This is the third post in our series about making your Marketing Map. You can find the other two posts here:
- Making Your Marketing Map Part 1: Understanding The Universe of Opportunity
- Making Your Marketing Map Part 2: A Plan Without A Map Is Just A List…
One caution here.
This is a long post. It’s a 20-minute read, and that’s assuming you’ve read the two posts above. But we think it’s loaded with valuable information that will help you not only make your Marketing Map, but also just help you better understand how multi-channel marketing works and how many different tactics can fit together in a complimentary way.
So, what’s a Marketing Map again?
Let’s backtrack for a second. A Marketing Map is a visualization tool that allows you to understand your tactical opportunities holistically, and in context. It is distinct from a marketing plan which is much more linear. By offering you a macroscopic, multi-channel view of your marketing opportunities, Marketing Maps help you pivot when necessary; they allow you to react without being reactive.
This post seeks to explain the structure of the marketing map; why certain pieces fit where they do and how they all work together.
Step 1: Understanding the Blank Map
So, the first thing here is we need to make sure we all understand the blank map, and why we’ve plotted tactics where we’ve plotted them. Let’s take another look at the blank map.
The X-Axis is pretty easy to understand. It represents the resource investment you need to put in to really capitalize on any one of the given tactics represented above. Resources can be time (if you’ve got the skills) or money (if you need to farm out the skills).
The Y-Axis is a little more complex, it looks at whether your desired conversion is high-consideration or low-consideration.
B2B sales conversions tend to be more expensive and require multiple decision makers, so are usually high-consideration. Vacations, car purchases and real-estate are good examples of B2C conversions that require a lot of consideration from customers.
On the other hand, one-time online clothing, entertainment or household purchases are more transactional and require less consideration.
We really like this dimension, because as a general rule, it collapses a whole lot of other factors into one, for example:
- The value of a single conversion: high-consideration conversions tend to be worth more.
- The volume of conversions you need to make your margins: low-consideration conversions tend to be of less value per conversion, and therefore you need more volume
- The length of your sales cycle: high-consideration naturally means a longer sales cycle than low-consideration
There will always be industry-specific and business-specific exceptions, but generally, this model offers a good conceptual starting point.
Think of it this way, if you’re a B2B professional services firm, one customer might be worth tens-of-thousands of dollars to you, so it’s best to privilege tactics that nurture those high-value, high-consideration prospects through their lengthy sales cycle. If on the other hand, you’re a retailer selling artisanal honey, each conversion (sale) is relatively small, so you’re going after volume. You need lots of customers to make your margins. If you have two distinct lines of business, you may need to make two maps. For example, if you’re a in the food industry and you have a retail storefront and a catering business, different approaches are going to work for each of those businesses.
You’ll notice that various tactical islands are linked by arrows. These arrows represent relationships and dependencies between tactics. Again, as a general rule, these are fixed. For example, it’s tough to be hugely successful on social media if you’re not doing any content marketing. Or, you might be missing opportunities to maximize your social media organic reach without layering in some paid social advertising. Seeing these relationships and dependencies on your map will help you understand why absolute focus on a single tactic may not be returning results for you. You may be missing some critical support points.
The Tactical Islands
We picked some common tactics. You can learn more about the tactics we selected in our Universe of Opportunity blog post. Obviously, there are more tactics than the ones we’ve selected here. We were trying to be general, without cluttering the map too much. We have more industry-specific variants of the map we’ll present in future posts.
We were careful to distinguish tactics (like Social Organic) from objectives (like Lead Generation). We did this because unless you’re well into an optimization phase, your objectives are almost always going to be:
- Brand Equity
- Lead Generation
We also specifically did not call out mobile as a separate set of tactics, because we think everything should work on mobile.
Something else you’ll notice is that on the blank map, the islands have no size; they’re just outlines. That’s because the size of the islands is dynamic. In our next post in this series we’ll present a scorecard, that asks you a series of questions that help you determine how much emphasis you should place on each of the tactics. Some will disappear entirely, others will become pretty large; then you have your visualization tool. Here’s one we made for a client in the financial services sector:
Sample Map for Financial Services Client
This client is an independent financial planner. She works with medium-to-high net worth individuals. Her key competitors are boutique franchises like Edward Jones associates. Thus far, most of her new client acquisition depends on word of mouth. She is somewhat active on social media and has staff with experience in content creation. Her objectives are lead-generation and brand-equity.
