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Landing Page Optimization: 2 charts describing the best page elements to test and how to test them

May 31st, 2011 1 comment

Optimization testing can be daunting. With so many elements on a Web page, and so many ways each could be customized, knowing what to test and how to change it can feel like testing spaghetti the old college way (throw it at the ceiling and see if it sticks).

But optimization does not have to be daunting or random. Some marketers will receive a crash course in landing page optimization at our Optimization Summit this week. If you can’t make it, don’t fret. There’s always next year. In the meantime, MarketingSherpa just published the 2011 Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Report.

I pulled two charts from the report to give marketers some reference points when designing their tests. Hopefully they will help keep crusty pasta off your ceiling.

Landing Page Optimization Chart Top page elements to test

This chart lists the four page elements that rank most consistently as having a “very significant impact” across three optimization objectives. Note that a different page element ranks highest for each objective:

  • Direct lead gen: The highest performing element is the form layout at 44 percent
  • Incentivized lead: The highest performing element is the body copy at 41 percent
  • Ecommerce: The highest performing element is the image content at 43 percent

The chart lists only four of 17 page elements measured by our analysts, so there are many other elements that can be impactful in your tests. Your results may not mimic this data exactly, but this chart points to elements that other marketers are seeing as having the most impact.

Landing Page Optimization Chart Top Segmentation and Relevance Tactics

Once you select a page element to test, the big question becomes “how do we change it?” This chart lists tactics you can use to segment your audience and add more relevance to your optimization pages. Each tactic is ranked by its effectiveness, ease of use, and usage rate among marketers.

The far right of the chart features the most effective tactics: segmenting based on purchase history and other CRM data. Customizing landing pages to a customer’s purchase history appears to be an opportunity for marketers. It is the most-effective tactic listed and appears relatively easy to implement.

In the report, our analysts also point to another opportunity: messaging in the referring ad or page.

“Using the messaging in the referring ad or page can be especially easy to apply when the marketer also controls that messaging, making it a highly efficient way to segment,” according to the report.

However you go about your optimization tests, it is important that you test accurately and continuously learn from the results. The data in these charts can provide reference points to guide your plans, but only your team can uncover the best tactics to fit your audience and your brand.

Related resources

Optimization Summit 2011

2011 Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Report

Marketing Research Chart: Top website objectives to determine optimization priorities and tactics

Landing Page Optimization: Minimizing bounce rate with clarity

Optimization and A/B Testing: Why words matter (for more than just SEO)

Members Library — Campaign Analysis: Optimization expert lists 5 tweaks to boost an email campaign’s conversions

Members Library — Landing Page Optimization: How to serve 2 markets with 1 page

Members Library — How to Plan Landing Page Tests: 6 Steps to Guide Your Process

B2B Marketing: Building a quality list

May 27th, 2011 3 comments

Teleprospecting, email campaigns, drip marketing, lead nurturing — all of these marketing tactics have one very important element in common. Each one begins with a list, and the quality of the data in that list has a direct influence on the success of each tactic.

Looking at the top of the funnel

“Data is so top of the funnel, yet it is so undervalued,” says Brandon Stamschror, Senior Director of Operations for the Leads Group, MECLABS (the parent company of MarketingSherpa.)

He explains that creating a quality list begins with an organizational philosophy that places a high value on data quality. This might require a philosophy shift in some companies, and it will likely require leadership support in the idea that data quality is important and that this importance might need to be proven by testing.

“A lot of times I see that marketers think they have this really robust, large database, but soon find out that because of data quality issues, they only have a small segment of their actual ideal customers that they wanted to be focusing on,” says Stamschror. “They are kind of getting lost in the quagmire of trying to manage untargeted data.”

Pay more, gain more

Stamschror says the solution may be to spend more on data to reap the benefits of higher-quality lists.

He explains you want to:

  • Be specific about the data you need to focus on
  • Don’t collect more data than you really need on your ideal buyer profile or persona

If you don’t do these two things, it can become overwhelming to manage a very large list. And if your data quality is low, you might have a list of 50,000 contacts, with only 10,000 who are relevant to your business.

Data hygiene is an ongoing process

Looking at data quality isn’t something you can do once and be satisfied that you’ve completed a task to take off the “to-do” list. Stamschror recommends data remediation projects every three to six months if there is no other data hygiene process in place.

Even though it’s not cost effective having your lead generation and prospecting staff spend time tracking down bad entries in the list, or engaging in a wholesale data update, it is beneficial to create a process where your team is regularly updating and appending account information as part of their day-to-day activity. There is little, to no, additional investment for staff to update contact fields as they discover missing, or incorrect, items. Stamschror adds if controlling data quality isn’t feasible as an internal process, you should find a data quality partner you can trust.

He explains, “It is always important to have someone who has some distinct responsibility for data quality.”

