ROI – More Sense than Dollars

Author: Hamish Anderson 

As most marketers will know, getting approval to undertake anything marketing related – especially in a tight economy, or where the campaign represents a departure from ‘The norm’ – can be next to impossible. However, it is time that marketers were given licence to perform again, but with redefined principles of success. Furthermore, I believe that online and converged marketing represents an ideal way to allow marketers to achieve this success. I can imagine that when many of you read this you will think I am advocating that it is ok to invest money in online marketing without seeing a return. But I can assure you that is not what I am saying. In fact I am a firm believer in the premise that all online marketing should generate a return on investment. However, it is the measure of what ROI is defined as that I believe needs clarification, especially as regards online marketing.

Re-defining ROI
If you look up marketing text books or do an online search you will find the general definition of ROI expressed as “income produced by an asset divided by its investment cost, expressed as a percentage”. I believe that for the most part this is true, however, there is one word in this definition which I believe needs to be revised – “Income”. Given that today’s marketing medium’s (especially online) allow much more transparent analysis of the effect of certain campaigns, the scope of measured returns should be much broader than the current definition allows. That is right; I am asserting that ROI should not be purely measured by income produced. In defence of my position, let me put this to you: Time is a capital resource – a valuable resource –which is why companies ask employees to keep timesheets. Given it is so valuable, and given we can compute its relative value; should we not also look to measure if an investment has had a positive impact by looking at time based calculations? This is especially important given that some marketing activities have a lag period between implementation and return.

Time Calculations for ROI
Let me give you an example. Let’s assume you undertake to make social media part of your ongoing strategy. This activity takes say, 10 hours aggregate a week. In undertaking this activity, you promote key aspects of the business, and you increase your market awareness. And as a direct result of the activity you increase transactions with the business by ‘x’ amount. This may or may not be enough to alone justify investment into social media going forward. But what if you compare the time spent undertaking social marketing to achieve ‘x’ sales as compared to other traditional marketing forms which generate similar levels of business? Does the time invested by comparison represent an increase in time or a decrease? If it represents a saving, meaning the difference in time can be applied to other activities without increasing costs, effectively increasing your marketing potential, then the return on the initial time investment is indeed worthwhile.

Applying Common Sense
It seems that marketers and finance departments need to sit down and redefine some key principles which affect both internal departments. Both departments are looking to achieve the same goal – company growth and profitability – however, as is the case in too many companies, they cannot reach agreement about how to achieve it in the best way. If marketers and finance teams can sit down and redefine the principles of what constitutes success, and agree that marketing activities are now more than ever able to demonstrate their impact, from both a time and dollar perspective, then perhaps a new era in marketing growth can be achieved. All it is going to take is an understanding that is as much about common sense as it is about dollars as there should be no reason that marketing creativity and fiscal responsibility cannot go hand in hand.

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Social Media – Social Tool or Sales Tool?

Author: Hamish Anderson

There can be no argument, Social Media is here to stay. Growth of medium’s such as Facebook and Twitter can only really be classified as exponential, both in terms of number of users, and more importantly in terms of user interaction and time spent utilising them. But for business, the question commonly asked is; can a social media presence or having your name mentioned in social media translate to increased dollar return, or an increase in perceived brand relevance?

Expectations of Social Media
Let’s assume that you are set up for ‘social’. Can it actually generate positive return for your investment of time and money?

In a previous blog article (Social Influence and your Customer) I asserted that not interacting with your customers via social media is the modern day equivalent of turning your back on a massive opportunity to engage your audience and create additional media/sales touch points. Thus, by inference, social media activity should be able to – assuming your campaign is run efficiently and maintains relevancy – create a positive ROI for you.

But what is ROI exactly? For each company it will be slightly different, although return could be widely classified into two categories – Time and Money.

Firstly, Time: As much as time is money, time is in many ways more valuable as it is finite, therefore, the opportunity cost of time spent should always be considered. That is, if you were not spending ‘x’ hours a week on social media, what could you spend it on in order to benefit your business? This should then be weighed up against how many positive brand impressions you created, how much conscious thought you created in your market and how many negative perceptions you addressed to help assert a positive one.