Her map emphasizes the importance of modernizing her web presence so it performs better on search and is organized in such a way that it has multiple, content-based entry points. Further, it proposes a strong emphasis on content marketing to support her direct sales efforts; social media to promote her content marketing, and a combination of Facebook, LinkedIn and Google PPC advertising to broaden her reach.
Other tactics, like directory seeding, re-targeting and the development of custom tools (eg: compound-interest calculators) fall into the the “nice-to-have” category, and can be accomplished when she’s further developed her higher priority marketing objectives.
One very very important caveat:
If you’re in a high-consideration business, getting a sale via something like retargeting alone is almost certainly going to fail. However, it may provide you with a micro-conversion that will help you close a sale later on. For example, a well-placed retargeting ad may drive prospects to a whitepaper, which they download and in doing so become a lead, which you can convert later via direct sales tactics. That’s why, when looking at the Y-Axis, you have to think about conversions beyond just your sale. You have to ask, what level of consideration do my customers have to invest to become a micro-conversion? That means, even if you’re purely B2B with a long-sales-cycle that requires extensive customer consideration to convert, you can strategically focus on the micro-conversions that will eventually ladder up to a sale.
Step 2: Understanding Why We Put the Tactical Islands (And Connections) Where We Put Them
The next step is understanding why we plotted the tactics/channels/opportunities where we did, as well as understanding how they are connected. Let’s go through them 1 by 1. This is where things get detailed. Here we go…
The X-Axis Position
Direct Sales takes some time and effort. In any direct sales process you’re diverting energy from articulating a generic value proposition to creating a more specific value proposition, customized to fit a specific prospect’s needs.
At the same time, you know your business inside and out. You know how to re-jig your value proposition. You have old pitches, presentations and sales materials to work with; so it’s not outrageously labour intensive and you can typically manage all the work for it in-house.
The Y-Axis Position
There is nonetheless a non-trivial outlay of resources required for direct sales, and for that reason it works best for businesses with high-value conversions. If a single sale is worth $25,000 to you, then it’s probably worth it to work a single prospect from interest to conversion. It also works best for businesses operating in tight, competitive niche markets, where generic touches just aren’t enough to trigger customer conversion; where prospective customers need a personal touch.
Direct Sales needs to be supported by:
- A solid web presence
- Content that relates to your prospect’s needs
- A positive or at least neutral social media reputation
Why? Because the first thing a prospect is going to do after (or before) you connect is look you up. They’ll check your website, your content and your social media presence to validate your claims about your business.
Your Web (and Mobile) Presence
The X-Axis Position
So this is interesting. We’ve presented your web presence as a solid bar stretching diagonally from the north-west quadrant to the south-east quadrant. Why? Because if you’re in a high-consideration business, most of your interactions with prospects are going to occur offline and therefore your website is primarily there to drive people towards direct touches. As such, it can be simpler, with a focus on lead generation and brand recognition.
On the other hand, if your business is more transactional, typically for low-consideration purchase decisions, your website has a huge role to play in converting customers. This is because it may be their only interaction with your company, and you’ve got to make sure that your website has almost everything they need in order to convert. It also likely means you’re not offering something very niche, which means you’ve got a lot of competitors. So your website not only has to articulate your value proposition but make a clear case, through the user-experience, as to why you are the right choice for your prospects.
The Y-Axis Position
You need a website, regardless of what business you’re in. But as mentioned above, if you’re high-consideration, it’s likely that you can divert some investment from web presence towards tactics to nurture the longer sales cycle of your conversions. That said, many B2B firms take this to the extreme, serving up websites that are little more than interactive business cards. Yes, if you’re B2B it’s likely that your more personal interactions with customers are what’s going to drive conversions, but your website still has to provoke that initial interest to connect with sales. One of the big problems we’ve noted with major B2B sites is that they dive too quickly into complexity and niche-solutions-language, oftentimes narrowing their marketing funnel too quickly.
