There are hundreds of micro-decisions that are made before a site visitor makes the macro-decision to become a customer (business to customer), or a lead (business to business). As 70kft’s Director of Digital Marketing, I have quite a bit of insight into how this process works and how best to influence it.
I do not typically begin my conversation with business stakeholders this way, but it is generally what I would like to know. Conversely, it’s also what I would like them to know about me. If I could, I would start off with these two questions:
- What is your definition of “marketing”?
- What is your definition of “digital”?
My brain immediately goes back to college when I was taught that marketing is basically anything done to promote a product or service. Then I think back on the class that taught me the difference between analog and digital and I always think of radio and watches. I learned binary code of zeros and ones while I was building a digital clock. Yes, I’ve built a digital clock, as well as multiple PCs back in the day, when it was hard (sorry Mac peeps, you never got to do this).
Now, for how I typically start the conversation with business stakeholders –
- What kind of inbound marketing are you currently doing or have you done in the past?
- How do users experience your brand after they find you?
Obviously, I adjust the wording based on the situation. I ask these questions because I want to know the client’s experience discussing these principles and their understanding of how the two are tied together.
These two questions elicit very different responses from person to person, from c-suite to director level. If you are not comfortable in discussing any of the above questions in detail, well then you’re in the right place.
A little about me to give some context. I started my career 14 years ago as a web developer and marketing manager. I did everything from design and development on custom .NET CMS. I taught myself HTML and Photoshop. This was before CSS, WordPress or any popular CMS existed. Through connections, I ended up joining a full-blown SEO firm with an in-house custom SaaS application. Looking back, the application was similar to Google Analytics, but at the time, we called GA Urchin (ah, memories).
From the very beginning of my career I was confronted with the idea that you could create an online experience that users would enjoy and engage with that would turn them into customers. The opposite of this would be to simply allow users to bounce or leave the site, which is probably done more often than the former. The reality is that you can actually design and build an online experience that accomplishes your set goals & Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s); it just takes more brainpower.
I also began to learn a totally different piece of the puzzle‑how do users find a site or brand? I began to learn inbound marketing and, at the time, focused primarily on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC).
I could talk to you for weeks about inbound marketing: what SEO looks like in 2016, what is considered effective content marketing, how PPC has changed, how social media has changed the PPC model and more. All of these things are the glorious and cliché terms of inbound marketing. So that’s half my job. But how do you do all of the above in a manner that maximizes the return-on-investment (ROI) on every channel for each individual client?
That’s actually the wrong question to be asking when considering maximizing ROI.
What do users do after they find you? No budget or amount of inbound marketing can maximize the ROI alone. You have to optimize the experience users have after they find you.
So this is where the hybrid department of Digital Marketing gets a little tricky. If the Digital Marketing team is in charge of running all aspects of inbound marketing, we are targeting the best keywords, defining target audiences on social media and utilizing the best copy and creative for our ads. But how can we show an improving ROI if our visitors aren’t turning into customers? If our clients’ Hubspot, Pardot, Salesforce or Marketo databases aren’t getting slammed with qualified leads, we know there is a problem. But, we can’t solve the problem with inbound marketing alone; we have to consider conversion optimization. Simply put, conversion optimization is optimizing the experience that each visitor has after they have found your brand.
So what does conversion optimization mean?
My opinion is that there are very different types of people so you need to build an experience that caters to those various audiences. That is essential—build an experience tailored to your audience. But if you’re talking about a generic experience for those that don’t know anything about you, you have approximately five seconds to capture their attention and articulate a clear value proposition. You have to tell them what you are and how you will benefit them and you have to do that quickly, from load time to message positioning on a page.
Let’s say you have them for 30 seconds or a minute and they’re engaged and they’re curious about what you are offering them. Once they’re interested, you have to tell your complete story to help the user make the macro decision.
All the information they are searching for needs to be clean and easily found (information architecture). They need to be able to go through this journey (conversion funnel) you’ve created seamlessly.
You also have to think, maybe the person doesn’t convert on their first go through —maybe it takes more than one touch point to your brand, maybe it takes time. But you need to understand the buying cycle of your different segments (target audiences).
Understanding the buying cycle is dependent on data, which may come from multiple sources. Using these resources, digital marketing finds conclusive insights for what each segment is doing and how you can optimize the experience to increase the overall conversion rate.
Each data source is a separate database that typically does not match one of the others. This is where you need to rely on trends and a holistic understanding of how your digital experience performs on a monthly basis. Combining these data sources has always been tricky but there are platforms making it easier to visualize. We still rely on Excel and all of its magic to help tell the story and impact change. But we don’t just pull data to pull data – our job is to improve a holistic experience and increase conversions.
In summary, the problem that you are trying to solve is much more complex than most business stakeholders originally think. The business growth problem is real. It’s common. Everyone wants growth, sales and qualified leads. In my opinion understanding the whole story—inbound marketing coupled with conversion optimization—is the most effective way of solving your business growth obligations.