Digital Marketing is a vast function involving both paid and organic efforts. Organic efforts pay high returns with little investment. Paid efforts deliver quick returns but at a price.
While each has its merits, this article studies them closely to see if they need transformation.
#1 - Campaigns are media-centric not audience-focused
How do you typically plan your media mix?
Does it look like this?
|Google Search Ads||X%|
|Google Display Ads||Y%|
If your answer is yes, you need a digital marketing transformation, as media is at the center and not your audience. Instead of going to your audiences where they are, you restrict yourself to finding your audience within a few preferred channels.
Moreover, you end up paying media vehicles a lot more than you need to.
If you plot the CPC trend for a keyword you’ve been targeting in Google Ads and Facebook, you will see an upward trend.
Like this -
Why do you think you pay more? Do you get an extended reach? No - you only pay for the clicks you get. You pay more because many marketers like you compete for the same keywords that you are bidding for. You’ve not only made Google richer, you’ve also brought down your own Return on Advertising Spends (ROAS). And if you keep competing for the same or similar keywords you end up lowering your ROAS further.
Apart from this, your audiences don’t just engage with Facebook and Google alone. They could be on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Pinterest etc.
With the evolution of media vehicles, advertising formats have also evolved beyond text and image to videos and interactive shoppable ads and opened up opportunities for mobile, video and native advertising.
The above numbers clearly show that the audiences for your products and services are active on these media vehicles and are getting used to the latest ad formats.
If you are not planning your campaigns around your audience and not reaching them where they are present, you may not be able to meet your digital acquisition strategy and targets.
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Move beyond Facebook and Google ads and run uniform digital channel management campaigns across the media channels where your audiences are present. You could try Adobe Advertising, Microsoft Advertising, Adroll, Inmobi, Outbrain, Taboola, Spotify, Pandora or Quora.
#2 - Going beyond clicks and conversions
It is a great feeling when digital ads get clicks. But conversions are the goal – not just clicks. “Conversion” is also too global a term to be used as an e-com marketer sees conversion differently from bank, B2B or hospitality marketers.
Unfortunately, Google, Facebook and Instagram cannot fulfill the conversion needs of all marketers. Shoppable Ads can help e-com marketers drive direct conversions but what about conversions for an offline retailer doing online advertising? Only if there are footfalls, will they see any benefit.
Even a bank marketer, who defines conversion as an event where a user applies for a financial product from the ad has things to do even after his ads convert -
- Measure media progression from leads to customers, based on vehicle
- Measure media compliance / credit team rejection of applications, based on vehicle
- Identify profitable media and optimize the media mix.
So, if you think that the role of digital advertising campaigns are over once your audience clicks on your ad or fills out a form on your landing page, you need a digital transformation strategy to measure results and make continuous improvements to finally arrive at an optimal plan.
To extend your vision beyond clicks and conversion, this is what you need to do.
- Create a unique identifier for each lead generated by your ads.
- Map the channel and the ad creative that the customer clicked.
- Follow-up and nurture leads – once the leads convert into customers or drop off, move them into appropriate buckets along with the ad source and creative
- Separate ad channels and creatives that drive actual conversions and those that result in drop-offs. Communicate this to your media planning and creative teams so they can optimize their efforts.
- You may also consider buying digital transformation tools to automatically tag and track each ad campaign and its success.
#3 - The power of influencers
Across the digital marketing space, one silent disruption is that of influencer marketing.
Source: Influencer Marketing Hub
Unlike other forms of digital advertising, the audience does not perceive influencer marketing as intrusive, even if it was! In that sense, influencer marketing is unique.
With more and more users installing ad blockers, products endorsed by influencers reach audiences who consume it like another post of the influencer, thereby making it very efficient.
However, influencer marketing has undergone a massive change in the last few years.
Unlike the old days where influencer marketing was restricted only to celebrities and experts, the rise of social media, especially Instagram and TikTok has completely disrupted this.
Today, you don’t need a Kim Kardashian or a Kendall Jenner, but an 18-year old with 100k followers on Instagram would do. You don’t need to spend a lot on them, and you can hire multiple influencers to maximize your reach, engagement and conversion. Thousands of brands are doing it and shooting up their sales and more importantly, consumers are influenced by these influencers.
Source: Hub Research
Setting up influencer marketing for your brand is simple. Here’s what you need to do.
