Want more marketing impact in 2014? Start with your web efforts

Want more marketing impact in 2014? Start with your web efforts

It’s the time of the year when most of us are planning out the year’s marketing campaigns. Along with budgets, there are many things that marketers have to consider when planning integrated marketing campaigns in this omni-channel environment. Budgets seem to be shrinking, yet mobile and digital, along with heavy segmentation of customers, are challenging marketers to be in more and more places. Smartphones and tablets, which have become the center of consumers’ multiplatform lives, disrupt their path to purchase—meaning the result of traditional marketing messages will often be that your customers engage with you digitally.

As a marketer, how can you maximize the ROI from digital and offline campaigns? In a study conducted by Stanford University, 75% of users indicated they make judgments about a company’s credibility based on their website experience. And that means a good place to start is to focus your energy on revamping your web efforts.

Successfully delivering your web experience requires work, skill and experience. Let’s be honest—most websites fall short of delivering truly a great user experience. But a website that’s designed to drive customer acquisition in a user-centric way can be a boom to your online and offline marketing campaigns. Follow this step-by-step approach and you’ll be well on your way to building the right foundation for success.

Step 1 – Evaluate your website and make necessary updates

Sounds simple, right? But this is actually overlooked more often than you might expect. Even if you’ve just completed a website redesign, you’d do well not to skip this step. Take a good, hard look at your website, then check out a few competitor sites. Choose some other websites whose experience you find engaging and use them as benchmarks—it doesn’t matter what industry they’re in (in fact, it might be most beneficial to look at other industries). Compare your site to your competitors’ and your benchmarks. Your customers don’t just compare you to your competition—they compare your experience to every other experience they’ve been a part of.
Here’s a checklist to guide you through this evaluation:

  1. Does your website meet expectations for the customer of 2014? Take a good look at design, navigation, and how the content is laid out within your website. Compare it to your competition. Then look at how it stacks up to benchmarks like Bank of America or Zappo’s. What can you do to be better than your competition? What can you learn from your benchmarks? Write these ideas down.
  2. Is your mobile experience up to par? Are you delivering a truly exceptional mobile experience? How does your mobile experience compare to your competition’s? Don’t stop at “my website is mobile friendly.” It’s more than that—grab your smartphone or tablet and go to your website. Spend time with it. Evaluate it. I know you’re busy, but it’s imperative that all leaders experience what the customer is experiencing. Compare your own mobile experience to, let’s say, L’Oreal and Mashable. Write down what you’ll need to improve to beat your competition in your mobile experience.
  3. Does your website meet the needs of your customer? Successful companies excel at this. But for most of us this is the hardest step. This is where you must truly put yourself into the mind of your customer. Visit your site. Forget about what you want to tell the visitor about yourself. Instead, focus on what you would need to know as a prospective customer. What are the burning questions to which you need to find answers? If you have created personas for your customers, review them. Is it easy for you to find the answers you’re looking for? Does it feel easy to do what you came to do on the site? Are primary actions clear and prominent? Or is it difficult, confusing, or downright frustrating to figure out what to do? Compare your site to your competition. What do you need to do to at least beat your competition?

At this point, you should have a list of items that you need to focus on to improve your website experience. Take your observations and make an actionable list. Work through the list and measure your success before you go any further.

Speaking of measuring our success, we’re doing that by looking at only a few analytics. We’re not going to dig deep into any other analytics yet. Believe me, you’ll see the impact of your changes with the following measures.

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A couple of things to note here. For some, the changes you’ll need to make will be small. Some of you may need to do more work. Recognize the need to take steps to address this now. Your success depends on it.

If you’re ready to go a little deeper, read on. But don’t be tempted to move on to the next step if you haven’t resolved the shortfalls you identified above.

Step 2 – Launch/review your email marketing strategy

Now you’re probably thinking, “Why email next?” I’ll tell you a secret. Email is still a credible and profitable marketing channel for most businesses. In fact, it’s one of your best tools.

As long as you adhere to a permission-based email marketing strategy, you’re bound to reach and engage your customers—and propel them down the path to becoming brand advocates. About 91% of your customers check their email every day. If you are reaching them with the right content, with their permission, your email will be a welcome message to your customer.