Stamschror says that as many as half of all lists he’s encountered contain duplicate information because there is no data hygiene or remediation process in place to keep the database clean.

“It really gives you a false sense of security,” he says. “You think, ‘I have all these contacts that I can run email campaigns or teleprospecting campaigns off of,’ and then you find out once you get into it that your list isn’t really as big as you thought it was, or as robust as you thought, and worse yet, you are spending a lot of time just wasting time (with the bad list).”

Less can be more

Stamschror says it is much more important to have a very clean, but smaller, prospect list, as opposed to a bloated list full of bad and/or irrelevant data. He states this is particularly important for B2B marketers who should be focused on a smaller group of highly targeted prospects.

Stamschror offers a piece of final advice, “You know the companies that you really need to be focused on. So focus on the right one.”

Related Resources

(Members library) CRM and the Marketing Database: Data hygiene, behavioral analysis and more

(Members library) Cause Marketing: Marketer builds email list with 20% conversion rate

New Chart: Most effective email list growth tactics

Email List Hygiene: Remove four kinds of bad addresses to improve deliverability

B2B Marketing: The 7 most important stages in the teleprospecting funnel

Photo credit: Donovan Govan


Social Media Marketing: Facebook news feed optimization

May 24th, 2011 No comments

Much of Facebook’s core functionality centers on its news feed. The constantly updating list of status updates, photos, links and videos helps drive interaction between friends on the network — and between your audience and your brand.

But not all posts are given equal priority in a news feed. Facebook uses a calculation called EdgeRank to determine which updates are prioritized and which are buried.

EdgeRank calculates the “value” of an interaction with a post. Posts with a higher number of valuable interactions are more likely to reach the top of a user’s news feed.

Facebook released the “unweighted” version of its EdgeRank formula at last year’s F8 conference:

A few definitions of Facebook’s terms:

  • Object — each item in a news feed is an object. An object can be a written status update, a photo, a video, a link, etc.
  • Edge — every interaction with an object is called an edge. This includes comments, likes and tags. As you can see above, some edges are of greater value and more greatly affect EdgeRank.
  • Affinity score — when a user regularly messages another user, views their profile, comments on their photos, or interacts in other ways, those interactions increase “affinity” toward that user over time. Users are more likely to see posts that have an “edge” from users for whom they have a higher affinity.
  • Time decay — an edge’s value decreases over time.

Focus On Your Audience

Sounds strikingly similar to Google’s PageRank, doesn’t it? You bet. Some marketers are considering which factors drive Facebook’s EdgeRank in hopes of getting more attention to their posts — much like how marketers have worked for years to improve PageRank.

Be careful not to focus too closely on EdgeRank, though. I recently spoke with Justin Kistner, Sr. Manager, Social Media Marketing at Webtrends. Kistner leads product development for Webtrends’ Facebook products. In a recent call, he reiterated that the above calculation is un-weighted and is an “over simplification.”

“For example, we know PageRank for Google could all be boiled down to inbound links. Basically, the more inbound links you have and the better quality links you have, the higher you rank. There is certainly a lot more nuance to the algorithm than just that.”

Not only is the above formula an over simplification, but it is truly secondary to an effective social media marketing strategy. By focusing on the types of content and interactions your audience enjoys, your “objects” will attract more “edges” and will be prioritized in users’ news feeds. Scores and metrics are important to consider — but they should not be the sole driver of your strategy. Your audience, your brand, and your content should be priorities.

Related resources

Social Media Marketing: Online product suggestions generate 10% of revenue

Social Media Marketing: How to optimize the customer experience to benefit from word-of-mouth advertising

Social Media Measurement: Moving forward with the data and tools at hand

Social Media Measurement: Big data is within reach

Social Media Marketing: Tactics ranked by effectiveness, difficultly and usage

B2B Challenges: Marketing to a long sales cycle

We just launched the registration landing pages for our upcoming MarketingSherpa B2B Summits — the first will be held September 26-27 in Boston, and the second October 24-25 in San Francisco — and looking toward those events got me thinking about all the learnings I’ve taken away from these last months of digging deeply into the complex world of B2B marketing.

Since I began covering the MarketingSherpa B2B beat toward the end of last year, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many marketers, industry experts, and our internal researchers and thought leaders here at MECLABS (MarketingSherpa’s parent company). One area that really separates B2B from B2C marketing has come up many times — the complexity of the B2B sale and the length of the B2B sales cycle.

Our research, based on interviews with 935 B2B marketers in the MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, found marketing to a lengthening sales cycle as a growing concern, and the third-most-pressing challenge for B2B marketers today (trailing only quality and quantity of lead generation):

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That same report shows that more than one-third of B2B sales cycles from first inquiry to closed deal last seven months, or longer:

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During my B2B beat reporting I’ve learned quite a bit about three very interrelated marketing areas that address this challenge — the strategy of lead nurturing, the tactic of drip marketing campaigns and the use of marketing automation software tools.

