Smart Insights Digital Marketing > The Marketing Strategy Blog Fri, 31 Jul 2015 15:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 If Social Networks were marketers Fri, 31 Jul 2015 15:00:00 +0000 We imagined a marketing department where the staff were comprised of the most popular social networks...


if social networks were marketers

if social networks were marketers

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Improve your marketing campaign tracking Fri, 31 Jul 2015 14:00:00 +0000 Basic Tips and Tricks Every Business and Marketer Can Use to Prove The Source of Campaign ROI

Whether or not your business is advertising, you’re always marketing. Every phone call, mailer, coupon, Facebook post, email… everything is a representation of your brand. Knowing what marketing piece works and especially what doesn’t, reveals what steps to take in the future. Numbers don’t lie. The analytical success and failures of your pieces cannot be ignored. In order to hone your marketing efforts, tracking, both print and digital, is no longer an option, it’s a mandatory, tedious process, but like everything, there are tricks to marketing campaign tracking.

tracking marketing ROI

Track Everything

Your marketing pieces aren’t just advertising, they’re raw data!

Phone Calls, emails, web banners, social media posts, mail pieces, billboards, TV commercials, radio spots -- every campaign can, and should, be monitored to the most extreme level. You need to gather every minute piece of data from every advertising piece, and while it can get complicated there are easy steps to start the process.

Understanding your campaign’s reach is important, but understanding what specific components among your reach are working...that’s how your campaigns success will skyrocket.

Use custom URLs for Every Web Piece

Create custom urls through Google and use Google Analytics to truly own your web presence.

Using Google’s free URL builder you can easily create custom URLs for every web campaign, email campaign and social media post. But why? Well, the answer here is simple: Google Analytics.  Google Analytics allows users to track and understand where their web traffic is coming from. With the capacity to set goals, and determine who is visiting what site, down to distinct demographics, Google Analytics shows you what your web presence is. Getting your web presence to what you want it to be, well, that’s up to you.

Still, the first step to improving your web reach is identifying what it currently is. By placing custom URLs on email blasts, guest blogs, social media posts and however else you advertise on the web, you’ll be able to see what posts are leading users to click on your website’s page. Finding where your clicks are coming from is great. Finding what posts are ineffective is even better! You’ll be able to cater your efforts, and time, into what’s working.

Do you know how many leads you’re getting from Facebook? How many from the pricey Google PPCs your client is sold on? When used correctly, Google analytics is detailed. It can show how many users got to your company’s site from Facebook, and distinguish between mobile and laptop.

Google uses distinct UTM parameters, which you will fill in. They distinguish between different campaigns and different lead sources within campaigns. When building a custom link there are a variety of these fields:

Custom URL builder form

Each link you create should lead users to the same campaign page, whichever site you’re promoting. These fields, or UTM parameters within the custom links, are what allow Google Analytics to evaluate where your viewers are coming from.

Which source, like google or Facebook, are they clicking on? What form of, email marketing or a web banners, led to each click? Which terms are key in this ad? And most importantly, are you testing two versions of this ad within your campaign? And what are their results?

Phone Keeps Ringing, We Keep Tracking

What drove a consumer to call your business? Which piece caught their eye?  

No matter your business, chances are your marketing pieces, both digital and print, highlight a call-to-action. When that call-to-action is a literal phone call, it is important to know which marketing piece drew your potential customer in.

Placing distinct phone numbers on every piece is the best way to distinguish, which ads hit or miss. Thanks to the web, and a multitude of options, purchasing a unique call-tracking number is easy. Sites like Convierza (formerly LogMyCalls) and Grasshopper offer 800 numbers and call tracking analysis all in one place.

We recommend sending out different versions of your ads, each with its own distinct phone number, and seeing which one works and which do not. From here, the next step is simple, keep using what works and recycle your purchased number for a different campaign. Continue to flood your market with pieces, knowing that you’ll be able to identify the phone call you receive, whether they become a customer or not, to better adjust your marketing efforts, and in time raise your marketing ROI.

Sending out a bunch of flyers with your company’s logo, hours, information, and a distinct tracking number is great. Sending out a bunch of flyers with the previously stated info and its own tracking number, well, that’s the best means of identifying which print pieces are hitting their mark and which pieces were a waste of ink.

Create a list-segmentation system to track all of your direct mail pieces, and note which corresponding 800-number goes with each piece, and distinct web URL (more to come on this soon!) Be sure to cater your tracking methods so that you can best analyze them. We recommend a basic identification process. Consider, a code like: A1-1-1.

offline campaign tracking system

The “A” signifies which campaign the piece is from, while the first “1” is to distinguish it from other designs in the same campaign. The next “1” is the unique phone number associated with the piece, and the final “1” is to identify the web address associated with it. So with this code, both A1-1-1 and A2-2-1, are from the same campaign, but are different pieces, each using their own phone numbers.

Doesn’t Have to be Digital

Tracking codes and digital analytics are necessary for print pieces too!

When designing the mailer find the most non-intrusive amount of real estate, the white space in the bottom right corner for example. Here is where you place your custom tracking information.

The next step is simple, but certainly the most imposing, make sure you find out which mail piece drew in your potential sales and record everything! This process is easier with coupons, where the customer will most likely bring the coupon to your storefront and you can visibly see the code. When this is not the case, don’t be afraid to ask! Have examples ready so that you can, hopefully smoothly, identify which flyer attracted this customer to your shop.