- Find influencers that are aligned to your business
- Establish a relationship with them and freeze commercials
- Classify them into macro (500k – 1 Million followers), mid-tier (50k – 500k followers), micro (10k – 50k followers) and Nano influencers (1k – 10k followers)
- Split your available budget between multiple influencers so you get a wide reach
- Build content and share it with influencers to post on their social accounts
- Track efficacy of engagement and conversion and fine tune your influencer list
#4 - Targeting capabilities of ad platforms
Do you define your audience? If you don’t then you need to seriously consider transformation.
All the advertising platforms of today offer hyper-targeting options.
For instance, Google Ads gives you these- .
- Affinity Audiences: those you can group based on their habits/ interests.
- In-Market Audiences: those who have shown purchase intent recently
- Remarketing Audiences: those who have already engaged with your business
- Demographic Targeting: based on life facts (Age, gender etc.)
- Customer Match Targeting: existing customers in your CRM
- Similar Audiences: those who display the same behavior patterns and interests as your website visitors and existing customers
- Life event Audiences: those who deal with specific life events such as marriage, child birth, retirement, etc.
Google also offers a feature called “Dynamic Prospecting” that uses machine learning to predict which of your products and services will be needed by who.it checks for statistically significant relationships between your products, services and user intent which gets captured during searches. Once the relationship is established, ads about your products are shown to those users. If you aren’t using this feature, you are certainly under-utilizing the capabilities offered by Google.
Facebook too offers the following types of targeting options.
- Core Audiences: those based on location, demographics, interests, behaviors and connections.
- Custom Audiences: those who already know your businesses - such as contact lists, app users and site visitors.
- Look-alike Audiences: the ones who are similar to a source audience that you already know, such as your existing customers
Apart from this, there are Intent Monitoring platforms that can track people with intent towards various products and services. They will give you a list of the number of people with various intents -
|1||AUTO_DODGE||Intent > Auto > Dodge||People researching Dodge vehicles||XXXX|
|2||AUTO_CHRYSLER||Intent > Auto > Chrysler||People researching Chrysler vehicles||XXXX|
|3||CONSUMER_COMPUTER_LAPTOP_DESKTOP||Intent > Consumer > Computer Laptop Desktop||People researching for laptops and desktops through keywords related to reviews||XXXX|
|4||CONSUMER_HOT_TUB_SPA_JACUZZI||Intent > Consumer > Hot Tub Spa Jacuzzi||People with intent for hot tubs||XXXX|
|5||FINANCE_BANKING_AUTO_LOANS||Intent > Finance > Banking > Auto Loans||People who are looking for an auto loan.||XXXX|
|6||HEALTHCARE_CONDITION_ARTHRITIS||Intent > Healthcare > Condition > Arthritis||People with Arthritis who search for the drugs and treatments for it.||XXXX|
|7||INSURANCE_HOME_PROPERTY||Intent > Insurance > Home Property||People with intent to buy consumer home and property insurance||XXXX|
|8||REAL_ESTATE_RESIDENTIAL||Intent > Real Estate > Residential||People that are looking for residential real estate.||XXXX|
|9||TRAVEL_CRUISES||Intent > Travel > Cruises||People who have intent to find cruises||XXXX|
|10||WEALTH_MANAGEMENT_RIAS||Intent > Wealth Management > RIAS||People who are looking for a registered investment advisor||XXXX|
If you don’t use platforms like these, your marketing needs a digital transformation.
Knowing the intent of your audience is vital to the success of your campaigns. Here is how you can leverage the targeting features of ad platforms, so your campaigns are met with success.
- Identify variables / fields that you want to target
- See if you have those fields captured on your existing customers
- Get this information - run surveys and polls to incentivize your customers to participate and give you this information.
- Once you have it, segment your customer base and build representative profiles based on the fields that ad platforms ask you to enter
- Create different ad groups for segments and start running campaigns.
- Leverage intent monitoring services that can give you a list of people with inclination towards your products and services.
#5 - How effective are your Search Ads?
Marketers today are obsessed with advanced digital marketing techniques like “Data Driven Marketing”. But do we drive marketing with data driven decisions? Do we test ads at an individual level? Have you ever done an A/B Testing in any one of your ad groups?
How many A/B Tests have you done so far in your entire account?
Despite Google releasing a feature to test search ads in Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords), way back in 2017, not many use it. This calls for a transformation of your search marketing – simply because you won’t know which variation of the ad can generate a better response than the others. And it could be that you continue to use the ones that are not influential enough. So you spend a lot but don’t see much result.
A/B Testing can be irksome -
- You need to generate several unique ad copies to test
- You need to constantly monitor the performance (click through or conversion) of each ad copy to see which one works.
- You should do this across multiple ad groups.
However, A/B Testing of search ads has benefits that outweigh efforts. It can help increase Ad Strength, Quality Score and eventual click though rates. So how does one do this?
Responsive Search Ads – this allows you to enter multiple unique headlines and descriptions, which Google Ads can use to assemble various combinations of ad units, test and serve the best performing ad variation to searchers
Take a look at Xerago’s Responsive Search Ads -
The beauty about Responsive Search Ads is that Google completely frees you from the operational aspects of A/B tests. Just come up with variations of headlines and descriptions. Google takes care of the rest and ensures that the right variant of your ad is served to your audience.
Google goes a step further and does multivariate testing, ensuring a bang for your buck.
Setting up Responsive Search Ads is not difficult -
- Come up with 8 or 10 unique headlines and 3 to 5 descriptions. Remember not to use the same or similar phrases. Add your popular keywords for better relevance. Breakdown headlines into smaller units
- Monitor your Ad Strength and make changes so it becomes Good or Excellent
- While you can pin the headline that you want your audience to see, do it only if you are a 100% certain that it will influence your audience to click on your ad.
#6 - Low Campaign response rates
This is as straight forward as it can get. If your digital advertising campaigns do not get the clicks and conversions as they should, this is a clear indication that you are not running your campaigns well and that it needs transformation.
Your digital advertising campaigns are geared towards getting the attention of prospects whom you know little about -
- You don’t have a relationship with them
- You can’t identify them by name
- You can’t profile them
Yet, you have to get their attention and have them respond to your campaigns.
Platforms like Google, Facebook and other advertising platforms offer you the sophistication to run your digital advertising campaigns.
In fact, they have simplified advertising processes so much that even rookies can manage campaigns – meaning, they can operate the tool.
Getting audiences to respond to your digital advertising campaigns, however, is not about being able to operate a tool or marketing platform. There is a list of other aspects and parameters that impact this.
So what causes digital advertising campaign responses to dip?
Your media mix is not ideal
Your media mix might contain search, display and social ads. Maybe even mobile, video and native ads in the media mix.
But if your search ads do not contribute to 35-40% of your media mix, you might need to do a re-think.
Which of the two ads do you think will get a better CTR?
The pretty picture gets a CTR of 0.46% but the boring text ad gets 3.17%!
Source: Wordstream Google Ad Benchmarks, Updated July 17 2020
This is just an illustration but is a true representation of how text ads typically fare compared to display ads. Search ads are relevant and highly contextual vis-à-vis display ads. Context is established by the search term currently used by the user. Whereas in display ads, even though audiences are plotted into segments, the intent of the users need not be current.
For instance, you might have searched for “the best business laptop”. Display advertising platforms would slot you as a potential laptop buyer and show you all kinds of business laptop ads. Even after you purchase one, you will continue to see those laptop ads. Some marketer is paying for each ad exposure! Putting yourself in his shoes will show you where you might be going wrong.
You do not target the right audience
Unless you are absolutely clear about the type of audience that you want to target for your campaigns, you can’t expect good responses. And if you manage your campaigns manually, you will not be able to reach a wide audience.
Manual ad campaign management is not an option for a modern day marketer. Embrace advanced digital campaign platforms like programmatic advertising or subscribe to an enterprise advertising platform.
You are not re-targeting your audience (right)
Even though retargeting is an essential part of basic digital marketing strategy, it is still underutilized.
And there are those who constantly retarget every visitor that comes to their website. That won’t help either. You can’t deliver the same ad to visitors who accidentally land on your website and those with serious purchase intent. Very few marketers retarget with a creative strategy, customized to audience mind-set. As a result, their efforts don’t deliver intended responses.
While agility is more important in marketing than accuracy, it cannot be at the cost of media money.
- Study your existing customers and create personas with attributes.
- Replicate personas based on targeting criteria from the advertising platform
- Leverage pre-captured intent owned by third party platforms.
- Set up a clear retargeting strategy, accommodating your audience’s purchase cycle. Don’t just retarget them with ‘Buy Now’ call-to-actions
- Mix and match and find the right media mix. Always strive to skew your budgets towards search ads.
Now let’s take a look at the organic aspects of digital marketing transformation.
We invest heavily in SEO to drive organic traffic. We do over a 100 different things ranging from keyword traffic research, keyword mapping to technical SEO to back-linking to increasing domain authority, to get our SEO right.
