Award-winning digital marketing and customer experience agency

Customer engagement: big data or big ideas?

Customer engagement: big data or big ideas?

Today, marketing automation (MA), pay-per-click (PPC) and Programmatic Advertising (PA) campaigns, along with social advertising all generate huge quantities of performance data, barraging even experienced marketers with mountains of campaign information.

The reality is that while some of this data is extremely useful, a significant amount of it is extraneous to campaign performance and if used as a basis in strategic campaign development, may easily derail your marketing objectives, through distraction.

Derailed by data?

In the hands of inexperienced digital marketers, data seems to offer myriad insights into target market prospect and customer behaviour, thereby casting an almost magical light on strategic options in future marketing campaigns.

But campaign performance data is almost completely misleading and irrelevant unless it is highly focused, and has been specifically added to the performance metrics to deliver highly specific information.

Keeping it simple

For example, data needs to be drawn from, and laid against, precise campaign touch-points – such as the performance of a specific call-to-action touch-point along the buyer journey – and therefore allowing data to deliver specifically on one simple metric.

When these simple call-to-action metrics are examined sequentially against other touch-points in the buyer journey, data will form a clear picture of campaign development and hopefully indicate greater visitor engagement as prospects become increasingly engaged with the campaign.

Less is more

This simple example metric – increasing prospect and customer call-to-action engagement along the buyer journey – will be critical in the future development of the live campaign as it illustrates precise campaign impacts at highly specific points of contact.

What this process does is reduce the blizzard of information data delivers to a level where it provides manageable, meaningful information to enhance the performance of live campaigns, while providing information on which to develop a strategic framework to future campaigns.

Strategy through data analysis

This is where big data can start to build big ideas, allowing you to use what you know from selected, highly specific areas of data to create and continually enhance live and future campaign development as you analyse data in real time.

And what this means in live campaigns is that because you are now working with highly specific and simplified metrics on live campaigns, this can be done in real time, allowing for your communications to be shifted dynamically, keeping you ahead of your competitors.

Agility is key to success

What achieving success through data really means is the careful, pragmatic selection of precisely what you need to know from a campaign to make it resonate closely and engage more effectively with your target buyers.

This means data – or information – is restricted to precisely what is required to build and nurture prospect relationships and keep them moving through the sales funnel. In other words, stay focussed on your objectives, and don’t get blinded by the data blizzard.

In the hands of inexperienced digital marketers, data seems to offer myriad insights into target market prospect and customer behaviour, thereby casting an almost magical light on strategic options in future marketing campaigns.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom

Analytics: understanding the whole picture

Analytics: understanding the whole picture

Data capture and the analytical information it provides is – potentially – a real game-changer in marketing, but many client-side marketers find that despite latest analytical methodologies, they still feel unable to apply this information to real-world market development.

It’s easy to understand why this is if one looks closely at the information they are attempting to work with, and this is often our first point of interest and focus when reviewing previous analytical strategies with newly-acquired clients.

The right data in the right hands?

McKinsey’s DataMatics study shows that firms in the top quartile of analytics performance were 20 times more likely to attract new clients, and more than five times more efficient at retaining existing clients than enterprises in the bottom quartile.

But while this at first glance sounds like data will offer some kind of silver bullet, the real question is: what kind of data is being utilised, how is it presented and – critically – to whom?

Too little data to go on?

The reality is that data takes many forms and these many forms can be compounded in many different and complex ways, leading users to draw conclusions that are very much at variance with the realities of their respective marketplaces.

For example, if you were to discover that your jelly-bean consumption survey data showed that everyone in the sample between 16 and 20 years of age had eaten jelly-beans and loved the colour pink it would be easy to assume that there was a strong correlation, right?

Data deficit or overload?

But what if this data hadn’t factored in the respondent’s income, and whether they could actually afford to consume jelly-beans in any meaningful quantity?

That would mean many respondents in your data had a hidden and significant bias, so where would that leave your market analysis?

The fact is the data you are studying may either be too much data or of the wrong kind, with so much information that it not only confuses, but also actually lacks the critical information you need to target your prospects accurately.

Less is more

According to McKinsey, many analytics tools focus more on issues such as brand awareness, or different methods for measuring marketing return on investment (MROI), including stuff like reach-cost-quality (RCQ) performance, marketing mix modelling (MMM), or digital attribution modelling (DA).

And while each are useful in specific situations when used discretely to highlight specific market conditions, when used together they can provide conflicting outcomes that become difficult to understand, let alone use.

They become some kind of analytical gloop. So, you will need to ask yourself ‘why is my digital agency feeding me all this stuff?’.

Disconnected connectivity

Well, there can be a wide number of reasons for this but the most probable is a two-fold issue and this requires review: firstly, your agency – given that they are driving your marketing communications – should have had a clear definition of your target audience personas and an understanding of their behaviour.