Growing the lead into a sales-ready prospect

A lead generated is very rarely a lead ready to hand off to Sales, and when your sales cycle is measured in months, or even longer than a year, you want to have a lead nurturing program to keep in touch with that potential customer and turn them into a sales-ready lead.

Brian Carroll, Executive Director of Applied Research, MECLABS, explained to me that most lead nurturing programs don’t have an impact on conversion before at least five meaningful touches, and that the important thing is to continue nurturing leads whether it takes five touches or 25 touches to get them to the sales-ready point.

He says, “If you have a nine-month sales cycle, you should nurture a lead in those nine months, and that’s at a minimum level. So that means nine nurturing patterns during the course of that lead.”

Here’s a table from the 2011 B2B Marketing Advanced Practices Handbook outlining some lead nurturing basics:

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If you notice, content is a major aspect of that table. That’s because content marketing is a key element in lead nurturing. New information about your product is a good reason to reach out to the nurtured lead. So is a vendor-agnostic article from an industry thought leader that provides usable information or advice on your business area.

Other touches might include an invitation to an event, such as a webinar, or maybe an executive summary and key takeaway list from an event along with links to video or audio excerpts from the presentation.

Content marketing is not the only piece in a lead nurturing campaign, but it should be an area of high priority focus.

Keeping those touches coming

If lead nurturing is an overall strategy to meet the challenge of a long sales cycle, drip marketing is a specific tactic to execute that strategy. Drip marketing involves automatically sending marketing messages to your list via email or other methods. The messages are “dripped” in a series based on the specific behavior or status of the recipient.

Here’s Jeanne Jennings from a SherpaBlog post on drip marketing:

Drip campaigns take their name from drip irrigation, which saves resources by allowing water and fertilizer to be consistently delivered directly to the roots of plants. There’s less waste than with sprinklers and topical fertilizer application; drip irrigation also provides a consistent level of moisture to the soil, rather than the “soak and dry” experience that sprinklers provide.

Drip marketing campaigns are most commonly delivered via the email channel because of its short turn-around, quick delivery time and cost-effective nature. A drip campaign involves a series of messages that are sent or “dripped” in a predefined order at a predefined interval. Each message in the campaign stands on its own but also builds on the missives that have come before it. A drip campaign is a response to a specific behavior or status of the recipient – and it encourages a specific action.

… and then SkyNet took over

Actually April 19th has passed and I’m pretty certain no terminator robots are heading back in time as I write this post, but lead nurturing does have a powerful tool that makes the entire process much easier to manage — marketing automation software.

Marketing automation offers many benefits for marketers:

  • It provides a trackable database and measurable analytic results for marketing efforts
  • It, well, automates many marketing tasks that previously had to be handled manually
  • For a long sales cycle, multi-touch lead nurturing campaign, it allows marketers to focus on determining the creative elements of the effort — email copy, content with each touch, etc. — and setting the timing and triggers for each touch, and the software handles the actual execution of the campaign

A small business with a handful of leads to nurture can most likely run the campaign manually. A large corporation with hundreds, thousands, or even many more leads will require marketing automation to run an effective lead nurturing program.

Related Resources

Members library – B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to sales-qualified

Members library – How-To Increase Relevance: Integrating drip marketing into an email campaign

No Budget and Less Time? Lead Nurturing in Five Simple Steps

Lead Marketing: Cost-per-lead and lead nurturing ROI

B2B Marketing: Calls-to-action and the business buying cycle

Members libarary — How and When to Use Content in the B2B Sales Process

Loyalty Marketing: How to get customers to stick around (and keep buying)

May 12th, 2011 1 comment

Quick quiz, savvy marketers.

What is going on in this picture?

A.      Their flights were canceled and all the hotels are booked up, so they’re camping out on the street for the night.

B.      They are pioneers of the latest fad – urban camping.

C.      They represent a new demographic – homeless yuppies. They bought a McMansion that was foreclosed on, yet took all the nice gear they bought at REI and now are forced to use it merely to survive.

D.      They are the natural consequence of some very impressive loyalty marketing.

The answer, of course, is D. They are camping out, on line at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store to be one of the first few people to buy an iPhone.

Polish toilet paper and well-designed telephones

“I remember once, a relative in France sent us three rolls of toilet paper. We couldn’t believe how soft it was. We were in heaven,” my colleague, MECLABS Research Manager Zuzia Soldenhoff-Thorpe told me recently. She grew up in Communist Poland, and her parents would wait in line for six hours in the Polish winter just to buy toilet paper. Scratchy, rough toilet paper. Not the fancy French stuff.

And that is understandable. Toilet paper is a necessity. Communist Poland rationed it.

But what would drive otherwise rational people in the world’s richest nation to wait in line for a telephone? Well, loyalty. In their view, they have solidarity with the brand.