Follow this checklist to maximize your email marketing strategy:

  1. Does your email support mobile devices? When evaluating or launching your email campaign, make sure you design your emails for all devices. This is imperative today—about 44% of all emails are opened on a mobile device, and 64% of decision makers read their email via mobile. Does your competition do email marketing? How can you beat them here?
  2. How well does your email content match the needs of your customer segments? This step can be challenging—and it may require big changes. Look at your emails and take a look at your customer segments. Does the content really appeal to all of your customers? Or could you benefit from segmenting your emails for specific types of customers? Consider some examples. If you’re a clothing retailer, you might find that young women would find greater benefit in being notified of sales on skinny jeans than workboots. If you’re a healthcare provider, you’d probably want to send different preventive health messaging to 29-year-old men than you would 55-year-old females. See how your content can be customized to the reader? That’s what segmenting your email messaging can do. It takes effort, but imagine the benefits of providing a stunning customer experience with specific, relevant, customized messaging.
  3. Does your email drive the intended customer behavior—and acquisition? What is the intended outcome of your email marketing strategy? What is the action you want your reader to take? What is the business outcome of these actions? Make sure that you evaluate your email content and calls to action to direct customers towards a business outcome. Think beyond the email. Think about the landing pages you drive your readers to, the calls to action on those pages, and where they should go beyond the landing page. And don’t forget to consider other ways the customers may behave. Maybe they’ll respond by calling you. Maybe they’ll send an email. You’re probably on some email lists, so evaluate what you’ve been getting (better yet if it’s your competition). See how they have modeled customer acquisition from their email. How does your process compare?

When you’ve completed this evaluation, you should have an actionable to-do list for your email marketing campaign. Implement these and, again, measure the success of your changes. A good place to start with measurement is with “open rates” and “click-through rates.” Industry benchmarks are great to compare to, but you should always measure your success against your own benchmarks and history.

During implementation, you should also be sure to create trackable campaign URLs for all links that are in your emails. You need to be able to track beyond the email-specific analytics in order to truly measure success here.

Add the following web analytics to ensure you are looking at customer behavior and acquisition beyond the email.

  • Email bounce rate. Some recipients will click through, visit the landing page, then take action and visit areas beyond the landing page (good). Others will visit the landing page and leave (not so good). This is your bounce rate—people who click through, then leave. Calculate bounce rate percentage by dividing the number of one-page visits by the total number of one-page and multi-page visits from the campaign.
  • Macro conversion rate. Conversion, simply put, is when a recipient responds to your call to action, usually by clicking a link you provided. There should be one main goal for each email that’s tied to your campaign’s business objective. Calculate this by dividing the number of visitors who took that action by the total number of campaign emails.
  • Micro conversion rate. You’ll usually have additional actions within the email, like “Follow us on Facebook” or other social actions. Calculate it here by dividing the number of visitors who took additional actions by the total number of campaign emails.

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It may seem like a lot—it kind of is—but this will help you achieve optimal results from your email marketing campaigns. And don’t just make this a one-time thing. Continue to analyze and optimize to improve your results.

Step 3 – Evaluate branded search and other digital/display ads

Now that you’ve improved your digital experience, it’s a great time to capture customers and expand your reach to relevant new audiences with paid search campaigns, display ads, native ads, and other digital marketing efforts.

  1. Review your brand’s search visibility. Search for your company name, products, and services on major search engines. How do you appear in the results? Do you appear at all? Gather and group a list of relevant, branded keyword phrases for which you could place paid search ads. Tie a specific conversion goal to each group of the keywords you’ve selected. Consider integrating with offline advertisements with these campaigns.
  2. Review/create a brand-focused digital marketing and display advertising strategy. Create a strategy to target new relevant audiences based on sites they’ve visited, what they’ve read, their demographic and psychographic signals, and much more. Be careful not to focus heavily on display ads here—just focus on your brand, products, and services. Consider integrating with offline messaging here as well. And, of course, analyze, learn, and get better. Don’t run campaigns without a plan to optimize on a regular basis.
  3. Plan for acquisition and customer behavior beyond the click-through. For the paid channels you’ve selected, give your customers a great experience when they get where you’re sending them (see Step 1 above). What is the primary action you’d like them to take? How does this support your business objective?

And I’ll say it again. Continued monitoring, optimization, looking for new opportunities, and avoiding waste is extremely important to the success of digital advertising campaigns. Taking advantage of remarketing and other targeting methods will optimize your results, too. This is a benefit of digital campaigns. Take advantage of it.