With regards creation of positive dollar returns, the equation is potentially simpler and simultaneously more complex. The simplicity of it is calculated by determining what your return is for every dollar spent on social media. However, the complexity comes down to whether or not there is a lag between positive brand association and transaction with the brand which can potentially skew your calculations. Only time will tell, but as your campaign evolves, (and if you have a good tracking system in place) you will get a pretty good idea of the purchase cycle of social media and thus be able to track return from your investment.

But does Social Media Work?
Quite simply the answer is yes it does. There are a number of examples where in recent times it has created a stream of brand activity and or increased dollar returns for the company. Here are just a few:

  • Toy Story 3 – Pixar and Disney released a series of Apps, viral video’s and a Facebook page which all generated large amounts of traffic and consumer led activity. (Source: Mashable)
  • Gap Clothing – Testament to the dollar value successful social media can generate, Gap (USA) launched a series of social channels including Foursquare and Groupon which led to traffic of over 400,000 people and generated over $11 million in sales in the first day alone. Many of these would be translated into future customers. (Source: Mashable)
  • Old Spice – Australia has not necessarily been a target market of Old Spice in the latest barrage of advertising. However, as with all social media, the reach is often beyond what was dreamed of. Australia caught the Old Spice bug, and from social media alone, sales in Australia increased in different stores between 150% and 420% (Source: Sydney Morning Herald). Think about how that translates world wide…

Sales Tool or Social Tool
At the end of the day, Social Media channels represent an opportunity to be either a sales tool or a social tool. In more general marketing terms associated with offline advertising, it can be either a tool to drive sales, or a tool to generate awareness. 

You can use it to communicate with your customers, answer and address feedback and notify them of product developments, or use it to generate a sales touch point and increase your ROI. But remember, as with all media activity, success will only be achieved if you plan for it correctly.

Website Optimisation – Why you need it and why it is so important!

Mark | Sep 16, 2010

Quite often I will hear clients say ‘once we get this website launched we can take a break from it for a while’. I don’t blame them in their logic; you can understand why. The branding is strong, the code base is clean and the content feels fresh. Who wouldn’t want to sit back and watch success roll in? Chances are however that despite recommendations, there was no or very minimal end user testing (and no client acceptance testing does not count) or there was no beta site launch and the website is having its first real sink or swim test. This is never the ideal way to launch a new website, but is often the reality.

If there is no feedback loop to gauge opinion, then post launch reporting becomes more critical. It will give you analytical evidence to understand how the site is performing and help feed your strategically grounded plan of action (or evolution). The thought of optimising is not something to fear, but something to embrace constantly. Even if you are using a self-reliant content management system, your marketing budget should (and must) have a line item for data-driven Website Optimisation.

So what is it?
Despite being inter-related, Website Optimisation is not to be mistaken with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). SEO is essentially the process of improving visibility of a web page in search engines to ensure higher rankings for relevant and targeted keywords. While SEO is a part of Website Optimisation, Website Optimisation deals with so much of a user’s decision making factors. If SEO is about getting people to your website, Website Optimisation is about getting them to convert. Website Optimisation deals with the entire user journey, from search to goal completion, covering off other important decision making influences, including:

  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Web Usability
  • Information Architecture
  • Branding & Design
  • Download Speeds

These decision making influences are posts unto themselves, but I will touch on why each one of these listed above are so important.

Web Usability
As Jakob put it, ‘Usability is the measure of the quality of a user’s experience when interacting with a product or system’. In its simplest form, without good usability, the website, application or interaction fails. I don’t need to outline the repercussions of that.

Information Architecture
Information Architecture (IA) is the art or science of organising and categorising information and logical flow for applications (including websites) to aid overall usability. Basically, you can have a very clear interface, but if the logical grouping of related content is not intuitive or relevant than a user will fail to complete their task. Minor changes in IA can go a long way in helping improve performance.

Branding & Design
Branding is important because it is your customers’ definition of you. It is the value in their experiences and dealings with you. Real success comes when your brand matches the experiences of your consumer, helping you to become top of mind. Good branding can build trust; reinforce your credibility; help define and deliver your message; connect you with your audience; motivate your audience; and cement loyalty. Good branding is more than the visuals a user sees; it is the emotion; the tone; the personality; the copy; the voice.