Using tracking codes on mail pieces has a multitude of other factors that affect the results, but by tracking, recording and analyzing you can certainly reduce future risks. Sending out direct mail, for example, has the added risk of determining which list of potential recipients is best for you, and the cost of postage. Through iterations, implementing codes and analysis you’ll be better set to determine which messages to send and to what list of addresses.

Don’t be Shy

If you don’t know how someone found out about you, ask them!

Whether or not you’re tracking everything to the best of your ability, studying the analytics day and night, and making the proper adjustments, data will fall through the cracks. Sometimes a customer might wander to your store or site purely by chance, and that’s okay! What’s not okay is letting this person leave without attempting to identify how they found out about you. Your greatest tool here is yourself. Be kind and ask.

You’ll notice more and more businesses are asking how you, the customer, have heard of them. They want to know who their clientele is, in order to cater strategies to better reach out to them. There is no harm in asking, and there’s a great benefit in recording.

Iterations, Analytics, More Iterations

Your marketing efforts need to be tracked and analyzed with each iteration in order to see the best results possible.

Marketing, to me, isn’t a circle, where you send out a mob of materials, online and print, track, analyze and repeat. Instead, marketing is a spiral, and hopefully its spiraling in and not out. In this spiral-scenario you send out your marketing materials (all of which have tracking numbers, websites and phone numbers), track the results, analyze, and use this new information to re-adjust your plan. This re-adjustment should, ideally, change the course of your scheme and instead of simply repeating the process, you’ll move closer to a higher ROI. That’s the ultimate goal with marketing, a greater ROI, and the best means of doing so is to track EVERYTHING and adjust accordingly.

Tracking results can be tiring, and there are endless amounts of tools to help you. What works for some may not work for all. While you’re marketing may be effective, if you’re not recording your results, especially what pieces are failing, you’re missing out on opportunities to grow.




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The best tools and sources for staying up-to-date with digital marketing? Fri, 31 Jul 2015 08:00:00 +0000 3 key steps for fueling your performance with the latest news and information

Google Reader is gone. The important industry information that we still need is out there but it is coming at us from more sources than most of us have the time to track effectively. The good news is that, with just a little planning, you really can stay on top of exactly the information that you need to fuel your own performance and also give your bosses, clients, co-workers and followers great reasons to be glad that they have you around.

Gathering business information is a full time job for me; I publish a newsletter, Who's Blogging What, that highlights important blog posts for 20,000 subscribers working in social media and online marketing. Given this, Dave Chaffey of Smart Insights thought it would be useful for Smart Insights readers if I explained some of the tools and sources I use to find the most significant developments.

To keep readers informed I have to constantly monitor well over a thousand industry blogs; just finding the right content consumes 2-3 hours a day, 6 days a week – much too much time for anyone who also has a day job and a need to put all that great content to work. But anyone can achieve similar results in just a few minutes a day.

Here are 3 steps that can turn you into a business information powerhouse, helping not only your own work but the work of those around you as well.

  • Step 1 – choose the right tools, carefully

RSS vs social media is now the big debate when it comes to content discovery. I value social media but there really is no question if you want to be an efficient and powerful hunter gatherer. You absolutely have to have your own plan based on RSS feeds. Your networks are invaluable and will frequently find great stuff but your need to take control of your own destiny and not rely on the efforts of others.

Begin by grabbing yourself an RSS feed reader that feels right for you.

Just search for 'Google Reader Alternatives' and you’ll see that you there is no shortage of options.  Many are cloud based systems that sync all of your devices. Most have some degree of social media integration so that they will highlight trending posts and facilitate your own sharing.

The search function is important and its quality varies widely so conduct some sample searches early on. Some readers are ‘magazine’ like when it comes to displaying content while others are more austere (or efficient, depending on how you look at things). Most are either free or they have a free trial option so just test drive a few and see what works best for you.

  • Step 2 – get your groups on

One feature is an absolute must – there must be functionality allowing you to segment your feeds into groups, which you can update, review and then ‘mark read’ independently.

The trick to getting the job done in minutes instead of hours is the careful grouping of your information sources.

Here is how I have my feeds grouped for a quick read:

