7 must-check questions for your acquisition strategy
All site owners are looking to reach more prospects, existing customers and raise awareness about their products through a website or other online presence. So, there is plenty of advice on how to increase site traffic through the 6 main online communications channels.
Although you can definitely gain improvements in volume of acquisition through optimising how use these channels like SEO, advertising or social media marketing, you may be missing parts of the bigger picture that will make your online marketing more effective.
To help you think through how to improve your site traffic, Dave Chaffey and I have developed these seven key questions to help improve your results. We hope they're helpful - let us know how you find them. You can find more detailed guidance in the Reach section of our RACE digital marketing planning course.
This is the first in a short series covering different parts of digital strategy to focus on:
Question 1. Do we have visibility of actual against target performance in support of our business goals?
There's the popular marketing mantra - 'you can't manage what you can't measure'. And, in my opinion that's the place to start from when planning to grow the effectiveness of your digital acquisition. The benchmarking process starts with a clear understanding of how you perform across a range of channels, and then understanding the relative efficiencies of different sources for traffic or reach based KPIs and their impact on marketing or sales conversions, including lead generation or email newsletter sign-ups. These are the VQVC metrics Dave describes in this post introducing the RACE KPI framework.
Gurus like Avinash have great advice on setting the right measures that matter too. He reminds us that the traffic you get has to be related to a commercially relevant goal, after all that's why you have a website, right?
Amazingly, marketers will still spend on a channel and judge success based upon a simple traffic or visitor KPI, such as volume, and the draw a cost based on visitor or impression. This is a route to failure in commercial terms. You need volume, quality and value measures.
Instead, understand the value of visitors, by channel based on setting goals for lead or sign-up at the minimum, ideally link it to conversion. Worst case you can tie your overall traffic mix to sales, best case you understand sales by channel. Prepare for the tricky discussion of what channel gets the credit - last or first referring, or is the mix credited accordingly!? Keep it simple initially and pick one.
Take a look our Eretail KPI post to help with further ideas on the key measures:
Question 2. What is the right mix of paid, owned and earned media to meet our goals?
You can see from our diagram below the benefits of using the full range of media available today in maximising the overlap between the three different types of media. Achieving this overlap requires the integration of acquisition campaigns. Content on your blog or hub site can be broken down and re-shared into other media types, maybe even directly through APIs such as the Facebook API if not by a considered process to social media marketing. It’s useful to also think of a company’s own presence as 'media' in this sense - these being an alternative investment to other media that offer opportunities to promote products using ad or editorial formats.
The one-line take-away is to ensure that there's emphasis on a plan to become multi-channel publishers, and stop separating 'media' from 'social or online PR'.
Question 3. Have we maximised the efficiency of each channel, including channel mix?
Though we want more traffic, and we're assuming that its commercial value is understood and benchmarked, the traffic mix is important since it helps manage against weaknesses and highlight new opportunities for growth. There’s a risk if “too many of your eggs are in one basket”, particularly on natural search reliance as Google changes its algorithms…
There are all kinds of complexities that can affect reporting on traffic mix, where too much is tagged as "direct" or "other" due to emails or campaigns not being properly tagged. The key thing is that once traffic mix is on your agenda you can spot changes and start to manage the mix. Ask where you're over-reliant first and foremost, for example maybe you're over-reliant on paid media or affiliate/partner sites. And, more logically you can spot opportunities if you compare to industry media mix averages like the one from Google shown below. Ask are you getting enough (commercially relevant) traffic from social media or influential industry sites, maybe that would highlight opportunities to consider a tactical or campaign focus within LinkedIn.
The "right mix" will vary drastically between types of sites, for example e-commerce vs publishing platforms, and of course by industry where the types of users differ.
Question 4. Who are we targeting and what are the core messages that we need to communicate?
The key take-away here surround what Joe Pullizi calls the "intersection between what a brand wants to communicate, and what the user wants to find, solve or hear". It sounds dead simple, it is really, yet how many brands communicate only what they want to sell, then worse assume that every buyer thinks like they do - and even worse assumes that all personas are ready to buy today.
You are not the consumer! Instead, start by using your internal knowledge to identify web personas (“a summary of the characteristics, needs, motivations and environment of typical web site users“). Think about the buyer stages too, often referred to as the 'scenario', for example I want to research about product X or understand if I actually have a need in the first place.
Overlay the messages that you want to communicate to those buyers, you might consider some simple customer research to identify or confirm what you really understand the motivations behind each of those persona types.
