The modern marketing landscape is not what it used to be. Creative thinkers and innovative “ideas people” are still at the heart of the department, but it has become a measurable, monitorable and data-driven discipline. To the most creative marketers this may sound like a negative thing; but in reality, it just means all of their ideas and innovations can be tracked, tweaked, improved and proven, making a real return on investment (ROI) demonstrable internally to the broader business (and especially up the food chain of decision makers).
To better understand the impact and opportunities of this marketing evolution, let’s explore two key developments that I think will impact marketing’s future.
For decades marketers have had to find ways to prove the need for their campaigns. The new methods they use, and the huge uplift in the volume of data available, makes this much easier than ever before. With so much data there are always new ways to grow, adapt, and change, to deliver the best possible results and answer executive concerns.
Marketing is no longer just about how creative you are. As customer experience becomes a key brand differentiator, marketers have to harness the data available to them to succeed. Part of the modern marketer’s role is knowing their customer—inside and out, personalizing their experience, and ensuring they come back for more.
Careers in marketing have never been more exciting, now they require a blend of creative skill backed by analytics expertise, data-driven research, and the ability to produce provable results. To make this shift, it’s critical that marketers understand and utilize the latest technologies, designed to aid marketer in every stage of their process, from targeting customers and analyzing their data, to automating content and engagements to suit the customer’s needs.
Data cannot be ignored. It has always played a role in marketing campaigns and decisions, but as we are now able to access more data more of the time it is a waste to not utilize it to deliver better customer experiences. Streamlining marketing strategies and processes in a way that embraces both data and technology falls under the coverall term ‘marketing operations‘.
Marketing operations is where all aspects of any marketing campaign come together and are organized effectively for success. Technology is a key driver of marketing operations. Why? MarTech has become so sophisticated that it is essential for marketers to incorporate the right applications and software into their marketing stack. The change in modern marketing is driven by technology, so while creativity is essential to such aspects as campaign planning or content creation, it should be controlled and informed by the insights found through their MarTech solutions, ideally with a foundation of an Engagement Platform that serves as the system of record.
87% of modern marketers already accept that technology is improving performance at their companies, and the scientific edge to their roles has meant a shift in expectation and the nature of their work. However, this shift is for the better as the right MarTech solutions and processes ensure that all work (creative or not) is measured and tested, allowing for more precise and targeted campaigns. In turn, this means the modern marketer can be even more creative as they deliver more ROI and tangible business value. It’s a win-win.
Spending on big data technology is set to exceed $57 billion this year, which shows just how committed companies are to getting the most out of every aspect of data. Marketers need to take note—data is driving their careers: Used well, data can accelerate career paths; badly interpreted data can stunt career progression. Both real-time and historical data can be used to inform and develop effective campaigns.
Data makes tracking every marketing campaign easier and more convenient. Harnessing real-time data allows for adjustments in-campaign at any time, or even in the planning stage of the next campaign by leveraging the learnings and trends identified from previous campaigns. And as mentioned, proving the success of a marketing campaign to those at the top of a company is so much easier when you have hard evidence backing up your claims.
Alongside big data and data-driven marketing is the concept of The Internet of Things (IoT), which further proves the essential and integral nature of technology in the marketing world. The more IoT technology is integrated, wearables become more common, and beacon technology is used, the more data marketers have to feed on, making it increasingly important to not only have an Engagement Platform to orchestrate all these touchpoints, but one that has a robust ecosystem of complementary technology integrations (so your technology is ‘speaking the same language’).
The typical marketer of ten years ago, or even five years ago, may not have been able to predict how different their jobs would look in 2017. However, marketing has always been an evolving discipline, with the move from print to online, text to video, and now with the incorporation of data and in-depth analysis as key to their roles.
There is nothing ‘fluffy’ and ambiguous about the modern marketer’s role. Yes, creativity is used to push forward and capture the audience attention, but it should be measured, tested and released once it is sure to succeed according to the data and research available.
Embracing marketing technology is absolutely essential for the modern marketer. Building an effective marketing stack for each individual business takes time and energy. But, once in place, it can push the business in the right direction and increase marketing success. That’s not to even mention the benefits it can offer in terms of time and capital saving.