  • Official: These are the blogs and press release sites maintained by the top vendors and innovation sources in your industry. For web marketers these would include Google, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and a few others.These are the sources that are most likely to be announcing news that all other blogs will be following up on.Most of these companies will link to their blogs from their home page but sometimes they make you do some detective work. Facebook, for example, makes important announcements via ‘’ where they don’t even mention an RSS feed.If you encounter a business that is equally stubborn you can sometimes locate an RSS feed by looking at the source HTML (ctrl-u in Firefox or Chrome). Knowledge of HTML is not required, just search for ‘rss’ and it should lead you to their mysteriously unlisted feed.
  • News blogs:  Different blogs have different functions (although not all bloggers seem to know this). Some blogs report the news while others focus on analysis, perspective and advice. You need to look at all types but it helps to look at a few of the best news blogs first.Find a small number that you can count on to talk about all significant developments in your field. Sometimes you might only have a few minutes and by refreshing this group you’ll know right away if anything important is breaking in your industry. It’s much quicker than going through Twitter feeds.
  • Rock Star blogs: These are the blogs in your industry that you can count on to do the best job of explaining and analyzing new developments. Many of these blogs know that their job isn’t to break news so they don’t devote a lot of energy in that direction, choosing instead to tell you how you can react to the developments that you’ve just found out about elsewhere. They are definitely worth a daily read, so keep them in a separate group because you’ll most always be interested in what they have to say about the latest developments.
  • Deep-dive blogs: In a perfect world you’d have the time to read every industry blog every day. Back on planet earth there are just too many other matters competing to fill your waking hours.It still pays to keep a wide number of industry blogs in a separate group, but don’t feel guilty if you can’t get to them every day. These are the blogs that you’ll go through when (a) something really important happens or (b) you just happen to have the time. If you notice that a particular blog is getting better you can ‘promote’ it to your ‘Rock Star’ group for a daily read.
  • Tangential/vertical blogs: I’ve found, for example, that I rarely need to look at the blogs focusing on mobile devices unless there is a new phone, tablet or mobile operating system announcement.  I keep their feeds in separate groups so that they will be patiently waiting when I need them.Remember the important RSS reader search function? A good one will find all of the blogs talking about a specific development. An RSS reader with a poor search function (and there are several) can give you a Boolean headache instead of the information that you seek.
  • Probation:  There is probably a kinder term that I could use but this is a group for the feeds of newly discovered blogs. Many will not live up to their initial expectation which is why all readers have a delete key. Any blog can have a bad day but when a blog that hasn’t established its value publishes posts that find you shaking your head it makes the decision to banish a lot easier from the ‘Probation’ group.

How do you find new blogs to monitor?

That’s the easy part. Start by looking at a small core of well known industry blogs. You’ll find that they frequently reference other blogs that might be new to you. You should also be able to find published lists of blogs in your industry.

You can also search for a topic of interest at google blog search to see who is covering it. New blogs should go right into your ‘Probation’ group unless it comes with a stellar reputation. Don’t hesitate to give a new blog a tryout, if you don’t love it you can always set it free.

  • Step 3 – Set your ‘gathering’ routine

Now that you have the steps in place to hunt for new information you’ll need a routine for capturing the kernels that you want to apply to your work. Just like working out at the gym, the best routine is one that you can stick to.

Pick a time (hopefully in the morning) and a place (desktop is better than mobile) to get your regular update on industry news. Get ready to go through your groups in a sequence that makes sense for your day’s demands.

Some people read posts as they are gathering while others (like me) gather first and then read. In any event you’ll want to have some type of record of what interests you. Most readers have some type of ‘read later’ function and that is fine for marking important posts (especially if you are on a mobile device) but the old fashioned way works better for me.

Pasting links to a notepad or spreadsheet allows me to organize and provides greater flexibility in adding my own notations – why I want to save something, for what project and with whom I might wish to share it. You’ll also have a ready place to make notes to yourself about trends that you are detecting and subjects that you want to dive deeper into.

Gather your goals first.  

Defining your objectives before you start is, as always, critically important. My own objectives are to quickly find out what has happened, why it happened, what trends it is building upon and what might it predict about the future.

Along the way I’ll hunt and gather for a secondary objective of ‘how-to’ posts with advice and instructions for using new tools. For example if Google updates its search algorithm or Facebook its newsfeed I’ll be looking (for months) for posts to emerge about how people are finding success working with the new developments.

Just remember…your competition is also smart and they also work hard. The trick to becoming more valuable is to keep up on the latest information and to understand what it all means in context. There are great tools available to do so and the small investment in time is well worth it.

Recommendations for blog content

  •  Mashable, ReadWrite and Marketing Land all do a great job of reporting the latest marketing news.
  • Two others that help to provide very helpful business context are Venture Beat and Ad Age. For great analysis of events turn to GigaOm and Moz
  • There are some valuable social media blogs that aren't getting all of the attention they deserve. Vancouver based Wishpond has been posting some terrific content on the integration of social media into an overall marketing plan.
  • Heidi Cohen has been providing very useful advice on turning content and blogging into actionable marketing resources.
  • Two social media bloggers that should be on everyone's list are Jeff Bullas and Jon Loomer. These two are written by people who study all of the details first and are generous with advice based on their findings. They are all the types who carefully read the rules on the back of the box before sitting down to play Monopoly.
  • For the most helpful information on e-commerce the go-to blogger is Linda Bustos at Get Elastic. If you are looking for help with user experience to gain more customers you'll find that Unbounce and Usabilla are consistently excellent.
  • You already know about Smart Insights, which does everything well but their posts related to email marketing are particularly valuable.
  • Finally, to measure the results that you are getting from all of this great information you'll want to keep up on analytics from Razor Social and LunaMetrics.
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Are digital marketing updates turning you into a headless chicken? Here’s how to take control. Thu, 30 Jul 2015 14:00:00 +0000 Assessing whether a new piece of digital marketing news or tech development needs your attention

This week we’ve been giving you tools and tips on how to stay on top of the vast amount of digital marketing news and advice. A huge amount is published every day and it can be both challenging and time-consuming to keep up with it all, so we have been recommending tools and techniques to stop marketers drowning in content.