Here are some metrics you can use to monitor and optimize your digital and display advertising:

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It’s important to look at the above analytics by source. Knowing how a referral source performs will not only allow you to optimize your spend, but will also help you understand your customers a bit better.

As with other steps, you can also enhance your results by updating your landing pages. You may also be able to use A/B testing to further optimize your success.

Step 4 – Create a content strategy that targets category/industry

Content is king, right? So why did I wait this long to mention it? The above steps will help you build a great brand experience online. The experience you provide and what you learn from getting the above paid and owned channels into full swing will arm you with knowledge—you’ll better understand your customers and their intentions. And that will help you create content that appeals to them.

This is a cross-functional exercise. You’ll need to work with sales, customer support, and many other departments to create content that will be genuinely useful throughout the customer journey.

  1. Understand the unique needs of your customers. From the work you did getting your email campaign going, you should have a good start on understanding the needs of your customer segments. Does your web content address the needs of those specific customer groups? What are you writing and for whom? Does the content you’re planning to add appeal to this audience? Is it genuinely useful? Look at the content your competition is creating. Is your content more compelling than your competition’s?
  2. Commit to consistently creating content that’s genuinely useful. With a clear understanding of the needs of your audience, make a plan to consistently provide that kind of content to them. This takes commitment. Starting a blog that languishes for years with a handful of out-of-date posts only serves to discredit you. The goal with content marketing is to build trust with your audience by providing plenty of useful information. And that’s the second key—useful. This isn’t so much about selling or enhancing search results. It’s about giving your audience something they care about and can put to use. That’s the kind of content that makes customers raving fans—and it just so happens that it boosts sales and search results in the process.
  3. Evaluate your content distribution strategy. Look at how you’re distributing the content you own. How are you using social media to distribute this content? How successful is it? Are people finding you when they search? Are you using your paid search, display, and social advertising to distribute this content? What is your competition doing?

If you’re distributing content with a blog, you can measure your success by page visits, duration of visit, and subscribers. Combined with a coordinated email campaign, you’ll look at open rates and click-through rates, along with page analytics. If people stop opening the emails that distribute your blog or newsletter, there’s a good chance you’re not providing relevant content.

Creating digital campaigns will work best when they’re unified. When you distribute content via paid and owned channels—and measure your success—just remember that digital channels work in combination. If your digital strategy is a chessboard, your pawns should be advancing together.

When you evaluate and analyze customer behavior through these various digital channels, you’ll begin to understand your customers’ experience throughout their path to purchase. And you’ll be able to find the right channel for the right type of messaging to optimize your results.

Think Big Picture in 2014
As you plan for the future, don’t leave your online marketing for last. It’s an integral part of the big picture, and you’ll do well to think about it from the outset. Take some time to enhance your website, address email marketing, ramp up your digital advertising, and commit to relevant content, and you’ll find you’re in a great position to surge ahead of your competition.

This post originally appeared at Imaginasium Leader of the Brand blog.

Engaging Connected Customers In the Digital Age

Almost anything you read today talks about customer engagement and customer experience. It’s not because those are the latest buzzwords, it’s because customer engagement and experience really affects your bottom line. 90% of the respondents in The State Of Customer Experience Management, 2013 survey conducted by Forrester Research indicated that customer experience is a top strategic priority for their company.

Read my post here about how you can engage your customer.

What is Responsive Design

What is Responsive Design

Responsive Website Design

Responsive design  is an approach that enables websites to adjust and respond to the device that it is viewed through. With this approach you can provide an optimal brand experience via your website regardless of how your users access it. Responsive design doesn’t only apply to websites; it applies emails and other digital media.

Why Does it Matter?

56% of all American adults own a smartphone (June 5th, 2013 Pew American Life), 34% of American adults own a tablet (June 10, 2013 Pew American Life). These numbers are expected to grow in the future.

Multi-screen world

It’s a multi-screen world. Consumers use multiple devices and often move among screens to get things done. Responsive design enables you to provide a consistent brand experience while consumers move among devices.

How Does it Work?

Responsive design works by adapting the layout, showing and hiding selected information depending on the screen resolution of the device.

Media queries are used to adapt the design to screen size of the device.

Most often, you’ll notice the following adaptations:

  • Navigation is adapted to mimic a native navigation users have come to expect.
  • Content is organized by priority, and is rearranged to keep readability.
  • Images become fluid in width, removed or resized to be smaller sizes.
  • Galleries and image carousels become touch sensitive to mimic native touch gestures.
  • Zooming is always disabled or restricted.

