For any digital marketing strategy or digital communications plan, having a set of objectives and clear strategy behind your plan is essential for the success of what you are looking to achieve. This post focuses on creating an actionable plan around retention, which by definition is maintaining or preserving your existing customer base loyal to your product offering. Retention should be at the heart of your digital strategy in maintaining and building communication with your existing customer base. Seperate to this post, I've also created a plan on creating your digital marketing strategy for acquisition purposes which can be found here
Know your audience
Before embarking on your retention strategy, understanding your audience is a key requirement to ensure the chosen retention tactics are in line with your existing customer base - so begin to build up a profile of the type of customer/s that interact with your brand. Retention is about engaging with your existing customer base, so you should already have a wealth of analytical insights on who your customers are, how they interact with your organisation and their purchase patterns.
Key insights to consider when analysing customer data include for a retention plan:
*Search marketing metrics – brand/non-brand search terms, referral sites, bounce rates (based product sections/items)
*Sales – Average Order Value, Repeat purchase rates, Geographical split (UK, rest of world), Most popular products sold, seasonal sales trends
*Channels of interaction with your brand – e.g. Affiliate, Social Media, Search (SEM), Email - and impact in driving existing sales revenues i.e.which channel is most profiable for the business
*Personas - To bring this existing data "to life", think about creating various personas of who your existing customer is. Types of Personas should be built based on the data you've collated such building an age profile, the channel they interact with, level of frequency in visiting your digital platform (website, mobile, app) and frequency of purchase. The Persona also helps the rest of your organisation who the customers are and helps you to get buy-in from across the organisation - for example, here are a few Persona examples for an online sports retailer:
Persona A: Steve is a 28 year old professional who is single and with a high disposable income. He has a keen interest in Football and supports a premiership football team. He likes to display his allegiance to his club by wearing the latest replica shirt as it is launched each new season. Steve is comfortable in ordering online and engaging with social media to keep up to date with the latest football news and football product launches through online forums and partakes in football games e.g. Fantasy Football.
Persona B: Clare and Rob are both 34 year old professionals who are married with two children. Both Children partake in Football lessons at school and are both avid Manchester United and Liverpool supporters, each having favourite footballers in Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard. They both like to show off to their friends with the latest club replica shirts and ask each year for the new football shirt from their parents.
What are the Objectives for your retention strategy?
By bringing together the background and situation of the organisation (Understanding your audience), this content should now provide you with a set of Objectives as to why there is a requirement for a retention plan. To ensure success and buy-in within your business, create your set of retention objectives around the SMART principle, for example:
a) Achieve 25% of existing customers to service their online account within 12 months. This would be defined such as: visiting the site, logging into their online account, making a repeat purchase as a few examples.
b) Drive 30% of existing customers to make a repeat purchase within 6 months through the website
Now begin to define how these objectives will be realised - by identifying which digital marketing tactics you plan to use as a retention technique in meeting the objective of the plan. The chosen tactics should be justified from the findings you uncovered in evaluating your existing customer and how they interact with your brand in section 1.
As an example, here are a list of digital techniques tailored for retention with defined retention measurements linked back to the Objectives laid out earlier in this post:
- Create and optimise content for your existing customer base in order for them to service their existing account through a content plan
- On page optimisation – key on page factors influence on rankings within SERPS so it's essential the content created has been optimised for visibility within search engines through best practise on page techiniques - think about the URL of the page, who the content page is for, heading & image tags as well as internal URLs and how would this page be found through the existing site architecture?
- Product descriptions - Each product on site should include relevant imagery and product information that is unique on site. Ensure the content is tailored to the defined audience from the creation of personas as mentioned in section 1
- Link building – Pro-actively target websites your existing user-base also use. From analysing your site referrers and most effective affiliate websites, this should provide you with a pool of prospects to launch a link building campaign to drive referrals to your site. Also consider your competitor sites - ensure you're providing a level of differentiation and ask the question how is my product offering unique and why would a website link to this content over a competitor?
- Creation of email templates - create and test out multiple email templates to your existing customer base and begin to monitor the effectiveness of your emails - look to segment your customer base and see which segment drives the best performance based on your retention measures e.g. repeat puchase
- Ensure the right email technology is in place - if you're using a 3rd party email software provider, does it provide you with the opportunity to create multiple email templates? the right metric reporting?
- Ensure email lists are data cleansed before commencing a campaign - have you removed and are up to date with existing customers who wish to be unsubscribed? Have you tested out your email success rate in hitting your customer inbox?
- Personalisation: Segmentation of your email audience by product or defined persona group
- Analyse your current database of Social Media followers/fans
- Create an Editorial content plan in place to drive timely content through SM channels - this should be based around the editorial plan mentioned under SEO in defining your content plan
- Ensure you've provided In house training for staff to use SM channels in communicating with customers - SM provides a timely and cost effective channel in providing a real-time customer service channel
- Evaluate current program on commission levels offered compared to competitor programs - are any of your competitor programs incentivising affiliates to drive existing customer purchase and if not, could this be an opportunity for your own channel?
- Analyse trends and performance of your existing affiliate program e.g. what % of sales driven through affiliates are from repeat customers?
- Segment affiliate sites by performance to date
- From your personas, commence a recruitment drive in driving more affiliate websites to sign up to the program that relate to your personas
With the chosen retention techniques in place, it's crucial to measure and monitor the effectiveness of each channel throughout the campaign, so consider setting specific KPI's for each channel. By setting KPI’s, this means each measure can be quantified and used as objectives and provide on-going measurement. The control phase of the report also provides insight into whether the overall objective of the campaign is being met within the set timeframe, e.g. 12 months.
KPI’s per retention channel
Here are a list of suggested retention measurements that could be considered.
- No. of Outbound links generated
- Traffic referral volume
- SERP position for keywords
- Pages viewed per visit
- % of brand & non-brand search terms generated
- No. of in-bound links generated
- No of email sent out
- Segment email lists by existing customers
- Click through rate to website
- Open rate of email campaign sent
- Repeat purchase rate through channel
- No of followers & fans
- Measure engagement through re-tweets, likes
- % of referral traffic through to website
- Volume of content pushed through SM (based on the content plan)
- No. of active affiliates
- Recruitment of new affiliate accounts
- % of total traffic to website
- Repeat purchase rate generated through affiliate channel
- Segmentation of affiliates by level of repeat purchase tomain site
Econsultancy (2012), reported that “attracting a new customer can cost up to five times as much as keeping an existing one”. The retention of the customer lifecycle is the most profitable one where the greatest level of relationship value is experienced so take time and ensure you have a defined strategy in place that listens and builds communication with your existing customer base.
Author Ryan Holiday lifts the lid on a sweeping new culture, Growth Hacker Marketing, hitting the marketing depts of the smallest to the largest blue-chip organisations, calling for a re-position and re-think of how traditional marketing departments operate. According to Google Trends, the rise in searches associated with this new skillset is on the rise and it's here to stay:
So why has Growth Hacking become a key disrupter in how present and future organisations operate? I think it's two-fold:
1) Goodbye Industrial economy, Hello connected economy:
The era of the Industrial Revolution and how many organisations (and their cultures) operate is in a steep decline. In its place is the connected economy which has provided the stimulus for collaboration and the initiative to tear down what were "barriers to enter markets" and the destruction of monopolies (e.g. music industry, book publishing).
2) Impact of the Global Recession:
The realisation millions of people and thousands of companies are waking up to in this new era is that we now live in a new dawn of an inter-connected, global economy. It's becoming easier to find a cheaper way, a cheaper alternative to race to the bottom. According to business magazine, Forbes: "around 8.4 mn jobs in the US disappeared from Jan 2008 to December 2009" - due to employees lacking digital skills or there simply was not the opportunities or requirement for traditional skills within companies. This is further emphasised in the book, Graceful “Modern society is based on a modern idea: get the work done by replaceable cogs, by individuals programmed to do what they’re told, follow instructions and work cheap. The attraction of this system is evident by how easily ordinary organisations replace ordinary employees”.
Growth Hacker Marketing Overview
Holiday sets the scene by providing an overview of organisational culture and the waking up to the connected economy, listing a number of successful organisations that have embraced this way of work (Dropbox, Mailbox, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) with a number of fascinating in depth case studies through-out the book.
The book is divided into 4 key areas: Product Market Fit, Finding Your Growth Hack, Going Viral & Retention & Optimisation
Step 1 - Product Market Fit (PMF)
PMF is the moment when the product and its customers are in perfect sync with each other. And the best way to get to this end goal is by starting with a minimum viable product and improving on it based on feedback - don't be afraid to launch the product and to learn from your audience on ways to improve its value, embrace the fear.
In a by-gone era products were the responsibility of the product or business development team but PMF calls on the marketing team to now be a central component in the development and refinement of product creation and launch through listening to your audience e.g. setting up a blog, creating usability testing, conducting interviews - engage with your audience, learn from them.
Step 2 - Finding Your Growth Hack
Know your audience - this is essential to make your audience aware of the product/service you're launching. The understanding of who your audience is, how they interact through digital and make them aware of your business - these are the key attributes required. You are looking to pull your customers in through a cheap, effective and unique way. Take Dropbox for example: To launch the product the founders crafted a demo video to explain how to use the service. But rather than hire an expensive production company, Dropbox filmed the video themselves and knew where to post the video (i.e. where their prospective audience would be) by posting it on Digg, Slashdot and Reddit.
Step 3 - Going Viral
Growth Hacking is about launching your product as cheap as possible in a unique and differentiated way to your competitors and spreading virally is a central component to this i.e. you are relaying on your users to help spread the word. Everyone wants to launch the next viral ad to spread their product or service but are you making it easy for your product/service to be spread and more importantly, is it even worth talking about?
Dropbox built one of the most effective and most viral referral programs of the start-up world - the offer it put together was for its users who would receive 500 megabytes of free space for every friend they invited and got to sign up. By introducing this offer, sign-ups to Dropbox increased by 60% with more than 2.8mn direct invites a month.
Step 4 - Retention & Optimisation
In traditional marketing, it is the marketer to bring in the leads and potential customers. In the world of growth hacking marketing it's the marketers responsibility to retain, understand and interact with your potential and converted customer through the use of analytics.
Rather than throwing more and more money at external lead generation, the focus is on internal optimisation i.e. where can you increase your conversion to sale rate by 5%, how can you increase your click through rate from an email campaign? The role of the growth hacker is to optimise incoming traffic and focus on retention.
Growth Hacking - It's here to stay
This is a book I would definitely recommend to anyone either working for a corporate or working by themselves, it's a book that resonates perfectly with the connected, digital economy we are all operating in and more importantly provides you with a four step guide in the key attributes to consider. As author Thomas Friedman stated in his book, "The World Is Flat", "...around the year 2000 we entered a whole new era - Globalization 3.0 - which is shrinking the world from a size small to a size tiny and flattening the playing field at the same time" Friedman goes onto refer to Globalization 1.0 as "countries globalizing" and the dynamic force in Globalization 2.0 was "companies globalizing", the dynamic force in Globalization 3.0 is the"new found power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally". And this is why Growth Hacking is here to stay
Essential Tips For Cycling From London To Paris
As well as cycling Lands End to John O'Groats (LEJOG), another particularly popular cycling activity for long distance cyclists is cycling from London, all the way to Paris. Now this appears to be a very daunting challenge, however, proper preparation and a reasonable amount of fitness will help you to accomplish this challenge with the least amount of problems. We also highly recommend that you ride with a companion for both safety and company.
1. Pack the Proper Equipment
Packing the proper equipment means including only what is necessary and leaving out items which have no particularly important use. Remember, you are on a bike and how comfortably you can pedal will be affected by the total weight of your bike. Here is a good list of important items that you can start with:
- Phone charger
- Adequate clothing for the number of days you will be traveling (clothing should also be appropriate to the prevailing weather conditions)
- Money, along with spare change in both Euros and GBP
- French ER number
- EU health card
Essential Bike Equipment
- 2 spare inner tubes
- 3 spare tyres
- Puncture repair kit
- Tyre levers
- Extra bike chain
- Compass or GPS
- Route Map
- High visibility front and rear bike lights
First Aid Equipment
- Sterile bandages and dressings
- Cold compress
- Heat packs
- Rehydration formula
- Pain killers and antipyretics
- Eye drops
2. Proper Route Planning
Obviously this is an essential part of your journey as you have to know your way from London to Paris. Pick out the best routes for your own purposes. A GPS and/or a compass are also an indispensable tool if this is your first time and you are not familiar with the route.
3. Stay Dry as Much as Possible
Comfort is a big factor in making your trip a pleasant experience, and staying dry is one aspect of comfort. We all know how fickle English weather can be so make sure to bring cycling rain wear, no matter what the weather forecasts say. It would also be a good idea to attach mudguards to the front and rear of your bike to keep you and your bike clean.
4. Take Adequate Breaks and Stops
A trip from London to Paris is not a race so it is appropriate to take adequate breaks and stops. This allows you to check your map, inspect your bike, take on water and food, as well as enjoy the sights. It also helps to ensure that you do not tire yourself out too much during the trip.
5. Bring Adequate Amounts of Food of Water
Avoid thinking that food is readily available on the road. You don’t know when your hunger pangs or thirst will strike while pedaling, so it is best if you take your own food and water with you. Remember, food and water are the fuel the will help you to accomplish your journey.
6. Practice Regular Bike Maintenance before the Trip
Have your bike properly inspected by a qualified bike mechanic before a trip to ensure that it is in condition for a very long ride. In addition, learn some of the more important basics yourself such as changing a tyre, repairing an inner tube puncture, and repairing a bicycle chain, as there is a big risk of these happening during your journey. It would also be helpful to have an English – French dictionary should you be caught with mechanical problems on the French side of your trip.
7. Always Ride in a Group
There is a margin of safety in numbers and it is a wise idea to travel in a group. It also breaks the monotony of cycling on your own.
8. Remember to Pack Properly
Invest in some light weight panniers for your bike. This helps to relieve your shoulders of weight from the backpack, and allows you to carry more and heavier items with you comfortably.
9. Bring Chamois Cream for that Sore Bum
Apply chamois cream on your cycling pads before a trip, and apply again as needed. This helps to prevent or relieve sore bums, which is pretty much inevitable on very long rides such as this.
10. Practice Proper Group Communication
Always practice proper group communication to relay important information quickly and accurately. Pass messages forwards and back to make sure the group knows what is happening during the ride. Also, make sure that the person you are relaying a message to can hear and understand you. In addition, provide clear signals when approaching junctions, and always remember to point or call out debris and road obstructions to the cyclist behind you.
Hans Navarra is a licensed physician and avid sport writer. He is a mountain bike enthusiast and regularly writes for the Land Rover Mountain Bikes blog, among many other cycling-related websites.
Digital marketing requires marketers to broaden their skill-sets and embrace all digital channels that can reach and engage with their audience. This wider embrace of digital skills has been defined as T-Shaped Marketing, which refers to: a marketer that has knowledge covering a wide range of digital tactics and has in depth knowledge in 1 or maybe 2 specific areas.
Two recent example posts have really nailed the importance of T-shaped marketing and both included some great infographics to bring this definition to life.
Example 1 - I first came across this phrase from a great post by Mike Tekula of Distilled entitled: Building a T-Shaped Web Marketing Skill Set - Mike went into detail on the growing importance of SEO as a web marketing function and how the breadth of SEO now encompasses so many specific functions to assist in creating a successful strategy and team.
Example 2 - Rand Fishkin of Moz continued this line of thought and the growing importance of having a T-shaped marketing skillset has within Moz.com as well as highlighting the breadth of skills covered by a marketer as displayed in the below graphic
The Digital Marketing Landscape
Take a browse of the Econsultancy UK Statistics for July 2013 which weighs in at 865 pages (UK edition) and covers the latest trends and market insights for the digital mix such as: digital advertising, affiliate marketing, analytics, blogging, search, content marketing, video, audio, mobile, apps email marketing, search marketing and social media. I have not even entertained the granularity of each of these tactics and the various strategic components each one requires to ensure a successful campaign. As an exmple for SEO - take a look at the graphic above and the various tactics to consider within just this one specialism.
Can you really embrace and adapt to become a T-shaped marketer? By understanding who your audience is, where they interact with your product or service and researching your analytics will provide you with a foundation as to what areas of digital you should look to develop your skills within and identify which of these tactics you plan to focus on an in depth knowledge.
Go work for a Start-up
In a previous post, I mention the importance of working for start-ups within my own personal journey in developing my digital marketing skills. You'll find yourself in the front line - getting your hands dirty in managing and developing an affiliate program whilst at the same time, budgeting for a PPC campaign and then helping out your buyers in creating optimised product descriptions for your website and then creating dashboards within Google analytics to monitor and measure performance.
You'll develop skills in start-ups that you would never learn studying for 4 years to complete an MBA. The start-up organisation should be on your career path at some stage if you truly want to become a T-shaped marketer
5 Reasons to become a T-shaped Digital Marketer
1 - Organisational Integration - As digital marketing matures as an industry, marketers are realising the importance and value in integrating their digital channels together.A recent survey by Econsultancy reported that nearly 90% of respondents describe integration as "necessary and inevitable". A T-shaped marketer provides the vision and knowledge to an organisation in understanding a number of different digital channels during the integration for the organisation to make the right decisions.
2 - Know your audience - According to Decibel Insight- 15% of website owners base decisions on gut feeling rather than analytics - the role of analytics is becoming ever more important within digital organisations to base decisions on influencing strategy so acquiring a wide skill-set in embracing a variety of digital tactics will become ever more important to organisations as well as how to interpret the streams of analytics data and turning this into actionable insights
3 - Technical/Marketing - The organisational silos of a technical dept and a marketing depts are becoming increasingly blurred, and rightly so. The importance of technical in how to implement changes to a website/mobile that embraces the need to interact with your customer and assist in a search strategy should be inter-twined within both technical and marketing objectives. Likewise, it's incorrect to think a digital marketer does not need to understand the technical architecture of a mobile or website or how to create a product feed for their affiliate channel.
4 - Digital knowledge - One of the key attributes of a T-Shaped marketer is the breadth of knowledge acquired across digital tactics - it provides and brings to the table an element of creativity within your organisation e.g. Bringing search marketing knowledge to your team of developers or analytics insights to share this key industry insights to your colleagues.
5 - Think and act like a start- up - You need to put yourself in the mindset that it's a never ending journey of learning, testing and trialling new tactics. There is a requirement to keep yourself up to date with the latest digital trends and tactics that can be used within the context of your organisation or industry sector. Remember there is nothing wrong in being a jack of all trades as this brilliant article explains, especially in the digital world.
Mitch Joel, author of Ctrl Al Delete assesses a new era for business, an era of collaboration, of the breaking down of organisational silos and the skillsets required by businesses and individuals to succeed in a rapidly changing, digitally driven world.
Ctrl Al Delete is divided into two key sections - Reboot your business & Reboot Yourself - Part 1 of my book review, focused on how to Reboot Yourself and in this blog, Part 2 will focus on Reboot Your Business and some key highlights of the book.
Know your customer - Creating customer "personas" helps build a picture of who your idea customer is. However, most organisations treat their personas in a very linear approach. We've moved to a situation where most of our customers are now "scattered" or "squiggly" - that's to say they are connected, to the world not just to just one another
Utilitarianism Marketing - Perhaps not the most memorable phrase, but Utilitarianism marketing is going to be the next great business disrupter. As defined by Joel "It's not about advertising, it's not about messaging, and it's not about immediate conversations. It's about providing a true value and utility: Something consumers not only waould want to use (constantly and consistently) but would derive so much value from it that it would be given front and center attention in their lives".
It's about creating a key differentiator within your market place, what can your brand do to create a USP, to stand out from the competition and more importantly, create an offering that your audience wants/needs to engage with on a consistent basis? If we think about the explosion of the App market, having an app that stands out and drives download and repeat sessions is essential and there are a number of brands that have embraced Utilitarianism marketing for their strategy e.g
Nationwide Mobile App - for people who have been involved in a car accident. Nationwide created a step by step applicationthat walks consumers through everything required of them when in an accident from taking photos of the scene to having an integrated flashlight should you be involved in an accident at night.
Direct Relationships - The world of digital expects companies to build one to one relationships with their suppliers and customers. There is no rule book or manual to follow, how you interact with one customer will be different to another and it's time we took the initiative.
Branding - In the industrial economy, the golden rule of real estate was your location. Whether it's your corporate head office or your retail chains - this was central to the success of your business. In the digital, connected economy, it could be argued location is still important but more so from where your company or brand resides on the user's screen - Is your brand on the desktop, smartphone or tablet screen of your customer? And are you delighting your customer with content and reasons to interact?
1 in 4 apps are never used again after being downloaded - so what can you do to ensure there is a need for your customer to not only download your branded app but to incentivise an interaction with your content?
The One Screen World - We're shifting to a One Screen World - we should stop counting screens and create our content, products and sales channels for the one device in front of our customers eyes - whether that's a smartphone, tablet or desktop - and our digital strategy should be encompassing all of these together, not treating each one in a silo.
Social Layers are a fundamental necessity for all one-screens - there should be reasons for interactions and the ability to share your content by your users. "When you do this in a one-screen world, people find the brand, share it and engage with it. When people engage with it, they are engaging with you as well"
Hope you enjoyed this post, you can find Part 1, Reboot Your Life here and I would love to hear your feedback
Content marketing is rapidly becoming a key tactic for digital organisations in supporting their aspirations for increasing engagement, traffic and raising brand awareness.The purpose of the content marketing plan is to provide a system to support the creation and development of content for the website and to join up the various digital tactics used by the organisation to assist with the reach target. A report conducted by the Content Marketing Institute found that:
- 9 out of 10 organisations market their content through digital channels
- 60% of respondents reported an intention to increase spending on content marketing within the next 12 months
- A recent survey by Econsultancy reported that 90% of respondents saw content marketing becoming more important to their organisation in terms of resource and budget.
So what are the key tactics to consider for your content marketing plan:
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) - Content marketing should be integrated with your SEO strategy in driving visit traffic to the digital content. To create optimised content pages for SEO, it is essential the content is relevant to the audience you are looking to target. Relevance is the degree to which the content of the web pages are found through a search engine query and Popularity refers to the importance of the content as measured through the online referencing.
Editorial Calendar – An editorial calendar is essential for any successful content strategy in order to plan in advance in what content should be delivered at what time throughout the year. It helps deliver the right types of content and schedules content production. Without an effective editorial calendar, you don’t have a platform to launch and measure your content in targeting your online audience so it’s essential there is an understanding of the communities you’re looking to target and interact with.
Seasonal trends - Being aware of seasonal trends is also important to drive relevant search volumes through-out the year such as event specific keywords and industry specific content for example sporting events and product launches.
Content Team – Ensure you have the right internal resource in place. The DARC model highlights four key areas according to Halligan et al (2010) when forming a digital team:
- Hiring for digital citizens – it’s important your organisation recruits for the right digital skills to support the website.
- Hire for analytics - Essential skills are in place to monitor the key performance indicators.
- Hire for Web reach - measuring for reach is essential for the performance of the content plan.
- Hire for Content creators –With a content management system in place, it is important content creators are being used to assist in generating web reach through articles. Your organisation needs to get more in depth than the DARC framework such as hiring of content writers and creators as well as creating an official post of Chief content officer.
A recent survey by Econsultancy highlighted the main barriers preventing companies from using content marketing effectively were:
A majority of the issues highlighted relate to resource, lack of training, lack of understanding and the correct internal knowledge in what content marketing involves.
Audience Profile - Understanding your audience is a key to ensure the content being created appeals to the audience you're looking to attract. Begin to build up a profile of the type of customer/s that interact with your brand.
Content Management System (CMS) - Having a CMS in place is essential to drive a content plan but also to help drive reach through tactics. The CMS should be used as a central place to organise, manage, retrieve and archive information content throughout the life of the website.
The connected economy, the economy we are now living in has levelled the playing field in the corporate world for those of us who want to take the initiative, take the lead, try new opportunities, break-down organisational silos - we now have the perfect platform to make that more of a reality.
Mitch Joel, author of Ctrl Al Delete assesses this new dawn and what it means to in order to survive, adapt and embrace the new world of the connected economy and more importantly, how to re-position your lifestyle in his brilliant book.
The aim of the book is to answer the question: Do you want to be employable in the next five years?
Ctrl Al Delete is divided into two key sections - Reboot your business & Reboot Yourself - for part 1 of my book review, this post focuses on Reboot Yourself and in part 2 i've focused on Reboot Your Business. Here some key takeaways that inspired me for Reboot Yourself:
You are about to Lose your job - The mindset many people grapple with is the anxiety of losing your job. Those that wish to follow a list of instructions, like to keep their head down and don't wish to disrupt or not question authority are perhaps creating themselves a route to become unemployable in this new digital age...the alternative? It's time to change your outlook and embrace a mindset of acting like a start-up organisation - in which Joel lists the following attributes to succeed:
Look to the edges - Don't wait for permission from your line manager or an instruction manual to be told what to do next in the workplace, take the initiative and ask yourself what is the company I am working for not doing that perhaps I could be creating value? Where could I provide an opportunity that the organisation has not yet discovered and provide added value?
Invest in yourself - Receiving an annual pay rise whilst you continue to stay loyal and churn out your job description was just fine 10 years ago, but you should be assessing whether the job you're doing is really going to be still in demand in the next 5 to 10 years? Could it be automated? Will there be a need for this? Is it just people management post?
What you should not be afraid of is to re-skill, to adapt to a new career path that may mean a drop in salary but it will mean an opportunity to become indispensable.
Align with the right people - As you create your start-up mindset, ensure you're connecting with the people that are re-defining new ways to do business, that provide inspiration and empowerment and offer support and encouragement to you. Look to surround yourself with like-minded individuals also willing to embrace new opportunities.
Embrace your squiggle - It's an assumption made by people that changing jobs and switching industries is a reckless way to manage your career - What we should be doing is embracing this and building on following our instincts. Don't stand still, understand what is successful and embrace it and don't be afraid to change career or job - what you're told in school was how to succeed in an industrial revolution mindset - thankfully that's now obsolete.
Joel: "There is no time like the present to embrace the start-up mentality. No jobs are safe because very few industries are safe. Everything as we have known it to date is going through a massive shift in digitization and mobility. The reality is that some of the biggest organisations in the marketplace today are hiring fewer and fewer people because they simply need less people to generate the same kinds of revenue".
We are kissing goodbye to a bygone era, the industrial economy, an economy that was instilled into us from an early age at school, where you were taught to keep your head down, to follow the rule book and not to answer back. In return you would be rewarded with a secure job for life and a handsome pension - those days are long gone. If you're looking for a wake-up call on how you can redefine yourself to embrace this new era, go buy, borrow, beg for a copy of Ctrl Alt Delete
Having a digital marketing strategy for your organisation is essential to ensure it's assisting to deliver on specific objectives. The rise in the number of different digital channels available to target your customer base continues to grow and without a sound framework in place to manage, monitor and measure organisation performance, not having a digital communications plan could prove disastrous.
In a previous post, I provided an actionable plan to help create a retention strategy using key digital tactics - Retention by its definition is "maintaining or preserving your existing customer base loyal to your product offering". This post will focus on creating a framework to follow and suggested acquisition techniques - defined as tactics to help drive traffic or generating a purchase through a website.
This framework has been divided into 5 key sections:-
1) What's your position in the market
Before launching your acquisition strategy, it's important to assess where your organisation is within it's sector. You should already have a wealth of analytical insights on key metrics and have access to key performance measures on how your digital channels are performing. Below are a few other areas to consider.
What's your Unique Selling Point? Do you have a strapline and how does your business use this to differentiate itself within the market? How is the company defined online and how are you perceived by customers (existing, past) and suppliers?
Know your audience - Who is your target audience? Create a profile of who your target customer is and how they currently interact with your brand online. Web analytics and historic sales data should be a useful source of information to understand who your customers are, geography, products sold, repeat visit rate and purchase patterns
Know your competitors - Do you have a defined list of competitors within your market? Are you analysing their performance and tracking their activity? It's essential you are building up a profile of who they are, how they interact with the market and their own USP's or differentiators e.g. do they opt for price-driven strategies, PR-driven activity etc
To build any successful strategy, it's importanct objectives are laid out in what you are looking to achieve and why. To make these realistic, I'd recommend they're created using the SMART approach (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). As mentioned in section 1, having an understanding of "What your current position is within the market" will help you create and define a picture of the current position and areas to focus your strategy - here is an example of an acquisition based objective:
"Increase website visits by 10% during the period of June – August 2013 compared to same period of the previous year measured through Google Analytics".
This objective provides a specific metric you're looking to achieve within a timeframe and will be measured. To ensure it's a realistic objective, it's important you have completed your groundwork on current performance by assessing and researching past performance.
3) Who is your target audience?
From section 1, you should now have a good understanding of your customer history and type of audience you plan to attract through this acquisition strategy. To bring this to life (and to help get internal support within your organisation), create personas of who you are looking to target. Using third party data e.g. Experian Hitwise will help you add additional detail to your proposed audience and below is a brief example using Hitwise for a sports retailer which sells replica shirts.
- Sector: “Suburban Mindsets” (Group F). Age profile of 18-35. Key Points: Active internet users with a specific interest in sports sites and football being of particular interest.
- Persona A: - Male, football fan, historically makes an annual purchase from online sports retailer as and when their football team releases a new replica shirt which is an annual purchase around May - July.
- Justification: This persona will prove to be a key target audience during the 3 month sales period to promote the product offering associated with team supported and incentivising existing customers.
4) Choosing the right Acquisition tactics
Now begin to define how the objective will be realised - by identifying which digital marketing tactics you plan to use as an acquisition technique. The chosen tactics should be justified from the findings you uncovered in evaluating your existing customer i.e. how and where your target audience reside, do they use search engines? are they active on social media? are they loyal in their online purchase patterns - understanding this will help you create a list of preferred tactics to implement.
Below is a list of key digital tactics that could be used for an acquisition plan
-94% of clicks were generated through natural search results (Econsultancy, 2012)
-100% of searchers look at the first organic result compared to only 50% look at first paid result
-UK internet users now spend 64% more time using search engines (UKOM/Econsultancy, 2010)
-For branded terms, UK searchers are more likely to click on the first 3 results (MEC/Econsultancy, 2012)
-The advertiser is not paying when a user clicks on the blue text link within the organic results
-Merchant only pays on completed sale, therefore eliminates upfront risk
-30% of affiliates are sending at least 20k visitors a month to merchants website, up 19% (A4U Census, 2011)
-Expected to drive £4.62bn online sales in 2010, an increase of 12% on 2009 (Econsultancy, 2010)
-A measured advertising mechanism
-More than 54% of companies are planning to increase their budgets (Experian/Econsultancy, 2012)
-39% of companies are spending more than £100k annually (Guava, 2011)
-Paid search is highly targeted
-Easy to track performance for specific keyword campaigns
-Cost effective channel to engage with target audience
-Effective tool to help with amplifying the brand and deeper engagement with customers
-Supports company SEO strategy e.g. Google +, Twitter
-Reputation management – good indicator on how the brand is perceived in the external market sector
-Ability for your message and story to reach as many people as possible
-Main reason to subscribe is to promotions (Econsultancy, 2012)
-72% of companies rate email as excellent in terms of ROI
-Low cost of fulfilment – less than direct mail
-Personalisation of email it is cheaper than direct mail
-An easy and cost effective channel to test different creative and messaging
-Ability to segment your audience to receive messaging around a specific product
5) Monitor Performance
Referring back to the objective of this strategy which was: "Increase website visits by 10% during the period of June – August 2013 compared to same period of the previous year measured through Google Analytics" - Each tactic should now be set specific KPI's to support this overall objective using the 3 M's approach as a reporting platform:
a) Measure – The objective is to drive incremental visits to site. So all approaches listed will be measuring visit referral traffic during the campaign
b) Monitor – How will the reporting be conducted e.g. weekly or monthly for the period of June – August 2013?
c) Manage – Who will be overseeing all reporting and assessing the overall campaign? Providing feedback to the rest of your team is also essential.
Suggested KPI's to monitor per tactic:
- No. of Outbound links generated
- Traffic referral volume
- SERP position for keywords
- Pages viewed per visit
- % of brand & non-brand search terms generated
- No. of in-bound links generated
- No. of affiliate sites recruited to program
- No. of affiliate sites generating revenues
- % contribution of sales compared to total sales generated through website
- Repeat purchase rate
- % sales which originated through the affiliate channel
- Affiliate retention rate
- No. of subscribers
- Open rate
- % sales generated through email activity
- Interactions e.g. No of retweets, likes
- % contribution of total traffic referred to website
Affiliate marketing continues to flourish as a key digital marketing tactic supporting a wide range of e-commerce sectors driving new revenue streams, and according to the IAB, the sector is now worth over £4bn. A recent Econsultancy affiliate report highlighted the growing importance of affiliate marketing with key insights including:
*48% of affiliates drive at least £5k per month for advertisers, compared to only 31% of affiliates who were generating this much revenue in 2009.
*30% of affiliates are now sending at least 20,000 visitors a month to merchants' websites
Affiliate Action Plan: the 5 C's
I've put together an affiliate action plan covering 5 key elements you should consider when managing a program, they are: Competitor analysis, Commercials, Creatives, Communication & Campaign Analysis. Some of the actions listed are to help your affiliate program stand out from the competition.
1) Competitor analysis - Before launching your affiliate program a competitor analysis should be completed to understand your market sector and to define a point of differentiation
The competitor analysis will provide you with qualitative research on the competition, market position and how you can differentiate your program to create your USP.
Key actions to consider:
-Listen to your market - It's important to understand how your competitors' affiliate programs are perceived within the industry. Monitor competitor brands and keywords through Google Alerts. Look to monitor review websites, affiliate forums and use Social Media tools to listen to the market, views and opinions of customers and affiliates of your competitor programs.
-Who's setting the benchmark? - Perform a SWOT analysis on your competitors affiliate programs, what commission tiers are offered, what's the size of their affiliate base, are there any corporate publications that provide a breakdown in how much revenue their affiliate channels generate? And look for the opportunities, what are your competitors not offering the market?
-Exploit Gaps/Opportunities - From the SWOT analysis, a number of gaps & opportunities should now be identified and should provide you with a strategy. Defining a Gaps and Opportunity analysis can be very effective if you're operating in a crowded market place and are looking for a way to stand out to recruit affiliates to your program.
2) Commercials - Through internal and external research, this will help you define the level of commission/incentives to offer to your affiliates
Override fee - Remember to take into account the override fee that you need to pay the affiliate network. Most networks charge a 30% override which is based on the commission you are prepared to pay your affiliate base. For example, if you offer 10% commission rate to your affiliates , you would also need to pay and additional 3% to the network as the override fee.
Tiered Commission Levels - As your program matures, a cluster of key affiliates will be responsible for a large volume of sales so it's essential you retain this core base to your program by incentivising their performance such as providing a tiered commission structure. It's important to continue to look at incentivising the "long tail" of your affiliates by providing them with bonus commission levels depending on the sales they generate per month.
-Bonus - Introduce "Bonus level" commission tiers to help sell through end of line products or If you're a retailer that produces "own brand" products, you may well have more margin to play with by offering a higher commission level.
-Voucher codes / Cashback sites - A tactical opportunity to help push key products or promotions through a voucher code incentive. The better promotion you can provide, the more real-estate you can look to command on incentive based sites such as Voucher Codes or Quidco. Voucher / Cash back sites continue to dominate the retail sector and have replaced historical dominance of PPC affiliate activity, partly due to the increased costs in running PPC campaigns.
3) Creatives - Create a portfolio of banners - it's time to be nice to your design team!
-55% of affiliates consider text to be the most effective linking method to a merchant website, with banners (36%) and datafeeds (25%) also voted the most popular form of promotion (Source: Econsultancy).
-Banner sizes - Ensure you're providing a rich mix of banner inventory for affiliates to use on their sites - these can be generic based or targeted around key products/services as well as promotions being run through your seasonal campaigns. Make sure you're providing a wide range of banner sizes and being able to use your in house resource to create tailored creatives- it's essential your business can react to changes in the market as and when an opportunity presents itself.
-Recycle - Look to re-use creatives from your other digital marketing tactics and re-use within your affiliate program e.g. Infographics from your SEO strategy, email campaigns, video promotions - all of these can be used to power your affiliate campaign and reach out to new affiliates to join your campaign
-Keep it fresh - Make sure you're keeping your creatives fresh and updated - there is nothing worse in seeing banners promoting out of stock products or Christmas promotional creatives being run in July!
4) Communication - it's essential you're communicating with your affiliate base to ensure a successful program
-Sell yourself - Create a "contact us" section - this should include all relevant contact and day to day info on your affiliate program e.g. what the commission levels are, who the contact points are within your company, specific terms and conditions that affiliates need to be aware of e.g. do you allow brand bidding? Do you welcome PPC & voucher based affiliate activity?
-One 2 One - Ensure you're communicating with your affiliates and networks frequently through phone, email or ideally face to face so you can build up a good working rapport. Don't forget your affiliate base is essentially an extended work-force so they need to know what your program is about, latest promotions and campaigns running.
-Get out of the office - Get out and about and meet your affiliates, use the time to understand their thoughts, comments and views on how you could better operate your program and what you're doing well (it may not be necessary to just increase commission levels!). Getting out and about is perfect if you're looking to drum up support for your program around a seasonal promotion
-Introduce an Open Day - Launch an annual open day at your offices - Invite your affiliates to come and visit you and the team, introduce them to your product lines, future plans and product promotions you have planned for the year. The key here is to really get their buy-in and that they feel part of your business.
-Keep the buzz alive - Don't let you're program become bland, boring and out-dated! - keep up interest levels by running competitions for your affiliates on a monthly/fortnightly basis, update your program with new creatives and seasonal promotions
-Make yourself available- Promote your contact details using social media, phone and email and build up your reputation and rapport with your network. Become a point of contact for your company and grow your reputation within the industry by getting involved on forums and industry get-togethers.
-Never make assumptions - Ensure you're communicating changes to the program with your affiliate base and affiliate network, don't assume they know all the decisions that are made in-house which will have a potential knock-on effect to the affiliate program and thus damage your reputation
-Create a Content Plan - This should be a simple overview of the key product promotions planned for the year that you're looking to promote to your affiliate base. By sharing your content plan this will help your affiliates plan in advance. The content plan could be around key sales periods of the year e.g. Valentines day, Mothers day or if you're in the sports industry - product launch days, sporting occasions etc.
Campaign Analysis - What are you going to monitor and measure?
Below is a list of KPI's that should be considered to assess the effectiveness of your campaign with the objective to generate sales:
-CTR (Click-through Rate) - the total number of ad clicks divided by the total number of ad impressions
-Impressions - the total number of times your ad is shown. This is a good metric to understand the effectiveness of a banner creative
-Conversion - the total number of visits divided by total number of sales generated
-Average Order value - of sales through the program
-Active affiliates - a good indicator to assess the health of the program i.e. of the total number of affiliates signed up, what is the % that are: generating sales or click throughs, not participating in the program - this provides you with an opportunity to segment your communication message to different affiliate segments.
Feel free to add your own thoughts and comments on how you monitor, manage and measure the performance of your affiliate program
Mail Online, the world's most visited newspaper website is embracing affiliate marketing to help convert the 8 mn daily visits into a new revenue stream for the publisher. According to Experian Hitwise, Mail Online leads the way in terms of market share when compared to Guardian, Telegraph and Sun Online.
Although a very different target market and editorial content to the Daily Mail newspaper, Mail Online has deliberately focused on the showbiz, celebrity culture fine-tuning its content tailored to this online audience eager to return for more on a daily basis. With the appetite for celebrity gossip - it provides a perfect digital content marketing plan geared around a global publishing brand.
Migrating to an online channel
There has been mounting speculation as to how the traditional newspaper sector can embrace and can create a viable business model in sustaining healthy revenues through a digital platform. The dramatic changing landscape of users expecting content to be made available online and for free has hit the traditional newspaper market hard. And with the rise in more competition online to cater for the growing demand for content - there is an expectation from the end user that such content should be accessible and be made free of charge.
Certain online newspapers such as The Times Online, Financial Times and New York Times have responded to this by creating a revenue stream through establishing a paywall where users are expected to pay a monthly/weekly subscription to access the newspapers digital content. Recently the Telegraph opted for a subscription based model should the user decide to view more than 20 articles per month.
However the Mail Online seems to be taking this alternative approach, whilst continuing to grow traffic (the site grew in visits by 5% based on May 2013) it's looking to monetise it's content by aligning commercial revenue streams off the back of published content through affiliate marketing
So what exactly is Affiliate Marketing?
This is a digital performance based marketing approach where websites (affiliates) will promote your business through advertising your products or services. Here is a simple example: Online sports retailer e.g. Kitbag.com. Kitbag has an affiliate program hosted through a 3rd party affiliate network (e.g. Trade Doubler, Affiliate Window). Affiliates will be attracted to the Kitbag program as Kitbag will pay the affiliate website a % commission on any sales generated through their website promoting Kitbag products.
For the retailer, there is no risk, as you are only paying a commission out to the affiliate website on any sales they generate. This is backed up by industry evidence according to a recent survey by Affilinet, where 32% of marketing delegates believed that affiliate marketing is more effective at generating sales than other digital channels. For affiliate sites themselves, there has been a notable increase in the amount of sites (30%) generating at least 20,000 visitors a month to merchant sites, this is up 19% two years ago (Econsultancy / UK Affiliate Census, 2011).
Affiliate Marketing Opportunities for Mail Online
For Mail Online, there are a number of opportunities to maximise their affiliate channels to drive a healthy incremental revenue stream into the business and a number of considerations to explore:
-Strategic Partnerships - According to a recent article in the Financial Times, the Mail Online affiliate program has already signed deals with up to 90% of high street & online retailers - this provides an opportunity for the newspaper to build and optimise their online content associated with select retailers.
The online newspaper's USP will be the level of traffic and editorial content engine - providing a distinct opportunity in negotiating commission levels on sales generated for retailers working with the newspaper.
Content Optimisation - The creation of an affiliate channel will mean opportunities to embed a revenue model within the Mail online editorial approach to creating content generation. Having a well polished editorial and production engine of content delivered through to the website and it's syndication partners, suggests tailored, themed content could be the next stage in monetising this content with select retailers e.g. seasonal products and promotions.
In house Affiliate program - The affiliate channel is monopolised by 3rd party networks eager to create their own USP in terms of best network for tracking, monitoring and account management. Although affiliate networks alleviate any issues with regards to resource, The Mail Online could consider running this affiliate channel in-house - this will not only allow them to build and work directly with online and offline retailers (without the need to go through a 3rd party network) but to also look to negotiate a better fee on commission fees or opt to buy in their own performance affiliate program bespoke for their organisation e.g. Performance Horizon
Global brand - Optimising editorial content and celebrity news stories around products to promote thorugh affiliate links, provides an opportunity for Mail Online to further enhance its online content to key global audiences.
Editorial Sponsorship - Could this provide opportunities for retailers, designers or clothing brands to work with Mail Online in creating advertorials promoting their products with associated content and product placement opportunities.
By bringing together the world's most visited online newspaper and integrating a performance marketing approach to monetising its content, it provides an interesting platform in how to monetise a content marketing strategy through online newspaper publishing. It's a wise and creative move by Mail Online, looking to generate revenue through content whilst at the same time harnessing ways to monetise its traffic levels rather than opting to penalise its users by inserting a paywall. At the same time it should offer a wealth of opportunities to create strategic content partnerships with leading retailers.