Having these tools to help you not miss new developments is handy, and signing up to email newsletters to get regular updates can save time browsing blogs and searching out the latest changes to key platforms. However, because there are so many changes made all the time to key digital marketing channels such as Google and Facebook, it is still really tough to know when a new update means you need to change the way you run your marketing.

So there is a risk you that with all the advice exhorting you to try this tool or that technique you will be constantly chasing shiny new objects and acting like a 'headless chicken'. It's a much better feeling to take control to evaluate the options and prioritise on the actions that are the best opportunities.

In this article I'll take a brief look at ways to prioritise we use and recommend.

Let's taken an example... Last week we reported that Instagram has just launched a new feature to allow desktop users to search hashtags, accounts and images. If your business uses Instagram extensively for its marketing this could be big news for you, but if your business does not use Instagram for it’s marketing efforts it would be nothing but a waste of time to read about how the changes will affect users.

Dave Chaffey explains here how the 70-20-10 rule can be applied to help you prioritise. You should focus your efforts on improving and optimising the 70% of online marketing techniques that drive volume, while also allowing 10% for testing new techniques which look relevant for reaching or persuading your target audience. At a more strategic level for prioritising on a range of features Dave has written about using technology hype cycles and risk/reward matrices to help you priority.

For me, for platforms, this is how I see it - here's a handy flow chart to help you assess if you need to action a given piece of marketing news about a technology platform.

Acting on digital marketing flow chart

For example, Facebook recently changed its CPC calculation for advertisers. If you see this news and you are a company that uses Facebook organically and never runs paid adverts on the platform then you would go answer yes on the first stage of the flowchart because you do use the platform but then no on every subsequent stage because it won’t affect how you will be using it, your marketing outcomes or your customers. Therefore, you don’t need to act.

However if you were an agency which runs large paid Facebook campaigns for clients regularly then you would answer yes to the first two stages, and would need to act. Your team would need to be informed of all the changes and you would need to research them in more depth so you knew exactly what had changed and the ramifications for the business.

What next?

Once you’ve assessed that you need to act on a given piece of digital marketing news, what should be your next steps? We suggest you use this checklist to think about what steps you need to take.

  • Will this affect your processes outside of just the marketing department? If so make sure to communicate it across the business.
  • Will it make your marketing on the platform more or less effective? Either way this should mean you review your digital strategy. Would it be wise to shift resources to the channel if it has become more effective, or move them away from it if it has become less effective?
  • How will let your followers/customers know if the change is going to affect how they use the platform? If it is a social media channel then telling them about it on the channel itself is a good start. Consider announcing it in an email to customers as well.
  • How are competitors reacting to the change? Are they capitalising on it or ignoring it? See what they are doing to stimulate ideas and not miss out on anything, but if they aren’t acting that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!
  • Are you unclear as to the ramifications the change will have for your business? Do some further research. If possible read industry-specific blogs about the change to see how it is affecting things within your industry.

This list is by no means exhaustive, it is meant as more of a cursory glance. For more advanced resources to help you with your digital strategy see our solutions page.

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Micro-moments: What are they and how do marketers need to respond? Thu, 30 Jul 2015 10:00:00 +0000 Understanding Google’s latest research on micro-moments and the implications for your marketing

It’s no secret that mobile has dramatically impacted how we do business and how consumers interact with brands online - the latest mobile adoption data indicates that mobile is still on course to overtake fixed internet access and that mobile ad spending accounts for 49% of digital ad spending.

As a result of this mobile shift, Google has conducted some interesting ethnographic research over the last year to explore how consumer behaviour is changing and gain an understanding into the needs of real people. Some of the stand out insights from the research includes:

  • 82% of smartphone users use their phones to influence a purchase decision in a store
  • 62% of smartphone users are more likely to take action right away to solve an unexpected problem or task because they have a smartphone
  • 90% of smartphone users have used their phone to make progress towards a long-term goal or multi-step process while out and about
  • 91% of smartphone users turn to their phone for ideas while doing a given task

Google’s research has led them to the conclusion that consumer decisions don’t happen in a defined, logical order, if they ever did. Instead, they happen at seemingly random times in a consumer's life - what Google have defined as ‘micro-moments’.

What exactly are 'Micro-moments'?

Micro-moments are moments when consumers act on a need, e.g. to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something or buy something. They are intent-rich moments where decisions are being made and preferences shaped.

Google recommends marketers consider four key moments and explain the importance of Moments in relation to mobile devices:

"We turn to our phones with intent and expect brands to deliver immediate answers. It’s in these I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-do, I-want-to-buy moments that decisions are made and preferences are shaped”.

Research presenting the increasing importance of these four 'Moments' is summarised in the visual below.

Google micro moments

It’s not just Google who are pushing this concept. Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond tells us that ‘Consumer Engagement Is Shifting Toward Micro Moments’ whilst Brian Solis of Altimeter Group has explained ‘Why CMOs Need to Invest in Micro-Moments’.

From the Zero Moment of Truth to Micro-moments - an evolution

Before looking at micro-moments in more detail, it’s worth re-visiting Google’s research on Winning the Zero Moment of Truth from 2011, which helped marketers involved in advertising, search and social media understand how they can win key moments of truth in the early stages of discovery.