So, what are the benefits of creating solidarity forever with your customers?

The value of a loyal customer

“A loyal customer is less price-sensitive and nearly immune to competitive entreaties. A loyal customer is often open to trying line extensions. Finally, a loyal customer is much more willing to forgive your inevitable small fumbles. (Does anyone seriously think Apple is going to lose core customers because iPad production delays due to the Japanese situation? Not likely.),” said Micah Solomon, author of “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit.”

On the other hand, sometimes customer acquisition costs are so high that you need loyal customers just to break even. “It is estimated today that a large credit card portfolio has an 18-24 month window to repay the initial acquisition cost of that customer. Without loyalty and engagement you are losing money on every acquired customer,” said Mark Johnson, CEO, Loyalty 360 (the Loyalty Marketing Association).

A few data points to consider:

Of course, to benefit from that, first you must get the referral, and then you must keep them as customers for that long…

How to win and keep loyal customers

So, how do you instill loyalty? If your target audience is a dog, the answer is easy (Tummy Yummies). If, however, your audience is the jaded, savvy, demanding, rapidly evolving, skeptical, fickle, streetwise, cynical modern consumer, what then?

That’s no easy question to answer. So, I passed it around to a few industry leaders to see what advice they could give you to help you foster loyalty in your customers…

  • Be transparent – As Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS says “Tell me what you can’t do, and I might believe you when you tell me what you can do.
  • Be accessible – “Make your company extremely easy to reach via your marketing materials and correspondence,” Micah Solomon said. “Don’t – if you can avoid it – send out mass emails from a ‘do not reply!’ address; either have the address accept replies or have it extremely clear how to easily reply through an alternative mechanism.”
  • Deliver a rewarding experience, not just “rewards” – “Loyalty is MUCH bigger than just points, it is expanding to the process, techniques, software, ideas, communication mediums and interactions that create and engender engagement and loyalty. It is NOT ABOUT POINTS anymore,” Mark Johnson said.
  • Step out of your shoes – “You cannot treat others as you would like to be treated. Instead, you must identify what they want and treat them as they want to be treated,” Bob Lucas, Managing Partner, Global Performance Strategies advised. “Talk to your customers and solicit their opinions and expectations, then build marketing initiatives around them. This individualized approach to communicating with others is more likely to result in greater customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty.”
  • Less can be more – “Every day, we are bombarded with messaging from brands trying to hold our attention, and the ability to communicate a relevant, personalized message that appeals to your audience plays a crucial role in engagement and loyalty,” according to Rod Hirsh, Global Director, Brand and Content, Thunderhead. “Establish a baseline of what good communication practices are and make it a policy to exceed expectations. Aim to streamline and cut excessive communication while at the same time creating a better customer experience.”
  • Build a relationship, don’t just sell – “Relationships trump product. Anyone will tell you that,” said Andreas Ryuta Stenzel, Marketing Director, TRUSTe. “Sales and Marketing build and own relationships at scale more than almost any customer service organizations, especially these days with the more personal touches that automated nurturing and social media bring to the table.”

Here are a few thoughts of my own as well. And I’d love to hear what you’ve learned as well.

  • Be the customers’ advocate – Always ensure your company is delivering true value to your customers, not just a value proposition. You are the one making a promise to your customer with your innovative, creative, out-of-the-box marketing campaigns, so you also better be the one making sure your company comes through on that promise. Of course, that is no small task and likely involves Sales, Product Development, Manufacturing, Customer Service, and many more parts of your organization. But just because you cannot perfectly complete that challenge, doesn’t mean you’re exempt from trying. Or as Rabbi Tarfon said, “You are not required to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
  • Don’t be shady – As marketers, we are always trying to be persuasive. But, c’mon, there are limits. Dishonest marketing breeds disloyal customers.
  • Radiate passion – You can’t expect passion from your customers unless you live it and breathe it yourself. Yes, we’ve all got bills to pay. Yes, we all need a job. But when and if possible, market things you are truly passionate about. Or spend enough time with your customers to understand why they really care about your products. Sure, it’s easy to do this if you’re a Harley enthusiast. But even a VP of Sales and Marketing for an industrial hose company can find a passionate way to communicate with the audience.

Related Resources

The Last Blog Post: How to succeed in an era of Transparent Marketing

The Last Blog Post: Marketers must embrace change

PPC Ad Optimization: Testing, unique landing pages, and honesty

Good Marketing: How your peers brought joy to the world (and their boss)

Photo attribution: mikemariano

Social Media Marketing: Online product suggestions generate 10% of revenue

May 10th, 2011 No comments

When I was a kid, I thought suggestion boxes in restaurants were strange. I wondered: what do people suggest? And why does the box have a lock? The whole thing seemed mysterious.

Later in life, when I worked in restaurants, I realized there was no mystery. The boxes were empty. The rare suggestions they held invariably used four-letter words and misspellings.