In her book Buyer Personas, Adelle Revella shares this anecdote about SAP, an enterprise software firm:
“Michael Brenner, who was then vice-president of marketing at SAP, a global software company, wanted to understand which stage of the Buyer’s Journey his buyers were in when they visited the company’s website. The answer was quickly revealed when he saw that 99.97% of of visitors to SAP.com had used product or brand-specific search terms to enter the site.
Concerned, Brenner decided to look at Web traffic for one of the company’s strategic solutions. A quick check on Google told him that millions of people a month were searching “what is Big Data?”. Brenner didn’t need to interview anyone to know that these were people he wanted to educate about the SAP approach. And when he compared those Google search results to the 13 people who had asked “what is SAP Big Data,” he didn’t need a data scientist to tell him only three in 10,000 people were finding SAP’s answer to this question.”
The above anecdote nicely illustrates the relationship between your website and your SEO and Content Marketing. Even if you’re B2B, your website does intersect with your:
- Content Marketing, because your content is fuel for your website
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which is directly tied to the quality, clarity, navigability, mobility and usefulness of your website
- Google PPC, which, like SEO offers proportional return-on-investment based on the quality of your site and content
The X-Axis Position
Developing content to articulate your value proposition can take time and effort. Much of it is related to your own ability to write and craft narratives. It also demands sustained and continuous practice. Blogs or YouTube channels that launch with pomp and circumstance only to fizzle and fade after a few weeks scream neglect.
It doesn’t always have to be lengthy dissertations (like many of the posts we publish here at Fractal). Depending on your business, your content marketing practice could be largely image based. Say, for example, you’re in the food sector, “food porn” has a lot of legs (pardon the pun) and can drive sustained interest in your brand and site. Same thing goes for real-estate, architecture, renovation and design; each opens up avenues for regular image based content.
Then there’s curated content. Content that you don’t make yourself but that you share, because it resonates with your brand value.
The trick to building a sustainable content marketing practice is to put a little effort in up-front to come up with themes, topics, and a content calendar aligned with the seasonality of your business and to follow people you respect. Then you build it into your practices.
The Y-Axis Position
If you’re a purely transactional, high-volume business with a simple conversion, your static core content is more important than your content marketing. You can park your key differentiators there and customers will make a choice when they need to.
If, on the other hand, you’re working in a more professional services capacity with a typically long sales cycle, your customers are going to check you out and compare you to your competitors carefully before making their choices. It’s in these cases where a content marketing practice is most valuable. By producing valuable, useful content that demonstrates your uniqueness and expertise in your field, you’re providing your prospects with the ammunition they need to choose you. This is why whitepapers, webinars and practical guides are still very popular lead generation tactics among B2B enterprises.
All this isn’t to say that content marketing isn’t effective for retail or more transactional conversions. It is. What we’re looking at here is typical ROI. If you’re more low-consideration, a good way to determine how much effort you should put into content marketing is to look at the leaders in your industry as benchmarks.
Content is the fuel for conversation and search. As such it really helps with:
- Social Media Organic, because it gives you something to share (which keeps you in view of your customers)
- SEO, because it allows you to articulate more nuanced, detailed aspects of your value that should appeal to customers searching for more specific things; every content page becomes a landing page (an entry-point into your site and brand)
- Direct Sales, because as mentioned above, prospects you reach out to are going to follow-up and dive deep into your value proposition
Social Media Organic
Setup for social channels is only getting easier. It’s the maintenance that requires sustained effort. One of our mantras here at Fractal is Content, Conversation, Conversion. What we mean there is that if you’re operating in social, you need good content to initiate and sustain discussion. But it doesn’t have to be entirely (or even mostly) custom content. It can be curated. You can share content from other individuals and organizations that align with your values and value proposition.