The core premise of the research explained how the traditional ‘mental model’ of marketing, where a consumer follows a predictable consumer journey from ad (stimulus) through to purchase (first moment of truth) and experience (second moment of truth) has been disrupted - consumers do not react instantly to advertising. Instead, they proactively look at reviews, ask friends for advice on social media or research products on blogs before making a decision:


The introduction of the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) challenged marketers to consider new, intentional strategies to enable brands to become discoverable and capture attention in the discovery stage before guiding consumers through to purchase.

Micro-moments is follow-up to ZMOT and influenced by the increasingly ubiquitous nature of mobile among consumers. Instead of thinking about one common Zero Moment of Truth in any given situation, Micro-moments encourages marketers to consider many different, real-time, intent-driven micro-moments related to hundreds of different scenarios, all of which give marketers an opportunity to shape consumer decisions.

How do micro-moments influence modern marketing?

In many ways the underlying theme of Google’s Micro-moments research is not new. The idea that the consumer journey no longer follows a predictable, linear model, and the need to create more fluid, bespoke personas for our customer groups, has been covered before:

RACE marketing funnel

However, where I think Micro-moments is particularly interesting is in the mind-set shift it encourages us to adopt. Living in a mobile-orientated world has dramatically impacted how consumers think, search and buy online and as a result marketers must respond accordingly in order to succeed.

Micro-moments in action

With Google’s data and research in mind, let’s consider some examples of Google’s Micro-moments in action and how they may influence marketing decision-making:

People evaluate purchase decisions ‘in-the-moment’

Consumers have their smartphone to hand at all times and this has implications for brands who sell products in physical locations. According to Google, 1/3 of online consumers aged 18-34 say information discovered through search caused them to buy a more expensive product in a store if that product is more effective.

This insight provides a clear opportunity with search. Mobile means consumers can instantly search and compare products in the moment, meaning marketers must win these moments by providing timely and relevant information, such as product details, reviews and testimonials.

People solve problems ‘in-the-moment’

If something breaks or goes wrong, or if a consumer suddenly thinks of something they might need in a given moment, they’re likely to pick up their smartphone to take action. Google has found that online consumers purchase in unexpected places - 39% in the kitchen; 28% in the car; 21% in the bathroom.

In moments like this it’s important to be found so search is again a key consideration. However, in order to seal the deal marketers must also ensure that the mobile experience is consistent from start to finish. The user experience and shopping process must make things easy for the consumer, meaning products are first easy to find, followed by a painless checkout process.

People pursue big goals in small moments

We often think that buying a large purchase, such as a new piece of technology, car or even house, as something that requires dedicated research time carried out in one go. However, nowadays research is conducted in ‘stolen moments’ spread across the day, for example waiting in a queue, during a lunchtime break or sitting in an airport or train station.

mortgage google search terms

Google has found that mobile queries for mortgage calculators have grown 66% since last year, illustrating the demand for research tools such as these ‘on the go’. Mobile moments are critical within long consideration journeys, with people chipping away at bits of research in free moments. Marketers must therefore ask:

• How can I be helpful at each moment and build consideration?
• Am I shaping preferences starting from the beginning?
• Do I offer the right experience for the screen and the context?

The micro-moment action plan

In order to be there when our customers need us, Google offers the following advice:

1. Make a moments map

Identify a set of moments you want to win or can't afford to lose by examining all key phases of the consumer journey.

2. Understand customer needs in-the-moment

For each moment you want to win, put yourself in the consumer's shoes. Ask “What would make this easier or faster? What content or features would be most helpful for this moment?”

3. Use context to deliver the right experience

Leverage contextual signals like location and time of day to deliver experiences and messages that feel tailor-made for the moment.

4. Optimise across the journey

People move seamlessly across screens and channels. Ensure your brand delivers seamlessly in return and don’t let competing objectives or department silos stand in the way.

5. Measure every moment that matters

While the return on investment for certain moments may not yet be directly measurable, use credible estimates to ensure nothing’s falling through the cracks.

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Benchmarking Email marketing capabilities Thu, 30 Jul 2015 08:00:00 +0000 Comparing how businesses manage their email marketing activities

Email marketing remains one of today’s core customer communications channels with analytics showing that, for most types of business, alongside search marketing, it is one of the main drivers of customer acquisition - for generating new online sales and leads.

We're passionate about the potential power of email marketing, but to take advantage of it needs a sound process to follow the constantly changing best practices. So, to help share a snapshot of how email marketers Plan, Manage and Optimize their email marketing, we have a new Email Marketing benchmarking survey which I hope you can take.

To develop this new research we have teamed up with Email Marketing Service GetResponse who are also anonymously sharing their own benchmarks of which features their users adopt and how this impacts their results.

Even if  you have a great Email Service Provider, you still need to be using many different techniques to optimise your email marketing. Take this survey to help assess the effectiveness of your email marketing. If you complete the survey you will get a free copy of the report and could also win 1 of five £100 Amazon vouchers in the prize draw!