Today’s suggestion boxes are different in almost every way:Suggestion box

  • First of all, they’re digital. Customers are more likely to sound off about your company in a social network or review website than in a hand-scrawled note.
  • Second, people actually use these new boxes.
  • Third, you don’t own the suggestion box. Somebody else does.
  • Last, and probably most important, is that the lock is gone. Suggestions are posted for the world to see.

Kip Clayton, VP, Marketing and Business Development, Parasole, is aware of the trend. He oversees marketing for Parasole’s portfolio of restaurants, and his team uses tools monitor the Web for customers’ comments and feedback.

“We always monitor what people are saying about us, whether it’s food writers, other members of the media, or most importantly, our guests.”

Such analysis provides Parasole with a variety of information it can use to improve customers’ experiences.

Feedback on lunch at launch

For example, in November, Parasole launched Mozza Mia, a pizza restaurant in Edina, Minnesota. The restaurant specializes in wood-fired pizzas and homemade mozzarella cheese.

Each month, the team received a report on the online feedback about the new restaurant. Information was pulled from a variety of websites, such as OpenTable and Yelp. Based on customer commentary, the report graded the restaurant in areas such as food quality, beverages, and menu options.

“By February, we were getting pretty clear feedback that people wanted more choices than we were offering,” Clatyon says.

Mozza Mia offered a diverse selection of pizzas, but customers could not order in the traditional “build your own” pizza style that so many other pizza restaurants used. The team decided it needed to offer the option.

“Within a week, we had a plan for how to handle the logistics and inventory to allow customers to build their own pizzas,” Clayton says.

Suggestion turns into success

Mozza Mia offered the “build your own” pizza option less than one month later. Now, if customers want a simple pepperoni pizza, they can have it.

The pizzas quickly grew to comprise 10% of the restaurant’s sales, Clayton says, and helped the restaurant overcome the “veto factor.”

“The last thing you want is people ‘vetoing’ your restaurant because you don’t offer what they’re looking for,” he says. “That doesn’t mean you try to be all things to all people, but the flipside is that you better be listening to what people are saying and asking for.”

Related resources

Market Research via Social Media

Social Media Marketing: How to optimize the customer experience to benefit from word-of-mouth advertising

Social Media Measurement: Moving forward with the data and tools at hand

Social Media Measurement: Big data is within reach

Social Media Marketing: Tactics ranked by effectiveness, difficultly and usage

newBrandAnaltyics -  how Parasole monitors the Web for customers’ comments and feedback

Photo: hashmil

Email Deliverability: Riddles answered on spam complaints, feedback loops, and dedicated IPs

May 3rd, 2011 No comments

Delivering your emails can be like crossing the Bridge of Death in Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail.” You have to answer several riddles to get past the gatekeepers and avoid the Pit of Lost Emails.

The gatekeepers, of course, are the ISPs and webmail providers. To help get your emails across, MarketingSherpa and ReturnPath recently capped a webinar on deliverability with data, case studies, and best practices. Naturally, we old bridgereceived many questions.

There were so many questions, in fact, that co-presenter Tom Sather, Director of Professional Services at ReturnPath, answered some of the audience’s deliverability questions in a recent blog post. Today, I am doing the same with three questions below.

Question #1: Could you share tips about how to forestall people using Spam button to unsubscribe?

People who want to unsubscribe from your emails are more likely to harm to your program than to help it — so let them go. Make it as easy as possible them to stop receiving your emails.

You should always link to a simple (one-click) unsubscribe process. Most companies put this link in the footer, but you can go a step further by putting the link in the header.

Here’s an example:

Unsubscribe link in email header

As Tom Sather described in his recent post, you can also create a coded email header that some ISPs and webmail providers use to generate an unsubscribe link in their interfaces.

Also, take steps to help prevent subscribers from wanting to unsubscribe in the first place. Strive to increase the relevance of your emails’ content and timing. Make sure your signup forms and welcome emails are setting subscribers’ expectations accurately.

If you clearly set expectations and only deliver emails within those guidelines, then subscribers should not mark your emails as spam. They should be receiving exactly what they requested. However, if subscribers do mark a message as spam, be sure to immediately drop them from your list.

Question #2: How do I know if someone marks my emails as spam or junk?

When a subscriber marks your email as “spam” or “junk,” it hurts your sender reputation. Monitoring campaigns for these types of complaints is a good start to preventing them from happening.

Some email marketing platforms offer complaint rates in their reports. You can also sign up for complaint feedback loops with some ISPs and webmail providers.

Feedback loops send you a copy of each complaint made against your emails. Such a complaint could be someone marking your email as spam or forwarding it to a postmaster. Here is more information on signing up for feedback loops from popular providers:
Yahoo!
AOL
MSN / Hotmail
Comcast

Question #3: If you’re using a third-party solution to produce and send your email, is that considered a dedicated IP address?