For this reason, so much success on social media relies on listening. On being an authentic, active participant in your communities of interest. You need to keep an ear to the ground, and that takes work. It’s a regular commitment. But the good news is, it gets way easier with practice, and a little initial investment in establishing protocols and content pillars for your brand will help get you through the steep part of the social learning curve quicker.
Social is pretty close to the middle in terms of ideal length of sales cycle. It works for organizations with long sales cycles and for those with shorter ones, but it gets the most traction where customers are comparison shopping. That’s when word of mouth can really push them over into purchase. If your conversion is very transactional, it’s more likely that your customers will care about the navigability of the site, presentation of your product and static content. If it is more complex, social is a piece of a larger puzzle they’ll evaluate before making a purchase decision.
The sweet spot customer mindset for social word of mouth is: I sort of know what I want but I don’t know who to buy it from.
One caveat; we’ve dumped all social media organic into one tactical island for the sake of simplicity here, but there are definite differences in terms of audience and effort for each channel. LinkedIn, for example, most obviously leans towards higher-consideration conversions as it’s a B2B network.
When selecting a social network to invest effort in, it’s important to understand the personalities of each network, and how they fit with your brand.
- As mentioned, content drives conversation on social media, so you need to be doing at least some content marketing.
- Your website has to be structured in such a way that it “shares well” on social media. Can you share specific “chunks” of content for specific audiences with specific conversion goals?
- Social Media also supports retargeting, especially Facebook. Think about it, Facebook users log in every day and spend 20 active minutes on it per day. With that kind of returning traffic it becomes a great destination to retargeting site visitors.
You’ll notice, contrary to a much punditry online, that we’ve parked SEO over to the left, in the lower-resource-requirement area. That’s because good SEO should be fairly easy to execute, if you’re following best practices. Most online marketing practices have evolved to capture Google’s attention over the last decade, and so, if you don’t violate best practices and your website is clean, built on a modern platform, is responsive (mobile-optimized) and features authentic content about your business, your SEO should be fine. Further, social networks provide secondary entry-points into your digital ecosystem, and most of them are templated in such a way that they force best search practices.
Basically, good SEO should be the natural outcome of applying best practices to your digital marketing.
Whether you’re in a high-consideration or low-consideration sales cycle, your SEO will drive some of your business. This can be problematic for some B2B enterprises, who offer such specific, niche solutions that the language on their sites tend to be disconnected from what their customers might actually be searching for. This same problem can also occur for retailers of very niche products.
For this reason, it’s important to invest some consideration into what the broadest, most general aspects of your offering are. Take a look at Avinash Kaushik’s See, Think, Do framework for an idea of what this means for search.
Put simply, people performing searches are often in the “think” consideration phase. They know they want something, but they’re not sure exactly what. Are you building site content general enough to anticipate their needs while being specific enough to capture their interest?
- Your website has to apply clean, modern web design standards and technologies. It should meet WCAG accessibility standards and be responsive (mobile-optimized). Avoid using Flash and use a header and footer structure to capture pertinent contact information and persistent navigation
- If you’re doing any sort of Google PPC, your website needs to be search-engine-optimized or you’re basically throwing good money after bad.
- A good content marketing program can help you build links (referrals) from other sites and most importantly bring relevant visitors directly to content pages in your site by providing them with content that anticipates your needs.
We’ve parked Google PPC in the high-medium-resource-commitment category, but the truth is, the complexity of setting up paid-search advertising varies considerably. Larger enterprises can invest considerable resources in developing automated paid search programs that serve a variety of ad units with different calls-to-action, pointing to different landing pages, testing and optimizing different conversions.
Conversely, you can also use it relatively simply, running a small campaign intended to drive traffic to your website knowing that you’re only going to pay for clicks. Sometimes, these simple campaigns, rooted in clear conversion objectives featuring clear, precise calls-to-action perform best.
The Adwords interface is intimidating, and offers a lot of options. We think that sometimes leads people down a rabbit-hole, where they attempt to create ad units and campaigns to satisfy every possible demographic niche and conversion opportunity. We’ve seen a lot of clients over-complicate their Adwords setup, and the result is a heavily divided spend where nothing is getting the attention it deserves.