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Choosing a Digital Agency: What you need to know Wed, 29 Jul 2015 15:00:00 +0000 The pressure for brands to select the “right” digital agency to deliver projects and campaigns has never been greater. So what steps can you take to avoid a digital partnership disaster?

digital agency

2015 continues to be a golden era for digital agencies. UK online retail sales eclipsed £100bn in 2014 reflecting the nation’s insatiable appetite for buying online. With digital ad spend increasing by 800% between 2004 and 2014 to £7.2 Billion, brands are responding to consumer demand and investing heavily in their online presence. The rapid growth of online investment and increased availability of advertising platforms means that digital marketing roles have rapidly evolved to be multi-disciplined and complex. Agencies are therefore an attractive option for brands looking to deliver quickly on digital campaigns and projects.

Imagine you’re hiring a member of staff

The process of selecting a digital agency should be the same as for hiring a permanent member of staff. Although the relationship will be different, the selection criteria are similar.


In both cases you want to hire specific skills that deliver value to your organisation. Making sure that an agency is qualified to deliver on a brief and will remain accountable throughout a campaign or project is something you would equally expect of an employee.

Ask probing questions

Agencies are usually adept at pitching for business as they will regularly face the same questions from prospective clients. Often a potted history of the agency with a client list of recognisable brands will be enough to create confidence in their abilities.

Once you’ve told the agency what you want them to do, and how much you have to spend then your digital cards are laid out on the table.

If you’re going to determine whether the agency is right for your business, then you need to ask probing questions about their team, experience and competence. The aim is to understand how the relationship will work and what the likelihood is of them delivering on your goals.

Prepare your brief

Before engaging an agency, it’s important to have considered the following:

  1. The specific problem you want them to solve e.g. “We want to increase brand visibility” or “We don’t have enough traffic”
  2. How you will measure their success e.g. sales targets or KPIs
  3. Your campaign or project budget

Budget can be notoriously difficult for SMBs to define as often they want to invest based on expected ROI. It’s a mistake to hold back on revealing the available budget to an agency, as a campaign or project can be delivered with varying degrees of quality based on spend. It’s important to focus on value, not just cost.

If you’re clear about what you want the agency to do, and the impact that will have on your business, then you should be able to put at least a guide price on what that service is worth.

Do they outsource?

Outsourcing is not in itself a bad thing at all. If work is being outsourced to specialists then it’s more cost effective and scalable than hiring permanent staff without compromising quality. The challenge for the agency (which you should explore) is how well they can maintain these freelance relationships to ensure a continuous level of service to their clients.

Campaign or Project Tracking & Reporting

There aren’t many brands that want their digital agency to disappear into a black hole as soon as they sign the contract. Requesting specifics on the project management and progress tracking including tools, frequency and metrics will give clarity on the working relationship.


Too often, the day to day management is glossed over at the pitching stage in lieu of assessing the agency’s ability to deliver the end goal. Asking questions about tracking and reporting demonstrates that you’re focused on delivery and value and an agency should respond positively to this.

Shop around

Even if you’re 99% sure you’re going to sign up with a particular agency, it’s still worth shopping around for comparable quotes. Saving your budget means it can be spent elsewhere, and speaking to other digital specialists means that you’ll get a different perspective on the right approach for your project on anything from platform choice to advertising channel.

If you’re working with a tiny budget, then try some long tail Google searches varying by UK region to find agencies that don’t have a large advertising spend on AdWords. There are instances of smaller digital agencies and consultants that “white label” their services through more expensive, larger agencies that manage the sales pipeline. This is one way to scale value on a small budget.

Check references

The only time you’ll ever wish you checked an employment reference is when a relationship goes wrong. Make sure you speak to the agency’s references before signing a contract. The right time to check references is at final stage of selection, when you have two or more shortlisted agencies. Asking for references at an earlier stage can be unfair to the agency if you’re not yet serious about signing them up.

Be mindful that delaying reference checks until you’re ready to sign a contract can be too late, as your decision is practically made. This bias in them being the only option on the table means there’s a strong chance you won’t review their references thoroughly.

Negotiate a fair contract

Contract negotiation is something you either love or hate. Often those who love it try and fight the cost up or down without considering value, and those who hate it just pay the list price in order to avoid conflict. Either scenario can end up with a poor deal.


The best negotiation tactic is to be flexible to get what you want. You do this by being clear about your deal breakers, but have a list of concessions you’d be willing to make to get these terms. For example, if the quote is above your budget then that’s a deal breaker. You could bring it down by agreeing to a longer contract term or no break clause.

It’s a very good idea to insert a break clause within the first campaign as a project progress checkpoint. This will tend to be 3-6 months, but should be realistic based on what the project is.

If the agency don’t hit their target at this point, and there’s no break clause then you’re forced to continue to hire an agency that isn’t delivering. This can be a serious, limiting situation and costly to rectify. If there’s justification for the missed target, then the decision to continue or not rests in your hands without having to go through a messy contract termination.

For those looking to develop their negotiation skills, I recommend a fantastic book called “Getting More” by Stuart Diamond.

Get Past The Sales Pitch - Meet The Team

Much like checking references, you should ask to meet other people at the agency when you feel confident in their abilities to deliver. Visiting their offices, and meeting the people who’ll be delivering your work means you get to test the competence and professionalism of the team as a whole.

meet the team

One of my clients recently made a decision not to sign up a digital agency at final stage on the basis that on a visit to their offices, they were unable to get a laptop up and running to present to them.

Many agencies will involve their delivery team at the pitch stage, but for those that don’t it’s good to know who you’ll be working with if you sign up.