ISPs and webmail providers typically track senders’ reputations by IP address. Depending on the platform you use to send email, you might have a shared IP address that is also used by other senders. This would mean you’re also sharing your reputation with other senders.

A dedicated IP address is only used by your company. This gives you the ability to manage your sender reputation without having to worry about other companies who might be also using it.

To answer your question, email marketing platforms can offer you a dedicated IP address, but using one does not guarantee you a dedicated IP.

For example, a platform vendor can have some clients who send from shared IPs and other clients who send from dedicated IPs. Getting a dedicated IP will likely require an additional charge.

As we noted in the webinar, 65% of email marketers report that using a dedicated IP address is a “very effective” deliverability tactic, the highest of any reported in our 2011 Email Marketing Benchmark Report. However, as Tom Sather noted on our blog last year, a shared IP address can be beneficial if you meet these two criteria:

  • Mailing volume is less than 20,000 subscribers
  • Your database consists mostly of addresses at the top four consumer providers (Hotmail, Yahoo!, Gmail and AOL)

If you’re not sure which type of IP you send from, reach out to your email marketing platform vendor and ask. You should get a very straight-forward answer. It’s not like you’re asking a riddle.

Useful links related to this article

Webinar Replay — Improve Email Deliverability: Tactics for handling complaints and boosting reputation

ReturnPath’s Blog Post — A follow-up on MarketingSherpa’s webinar, “Improve Email Deliverability”

Email Marketing: Your deliverability questions answered

Email List Hygiene: Remove four kinds of bad addresses to improve deliverability

Email Deliverability: Always test emails that link to third-party sites

Members Library — Webinar Replay: Top Tactics to Improve Relevancy and Deliverability

Members Library — Email Marketing: FedEx increases deliverability and clickthrough rate with preference centers

Photo: pietroizzo

Social Media Measurement: Moving forward with the data and tools at hand

April 29th, 2011 3 comments

Social media measurement is in its early phases, and marketers need to decide whether to parse the social media cacophony, much like a radio astronomer, gathering as much data as possible to discern the signs of life or selectively focus on a small, but sufficiently meaningful set of metrics.

The word “sufficient” can span a wide spectrum, and determining what is sufficient is perhaps the question that marketers must answer.

In some sense, you really don’t have a choice. How much data you can afford to collect and analyze is limited by your organization’s budgetary and human resources. If you are not already collecting enough data for “big” analytics (”Approach 1” that I described in my last blog post), it makes sense to get the most out of what you have now relatively quickly, and in the process learn what additional data you need.

I spend a significant amount of time in digital photography, and my friends often ask me for advice on what camera to buy as they are getting more “serious.” My answer is always the same—first, get the most out of the camera you have. Once you start appreciating what your camera lacks, then you can start thinking about investing into those specific features.

In the same sense, getting started is critical. Reading blog posts will not give you a concrete sense of social media (SoMe) measurement until you get your own hands on a monitoring tool—even if you start by  manually listening to conversations using RSS feeds, Twitter, Google Alerts, and the like.

Second, you need to clearly identify your objectives. In our own research project on SoMe measurement with Radian6, I am leaning toward focusing on best practices for specific scenarios—e.g., a Facebook company page—to deal with manageable amounts of data and produce results on a realistic timeline.

So for those not quite ready for “big” analytics, let’s take a look at a quick start approach…

Approach 2: A microscope, not a radio telescope

Commit to a set of metrics you’ll be accountable for, and stick with them. This is a far more pragmatic approach that does not require that every kind of data is available to be measured. If it appears that this approach is not scientific, that is not the case. While focusing on a smaller number of metrics does not paint the whole picture the way that the first approach does, trending data over time can be highly valuable and meaningful in reflecting the effectiveness of marketing efforts.

Taking into account the marginal time, effort, and talent required to process more data, it makes economic sense to focus on a smaller number of data points. With fewer numbers to crunch, marketers armed, for example, only with data available directly from their social media management tools, can calibrate their marketing efforts against this data to build actionable KPIs (key performance indicators).

During Social Media Week, NYC-based Social2b’s Alex Romanovich, CMO, and Ytzik Aranov, COO, presented a straightforward measurement strategy rooted in established, if not venerated, marketing heuristics, such as Michael Porter’s Value Chain Analysis. Their core message is to appreciate that different social media KPIs will be important not only to different companies and industry segments, but “these KPIs also have to align well with more traditional metrics for that business – something that the C-Level and the financial community of this company will clearly understand.

Alex stresses that “the entire ‘value chain’ of the enterprise can be affected by these metrics and KPIs – hence, if the organization has a sales culture and is highly client-centric, the entire organization may have to adapt the KPIs used by the sales organization, and translated back to the financial indicators and cause factors.

This approach should immediately make sense to marketers, even without any knowledge of statistical analysis.