 Working with a Responsive Website or Email

There is a paradigm shift that comes with responsive design. Usability of every element on the page become very important due to the fact it should work well in multiple screen sizes. Understanding how consumers behave on websites provide us necessary guidance to create best practices.

Most important of those behaviors are the three I call F-10-S.

  1. F Pattern – visitors focus in F
    Usability studies that have been conducted always show that users view web pages in an F pattern.
    F Reading Pattern
  2. 10 Second Rule – 10 seconds to leave or stay
    Within the first 10 seconds of visiting a web page, a website visitor will determine if the page they landed on is relevant to them and if they will stay on the page or leave the page.
  3. Skim – Skimming your content instead of reading
    Usability studies show that your website visitors don’t read pages from top to bottom. They skim pages – even when they are tasked with an important task or performing research.

With that understanding, here are some best practices to make the most of your responsive design.

Best Practices to Follow When Working With Responsive Design

Think mobile first

Mobile users are a bit more impatient than desktop users. Also, you have a unique challenge of telling your mobile user “this is the page for you” in 10 seconds, with very little screen landscape. Thinking mobile first will help you create a better strategy for web page’s content, layout and design. According to a recent study performed by Google, most searches start with a mobile device. Same study found that 60% of the time spent on smart phones is done at home (The New Multi-Screen World Study, Google). Another thing to note is that online mobile traffic is expected exceed fixed (desktop/laptop) traffic in 2014.

Think visitor expectations before business need

This approach is also called “user-centric” design. Thinking about what your visitor’s goals are and what will help your visitor accomplish her goals will help you win the 10 Second Rule, thereby helping you achieve your business goals.

Write newspaper style web content

Journalists put the most important content at the top. They also write headlines that convey context to reader who is reading the headline. This will help you win the 10 Second Rule and also help get the point across, knowing most of your web visitors skim your content.

Be critical of purpose and value of all content on page

Make it a habit to be critical of any and all content on a web page and why it is there. Is it serving a purpose? Is it adding value to a user? Can you cut it in half and achieve the same result? Continue to optimize content.

Section content into short paragraphs with descriptive headlines

This will enhance your user experience by helping the visitor skim through content with ease. You’ll achieve your business goals too, by helping the visitor view your content.

Semantically correct content input

Add meaning to by inputting semantically correct content. Some examples include: classifying headings as (h1, h2, h3), classifying paragraphs as paragraph text, and not using <b> for bolding and <i> for italicizing – since these only covey format.

Thinking Beyond Social – Social Media Rockstar 3

Thinking Beyond Social – Social Media Rockstar 3

At Social Media Rockstar 3 I’ll be urging you to Think Beyond Social Media and give you helpful tips on how to optimize your digital presence for the customer decision journey.

Here’s a snapshot of what to expect.

What is Digital Presence?

What is digital presence and why does it matter? How are consumers interacting with brands digitally today?

Customer Decision Journey

What  it is and why you should care? What is the impact. What are the threats and and opportunities in this change in behavior?

How Do You Win The Customer Decision Journey

In this section, you’ll learn, how you can use your digital presence to influence your customers through the journey towards purchase.

3 Steps to Win The Customer Decision Journey

  1. Optimize your digital experience
    Steps to assess your current situation by performing a digital presence audit, and a road map to optimize your digital presence and experience to drive results.
  2. Publish relevant helpful content
    Framework for creating user-centric content for each phase of this journey.
  3. Integrated approach to digital marketing (including social)
    Win your customer (and maybe your competitors’ too) by using an integrated multi-channel digital approach
  4. Analyze and optimize
    Framework to build in analysis and optimization into your every digital marketing effort

 

DOWNLOADS/RESOURCES

Digital Presence Audit Template (Excel Download)

Learn How to Create Advanced Segments in Google Analytics

User Persona’s for Websites

Person’s For SEO

How to Easily Create Remarkable Content With Marketing Personas

Customer Digital Content Needs (Excel Download)

 

 

Event will be held at:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
F.K. Bemis Center, St. Norbert College campus

100 Grant St., De Pere

I’ll be presenting at:

9:25 – 10:15 a.m and 1:05 – 1:55 p.m. 