The growth of online retail means brands are continuing to increase digital spend and rely on agencies to fill the skills gap. Selecting the “right” digital agency can be a perilous decision, with success being measured by results months down the line.

Brands can drastically reduce the risk of taking on an agency by shopping around and being thorough in their questioning, contract negotiation and reference checking.

Image credits: Shutterstock

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Google rolls out Dynamic Search Ads [@SmartInisghts Alert] Wed, 29 Jul 2015 14:00:00 +0000 Updated Dynamic search ads now available to all advertisers

Importance: (For PPC Marketers)

Recommended source: Google official blog announcement 
Google has announced that its Dynamic Search Ads service has been enhanced and retooled ‘from the ground up’. It offers new functionality in AdWords which was made available to all advertisers around the world yesterday.

What are Dynamic Search Ads?

Instead of you setting up your ads manually to target certain keywords, Dynamic Search Ads are generated automatically when a search is relevant to the content on your website.

But, how does Google know the search is relevant to your website you may be thinking? Google trawls your site in the same way that it does to establish organic web rankings, indexing your site. It creates the ad automatically based on the products/services you offer and on what people are searching for. These targeted ads are useful because they allow you to reach users that wouldn’t normally covered by your keywords. A good example if you are a hotel in Whitby, you may have a Google ad words ad set up for ‘Hotels in Whitby’. This works for people searching that term. But what about people arriving and searching ‘Hotels near me’? Google can automatically create an ad for that search when it is relevant to your businesses (i.e. when the person searching is near to your business).

What is new?

Google’s dynamic search ads service will now be organising your site into recommended categories for targeting your ads. These categories will be customised to your products and services. For example if you provide professional services which include Recruitment Process Outsourcing, Head Hunting and Business Process Outsourcing, it makes sense for your ads to be specific to these different offerings, and link through to product-specific landing pages rather than the site's home page.

DSA categories

This new category feature allows you to tweak what is in each category (lets face it, you know your site better than Google does), and it allows you to preview the dynamic ads Google will be automatically creating, so that you can check that your 100% happy with them. This video from Google Ad words explains how the process works.

An example of the results, a major online retailer in the US, helped beta test DSA. The use of categories to create dynamic ads delivered a 5% increase in qualified search traffic to their site. Whilst relying on DSA does mean you lose some control compared to setting up keywords and selecting specific product pages manually, it does save time and open up new opportunities. If your business currently uses ad words to deliver relevant traffic, and is looking at possibly increasing the scope of this, then DSA is definitely something to consider.

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Introducing our new RACE Digital Marketing ELearning programme Wed, 29 Jul 2015 10:00:00 +0000 Try the first unit for free!

We, at Smart Insights, are very excited to announce the launch of our new Digital Marketing ELearning programme. This comprehensive online module is structured using the RACE framework developed by our resident marketing guru Dr Dave Chaffey.

if you are an Expert member already, then you can get started right away! If you aren’t already a member of Smart Insights then sign up for a basic membership to try out the first module for free - it includes an assessment of your digital skills and capabilities.

As with all our resources, our elearning module is designed to be practical and actionable, rather than academic, but based on insight from the latest research and case studies. It uses an 'active learning' approach which means that as members work through the units, they can complete a workbook in Word to create a 'real-world' plan for their business or their clients.

The RACE Digital Planning framework

If you don't know RACE, we use it to provide a comprehensive structure to manage all digital marketing activities. It stands for the customer-centred goals of digital marketing, that's Reach, Act, Convert, Engage, so it enables practitioners to create a planned yet agile digital marketing strategy.

We created RACE to help digital marketers plan and manage their activities in a more structured way since we found that many don't have a marketing strategy. Our infographic explains the basic concepts of RACE.


ELearning qualification features and certification

At Smart Insights, we're always keen to know what our members think we should improve. So James Hall, our Customer Success Manager has been busy gathering feedback by speaking to members about what they really like about Smart Insights, how they use our resources and what we could do better.

We got lots of responses, but there was an overwhelming theme. You love our content, but as busy digital marketers, it would be helpful to have a summary overview of all of the resources with a fixed structure.

That’s why we are so happy to announce this Elearning programme, it gives members a way to learn the key aspects of Digital Marketing whilst also being super-practical and broken down into bite-sized chunks. You can work through at your leisure, completing the sub-topics and then taking an optional quiz at the end of each topic. Your progress will saved and marked so you know where you got to the previous time you were working on it.

Best of all, if you complete all the optional quizzes and score over 70% in an optional final assessment, you will be awarded with our Digital Marketing Qualification to help prove your knowledge of digital marketing.

As with our downloadable PDFs we make them quick to scan using call-out boxes explaining concepts and recommending the key actions to take. There are the visual highlights, mirroring those in our 7 Step guide downloads.

1. Key questions

2. Definitions

3. Key Strategy recommendations

4. Best practice tips

5. Download key resources

All resources are summarised and linked to inline. For example:

So, do take a look, you can start our RACE Digital Marketing Planning E-learning module now!