Social2B focuses not only on the marketing, but also on the customer service component of SoMe ROI, and here is Ytzik’s short list of steps for getting there:

  1. Define the social media campaign for customer service resolution
  2. Solve for the KPI and projections
  3. Apply Enterprise Scorecard parameters, categories
  4. Solve for risk, enterprise cost, growth, etc.
  5. Map to social media campaign cost
  6. Solve for reduction in enterprise costs through social media
  7. Justify and allocate budget to social media

An important element here is the Enterprise Scorecard—another established (though loosely defined) management tool that is often overlooked even by large-scale marketing organizations. Given the novelty of SoMe, getting it into the company budget requires not only proving the ROI numerically, but also speaking the right language. Ytzik’s “C-level Suite Roadmap” might appear simple, but it requires that corporate marketers study up on their notes from business school:

  • Engage in Compass Management (managing and influencing your organization vertically and horizontally in all directions)
  • Define who owns the Web and social media within the company
  • Identify the enterprise’s value chain components
  • Understand the enterprise’s financial scorecard

Again, no statistics here—it is understood that analysis will be required, but these tools will put you in a good position when the time comes to present your figures.

How to get started

Finally, I wanted to get as pragmatic as possible to help marketers get started and not get stuck in a data deluge. Here are Social2B’s top 10 questions to ask yourself before you scale your SoMe programs:

  1. Is my organization and my executive management team ready for social media marketing and branding?
  2. Does everyone treat social media as a strategic effort or as an offshoot of marketing or PR/communications?
  3. Where in the organization will social media reside?
  4. Will I be able to allocate sufficient budget to social media efforts in our company?
  5. How will social media discipline be aligned with HR, Technology, Customer Service, Sales, etc.?
  6. What tools and technologies will I need to implement social media campaigns?
  7. Will ‘social’ also include ‘mobile’?
  8. How will we integrated SoMe marketing campaigns with existing, more ‘traditional’ marketing efforts?
  9. How much organizational training will we need to implement in integrating ‘social’ within our enterprise?
  10. Are we going to use ‘social’ for advertising and PR/Communications? What about ‘disaster recovery’ and ‘reputation management’?

Related Resources

Social Media Measurement: Big data is within reach

2011 Social Marketing Benchmark Report – Save $100 with presale offer (ends tomorrow, April 30)

Always Integrate Social Marketing?

Inbound Marketing newsletter – Free Case Studies and How To Articles from MarketingSherpa’s reporters

Social Media Measurement: Big data is within reach

April 28th, 2011 2 comments

Should marketers wait for a grand unified theory of social media ROI measurement, or confidently move forward with what they have available to them now?

This question has been at the forefront of my thinking, as we proceed with MarketingSherpa’s joint research project with Radian6 to discover a set of transferable principles, if not a uniform formula to measure social media (SoMe, pronounced “so me!”) marketing effectiveness.

As I have written previously, some of the popular measurement guidelines provide a degree of comfort that comes from having numbers (as opposed to just words and PowerPoint® slides), but fail to connect the marketing activity to bottom-line outcomes.

To help think through this, I spoke with several practitioners to get some feedback “from the trenches” during SoMe Week here in NYC. With their help, I broadly defined two approaches.

Approach 1: Brave the big data

Take large volumes of diverse data, from both digital and traditional media, and look for correlations using “real” big-data analysis. This analysis is performed on a case-by-case basis, and the overarching principles are the well-established general statistical methods, not necessarily specifically designed for marketers.

Pros

  • The methodologies are well established
  • There are already tools to help (Radian 6, Alterian, Vocus, etc)

Cons

  • Most marketers are not also statisticians or have the requisite tools (e.g., SAS is an excellent software, but it comes with a premium price)
  • Comprehensive data must be available across all relevant channels, otherwise the validity of any conclusions from the data rapidly evaporates (Radian6 announcement of integrating third-party data streams like Klout, OpenAmplify and OpenCalais in addition to existing integration with customer relationship management (CRM), Web analytics, and other enterprise systems certainly helps)
  • In the end, it’s still conversation and not conversion without attribution of transactional data

If the volume of data becomes overwhelming, analytical consulting companies can help. NYC-based Converseon does precisely that, and I asked Mark Kovscek, their SVP of enterprise analytics, about the biggest challenges to getting large projects like this completed efficiently. Mark provided several concrete considerations to help marketers think through this, based on Converseon’s objectives-based approach that creates meaningful marketing action, measures performance, and optimizes results:

  • Marketers must start with a clear articulation of measurable and action-oriented business objectives (at multiple levels, e.g., brand, initiative, campaign), which can be quantified using 3-5 KPIs (e.g., Awareness, Intent, Loyalty)
  • Large volumes of data need to be expressed in the form of simple attributes (e.g., metrics, scores, indices), which reflect important dimensions such as delivery and response and can be analyzed through many dimensions such as consumer segments, ad content and time
  • The key to delivering actionable insights out of large volumes of data is to connect and reconcile the data with the metrics, with the KPIs, and with the business