If you’re completely unfamiliar with Adwords, we strongly recommend you take some of Google’s free courses (or enlist the services of a professional), because it can get hairy in there and mistakes can cost you real dollars in real time.
We parked PPC lower down, towards lower-consideration conversions. That isn’t to say that it’s not incredibly important for higher-consideration conversions, only that if you’re in a high-consideration business, PPC is not going to drive a sale by itself. It can drive a micro-conversion, like a website visit which might be absolutely essential to driving awareness for your brand and offering. If you’re in a highly competitive professional services vertical like accounting and offer a unique service like cross-border capital gains tax consulting, then PPC might give you an edge among a narrow field of local competitors that drives that initial visit to your website.
But it’s not going to drive a full-conversion by itself. It’ll get you that micro-conversion though, which is crucial start.
On the other hand, if you’re in online retail, or local catering, or something else requiring low-to-medium consideration, your PPC ad might take your customers all the way from search to click to conversion.
- As mentioned above, PPC is highly dependant on solid SEO. This is because Google determines the per-click cost of your advertising in part by looking at the quality of the content on your site. Bad SEO means you’ll pay more for clicks and they won’t necessarily be coming from the right users.
- Content Marketing is also a huge benefit if you’re doing PPC, because it gives you options for destinations to drive your users to. This is especially important if your value proposition is somewhat niched or relies on differentiation between your key competitors.
Are you familiar with the 80/20 rule? Applied to any task, it means that about 80% of your results can be accounted for by the first 20% of your investment. Facebook advertising is a great example of a marketing tactic that exemplifies the 80/20 rule. You don’t need much expertise to get started and get real results. Yes, there’s optimization, experimentation and tweaking, but for a lot of smaller brands, a very basic Facebook marketing program will get you in front of the people you want.
Of all the digital advertising platforms out there, Facebook is by far the easiest to set up, implement and monitor. The interface is clean, clear and comprehensive. It has nice fail-safe features like a ‘lifetime budget’ cap which can prevent you from overspending. It very easily guides you through setting up objectives, targeting and creative. And the creative looks really good without too much work.
The targeting options are both very intuitive and powerful. You can simply and easily target by region, age, demographics, interest and various complex combinations of the above. This capability is possible because of the massive amounts of data users provide as they interact with the platform.
Yes, there are more sophisticated options, like retargeting, but generally, if you’re after website visits, page likes or engagement with your content, Facebook is easy and powerful.
Facebook is definitely more of a consumer platform than a business platform. That’s why we placed it in the low-consideration hemisphere. That isn’t to say high-consideration prospects don’t use it, they do, everyone uses Facebook. It has 1.4B users. The issue is that people self-identify as individuals on Facebook, and share their personal interests, not their business interests necessarily. While there are certainly many C-Level executives using Facebook, are they feeding the network the information needed to appropriately target them for high-consideration conversions? Further, user expectations matter, and on Facebook, the expectation is primarily engagement on more personal-level transactions, which tend to be lower consideration.
A good outlying example is politics. People certainly use Facebook to engage with causes and politics. Yet, a decision to vote for (and moreover, endorse) a particular candidate definitely falls closer to the higher-consideration hemisphere, but Facebook is a better place to promote conversions like that than say, LinkedIn, which, while being more appropriate for high-consideration conversions, tends towards a more politically neutral dialogue.
- It goes without saying that success using Facebook advertising depends on a solid, well-maintained organic Facebook presence. Every Facebook follower (page like) you have expands the potential reach of your advertising and organic promotions. And a successful Facebook Paid strategy relies on a continuous interplay between Facebook organic posts and paid ads.
- Content Marketing can definitely enhance your Facebook paid activities, by providing fodder for advertising. Whether you’re doing video ads or promoting blog topics, solid content can drive authentic interest in your advertising in a way simple self-promotion cannot.
- Your website is often going to be the destination for your advertising, so it needs to be structured in such a way that you can promote small, highly-relevant, audience and conversion specific aspects of it. If you’re a clothing retailer selling many lines of formal and casual wear, and you want to advertise strictly to casual-wear consumers, your website has to be structured so you can send people right to that part of your inventory, rather than force them to go through your homepage-front-door.
From a technical point of view, LinkedIn paid advertising is quite similar to Facebook advertising. The advertising follows a similar format and the targeting works the same way. In this case the difference is all about context. LinkedIn is a professional network and as such it’s much better suited to B2B advertising. As with Facebook, it relies on user data for its targeting, but because LinkedIn knows where you work, what industry you work in, and how much seniority you have, it’s perfect for getting tightly targeted ads and content in front of decision-makers and domain experts.
We’ve put LinkedIn advertising on the lower resources end of the spectrum, though not as low as Facebook advertising. There’s a few reasons for this. The advertising format itself is not more complex to work with than on Facebook, but as with any tactics linked to higher consideration purchases, the marketing materials you need to provide are going to be of a greater complexity. LinkedIn works great for driving website clicks and gaining followers, but it’s a unique opportunity to present downloadables, like whitepapers and case studies, and if you’re a B2B company trying to sell higher consideration solutions or products with long sales cycles involving multiple stakeholders, downloadables like these can go a long way to gaining that kind of traction.
And this is why we’ve placed LinkedIn advertising closer to the higher-consideration part of the Y-axis. As stated above, B2B purchases often involve longer and more complex sales cycles, and the ROI on these kinds of sales justifies greater expenditures on content marketing associated with the LinkedIn campaign.
- Your web presence: while your LinkedIn advertising CTAs may be there to drive downloads like whitepapers and case studies, you’ll still want to drive users back to your website, where you can provide further proof of your value proposition–through more papers, case studies, testimonials
- Content Marketing: even more than with Facebook advertising, content is essential here. Either in the form of downloadable takaways or on your website, higher consideration items with longer sales cycles require materials that speak clearly to the problem(s) your product solves, and that articulate your brand value.
It’s tempting to think of Twitter as the ‘minimalist’ advertising platform. Twitter ads, like tweets are small, almost disposable, and the context is highly flexible, in the sense that you can advertise everything from shoes to enterprise devops services. Whether or not it’s equally effective across the board is less clear.
Paid Twitter marketing takes several forms. Twitter allows you to build campaigns to gain followers (promoted account), get website clicks, promote specific tweets (tweet engagement), drive app installs, or generate leads on twitter, great for getting emails, contest entries and promoting special offers.
We’ve placed Twitter just below the midpoint on the Y-Axis because for the most part Twitter advertising is going to drive low-consideration conversions. That said, people’s personal and professional interests merge in their twitter feed, which means you can target for higher consideration purchases as well. It’s not really possible to move tactics along the y axis of the schema we’ve built here, but if we could, twitter would definitely be a candidate for that ability. Something about the ephemeral nature of a tweet and the constant change of a twitter feed makes it so that the personal and the professional mix in a really unique way on Twitter, and as such, it’s really an open field
- Twitter’s connections to the other tactics are similarly amorphous and ever-changing. If you’re trying to promote your account, then, as mentioned above, you organic twitter should be in order. There has to be something worth sharing already there.
- If you’re trying to get website clicks, you’ll need to have landing pages to drive conversions and content to keep users engaged. Twitter can be great for getting that first touch, but you’ll want to consider using retargeting on other social networks to bring people back again to drive conversions.
- Similarly, if you’re using Twitter advertising to drive contest sign-ups, you’ll need to have signup specific landing pages ready before the campaign starts with clear CTA’s to drive further engagement.
Retargeting on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Google PPC
Retargeting (also referred to as remarketing, depending on the platform) is the practice of serving ads to users who have already visited one of your web properties. We’ve placed retargeting very slightly towards the low-resource end of the graph because though the logistics of creating the ads is largely similar to standard ads on a given platform (retargeted ads on Facebook look exactly like regular newsfeed or sidebar ads) more thought and planning is required in terms of targeting and your overall strategy. The purpose of retargeting is is to nudge users who’ve already expressed interest in your offering (by visiting your site) by sending them back to it. As such, you may want to construct custom landing pages for all of your retargeting campaigns, and at the very least be mindful of where along the purchase funnel your users are when you are retargeting them.
Generally speaking retargeting is probably best suited for mid-to-low consideration purchases, and is especially effective for such things as preventing shopping cart abandonment. But context is everything. There’s no reason why LinkedIn retargeting or Twitter retargeting for a bigger-ticket B2B item wouldn’t be an effective way to nudge prospects prior to a direct sales pitch. If you can get a user to re-visit your site with retargeting, then they may be primed for more direct contact.
- Though it’s by no means necessary to engage in regular paid advertising on the platform you wish to retarget on (Paid facebook as well as facebook retargeting, for example) it often makes sense to make first contact and drive that first website visit on the same platform, and that will really be determined by whether the product is a low or high consideration item.
- And of course, you’ll need to send prospects somewhere, and unless you are retargeting for Facebook page likes, for example, your website is probably where you want to send them. It’s also often worth it to create custom landing pages and calls to action, depending on what your conversion goals are.
- If your retargeting is simply for preventing shopping cart abandonment, then retargeting is intimately connected to e-commerce.
Custom Technology & Tools (Apps and Web Apps)
Custom web tools (a mortgage calculator, for example, if you are a bank or a realtor, or Warby Parker’s “try it on online” feature for eyeglasses) can be a really great way to add value to your website. They can be tricky, however. For one thing, they can be very expensive to produce. Custom code is never cheap. The important question to ask yourself is whether or not it’s actually useful, or just a fun doodad. Allowing people to virtually try on glasses before buying is really smart, because it solves (at least partially) one of the biggest problems with buying fashion items online line, namely that it’s hard to tell what they will look like. Solving that problem is definitely going to drive sales.
Custom tools usually aren’t going to lead directly to the sales of bigger ticket items, as much as they can be valuable in a total sales cycle. For this reason we’ve put them fairly low on the consideration axis. Custom tools can be great, but a high sales volume is required to justify the initial expenditure if you’re using it to help sell low-consideration items.
- Most likely you’ll be housing your custom tool on your website. But you’ll also want to drive traffic to it to mazimize the ROI on the development costs. You may want to consider an organic social media push to drive users to it, supplemented with a paid social media or even PPC campaign.
Serial & Subscription
Serial and Subscription based tactics are a subset of content marketing. We called them out specifically because they set different expectations in the minds of users. Serial or Subscription based content can come in the form of a podcast, newsletter or very regularly updated blog. The expectation with this kind of content is that it is timely and sustained, with each segment laddering up to fulfill a larger brand narrative.
And for that reason, it takes work. Considerable work. As soon as you engage in serial content and acquire subscribers, they expect consistent quality and regular delivery. You need a rollout schedule, you need to develop a voice, you need to learn how to be flexible and reactive.
Serial and subscription based tactics naturally lean towards higher-consideration conversions, because they are by definition about continuous engagement. The purpose of these tactics is to build brand loyalty over time, and nurture nurture nurture your prospects into being customers, and your customers into becoming return customers (or better, ambassadors). For that reason the ROI on these tactics is cumulative and sometimes not evident for the first several months.
- As mentioned, serial and subscription based tactics are a subset of your larger content marketing efforts. They need to integrate into your broader content marketing calendar and be coordinated against your other content based seasonal and promotional activities.
- Social Media is a crucial way of promoting your serial or subscription based content. Even if you’ve got subscribers, you’re always going to want more. Every new post or podcast becomes an excuse to share on social media, and that’s a good thing.
- Your website needs to be set up to allow people to subscribe. If you’re doing an email based newsletter, you need to integrate an email marketing platform like MailChimp or Constant Contact into your web ecosystem. If you’re doing a podcast you need to setup your feed so it works with major podcast directories like iTunes.
The barrier of entry for setting up e-commerce is high, and somewhat complicated, although recent developments in online sales technology have made it easier. Further, 3rd party online sales portals like Amazon or Etsy allow you to setup online stores with minimal customization. Still, there are a variety of business considerations that require considerable planning and coordination. You need to think about inventory, shipping & fulfillment, accounting & bookkeeping and managing customer expectations. If you’re selling a product online, you have to be very clear about what that product is, to avoid incurring the wrath of angry customers who receive something that does not meet their expectations.