Marketing operations cannot function effectively without MarTech, and the modern marketer cannot perform their role properly without embracing both. A blend of creative talent and a technologist’s knowledge must be combined to effectively market for growth.
Marketing is not going to go backward. There won’t be a return to the idea that the marketing department is ‘winging it’ and just trying out any creative idea. Modern marketing will become more entrenched and driven by data and technology, and it is essential the professionals involved embrace and utilize the resources available to them. The data and technology are there, it comes down to marketers ability to make the most of them. This way, marketers will not just safe-guard their jobs, but maintain their seat at the table.
There are a number of well-documented challenges with attribution in paid media. But as the digital marketing industry collectively works toward closing the loop, we must be careful not to succumb to tunnel vision: although paid media is critical in achieving reach and performance objectives, it is only one piece of the puzzle that is modern attribution.
In a customer-centric world, marketing value lies in accurately mapping the customer’s journey through the funnel and within the context of the various interactions with paid and owned media — and ultimately, understanding which of those interactions maximize returns.
Breaking down siloes is a daunting task — and measuring the combined results, even more so. But with the right strategy in place, marketers can glean valuable insights that provide a more complete view of their overall performance, augmenting paid efforts with learnings from owned-and-operated properties.
Here’s how it can be done:
1. Don’t Forget Your Own Data
One of the most common and complete data sources is owned media. Owned-media properties — social media channels or your brand’s Web site, for instance — give your brand a much greater level of control over the consumer’s experience than paid media offers. Since your brand isn’t paying for owned media, each owned property is a readily available source of data to collect, analyze, and optimize. However, many brands overlook incorporating these sources of rich data within the context of attribution.
Today’s technology offers you the tools necessary to analyze and establish attribution from every point along the path from leads to sales and even beyond. Remember, your data — be it user engagement metrics or conversion — should no longer be used solely to judge past performance. It should also be used to spur greater successes in the future. But if you can’t attribute your successes and defeats to their true sources, you won’t be able to build on those insights for greater success and ROI in this and future campaigns.
2. Measure a Customer’s Long-Term Value
Brands can become so focused on a sale, conversion, or specific channel that they miss out on maximizing the total profitability and value of a customer. The value of looking at customers’ decisions and interactions is that you gain a more holistic understanding of the long-term value of consumers’ brand experiences — well beyond just the last few clicks leading up to conversion.
Instead of thinking “this $0.50 ad produced a $20 sale,” you should be thinking “this $0.50 ad not only produced a $20 sale, but also resulted in the customer spending an additional $20 every other month.” Then dig deeper to ensure you have a complete understanding of the why behind these numbers. Are higher-value customers arriving at that ad via certain channels? Is the segment being targeted via this ad a higher-value segment?
Looking at the customer’s value as more than just a single sale allows you to account for the true ROI of your ad campaigns and place ad dollars behind the campaigns that will produce greatest long-term value for your brand. And the only way to accomplish this is with a sophisticated analytics strategy that includes measuring customer lifetime value.
3. Reassess Your Keyword Strategy
While you are in the process of determining the lifetime value of customers who respond to your ad campaigns, don’t forget to surface the true value of your keywords as well. First, test to see if the keywords you’re targeting are likely to perform well before throwing ad dollars behind them. You can do this most cost-effectively by first testing keywords in your owned media — for instance, in your email campaigns or internal Web site search — before throwing money behind them in your paid campaigns. Testing different combinations of keywords in the context of owned media helps brands to broaden their thinking and make better decisions before putting funding behind keywords in their paid campaigns.
Then be sure to understand the long-term value of keywords as they contribute to your paid media. Often, the thinking is “okay, this ad is for this search word. It’s performing the best, so let’s pump a bunch of money into that.” Instead, brands should be thinking “this search word is performing the best, but they’re just buying one item that’s on sale; whereas, with this search word, customers are buying a whole bunch of items and are more likely to return to buy more.” Just as when assessing your customer’s lifetime value, assessing the long-term impact of your keywords allows you to know where to allocate your ad dollars for greatest overall returns.