If this isn’t in place, then the analytics data you will receive will not reflect market prospect and customer behaviour, market conditions or in any meaningful way help guide the buyer on their buying journey, meaning you (and they) are effectively flying blind.

Harvesting and targeting

If you find from this article that you are actually flying blind, then you need to implement the second tier of this marketing review: speak with those in your organisation who deliver marketing communications to your audience, and work with them to define exactly what they need to know about your target markets.

And that’s the first step along this part of the road: use this information to reach out to your front-line sales team and work with them to more closely define prospect and customer personas through objective evidence. This will close a very big loop.

Meeting of minds

Having now gained a clear insight into your markets, buyer personas and buyer behaviour from both a sales and marketing perspective, you now have the empirical market intelligence you need to brief your agency partners with an accurate picture of your market.

As you do so, ensure that this now closed loop stays that way – and ensure from here on in, your marketers and sales teams feed back regular market intelligence to you.

And when you provide this market intelligence to your agency, ensure they use it to reflect the real-world market intelligence your internal teams gave you, and reflect this in the data and analytical information your teams need to successfully connect with your prospects and loyal customers.

McKinsey’s DataMatics study shows that firms in the top quartile of analytics performance were 20 times more likely to attract new clients, and more than five times more efficient at retaining existing clients than enterprises in the bottom quartile.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom

Five tips on digital marketing agency search and selection

Five tips on digital marketing agency search and selection

Digital communications (the transmission of marketing communications by digital means) covers a wide range of marketing platforms and a spectrum of channels and for client-side marketers, deciding on what is the best-fit for your enterprise is a complex equation.

And to compound this best-fit identification issue, actually seeing beyond the hot technology offers or the hype and such claims as ‘we’re the largest’ or the ‘only EU’ and so on, and to get a solid understanding of actual agency capabilities is a tough assignment for any marketer.

Platform or channel: what’s the difference?

Today, many digital marketing agencies will offer information on expertise such as marketing automation (MA) platform capabilities. Others will offer expertise in social media (SM) or pay-per-click (PPC) or online display advertising.

But while agency promotion of these platforms or channels is useful, what it is not telling you is what specific expertise they have in delivering marketing prospects or sales leads – the very thing you need to build your sales, profitability and long-term customer loyalty.

So, where does this leave you?

End-to-end approach

As can be seen, many of these communications elements are either delivery platforms or communications channels and while critical for targeted communication, they are certainly not the strategic marketing message in themselves.

So, cutting to the chase, working through all the platform and channel offers, to discriminate between pure platform or channel provision and those who offer platform or channel provision with truly solid strategic communication skill and associated marketing communication capabilities is a critical starting point in your search.

Conspicuous by its absence

Most of these digital marketing agencies will aim to provide content marketing as a part of their offer. This is key, but the quality of this content, its power to engage with your prospects and ability to deliver marketing qualified sales leads that actually buy from you is the ultimate criteria.

Remember, marketing platform and channel experience are key, but to achieve sustained growth and loyal customer acquisition, you critically need focused content marketing that drives these platforms and channels to success. Here are five points to consider in order of relevance.

Research and strategic market planning

Any long-term and sustainable marketing campaign will require careful strategic planning. This not only helps to optimise prospect engagement, but also to ensure that brand visibility is gained and maintained throughout the campaign.

Always explore a prospective agency’s strategic market planning capabilities when you open discussions. A good way for the prospect agency to demonstrate strategic planning capabilities is through the provision of current client case studies.

Integrated multi-channel digital communication specialisms

To develop successful digital marketing strategies, your agency will need to provide a multi-channel communications strategy, and this will require a number of integrated communications platforms, delivering communications across several marketing channels simultaneously.

This means you need to satisfy yourself that any potential agency has not only proven expertise in all required platforms and the marketing channels through which they will deliver, but can fully demonstrate how this will work in line with initial – pre-proposal – strategic plans.

Sector-specific marketing experience

Again, as with the points above, in order to identify precisely which marketing communications platform or channel is appropriate at which particular point in the marketing journey and at which point a channel will need to close the sale requires critical expertise.

To optimise communications performance in this marketing-to-sale journey, it is vitally important that the proposed agency has a deep understanding of your marketplace, target prospect behaviours and how to engage with them. In short, sector experience counts.

Content marketing and search optimisation expertise

In many respects, and like the point above, long-term experience and close market sector expertise are very important in achieving optimum prospect engagement through understanding and delivering what it is potential and existing customers want from your enterprise.

This means selecting an agency that has proven experience in your market sector. That is not to say you should exclude marketers from closely related sectors, but you need to be sure they can demonstrate a very clear understanding of your target audience, and their needs.