 

 

The New Email Imperative – Marketers Must Optimize Email for a Mobile World

The New Email Imperative – Marketers Must Optimize Email for a Mobile World

Email marketing continues to perform well despite the increase in number of emails we receive. B2B marketers intend to continue to increase their investment in email marketing. Email has become an intricate part of any digital marketing campaign. Email marketers have faced many challenges in the past, fighting spam filters, cutting through the clutter etc. Marketers today are facing a new challenge.

Today people read and manage email using multiple devices. Rise in mobile usage has accounted for an instant reaction to your email by people.

50% of all American adults sent or received email using a mobile phone.

– This number was higher for those with higher education and for those who lived in relatively higher income households (Pew Internet and American Life Project).

59% of newsletters were read on a phone while the user had access to a desktop or laptop computer.

Neilsen Norman Group

Email was the top activity performed during simultaneous screen usage.

– The New Multi-Screen World, Google/Ipsos/Sterling, US, Aug 2012

Why Should You Optimize Email for Mobile?

By now you see that your users are interacting with your email messages on mobile devices. Their experience with your email newsletter will determine if they will open your newsletter, save it for later or delete it.

Their experience with your email newsletter may impact your brand as well. Nielsen Norman Group found that users have an emotional reaction to email newsletters. The positive aspect of this emotional relationship is that email newsletters can create more of a bond between users and a company. The negative aspect is that email usability problems have a much stronger impact.

How to Optimize Your Email Newsletter For Mobile

There are some things that you can do now with little to no effort to optimize your email newsletters for mobile devices.

  • Write concise, direct, and relevant subject lines:

    I may have packed way too many adjectives here, but this is important. People make a decision to delete, keep or read your email based on sender and subject. Write concise, yet relevant subject line that gives your reader an idea on what to expect in the email newsletter.
  • Use the pre-header as an extension of your subject line to provide more context:

    This is the top most part of your email. You’ve probably seen this area to contain statements like “If you cannot view this email click here”. Using this area as an extension of your subject line gives the user more context almost all devices. This gives your email more chances of begin read! Here are some examples of pre-headers in email.

    Optimized use of pre-header in email

    Proper use of email pre-header

    Here’s how above looks in mobile preview. Pre-header text that is displayed under the subject here is very similar to additional content displayed in previews on Outlook, Android,  iPad and even in most email alerts.

    Email preview on iPhone

    Pre-header supplements subject on most mobile phones and email clients.

    Below you’ll find an example of most email pre-headers. Notice how it doesn’t give additional context in preview or mobile view.

    poor-use-of-email-pre-header-common

    Most common but a poor use of the email pre-header

    Common email preview

    See how this pre-header does not support the subject? “Web Version” “Forward to a Friend” doesn’t help you or the recipient here.

  • Chunk your content into skimmable sections:

    Over 69% of the emails are skimmed by people. Most people glance at and read headlines in your email. Chunk your content into skimmable parts and lead each section with an contextual headline.
  • Make your email newsletter template responsive:

    Unlike the first three steps, this step will take a bit of time, testing and preparation. The first two steps will give the user more context about your email improve the open rates of your email. This step will improve your email newsletter’s user experience once the user opens your email.

    If you’ve read email newsletters in your mobile device, you’ll know that your experience can vary from pleasant to horrific. Create responsive email templates for your email campaigns so that your user experiences are pleasant.

    What is a responsive email template?

    An email template that adapts to fit the device screen size is a responsive email template. To explain this better I’ve put together the images below.

    Below image shows how a non responsive email template behaves. Notice how the user does not see all the contents of the email (portion in red in not visible without scrolling) and requires the user to scroll horizontally? Horizontal scrolling is not so intuitive, this does not provide your user a good brand experience.

    Non responsive email template

    User has to scroll horizontally to read the contents of your email.

    Below image shows how a responsive email will behave and promote an enhanced user experience – thus a pleasant brand experience.

    Responsive email template

    Email template adapts to device screen.

    In a world where your customers are multi-tasking and multi-screening, responsive email templates will make sure that your customer experiences are optimal regardless of the device they are using.

    Here’s a helpful guide on how to create responsive email template.

UPDATE:

Here are some helpful real life examples of responsive email campaigns by Marketing Land. Note that I do not agree with removing the pre-header, instead I am all for better use of it. As a matter of fact, pre-header is more important for mobile devices than desktops.