If you’re not experienced with it, you definitely should consult someone who is.
E-Commerce is by definition transactional, and thus low-consideration. You’re aiming for people looking for your type of product, at a competitive price that meets their quality expectations. It is not well suited for higher-consideration transactions beyond personal subscription based services like web hosting or permission-purchasing businesses like weekly grocery delivery or some other form of curated commodity (like Loot Crate).
Most of the time, it’s used to drive sales conversions, right then and there. If you’re in a low-consideration, retail, transactional business, it’s a great way to cut through the purchase funnel and get right to sale, which is the conversion everyone ultimately wants. But it won’t work for more complex conversions. Not at all.
- It’s all about SEO. The people you’re trying to convert are likely already looking for something related to your product. You need to build content into your inventory and sales pages that aligns with those searches
- Google PPC can enhance your SEO efforts and drive conversions. A caution here is that keywords related to retail products tend to be competitive, so you have to measure the cost of your inbound PPC clicks against your sales conversions for people coming in via PPC, and optimize your advertising budget and content accordingly.
- Retargeting can be an especially powerful support for for e-commerce. Even if your business is low consideration, retargeting can give you an edge with people engaged in comparison shopping. Think about it. Someone visits your site, browses past a product, and mentally files it away for consideration later. Then, in a few days, a carefully retargeted ad appears in their Facebook feed showing them the same product (or perhaps a similar product) or even a special promotion offering them the product at a lower price than they originally saw. Boom! Sale! Conversion.
There are dozens of directories out there. Yelp, Google Places, Yellowpages, 411, 4Square & Facebook are examples of a few you can use to bolster your findability without putting in too much effort. Obviously, directories aren’t important for trans-national, multi-national or location-agnostic businesses. If you don’t have a storefront of some kind, you don’t really need to be on them.
But they’re good for SEO. They can help you build free links to your site and entry-points into your brand. And they’re easy to setup. If you’ve got a retail location in an urban centre, chances are there’s already a directory listing out there for you somewhere anyway. You can claim it, clean up your information to ensure it’s accurate and make sure it’s pointing to your current website. In a single afternoon, you can seed your information onto all the relevant directories for your region and business.
There are two types of directories out there: location specific and industry specific. Interestingly, people tend to use them the same way. They use them when they are in need, of a specific service, near them. These directories work well for restaurants, retail, health care providers and B2C professional services like tax accounting, childcare or notary.
A good rule of thumb is to establish a presence on 1-2 of the main general, location based directories and if you’re in a business outside of retail or food, find 1-2 industry specific directories to join as well. In some cases, the industry specific directories require that you be part of an association or guild. Ontario’s Health Care Options Directory (which, full disclosure, Fractal President Ali helped develop) is a good example of an industry specific directory, which can help drive referrals to your health practice: http://www.ontario.ca/locations/health/
- You want a website, or at the very least a Facebook page to drive visitors to. Even if your business is low-consideration and conducted purely in-store, you can garner insight by monitoring inbound traffic from directories.
Beyond that, directories are relatively stand alone. If you’re engaged in social media, you will just naturally be better equipped to manage potential negative feedback that can occur on directories, but it’s by no means a necessity.
So that, in a nutshell (the world’s largest nutshell) is our explanation of why the Marketing Map is structured the way it is. If you’ve gotten this far, my bets are you’ve had some “aha” moments (as well as some “yeah, DUH!”) moments. That’s good. Ultimately, we’re hoping to help people understand the importance of looking at the larger picture rather than doubling down on a single tactic.
Our next post in the series is going to detail exactly how to make yours. Through a series of questions, we’ll help you score each of the tactics we’ve listed above and in doing so “grow” the individual tactical islands. Then you’ve got your visualization. You’ll be able to see, at a glance, what interconnected tactics you need to emphasize to develop your brand.
Until next time…
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