You will know your market, so make completely sure your agency does too, because if they talk your prospect’s language they will raise your brand and campaign profile and visibility through powerful search engine optimisation (SEO).

Performance analytics and management

The final piece is for you to understand the marketing return on investment (MROI) your agency is delivering across the campaigns you will be working on together.

You will already know what your required marketing performance metrics are, and you therefore need to ask your prospective agency to formulate and demonstrate performance analytics to closely mirror these requirements.

It has to be said, agency capabilities in the area of performance analytics is variable, but a good agency with a competent analytics team should be able to offer all of what you are likely to need.

Content expertise drives success

As can be seen, technology in the form of marketing platforms or communications channels, and the expertise in utilising these is a very important element in digital marketing communications.

But what really counts when selecting a new digital marketing agency is confidence in knowing that they not only understand marketing technology, but understand what emotional and aspirational marketing content to load into it to make it work successfully.

Remember, marketing platform and channel experience are key, but to achieve sustained growth and loyal customer acquisition, you critically need focused content marketing that drives these platforms and channels to success.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom

Email marketing: five simple tips to get read, and loved!

Email marketing: five simple tips to get read, and loved!

The fight for attention in recipient inboxes grows ever-more ferocious, to a point where some client-side marketers are beginning to question the validity and effectiveness of email marketing.

And while others may now view email marketing as old school, it is at the very heart of all customer relationship management (CRM) programmes, including marketing automation (MA), the current new and shiny communications channel.

What’s the problem?

One issue that we have noticed in client conversations in recent times, is that some people think that CRM and MA are solutions to prospect engagement in themselves. That is to say, flicking the CRM or MA system switch does the job alone.

This is a very long way from reality, as CRM and MA systems are just that – systems. What really matters is the communication itself, how it is written and within that, how it attracts and engages recipients. While some of this is technical, much of it is people-focused.

So here are five tips on briefing your agency, and getting your emails read:

1. Make it personal

If your contact database is properly configured, your digital agency should be able to insert the recipient’s name in the subject line, or any number of other details personal to that recipient. This adds a level of intimacy and engagement with recipients that means they’re more likely to read on.

Ask your agency to use this same data configuration and start by inserting the recipient’s name into the salutation line, so that the reader feels they are in direct and personal communication with the sender.

2. Stay visible

Research indicates that readers are spending only 15-20 seconds on scanning each email they open 1, meaning in that period your email has either had a click-through or has been dumped.

This indicates the importance of clear, visible headlines, kept above the fold (the part of the email that appears to a viewer first, without scrolling or opening) and grouping any other highly relevant information, such as important links close to the headline.

Images and even infographics above the headline may distract, so ask your agency to factor immediacy into all areas of graphic work.

3. Keep it short

Given that your email message is only going to be around for 15-20 seconds, you may think this is a good reason to keep it short. And it is. But you will find that many agency-side content writers will often want to ram as much information into a single email as is possible.

But the issue is two-fold: the longer the message, the less chance there is of content being completely read, and the more content, more links and more offers there are the more dense the message, and the less likely it is that critical click-throughs will happen.

4. Analytics: know what prospects want

Rather than firing off subsequent emails into the darkness, ask your agency to provide detailed website analytics during every campaign so you can see what links in your emails recipients are using, and what they are looking at.

That way, you can start to segment these email recipients into prospects not only through their level of interest, but by specific type of product or service interest and using segmentation, work to develop a higher level of engagement with those specifics.

5. Mixed messages

As the campaign builds, your agency’s analytics will start telling you the story of each email recipient. You will know if they responded to a link, how long they viewed it for and what else interested them while on your website.

This information is critical for accurate segmentation, allowing you to categorise these recipients (this can simply be done with an Excel spreadsheet) by where they are on their buying journey, and allowing you to separate the messaging to reflect this as the campaign moves to close the sale.

Old school?

Email is still the most effective form of marketing channel: it is a primary form of communication, and is ubiquitous. In 2013, business email accounts totalled 929 million mailboxes, and this figure is expected to grow to reach over 1.1 billion by the end of 2017 2.

And while there are those both client-side and on agency teams who will tell you email is old school, there’s something much older school that is a part of this email effectiveness and success and of equal, critical importance: laser-sharp communication.

1 EmailLabs
2 The Radicati Group

Images and even infographics above the headline may distract, so ask your agency to factor immediacy into all areas of graphic work.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom

Content marketing: strategic planning delivers ROI insight

Content marketing: strategic planning delivers ROI insight

According to recent surveys, fifty-one percent of client-side marketers have a content marketing strategy that isn’t documented. To my way of thinking, if it isn’t written down, then it isn’t a strategy.

And when you understand that seventy-two percent of respondents say they do not track content marketing effectiveness and return on investment (ROI), then there is a lot of time and money being invested in what seems to be unmeasured ineffectiveness.