4. Overcoming the Mobile Attribution Hurdle
According to the 2016 U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus report, 65% of all digital media time spent by consumers is on mobile, with desktop becoming secondary as a touchpoint. At the same time, mobile conversion rates are 70% lower than on desktop. This means that lifetime customer values among mobile users and performance across all mobile channels often leave brands disappointed.
But with the high value that customers place on mobile and the ability it creates for advertisers to meet them where they are 24/7, it is all the more critical for marketers and advertisers to step up their game. Because consumers are encountering your brand through multiple screens, devices, and channels, it’s once again important to consider the entire customer journey.
Mobile attribution is a subset of the overall attribution-measurement strategy. It assesses the impact and value of both paid and owned mobile interactions to determine which help lead to conversions and which do not. With this information, brands can better understand what channels are performing on mobile, why they are performing well, and ultimately, what steps can be taken to boost underperforming mobile-channel results. Understanding mobile attribution gives brands important insights into where their marketing dollars should be spent for greatest returns. Brands formulating their mobile attribution strategy often begin with paid media, but that’s only one part of the overall digital marketing equation.
With many mobile users installing ad blockers on their devices, brands are forced to find new ways to engage with customers. As a result, both investing in the development of the brand’s mobile app experience and delivering contextually relevant and interesting content through it, become increasingly important to the overall marketing strategy. How effective is the owned mobile app experience in engaging customers and increasing overall ad influence?
An international hotel knew that travelers often begin their customer journeys on desktops as they plan their trips and search for best hotel deals, but once customers are on the road, the hotel app is its most important touchpoint with their customers. So they pulled from all customer data to make it personal and relevant with content that enhanced their customers’ trips, enabling customers to chat with hotel personnel, reserve parking, ask for room service and even request certain items before they arrive. Customers who have experienced this level of service and are searching for a hotel deal will in the future be more likely to click and convert when they see an ad for this hotel.
5. Tie It All Together
Going beyond paid is about looking at everything combined and making fully informed decisions to optimize every interaction — not just paid media — across the holistic consumer brand experience. Employ all this information to help you understand how the different channels are performing so you can make better decisions when it comes to your paid campaigns.
This post originally appeared on MediaPost.com.Read More
Posted by MiriamEllis
The craft that is your business navigates the local waterways. Whether yours is an independently owned natural foods store or a medical enterprise with hundreds of locations, it can be easy to get lost cresting all of the little waves that hit our industry, week by week, year after year.
Google endorses review kiosks and then outlaws them. They pop your dental practice into a carousel and then disband this whole display for your industry. You need to be schema-encoded, socially active, mobile-friendly, voice-ready… it’s a lot to take in. So let’s weigh anchor for a few minutes, in the midst of these never-ending eddies, to evaluate whether all of the developments of the past few years add up to a disjointed jumble of events or represent a genuine sea change in our industry. Let’s see which way the wind is really blowing in local search marketing.
If you’ve only been working in SEO for a couple of years, you may think I’m telling you a fishy yarn when I say there was a time not long ago when this otherwise brilliant industry was swamped with forum discussions about how much you could move the ranking needle by listing 300 terms in a meta keywords tag, putting hidden text on website pages, buying 5,000 links from directories that never saw the light of day in the SERPs and praying to the idol of PageRank.
I’m not kidding — it was really like this, but even back then, the best in the business were arguing against building a marketing strategy largely based on exploiting search engines’ weaknesses or by pinning your brand to iffy, spammy or obsolete practices. The discourse surrounding early SEO was certainly lively!
Then came Panda, Penguin, and all of the other updates that not only targeted poor SEO practices, but more importantly, established a teaching model from which all digital marketers could learn to visualize Google’s interpretation of relevance. There were many updates before these big ones, but I mention them because, along with Hummingbird, they combine to set much of the stage for where the SEO industry is at today, after 17 years of signals from Google schooling us in their worldview of search. If I could sum up what Google has taught us in 3 points, they would be:
Most of what I see being written across the SEO industry today relates to these three concepts which form a really sane picture of a modern marketing discipline — a far cry from stuffed footers and doorway pages, right? Yes, I’m still getting emails promising me #1 Google rankings, but by and large, it’s been inspirational watching the SEO industry evolve to earn a serious place in the wide world of marketing.
There are two obvious reasons why the traditional SEO industry’s journey relates to our own:
This means that for our agencies’ clients, we’ve got to deliver the goods just the way an organic SEO company would. I’d bet a nickel there isn’t a week that goes by that you don’t find yourself explaining to an SAB owner that you’re unlikely to earn him local rankings for his service cities where he lacks a physical location, but you are going to get him every bit of organic visibility you can via his website’s service city landing pages and supporting marketing. And for your brick-and-mortar clients, you are filling the first few pages of Google with both company website and third-party content that creates the consumer picture we call “reputation.”
It’s organic SEO that populates your clients’ most important organic search results with the data that speak most highly of them, even if this SEO is being done by Yelp or TripAdvisor. Because of this, I advocate studying the history of Google’s updates and how it has impacted the organic SEO community’s understanding of Google’s increasingly obvious emphasis on trust and relevance.
And, I will go one further than this. You are going to need real SEO tools to manage the local search marketing for your clients in the most competitive geo-industries. Consider that with the release of the Local Search Ranking Factors 2017 study, experts have cited that:
Add to this the top placement of factors like domain authority of website and the varieties of appropriate keyword usage.
In other words, for your client who owns a bakery in rural Iowa, you’ll likely need basic organic SEO skills to get them all the visibility they need, but for your attorney in Los Angeles, your statewide medical practice and your national restaurant chain with 600 locations, having organic SEO tools at the professional level of something like Moz Pro in your marketing kit is what will enable you to grab that competitive edge your bigger clients absolutely have to have, and to hold onto it for them over time.
The organic river is definitely feeding the local one, and your ability to evaluate links, analyze SERPs, and professionally optimize pages is part of your journey now.
I sometimes wonder if my fellow local SEOs feel humbled, as I do, when talking to local business owners who have been doing their own marketing for 20, 30, or even 40 years. Pre-Internet, these laudable survivors have been responsible for deciding everything from how to decorate the storefront for a Memorial Day sale, to mastering customer service, to squeezing ROI instead of bankruptcy out of advertising in newspapers, phone directories, coupon books, radio, billboards and local TV. I call to mind the owner of a family business I consulted with who even sang his own jingle in an effort to build his local brand in his community. Small business owners, in particular, really put it all on the line in their consumer appeals, because their survival is at stake.
By contrast, our local SEO industry is still taking baby steps on a path forged by the likes of Wayside Inn (est. 1797), Macy’s (est. 1858), and the Fuller Brush Man, (est. 1906). These stalwarts of selling to local consumers have seen it all (and tried much of it) in the search for visibility, from Burma-Shave billboards to “crazy” local car dealer ads.
In the 1960’s, Pillsbury VP Robert Keith published an anecdotal article which promoted, in part, a consumer-centric model for marketing, and though his work has been criticized, some of his concepts resemble the mindset we see being espoused by today’s best marketers.
Very often, being consumer-centric is nearly analogous to being honest. Just as the organic SEO world has been taught by Google that “tricking” Internet users and search engines with inauthentic signals doesn’t pay off in the long run, making false claims on your offline packaging or TV ads is likely to be quickly caught and widely publicized to consumers in the digital age. If your tacos don’t really contain seasoned beef, your 12-packs of soda aren’t really priced at $3.00, and your chewing gum doesn’t really kill germs, can your brand stand the backlash when these deceptions are debunked?
And even for famous brands like Macy’s that have successfully served the public for decades, the simple failure to continuously create an engaging in-store experience or to compete adeptly in a changing market can contribute to serious losses, including store closures. Offline marketing is truly tough.
Yes, the “three grumpy woman” price gouging and doing “the dodgy”, the desk clerk who screams when asked about wi-fi, and the unmanaged but widely publicized wrong hours of operation — they say local business owners fear negative reviews, but local SEOs are the ones who walk into these situations with incoming clients and say, “My gosh, just what have these people been doing? How do I fix this?”
The forces of organic SEO (high visibility) and offline marketing (consumer-centricity) face off on our playing field, and often, the first intimation we get of our clients’ management of the in-store experience comes from reading the online reputation they’ve built on the first few pages of Google. Sometimes we applaud what we discover, sometimes we quake in our boots. It’s become increasingly apparent that, as local SEOs, we aren’t just going to be able to concentrate on optimizing title tags or managing citations, because the offline world we work to build the online mirror image of will reflect all of the following attributes pertaining to our clients:
This list has nothing to do with online technical work, but everything to do with the company culture of the businesses we serve.
Because of this, local SEOs who lack a basic understanding of how customer service works in the offline world won’t be fully equipped to consult with clients who may need as much help defining the USP of their business as they do managing its local promotion. Predominantly, we work remotely and can’t walk into our client’s hotel or medical practice. We glean clues from what we see online (just like consumers) and if we can build our knowledge of the history of traditional marketing, we’ll have more authority to bring to consultations that address in-store problems in honest, gutsy ways while also maximizing overlooked opportunities.
I once walked into a small, quaint bakery selling dainty little cakes and expensive beverages, decorated in a cozy floral scheme; a place my auntie might have liked to take tea with a friend. The in-store music in this haven of ladylike repose? Heavy metal so loud it hurt my ears, despite being popular with the two kids left to man the shop while the owner was nowhere in evidence. The place was gone within a year.
As local SEOs, we can’t fix owners who aren’t determined to succeed, but our study of traditional marketing principles and consumer behavior can help us integrate the offline stream into the local, online one, making us better advisors. Likely you are already teaching the art of the offline review-ask. Whether your agency builds on this to begin managing billboards and print mailers directly for clients, or you are only in on meetings about these forms of outreach, the more you know, the better your chances at running successful campaigns.
In communities across the US, townsfolk have long carried out the tradition of gathering on sidewalks for the pageantry of the annual parade in which the hallmarks of local life stream by them in procession. Local school marching bands, the hardware store’s float made entirely out of gardening tools, the church group in homemade Biblical costumes, the animal shelter with dogs in tow, and the Moose Club riding in an open car, waving to the crowd.
This is where we step in, leading the the local parade to march it past the eyes of digital consumers. We bring the NAP, citations, locally optimized content and review management into the stream, teaching clients how to be noticed by the crowd. And, we do this on the shoulders of the organic SEO and offline marketing communities’ constantly improving sense of the importance of truth in advertising.
In other words, everything that is offline, everything that is organic is now our own. We are simply adding the digital location data layer and a clear sense of direction to bring it all together. And, just to clarify, it’s not that the organic and offline streams weren’t feeding our particular river in the past — they always have been. It’s just that it has become increasingly obvious that a multi-disciplinary understanding does really belong to the work we do as local SEOs.
In the lingo of old salts at sea, a “yare” ship is one that is that is quick, agile and lively, and that’s exactly what your business or agency needs to be to handle the small but constant changes that impact the local SEO industry.
From the annals of local SEO history, you can find record after record of some of the top practitioners stating after each new update, filter or guideline change that their clients were only minorly affected instead of sunk deep. How do they achieve this enviable position? I’ve concluded that it’s because they have:
It’s by building up a sturdy base of intelligent, homocentric marketing materials (website, citations, social contributions, in-store, print, radio, etc.) that businesses can stand firm when there’s a slight change in the weather. It doesn’t matter whether Google hides or shows review stars, hammers down on thin content or on suspicious links because the bulk of the efforts being made by the business and its marketers aren’t tied to the minutiae of search engines’ whims — they’re tied to consumers.
It’s because of this dedicated consumer tie that enough that is good has been built to protect the business against massive losses with each new update or rule. Even a few bad reviews are really no problem. Consumers are still finding the business. Revenue is still coming in. Because of this sturdy base, the business can be yare, making quick, agile adjustments to fix problems and maximize the benefits of new opportunities which arise with each small change, rather than having to bail themselves out on a ship that has been sunk due to lack of broader marketing vision.
Let’s sum it up by saying that to chart a good course for future success, your company must know the technical aspects and historical tenets of local, organic, and offline marketing — but above all else, you must know consumers and have a business heart dedicated to their service. A mature heart is one that wisely balances the needs of self with the needs of others. I, for one, find my own heart all-in participating in this exciting and necessary maturation of our industry.
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