Good design is where you move away from the brand and into page specifics. Would a bigger button have more impact; should we change the colour of this element, etc. A/B or Multi-Variant testing are your friends here, and their importance cannot be understated.

Download Speeds
Download Speeds are important for two main reasons, (1) Google includes site speed into its algorithm for determining rankings; and importantly (2)  A quick loading website will help keep a users attention in a time-poor world (3-5 seconds) and will help empower users, improving their overall satisfaction and thus improving your chance of conversion.

What If my website is already optimised?
It isn’t. Your site will never ever be 100% optimised. It is never ending – there is always room for improvement. As I said in the beginning, the thought of optimising is not something to fear, but something to embrace constantly. Remember, good optimisation ensures you are always moving forward.

Why an agency can Enhance your Marketing

Hamish Anderson | Sep 14, 2010

At my core I am a marketer. I studied it, and I have worked in it for over 10 years. But more than that, I work in the specialised field of digital marketing as I believe it represents new potential for marketing and that it has the ability to achieve positive ROI and a positive consumer experience as never before. At the heart of it, in my role, I believe I have a few key responsibilities:

  • Interpretation of the client brief
  • Development of a strategy to enhance their brand online
  • Cohesion with offline marketing
  • Maximise the impact of the marketing budget
  • Delivery of goals such as delivery of positive ROI, increased market share or increased product trial

However, one thing I have noted time and time again is that when it comes to online marketing there isn’t the same adherence to protocol regarding strategy and execution as there is with offline marketing. People feel more comfortable with the idea of ‘giving it a go’, where no one would dream of creating a print or TV ad as a test to mass market.  My belief is that this DIY approach is due to the ease of technology and the ease at which a person can give it a go. The problem with giving it a go is that the test for success is often poorly designed giving a false measure of success or failure.

The truth of it is that digital marketing is not a playground and that reputations can be just as easily created or broken online. Digital marketing requires a different approach to offline marketing and that is where expertise and fresh ideas are a must.

Marketers Unite – We are working together
Brilliant ideas can come from anyone, and everyone’s ideas can be useful in improving processes and or results, but it would be fair to say, that as a general rule, people who specialise in a chosen profession generally have a broader spectrum knowledge and understanding of their field than those who do not. They will understand the repercussions of certain actions and can best choose what course of action to undertake as to achieve the desired results.

For example, you may know that you have a tooth ache and need a filling, but a Dentist will better understand which side of the tooth to drill, whether you need a cap or a filling and how quickly to implement the solution. Similarly, you may tell a mechanic the issue you have with your car – such as the breaks squealing – and that you believe the fuel pump needs cleaning to improve uptake, however, you let the mechanic take a look and come back to you with the best course of action so you get the optimum performance from your car. As long as they give you a detailed assessment of what was required and what they did to rectify the situation, you will generally be happy to let them go about their business.  It is the same with digital marketing.

Allow Your Brand to Perform at its Best
At its heart, it should be noted, that the fundamental principles which apply to successful marketing as a whole, apply to online marketing too: Be consistent, be true to your brand, embrace your audience and don’t over promise and under deliver.

However, with regards online and offline, the delivery vehicles used to achieve success can differ greatly from one medium to the next. As such, this is where the expertise of a digital team is invaluable. As they work with you to understand your requirements, they will be developing strategies which deliver, utilising the right vehicles at the right time, for you and your brand.

Whilst you may believe that utilising Twitter is pivotal to your success, or that an interactive forum on your site is essential, your digital team will balance up your requirements with regards your budget, what will reflect your brand correctly, how much time you have to manage something as time intense as social media and what will connect with your audience in a way which derives positive outcomes (be these positive dollar returns, an increased database, increased product trial etc). At the end of the day, the digital agency exists not only to provide the code base you require for a chosen solution, but more importantly, they exist to provide you the insight to understand how to best connect with your audience in a way which achieves what they the consumer want, not what you want to push at them.

The Role of a Corporate Website

Mark | September 10, 2010

I recently got asked an interesting question by a client, ‘why do I need a corporate website anymore – isn’t a facebook page enough? Can’t I just be like VitaminWater?’ It was good to see a client exploring the landscape, but I was quite surprised that I had to explain that a service based b2b facing business had a different set of challenges to face than a business like VitaminWater and that their brand personalities were different. I guess I can tick that one off my unexpected things to do today list. In the end, I believe a corporate site is important and the right way to go for this client – albeit a corporate site with a difference. Here is a summary of what I said (at least how I should have said it – with a little more preparation 🙂 ).

…A corporate website has a job to do. Its job is to blend information and personality, and what’s more, it needs to be intuitive, well presented and direct – it needs to do enough to make a lasting connection. That is all good and well, but the marketing landscape is evolving and the role of a corporate website continues to decline, and in recent times, at an alarming rate. In a digital age of connected peers, social trust, and a natural advertising scepticism, people view corporate websites as clouded, pro-corporate, one-way and with a sense of bias –as Marketing!

Marketing vs. The Truth
Lets face it, why would you want to hear (and trust) the marketing spiel if you can read John Smith’s positive or negative review or very quickly find out which one of your friends or colleagues have had experiences with the prospective business. If your customers have access to this information do they need to review your corporate website? The challenge now is to determine how you can harness the groundswell of social networking and the reviews these people produce so as to ensure that you as a company are relevant, have a lasting connection with the audience and are partaking in the conversation.

The Corporate challenge
So the challenge for a good corporate website is to find out how to speak to, listen to and engage with its target audience. Now some clients will tell you that their ‘consumers don’t want to talk to them regularly’ or ‘that they aren’t asking those sort of questions’. And if you aren’t opening up these channels of communication or actively listening for the conversation, then the client is absolutely correct – consumers are not asking them these sorts of questions – but I can assure them they are asking someone else!

What makes a Corporate Website important?
So why is a corporate website important? Well, a corporate brochure site is not important! A good corporate website should open itself up, be truthful and transparent, and create a site that is rich in information and experiences, owned by both the consumers and corporation alike. A corporate site like that is work, is a step away from the safe and comfortable, but in the end, will bring you a better understanding of your consumers; their most pressing needs; a wealth of measurable and actionable data; and most importantly a chance to be involved when it counts.

If you have made it this far, here are some helpful tips when considering your next corporate website.

  1. Take the time to understand your audience and their entire journey with your business (online and offline)
  2. Lose the marketing spiel. Find the conversations and bring them to your website. These conversations don’t need to ‘live’ on your website, just to be a part of it. Make your pages a central source for all things you.
  3. Empower someone internally to be the voice of your audience when it comes to making decisions.
  4. Don’t be afraid to share a few trade secrets. Remember you have to give in order to get.
  5. Be more than stock photos. Be a brand!
  6. Be consistent where you take your brand.
  7. The website should be a part of the sales cycle, a valuable conversion tool (not just an appendix item).

 And most importantly – Measure, Learn and Refine – Website optimisation is your friend. But that is a post for another time.

 If you have other thoughts or ideas to add, feel free to share.

Educating Your Clients about PageRank… Wait, what’s PageRank?

Mike Hagley | September 8, 2010

As agents and consultants it’s up to us to educate our clients about the digital world, but all too often I hear about clients who have “done their research” on SEO and all too often they stumble across an article which suggests that PageRank is the be all and end all of SEO. It’s not. I believe too many site owners don’t understand enough about PageRank and get caught up in its hype. Let’s expel a few PageRank myths before we answer FAQs & explain what it actually is, what it means to you, and what you should be focusing on instead.

PageRank is not a direct measure of your rankings on Google
It is true that pages with higher PageRank are, generally speaking, more likely to gain higher rankings, but PageRank is only one of hundreds of factors which Google takes into consideration when ranking your website for a specific search query.  Google states:

“We use more than 200 signals, including our patented PageRank™ algorithm, to examine the entire link structure of the web and determine which pages are most important. We then conduct hypertext-matching analysis to determine which pages are relevant to the specific search being conducted.”

Let me translate that for you:  “PageRank is considered when ranking your site but keyword usage is crucial in determining the final rankings.”

Toolbar PageRank is updated sporadically
If you’re busy analysing the PageRank of your site, chances are it’s not even up to date, as the PageRank found in your Google Toolbar is only updated a few times a year, if that.  You may also realise that any new pages you add to your site won’t have a PageRank assigned to them until the next update.  According to a few sources, the last update was in April 2010, which suggests we’re probably close to another update.

Q: How does PageRank actually work?
Like any Google algorithm, PageRank is a well kept mathematical secret.  What we do know is that PageRank is an algorithm based on the “link structure of the web”. Basically, PageRank flows between websites via the links that connect them (PageRank also flows between pages on your own site via internal links). Google goes on to say

“PageRank also considers the importance of each page that casts a vote, as votes from some pages are considered to have greater value, thus giving the linked page greater value.”

… which gives us the impression that links from higher PageRank sites are worth more (in terms of PageRank value) to the site receiving the link.
Volume, value and relevance are the three factors which I consider to be most important with regard to external links, but I’ll leave that for a specific link building discussion another day.

Q: What does PageRank mean to me?
PageRank should be perceived as an approximate measure of the importance of your site, and it should only be used as a guide to your SEO efforts.  PageRank is certainly not something to lose sleep over, and in fact, I don’t even consider PageRank when analysing my clients’ sites and their analytics.

Q: What should I be focusing on with regard to my SEO campaign?
If you are interested in SEO and are concerned about PageRank, I would instead shift your focus to more pertinent SEO items such as keywords, internal linking (site structure) and external link building campaigns.  All of which I will focus on in separate posts over the coming weeks.

References
I started writing this post as a follow up to a question posted on Ask Kalena (answered by Peter Newsome).  While I agree with Peter’s answer, I felt it was necessary to explain a little more about how PageRank works.

Is your Marketing an Omelette or a Soufflé?

Hamish Anderson | September 5, 2010

I have many friends who believe they are a bit special in the kitchen. At any opportunity they get, they invite people over to try their latest kitchen creation. Most of the time, they do impress, turning out perfectly cooked veal or impressive hand-made pasta’s. Though at times, there have been embarrassing overcooked dishes which you politely swallow with a mouthful of wine.

However, I believe the real test of whether they are a cook or a chef, comes down to one thing: how well they can make a soufflé. Or should I say: can they make one, or does it turn out to be a sweet tasting omelette? Suffice to say, I have eaten my fair share of sweet omelettes. Unfortunately for the ‘cook’ the ingredients are the same; it is the execution which lacks.

The Marketing soufflé
In a competitive market, where two or more companies are competing in the same space, the omelette vs. soufflé analogy can be applied just as effectively. The ingredients can be very similar – similar products, similar budgets, same market conditions, same opportunities – however the end result can be either a messy concoction or a harmonious and effective campaign. The difference comes down to the execution.

Blending your Marketing Ingredients
Precision in execution is the difference in why some companies succeed where others don’t. Successful marketing campaigns (defined as campaigns that generate positive ROI, or another tangible result) are generally those that:

  • Meticulously prepare their marketing campaigns (their ingredients)
  • Don’t put all their eggs in one basket. That is, they have a balanced campaign (Subtle flavours instead of overpowering)
  • Understand the market which they are operating in (Know how their oven works )
  • Embrace market feedback (Adjust the oven after reading the signs, without opening the door)
  • Engage the audience (use flavours which appeal, rather than experimentation)

Basically, at the end of the day, a successful campaign is one that is founded on solid market understanding, which is balanced – online media channels as well as offline channels – and which as importantly listens to the audience, and communicates with them rather than trying to preach at them.

Serving it all up
Ok, so you’ve researched your market, developed the product so it better caters to your audience, you’ve got a marketing plan ready to go and you’re ready to push the button. Surely you can’t fail, right? If you’ve got the formula right, you have marketing balance and the execution is smooth, chances are you won’t. But one final word of advice – Don’t try to force feed the market. Put your marketing soufflé in a position where it is accessible to them, let them nibble at it, and then, when they realise they love it, let them tell everyone else about how good it is. Because remember, the best marketing anyone can ever do, is to let your customers do it for you.

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