As a result of the work, and in the same vein, be sure look at how you may tighten your site's online value proposition. Ever been to a web site and wondered ‘Why am I here?’, ‘How does this help me?‘ or ‘Does this site give me what I need?’. And then left shortly afterwards? That's why the top-level benefit or message needs to be absolutely clear to site visitors, especially first time visitors.
Question 5. Are we putting sufficient time into identifying and then managing relationships with partners and influencers?
With social media and online PR again, many will also call this content marketing, the identifying and partnering of influencer sites is fundamental to success. Note!! This is also the start to gaining inbound links, to improve your position in the search engine results pages. Identify your influencer and partner sites carefully to ensure that you get the three-for-one benefit of referral traffic, social sharing and inbound link equity. Influencers are key in modern marketing, as Jay Baer comments “With a disproportionate ability to spread information and add credibility, influencers are human TV stations and magazines.”
With a hub and spoke model in mind, your site being the hub, influencers exist on different spokes. Our social radar diagram (below) helps you think that through and prioritise different outposts, some of which will be more powerful influencers. Our radar was inspired by Brian Solis' Conversion Prism, but we found it unclear, if not beautifully designed.
Once identified, true influencers and partner sites need to be treated with the respect they deserve, your business is effectively in a relationship, and like any relationship it develops over time and is based on respect, trust and a lot of giving. You wouldn't expect a relationship to develop any other way.
Question 6. How do we integrate acquisition channels and manage customer journeys to maximise effectiveness?
I think there are two dimensions to this, at least obvious ones. On the one hand you need to mine the data, to understand what is influencing purchase versus what is influencing lead generation versus traffic, on the other hand it's about understanding your consumer, those personas and appreciating the stages of purchase and designing that in to your communications, channels and website over the whole buy cycle.
Primarily, there's the need to be findable in multiple places by those personas at the various buyer stages - the buyer stages where giving you personal data is of little interest, and exploring impartial industry sources is! For example certain outposts or influencer sites will lend themselves to those exploring a topic, ideally those outposts will have a good search results presence on keywords that maybe you don't. As the user progresses to exploring your product area, or even brand name they'll progress to review sites and in turn your site which would also cater for more than one "buyer type". This works just the same offline, industry journals or consumer magazines are places where great content, well-PR'd come into their own.
With your site in mind, signing up for a well considered ebook might be 'step 1' for people who are exploring a pain point and defining their needs. You'd expect to the need to re-market them and earn permission to sell via email, maybe driving that prospect to a webinar where you may actually acquire a lead in the true sense. The key take-away - get close the how your personas types journey from browse - research - compare - buy.
Question 7. Is our social presence effective and are we measuring reputation?
The challenging word here is "effective". We've posted many times on the challenges of social media measurement, in its broadest sense, but the start-point is to have a clear sense of goals in order you can best integrate social media as an effective channel, then you have context to measure and monitor against what good looks like for you. Social media can have a range different types of goals dependent on what you figure matters most the commercial end game: Branding and awareness; Grow a community of customers or users; Customer service – facilitating consumers needs proactively on and off line; R&D – collaborate with consumers to facilitate product or service improvements through ideas; Direct sales and leads generated that go on to convert. Our social media marketing goals post explains more on this.
Irrespective of the type of goals that you have. Web analytics and social media monitoring tools can combine to enable you to measure what matters to you at any given time. You can also monitor softer but important KPIs, such as positive brand sentiment. Our post on the IAB social media measurement framework summarised our perspective on the approach being developed by the IAB Social Media Council, their presentation is below.
We also presented an alternative approach focussing on 6 key metrics:
Gross views on main networks network and own blog/community
Connections or subscribers on main networks
Engagement – comments and interactions
Social media referrers – visits to site measured through web analytics and where necessary campaign tracking tags
Social media conversions – conversion to goals or sales measured through web analytics
My engagement – a different class of measures to the others – how the brand interacts through posts, videos, comments, etc
How do our seven questions measure up for you? Anything that we can improve upon?
By Danyl Bosomworth
Dan helped to co-found Smart Insights in 2010 and acted as Marketing Director until leaving in November 2014 to focus on his other role as Managing Director of First 10 Digital. His experience spans brand development and digital marketing, with roles both agency and client side for nearly 20 years. Creative, passionate and focussed, his goal is on commercial success whilst increasing brand equity through effective integration and remembering that marketing is about real people. Dan's interests and recent experience span digital strategy, social media, and eCRM. You can learn more about Dan's background here Linked In.
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