Aligning marketing strategy with content

There’s something else agency-side that is not helping this situation either, and that is in some agency white papers and blogs from marketing industry professionals it has been stated that ‘content marketing will drive marketing strategy’.

This shows a lack of understanding around marketing strategy. Marketing strategy is a company confidential plan on gaining and maintaining competitive advantage which then guides marketing communications and content marketing development – not the other way around.

Strategic planning builds content

If you can see content marketing as the sleek bodywork of a sports car over the less pretty engine and transmission system (the enterprises’ marketing strategy) then you have content marketing, driven by an unseen strategic force.

Or to put it another way, content marketing is poetry, and marketing strategy is prose.

And what is key here is that the content marketing programme closely follows overall marketing strategy, which will in turn ensure your content marketing programme is fully backed and supported by the enterprises’ strategic development plan.

Tracking content marketing performance

But none of this is possible without a properly integrated analytics system, because without this, you will have no idea what – if anything – is engaging your prospects and customers, or even how much traffic is actually reaching your website.

And that’s just the basics, because beyond this, an analytics system should be able to tell you much more about visitors, including their name, where and in which sector they work, and what interests them about you and your products or services.

This information is critical in developing credible ROI.

ROI through insight

The facts are, unless you use your content marketing to tell a strategic story – a story that contains significant facts about your company and the products or services that may be of interest your visitor – you are not fully engaging with them and you will lose them.

And unless you introduce a comprehensive analytics system you won’t know which part of your story prospects and customers found engaging and drove them to learn more about you and your products, which means you can’t help them.

Content marketing, analysis and ROI

But if you do develop a content marketing plan that contains specific pieces of information designed to test prospect and customer interest as the story unfolds, then you have reactive information that your analytics system can readily measure for you.

This means you will now know exactly what is of interest to your prospects and customers.

And you can use this information to build your products and services to meet their needs, increasing sales volumes and optimising return on your marketing investment – and your enterprises’ profitability.

There’s something else agency-side that is not helping this situation either, and that is in some agency white papers and blogs from marketing industry professionals it has been stated that ‘content marketing will drive marketing strategy’.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom

Inbound marketing: what it is and why it works

Inbound marketing: what it is and why it works

To define inbound marketing, you really need to think about what conventional, outbound marketing – the thing most enterprises do today – actually is, and what it aims to achieve.

Outbound marketing covers areas such as cold-calling, direct mail, radio and TV advertisements, sales flyers, telemarketing and traditional hard copy advertising. These channels gain your attention by shouting to drown out competitive voices and beg, steal or borrow your attention.

In other words you are calling out ill-defined messages, or reaching out indiscriminately to an indeterminate audience.

The opposite attracts

With inbound marketing it is critically important to identify and build a detailed profile of your target customers. To do this you need to carry out research and build behavioural data to create an accurate profile of the target, or buyer persona, and learn what they want from you, and what will attract them to you.

When you have this information, you can create and share online content with them. The type of content you share is built specifically on the buyer profiles or buyer personas you have developed, and is created to engage with and attract these target customers.

Empathetic content marketing

This content needs to focus on the target customer or prospects’ buying queries and concentrate on their needs. This way you gain not only greater understanding of who they are through their interactivity but you also – again through interactivity – turn them to known, qualified prospects.

Conversely, these qualified prospects are learning more about your enterprise and its products and services, and through this understanding the relationship will grow, developing trust which turns to a sale and ultimately long-term and loyal customer relationships.

Inbound analytics system development

While content marketing is a key to inbound marketing, content in itself will not drive an inbound marketing programme forward or deliver prospects, customers or even programme visibility.

There has to be a well constructed tracking and analytics system behind the programme designed to track individual prospects and customers so that you know how they interact with you and your marketing content which will guide you to understand their opinions and their needs.

Personalisation and buyer persona creation

In combination, content marketing and an accurately calibrated tracking and analytics system will allow you to further develop each individual buyer persona, and therefore target marketing content much more closely.

This is personalisation. Personalisation means you can start to communicate with prospects and customers in a way that places them at the very centre of the conversation. Apart from purely developing sales volumes, this process also helps turn new arrivals into advocates.

Multi-channel communication

Taking a multi-channel approach to inbound marketing allows you to deliver content to your prospects and customers where they want it, when they want it and it means – because it’s everywhere – it will always be on the right channel at the right time.

So wherever these prospects or customers are, and whatever they’re doing they always have an opportunity to interact with you. This helps you to get ever-more up close and personalised, and helps you in satisfying their needs, because you will know exactly what they want from you.

While content marketing is a key to inbound marketing, content in itself will not drive an inbound marketing programme forward or deliver prospects, customers or even programme visibility.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom