintain a great reputation for yourself because you know it’s critical to fostering trust among colleagues, business partners and prospective customers or clients.
The same applies to your brand. The success of your business rides on its reputation, and good marketing can grow its brand name recognition or product recall. Every time your business meets or exceeds the expectations of your customers, your brand’s reputation gets stronger. As it grows, your company can expand, and sales will increase.
Of course, your brand’s reputation depends on the extent to which you actively engage your community through strategic communication and desirable products or services—and these are made possible through marketing.
Marketing Spawns Competition—and That’s a Good Thing
As Herbert Hoover, the 31st U.S. president, once said: “Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer, but is the incentive to progress.”
One of the great side benefits of marketing is that it fosters a spirit of competition in the marketplace. When you market your products and services, word travels fast, and soon competitors sprout up to compete with you on price, quality and style.
While this may not sound like a good thing, it is because it forces your business to keep the pricing competitive so it can win over prospects and customers before your competitor does.
Without marketing—and, by extension, competition—the best-known brands would do all the selling while smaller players and newcomers stood on the sidelines with little chance of ever becoming successful. By fostering healthy competition, marketing enables smaller companies to enter, grow and succeed in the marketplace.
Marketing Costs (And Pays)
You can’t reasonably expect to have success in business without first committing to a marketing strategy. It’s mission-critical for anyone attempting to drive sales. Yes, it can get expensive, but that’s simply the cost of doing business.
For entrepreneurs and small business owners, you should expect to spend roughly half your first year’s sales on various marketing programs.
Beyond that point, your marketing budget will likely hover around 30 percent of annual sales, sometimes a little more. As the saying goes, it takes money to make money. And it’s worth it.
There is no business without marketing. As a business owner, your world would end without it. On the upside, a good marketing program will arm your business with its best chances for success.
To maximize those odds, engage your community with a healthy mix of media, including traditional display ads, direct mail, email, banner ads, live events, webinars, blog posts and more. Never be afraid to experiment or take chances with your marketing, provided the change in direction is consistent with your brand’s voice and your company’s mission and values.
And remember this advice from video game director, designer, programmer, and developer John Romero: “In marketing, I’ve seen only one strategy that can’t miss—and that is to market to your best customers first, your best prospects second and the rest of the world last.”
The concept of testing variations of a web page to increase conversion might seem to be a highly technical and obscure activity. Relax: though it is somewhat scientific, it’s by no means rocket science. It’s actually very easy to understand and do.
Do you remember the story from middle school science class about Isaac Newton and the apple? History has it that Newton, a renowned late 17th Century English mathematician, observed that an apple, falling from a tree, always fell to earth in a straight line; it never curved or went sideways or upward. Newton, who had been developing theories about gravity and motion, questioned if this force might also exist at greater distances … perhaps as far away as the moon.
Newton tested his question (called a hypothesis) and found he could predict the orbital motion of the moon using a mathematical formula he’d developed to explain gravitational force. Other scientists later used his formula to predict the existence of the planet later named Neptune.
Newton’s discovery was the result of the use of the scientific method, a simplified version of which follows:
- Observe an action or phenomenon.
- Pose a hypothesis.
- Test the hypothesis.
Whether marketers realize it or not, A/B testing is based on the scientific method, which enables you to gather knowledge, test your hunches and potentially predict your marketing outcomes.
How It Applies to Your Marketing
In your marketing, the observation is usually something along the lines of, “Our conversions aren’t high enough.”
Your hypothesis would usually be expressed as, “Maybe I can increase conversions if I change on my landing page/sales page.” (Before you can fill in the blank, you need data. This will be covered shortly.)
Then you test your hypothesis and observe again, to see what kinds of results you get. From there, you may form a new hypothesis, test it, etc.
To get a hypothesis about which part of your page to change, review the page analytics. For instance, you might see your page has a high bounce rate. That’s definitely a problem, but that datum alone is not enough with which to form a hypothesis.
Looking at the time on page can give you a clearer picture of how people are interacting with the page: a high bounce rate but low time on page tells you that something near the top of the page is turning people off—perhaps your headline. A high bounce rate and long time on page indicates that the problem is near the bottom of the page—perhaps the call to action.
By reviewing your page analytics, you can get a clear picture of where the problem is and thus have information on which to base your hypothesis.
When analytics don’t provide a clear picture of what’s hurting your conversions, you will need to go directly to your users with a short survey about your page and use their feedback to determine where your page needs improvement.
When you’ve got your hypothesis, there are two basic ways to carry it out: A/B testing and multivariate testing.
In A/B testing, you’re comparing the results of two versions of a page to see which brings a higher percentage of conversions.
“A” is the current version of the web page, also called your “control.” “B” is a variation of “A” in which you’ve changed only one element. An “element” is defined as a discrete part or section of your page’s copy or design and could be any of the following:
- Headline or subject line.
- Body copy.
- Call to action.
- Photos or video.
That seems like a lot of potential variables, but the review of your analytics (or, alternately, feedback from your users) will help you isolate the general area of the problem so you can make an educated guess about which element to change.
You can vary an element in several ways. For instance, with a headline, you can:
- Make it shorter or longer.
- Emphasize a benefit vs. a feature.
- Add a supplementary headline.
- Express it positively or negatively (“Save money …” vs. “Stop wasting money…”).
In the case of images, there are also several potential variables:
- Color or black & white.
- Show a person or the product.
- Position of photo.
- Photo or no photo?
There are three potential outcomes. After changing an element and sending equal amounts of traffic to each page, you will find:
- A significant increase in conversion. Great! You hit the bullseye.
- No difference in conversion. Good. You probably didn’t change the right element. Make a new hypothesis and test it.
