Sunday, July 29, 2012

Structuring Your Digital Marketing Channels

Last week Marketing Sherpa, with sponsorship by Marketo, presented a webinar on inbound marketing architecture. I found it thoughtful and informative and I’d encourage you to download the presentation.

That said, the webinar dealt only with the three inbound channels. Blogs and social media seem unarguable in that list. Some, like HubSpot, call content marketing the third channel, while Marketing Sherpa’s research used organic search as the third channel. When you stop to think about it, content marketing requires optimization of both content and website for organic search, so it adds up to three channels, whichever descriptors you use.

They identify blogs and the website as conversion points. The actual conversion/sale will take place on the website, but blogs can be highly influential in the later stages of the customer purchase process. A recent study suggests this is especially true of women consumers. In this sense, both the website and the corporate blog are conversion points. For that matter, so are other influential (trusted) blogs.

As long as you limit yourself to inbound channels, the Marketing Sherpa architecture hits the nail squarely on the head. The trouble is, and in spite of the well documented continuing shift to inbound channels, there are other channels to be considered as marketers identify and integrate their communications mix.

I’ve crafted my own version, sticking with the hub and spoke structure, which I think is essential. For one thing, it answers a question I’m frequently asked, “Can I get along with just a Facebook page?” Absolutely not. It’s one of the spokes, not a hub.

My version includes email, although it doesn’t show up in any of these cost of lead charts. Email isn’t a good lead generator, but it does have influence in the latter stages of the purchase process. It is also reasonable to hypothesize that email and text messaging are going to be more important as mobile continues its growth. Likewise, even though many are more expensive and less effective than digital channels, real world channels still figure into the process.

All that  is a reminder of the complexity of the process. It’s a matrix, with one dimension being customer channel preferences and another being channel effectiveness, given the state in the purchase process.

So I herald the trend to inbound marketing, even as marketers:

1. Need to learn to use it well
2. Must remember that outbound and physical world channels still have a role.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Using the Marketing Funnel to Drive Marketing Action

The concept of inbound marketing has caught on, and one of today’s mantras is, “We’re going to do content marketing.” That sounds a lot easier than it is; there are a number of disciplines to be followed if content marketing is to be successful. But lately I’ve been struck by the extent to which marketers fail to use the marketing funnel as one of those disciplines.

We are all familiar with the concept of the funnel, both as a strategy concept and as a way to report metrics. SEOmoz has a good generic concept, one which parallels the consumer purchase process and is an excellent beginning. Awareness shows that funnels can become complex by setting a social marketing funnel on top of the classic marketing funnel.

The very idea of a funnel, of course, is that many prospects are acquired, some drop out along the way, a smaller number convert to actual customers and once they are customers, they need to be retained. The concept seems impeccable, but I see two big problems in the way it is being used.

1. The assumption that marketers want to get as many prospects as possible into the top of the funnel. Are they getting more than they can properly handle in qualification and conversion processes? This may be more a problem in B2B where qualification is labor intensive than in B2C, but unqualified prospects are a problem in any space. The more unqualified prospects there are the more filtering has to be done, whether they are businesses or consumers. More is not necessarily better—it is just more.

I remember a story told to me long ago by a direct marketing agency. They had a client who needed a really small number of qualified leads, say 10 per month, because that’s all their service operation could handle. The marketer’s point was that it was harder to get a finite number of well qualified leads than a lot of leads. Amen.    

2. Not using the funnel to reverse engineer the acquisitions plan. It seems obvious, but if you need a certain number of customers to meet sales goals, and you have a known conversion rate, that is a simple model of how many acquisitions you need.

That also makes the point that a funnel is not just a concept. It is a model that needs to be quantified for each business—probably for each product or at least product line. Given the data marketers have today, that really isn’t a tall order.

But it does require discipline to create the model and to use it to guide marketing activities—turning up the throttle when needed, turning it down as required.

That should lead to a steady flow of sales. From the marketer’s perspective it should provide a number of prospects that can be given appropriate attention in the conversion process. That’s a well ordered and productive funnel, not one that is prone to unmanageable torrents and dangerous shortfalls.

That’s a well ordered and productive funnel, not one that is prone to unmanageable torrents and dangerous shortfalls.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Internet Marketing--Third Edition!

Internet Marketing: Integrating Online and Offline Strategies, 3rd edition has been published by Cengage and is now available in multiple formats and channels.

Internet marketing textbookThe third edition of the text boasts an accomplished new co-author, Debra Zahay of Northern Illinois University. Debra is a skilled database marketer who also has special strengths in search marketing and website design. Her input to the third edition provided a welcome new perspective and I look forward to her increasing influence in future editions.

The text was completely rewritten in accordance with the ever-changing nature of the Internet. It has new and updated examples and case histories in all the chapters. The impact of social networks is made clear throughout as is the increasing importance of mobile marketing. In addition to a new chapter on social media marketing and a completely rewritten one on mobile marketing, there is a new chapter on lead generation and management in B2B markets. There is also a completely new section on video marketing.

The book is available in a number of different formats at Cengage Brain.  It is also available on Amazon  and on Barnes & Noble.

Adopters receive access to the instructor site which contains a complete set of Power Points, chapter by chapter teaching notes, and a test bank for each chapter.

Everyone--adopter or not, academic or not--is invited to join us on our Google+ site. We are focusing the posts there on material that specifically relates to material in the text and can be used to update classroom presentations. The G+ site is searchable, and a list of chapter hashtags (Google doc) is linked to the About page. We hope the ability to search for relevant updates is sufficient reason to have the G+ site, but we hope to try some other functions as we attempt to support adopters of the text. We'd welcome your suggestions as to what you need, what you would find useful.

Happy reading!