How much data is enough? The answer depends on the level of confidence required.  Mark offered several concrete rules of thumb for “best-case scenario” when dealing with large volumes of data:

  • Assessing the relationship of data over time (e.g., time series analysis) requires two years of data (three preferred) to accurately understand seasonality and trend

-   You can certainly use much less to understand basic correlations and relationships.  Converseon has created value with 3-6 months of data in assessing basic relationships and making actionable (and valuable) decisions

  • Reporting the relationship at a point in time requires 100-300 records within the designated time period (e.g., for monthly listening reporting, Converseon looks for 300 records per month to report on mentions and sentiment)

-   This is reasonably easy when dealing with Facebook data and reporting on Likes or Impressions

-   However, when dealing with data in the open social graph to assess a brand, topic or consumer group, you can literally process and score millions of records (e.g., tweets, blogs, or comments) to identify the analytic sample to match your target customer profile

  • Assessing the relationship at a point in time (e.g., predictive models) requires 500-1000 records within the designated time period

Understanding the theoretical aspects of measurement and analysis, of course, is not enough. A culture of measurement-based decision making must exist in the organization, which means designing operations to support this culture. How long does it take to produce a meaningful insight? Several more ideas from Converseon:

  • 80% of the work is usually found in data preparation (compiling, aggregating, cleaning, and managing)
  • Reports that assess relationships at a single point in time can be developed in 2-3 weeks
  • Most predictive models can be developed in 4-6 weeks
  • Assessing in-market results and improving solution performance is a function of campaign timing

Finally, I wanted to know what marketers can do to make this more feasible and affordable. Mark recommends:

  • Clearly articulate business objectives and KPIs and only measure what matters
  • Prioritize data
  • Rationalize tools (eliminate redundancy, look for the 80% solution)
  • Get buy-in from stakeholders early and often

In my next blog post on this topic, I’ll discuss an approach to SoMe measurement that trades some of the precision and depth for realistic attainability—something that most marketers that can’t afford the expense or the time (both to learn and to do) required to take on “big data.”

Related Resources

Social Media Marketing: Tactics ranked by effectiveness, difficultly and usage

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Social Media Marketing: Tactics ranked by effectiveness, difficultly and usage

April 26th, 2011 8 comments

I’ve been browsing the new MarketingSherpa 2011 Social Marketing Benchmark Report this week and soaking up the rich data. One of the first charts that struck me is a bubble chart on social marketing tactics.Social Marketing Tactics Chart 2011

First, I want to say, I love these bubble charts. They provide a three-dimensional view of the data on a given topic. Our researchers do a great job of packing them full of information without making them confusing.

This chart graphs the effectiveness, difficulty and popularity of each social media marketing tactic. You’ll notice a clear positive correlation between a tactics’ level of difficulty and its level of effectiveness.

Hard work pays off

For those of you who have not brushed up on your statistics lately (as I just brushed up a moment ago) I will note that a positive correlation between two factors means that as one factor increases, the second factor increases. For example, there is a positive correlation between my consumption of ice cream and the temperature outside.

Looking at this chart, it’s clear that the most effective social marketing tactics are also the most difficult, and vice-versa. Blogger relations — the most effective tactic reported — is also the only tactic to break into the 70%-range in terms of marketers reporting it as “very” or “somewhat” difficult.

You’ll also see that the three most-effective tactics — blogging, SEO for social sites, and blogger relations — are known to require significant amounts of time and effort before results are shown.

Every tactic is somewhat effective

Take a look at the scale on this chart’s Y-axis (level of effectiveness). Those listed percentages correspond to the number of marketers who reported a tactic as “very” effective. What they do not include are the marketers who reported a tactic as “somewhat effective.”

Looking at the chart, you might guess that adding social sharing buttons to emails is a waste of time — but don’t be too quick to write this tactic off completely. Only 10% of social marketers reported it as “very effective,” but 55% rated it as “somewhat effective” (found deeper in the report). With a total of 65% of social marketers reporting at least some effectiveness, these buttons might be worth the small investment they require.

Also, since adding social sharing buttons bottoms-out the Y-axis here, every other tactic listed has more than 65% of social marketers reporting at least some effectiveness. Here are some examples:

  • Social sharing buttons on websites: 69% say at least “somewhat” effective
  • Advertising on social sites: 73%
  • Microblogging: 75%

Related resources:

MarketingSherpa 2011 Social Marketing Benchmark Report

Free Webinar: Best Practices for Improving Search and Social Marketing Integration

Marketing Research Chart: Using social media as a list-growth tactic

Inbound Marketing newsletter – Free Case Studies and How To Articles from MarketingSherpa’s reporters