Did you know that buying and selling products and services, or e-commerce as its otherwise known, was invented in 1979 and predates the World Wide Web?
Almost 40 years ago, Michael Aldrich developed technology that enabled online transactions between consumers and businesses.
It wasn’t really until the early to mid-nineties that consumers really got on board, but at least that has given us 20+ years to figure it all out… right?
We’ve undoubtedly improved at using the web and other digital channels to attract and convert a wide range of target audiences. However, I still see a few of the same old mistakes being made, by companies large and small, which leads to lots of missed opportunities.
Here are my top 5 tips for starting off on the right foot with your digital marketing strategy.
Know your audience
Did you know that online shoppers aged 50+ convert 20 times higher than any other age group? No, well that’s because I made it up. The point is that we can all make assumptions, or go by what other people have written, but it’s vital to understand your audience first.
A rather obvious one, but we are still taking briefs that focus purely on what the client thinks is best, as opposed to what will actually work for engaging with their audience.
In a perfect world we’d start with audience research before even thinking about a strategy; this would give us all the insight needed to nail our online engagement strategies every single time. Unfortunately we don’t always have this luxury.
However, there are still some quick, accessible tools available that will help answer some unknowns. For example, Google Trends offer insights into what people are searching for; AdWords allows you to see how many people are searching for the keywords you’re trying to target; and sites like Social Mention give you an indication of what people are talking about across social media.
The great thing about the tools I’ve mentioned here is that they’re free to use and will help you to understand more about how you target audience behaves online. This is invaluable for creating onsite and offsite content, developing site structure, creating paid search campaigns, optimising web pages… the list is endless.
Choose your KPIs wisely
I’ve skipped the more obvious step of ‘setting objectives’ as where I see most clients falling down is when they’re choosing the KPIs to measure them.
Play to the strength of the channel. For example, SEO is great for driving organic traffic so the metrics you’ll be most interested in should be visibility, rankings and organic sessions. With a channel like paid search it’s better to monitor factors like paid sessions and conversion rates.
My recommendation would be to work with your agency to select the right KPIs and try not to be led by what your executive team want to see. Where we’ve been asked to support during this process we’ve been able to demonstrate higher success levels and open up clients to new opportunities.
Keep your wallet open
Easier said than done but if you can be fluid with your budgets you’ll be able to unlock more potential from your digital marketing strategy.
A common misconception is that channels like organic and paid search are fairly low touch; you optimise all the techy bits, set your PPC budget limits and off you go. In reality these channels are incredibly competitive and you need to leave room to be reactive.
Over the Christmas period we worked with a number of our retail clients to combat an unexpected surge in competitor activity. The clients that were able to find the additional budget were able to maintain their share of voice and overachieve on their targets.
Don’t stick to the plan
The beauty of digital is that it allows for movement and you can update aspects of your strategy as you go. If something isn’t working then change it!
Analytics is an obvious choice for monitoring how well the plan is going but I’d recommend testing and experimenting as you go so you can gain further insights and optimise as you go.
This has worked really well for a lot of our clients. As a rule we like to revisit strategies with our clients every two to three months with a view to using our findings to improve. An example of this approach working well can be seen with one of our financial services clients.
At the start of the year we focussed largely on increasing visibility and rankings. After reviewing performance, and using the insights gathered along the way, we found that we could offer higher value and achieve more by focusing more on conversion rate optimisation.
The result is that we’ve been able to unlock more revenue from the same number of visits.
Don’t forget, digital is just one channel
In a slightly unusual move from someone that works in a specialist digital agency, I’d like to point out that ‘digital marketing’ is a bit of a misnomer. Marketing is the art of changing an audience’s behaviour so they complete an action that is favourable to you. Marketing is an all-encompassing term that covers a range of channels and I’d advise not to discriminate.
Offline and online channels work together; we’ve seen that TV advertising has a direct influence on search and online media can impact upon offline attitudes and opinions.
In 2016 it’s estimated that most companies will allocate at least 30% in online marketing spend. It’s safe to assume that in most cases no new budget will be available so other channels will be dialled down.
Work with your digital agency to ensure that reducing activity in one area won’t affect you in others. We’re fortunate enough to work alongside a wide range of offline and online agencies and will always promote an integrated strategy that plays on the strengths of different marketing disciplines.