- Your “B” version gets a lower response. Okay. You definitely want to stick with “A” for the time being. Review your analytics, make a new hypothesis and test it.
The advantage of A/B testing is speed and simplicity. A single change can be made and tested with as little as 100 visitors. These single changes can create dramatic increases.
Multivariate testing is similar to A/B testing except that rather than changing only a single page element, you change several elements, thus creating multiple versions, which you supply to viewers dynamically. For instance, if you test three different headlines, three different calls to action, and three different photos, a visitor to your page would end up seeing one of 27 different versions.
Because of the larger number of versions in most multivariate testing, you need a much greater amount of traffic to achieve conclusive results.
It’s a fine-tuning step for pages that are already performing well, so you would only use it if you already have large amounts of traffic.
The advantages of multivariate testing are that it’s more comprehensive and it gives you a clearer picture about how the various combinations of elements work together.
Drawbacks of multivariate testing include possible lack of feasibility to make major layout changes to pages and the reduced effectiveness of tracking tools caused by use of dynamic content.
After the Test
If you conduct A/B or multivariate testing for any length of time, you will likely find an optimum page—the one that converts the best (so far).
But the test is not over. Monitor the behavior of your new leads or customers and see if they are indeed the right audience. If you find that they are not, that’s your observation.
It should be followed by the hypothesis that you need to change something in order to attract the correct public, which will likely require an overhaul of your messaging in general.
Keep a Record
What ever method you use, keep a written record of your hypotheses (the page changes you make) and your results (percentage of increase/decrease in conversion … or no change) so that you can go back and see where you succeeded and where you failed.
For each entry in your record, use a descriptive name for the test, such as “Lead page #1, headline #2” or the like, which will still make sense when you look back on it a year from now.
Marketers have done split tests of their marketing material since long before the internet to create new, higher-performing controls. You can maximize your existing list or market and produce remarkable increases in conversion for the comparatively small effort involved in testing.
Are your brochures, flyers, and television advertisements working for you?
Some customers will see your product advertised and will immediately make a purchase, but the majority of today’s consumers need more information before they invest in a product, hence the importance of having a company website that offers more information to aid in the customers’ purchase decision.
Every marketing effort made should be towards influencing the customer to make the purchase. They should send people to your website to get more information and, ultimately, make a purchase. Many businesses are questioning whether offline media is increasing traffic to their website or if they should focus more on digital marketing efforts.
Without tracking the efficiency of advertising efforts, it is hard to know if it’s working in your favor or a waste of your resources. There is a lot of information on the importance of tracking your marketing campaigns, including manuals on how to do it. Many businesses are already actively investing in this and it is improving their online marketing effort. But what about offline traffic? How do you know if that highway billboard that cost your business a small fortune is bringing traffic to your website?
Social media metrics, like Google Analytics, are making it easier to track leads generated by offline traffic. The list below looks at the best strategies to determine if your offline marketing efforts are effective.
Quick Response Codes
Quick response (QR) codes are ciphers that consist of a display of black and white squares. They typically store website information readable by smartphone cameras. QR codes have become extremely popular and are easy to use, so they are a great option to track your offline traffic.
Google Analytics can put tracking codes into your QR codes so whenever customers scan your QR code, you will receive information on the marketing product that generated that lead.
Customer Landing Pages
Another way to track your offline traffic is by creating a unique landing page for each of your offline marketing efforts.
For example, if you have an organic food store that just opened a restaurant, your organic food store’s main website will be ‘www.organicfoodstore.com’. You will then create ‘www.organicfoodstore.resturant’ as a landing page for the restaurant. The landing page will be explicitly focused on the restaurant, instead of the rest of the store. When you pass out flyers or place newspaper advertisements for the restaurant, the QR code and URL’s will lead to the landing page, not the food store’s main website.
To see how well your offline media efforts are performing, have the landing page URL available only on the particular media you want to track for a specific time period. For example, have your landing page URL only available in the magazine advertisement you are placing for a month. Then check your analyzing metrics to find out how much traffic increased through the landing page that month.
You can also set up domains that redirect visitors from custom URLs to a landing page in your main website. These domains are usually catchy and easier to remember. They would then be placed on all your offline media.
For example, if your organic food store sponsors a ‘Get Fit’ marathon, you could use a domain getfitorganicfood.com. This domain would be placed in all offline content marketing used for this campaign: banner, flyers, posters, etc. A redirect will be set so when people type this domain, they will end up in www.organicfoodstore.com/getfit. You can then analyze metrics to see the rise in website visits coming from the redirect domain.
People are likely to go online and search for your brand if they see an offline advertisement that spikes their interest. This will increase your website’s direct hits. Direct hits represent the people actively searching for your brand name or typing in your URL. To get more accurate statistics on the number of direct hits from offline media, run the campaign exclusively offline for a short time and get a sample to analyze.
The Google Analytics screenshot above shows the increase in traffic during a timeframe of intense marketing promotion for an event. Direct hits (Sessions) increased significantly compared to previous periods and a large number of these direct hits were from new users. This shows that the offline marketing efforts that were implemented during this time reached many people who had not accessed the website before.
Customized Discount Codes
Discount codes are a popular and simple method that many businesses are using to track their offline marketing efforts. Magazines and other print media carry a lot of discount codes. A newspaper advertisement will have a 10% off discount code to enter when making a purchase on a website. Another method is to print coupons for gifts to be redeemed from the company website. Reports based on the use of these codes will show you how effective they were in driving traffic to your website.
Tracking offline marketing efforts can be overwhelming, but using the right tools and strategies, like those mentioned above, can help you determine its effectiveness and make decisions on where to focus your marketing programs.