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How to think like a Hollywood producer when marketing your video Wed, 29 Jul 2015 08:00:00 +0000 Provide a narrative and continue the story to delight your audience and have an effective video campaign

You’ve got your cup of coffee in one hand and your prop list in the other. You still need to send out a dozen tweets and find a new actor because your top choice canceled at the last moment. Your director made some scripting tweaks that require rewrites. The list goes on.

Planning and marketing your video can feel like the opposite of Hollywood glamour. But when you boil it down, digital marketing and the movies actually have a lot in common.

Whether it’s a comedy that makes your cheeks sore from laughing or a tearjerker that leaves you blubbering in your car on the way home, great movies change viewers’ lives by taking them on an emotional journey. Your video can do the exact same thing by forming a relationship with attendees, providing a narrative that surprises and delights them and continuing the story after the video ends.


Like any good story, your digital marketing process should have three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the (it’s not the) end.

The Beginning

1) Plan your video with the end in mind. Great movies have endings that stick in your mind long after you’ve wandered out of the movie theater. The best producers consider the ending throughout every step of the production and publicity process. 

Christopher Nolan, for example, began the film “Inception” with the idea that a talisman — such as Dominick Cobb’s spinning top — can distinguish between dreams and reality. An endlessly moving talisman likely means that a person is caught in a dream setting. As the film draws to a close and it appears that Cobb has escaped criminal charges, he spins his top again, but the audience doesn’t see whether it falls.

Audiences clamored for more information; they needed to know what happened to Cobb. Nolan, however, explained that the film’s theme was that reality is completely subjective — by the end, Cobb no longer wanted to know whether he was living in reality or a lifesaving dream. Nolan’s ending was able to impart his most important lesson: “All levels of reality are valid.”

With your video, make sure your audience is led on a journey from the get-go. Make sure it’s an ongoing experience that sticks with them through the climax and lingers in their minds after they reach the end. Every single thing you do should have your final impact in mind.

2) Forget sales. Focus on emotion. Moviegoers don’t care about box office sales or budgets. All they want to do is enjoy watching the movie.

Digital videos are no different. Instead of focusing on profit, focus on emotion. Don’t approach your video and audience as if they’re one-time transactions. Suspend your audience’s disbelief from the moment they click through. They should be living the story of your video, not being schmoozed as a consumer. This is how you’ll win them over.

3) Create curiosity, and build momentum. People were talking about “Toy Story 3” before the film even hit theaters, thanks to generation-jumping tactics like dating advice presented by Ken (of Barbie-and-Ken fame) and Facebook sneak peeks. Producers built anticipation by incorporating toys that were fan favorites into their digital marketing and engaging audiences with the continuing story from the franchise’s first two films.

You can easily do this with your video, too. Create mystery and anticipation, and build momentum with themed teasers.

The Middle

3) Atmosphere means everything. Once your audience has clicked to watch your video, don’t let the mystique slip. A good movie keeps its atmosphere strong in every scene, using color, sound, and movement to excite the audience’s senses and keep them immersed in the world of the story. Put yourself in attendees’ shoes and examine every little thing they’ll experience. Music, lighting, and the overall atmosphere are critical. Find and address areas where the atmosphere lags.

This year’s film about Philippe Petit’s 1974 Twin Towers aerial walk, “The Walk,” is being lauded for its “astonishing recreation of lower Manhattan in the ‘70s.” Director Robert Zemeckis earned the Opening Night Film spot at the New York Film Festival by telling a story of a specific place at a specific time, creating a “spectacle” for the audience to become immersed in.

4) Be consistent and detail-oriented. Consistency and attention to detail are the keys to a successful theme. Just look at Warner Bros. Entertainment’s successful Harry Potter exhibition — a touring experience my company created and produced in partnership with the studio. We recreated the mise-en-scène of the movies and replicated the minute details of the beloved characters’ lives.

Don’t use neon colors within a dark thriller or thrash metal to underscore a romantic comedy video’s emotion. These details will seem odd to customers, and they’ll be less likely to follow the theme of your video — or finish watching it.

The (It’s Not the) End

5) Leave them wanting more. Some of the best movies avoid wrapping up their endings neatly with a bow. Instead, they’ll leave it open for potential sequels and spin-offs. Use this technique with your video. Turn one-off viewers into loyal, captive fans by creating a journey that goes on and on. Make the final note of your video strong, resonant, and just slightly unfinished.

Lionsgate had to cleverly use cliffhangers to bridge its two-part films for the third book of “The Hunger Games” trilogy, but it also opted to use a cliffhanger to close “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” the film based on the trilogy’s second book. Director Francis Lawrence’s successful — and revenue-driving — choice was inspired by the ability of “Breaking Bad” to introduce “continually rising stakes” that left audiences hungry for more.

If you also decide to go for a sequel, stay true to the heart and tone of the story that made your video successful in the first place. Fans won’t stand for too much change. But keep the characters and storylines developing so there’s always something new for your audience to discover.

6) Listen to your audience. During and after your video, encourage your audience to provide feedback on their experience. If you’ve properly built an authentic relationship with them, they’ll feel comfortable sharing their genuine and unadulterated opinions with you. Take their compliments and concerns into account when planning your sequels.

Movies are a powerful medium. A digital video can offer an immersive experience that rivals the surround sound and 3D visuals of the movie theater. Wield this power like a blockbuster producer to take your audience on an emotional journey that brings your brand to life and keeps them coming back for more.

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