While SEO helps increase organic traffic, is that the only way?
Let’s look at some other aspects that need a marketer’s attention.
#1 - Get some Press Coverage
Press coverage is often underutilized but has the capability to drive humongous amounts of traffic with very little effort.
With everything being digital, the benefits of PR coverage are great and can be felt instantly. Digital PR gets your brand in front of thousands of people without you having to do anything much. Readers can reach you with just a click, as the article will carry a link to your portal.
When this happens, it is acquisition of customers at ZERO cost! Since you can’t wait for good things to happen all on their own, you need to create opportunities to be covered by the press. You can do it on your own or partner with a PR agency. You could do some research among your existing customers and publish a study. People, both journalists and readers, are hungry for data.
Imagine you are a bank and you do a study on how customer preferences have changed during the pandemic and how long that would last. Even if you ran this study among a few thousand customers, that’s still a credible and representative sample. Journalists love such data and they will automatically feature your brand in their news articles which would then drive crazy traffic to your website.
PR is simple, yet highly underutilized. If you haven’t tried it, its time you did!
- Start building relationships with journalists that cover articles, specifically about your industry and understand what it takes to be covered and do the needful.
- Sign up with HARO (Help a Reporter Out). Look for requests for assistance by reporters on articles related to your industry and extend support.
- If you don’t think you have the time, hire a PR firm.
- Publish study reports.
#2 - Use Social Media to your advantage
While social media is largely about engaging with your audience, the reality is that it’s not just a channel for engagement.
You can drive traffic from these channels to your portal too, without media money.
Source: Sprout Social
Here’s what you can do to use social media to drive traffic to your portal.
- Find content useful for customers across their lifecycle
- Choose the right format of the content - article, infographic, video, etc.
- Schedule it in your existing content calendar, along with existing content
- Track traffic coming through these posts and the ones that convert. You could invest in a digital transformation tool to assess performance.
- Based on the analysis, optimize your content and landing pages to maximize traffic and conversion
#3 - The power of Unbranded Properties
“An unbranded digital property is a discussion / review / opinion portal that is established by a brand but at arm’s length”.
Through this, the brand can
- drive traffic to the portal
- demonstrate product superiority over competing offerings and
- nudge users towards purchase
When Merck launched Belsomra, they also created an unbranded property called whysoawake.com, a portal exclusively devoted to Insomnia, where they seeded links to go to the drug’s page in Merck website. This strategy delivered a lot of traffic.
Like Merck, Johnson & Johnson also created BabyCentre for expectant mothers and young parents looking for information related to pre and post natal care and who wanted to connect with others, facing similar issues. Johnson & Johnson was able to build a vast community of young parents and expectant mothers
Unbranded digital properties are a heavily under-utilized, yet powerful and advanced digital marketing technique and can work for brands across all industries.
- Arrive at a key theme, representative of your offerings
- Find and buy a domain that is closely related to the theme
- Build neutral content around the theme and grow community engagement
- Once you have a decent amount of traffic, insert links back to your portal
- Every now and then, mention/link to competing products/services to demonstrate neutrality
#4 - Explore Content Marketing
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Content Marketing Institute
You must generate content for users that would also be liked by search engines. And when your audience likes your content, they will share it with their network and make it go viral. .
Here are some content types that you can get started with.
And here are some channels that you can use to distribute your content
The goal of content marketing should be about engaging with your audience and not about selling. Once the audience finds value in your content, they will value your brand and become your loyal customers.
Here’s why content marketing is important in 2021.
Source: Modern Marketing Partners
The benefits of content marketing are truly overwhelming.
Source: Content Marketing Institute & Marketing Profs
- Know your audience – are they casual browsers / serious prospects / buyers/ existing customers etc.
- Find the needs and wants of your audience
- Create branding guidelines - tone, imagery etc.
- Decide on the type of content, channels and make a content plan
- Create content and publish based on content calendar
- Use analytics to track how your audience engages with your content and keep improving the content on an ongoing basis
PS: Include topical and timeless content in your plan. Enlist the support of digital marketing transformation consulting providers to formulate an effective content marketing strategy for your brand and add more value.
#5 - What happens after you drive traffic to your website?
Driving traffic to your website is just the beginning. As a marketer this is where your serious work begins. As long as the audience is engaged and converts, you don’t have a problem. The challenge comes when they don’t.
Look at this report -
Can you find out what’s going wrong?
- It could be that the wrong keywords are being targeted.
- Users maybe land on content that is not aligned with their search intent
- The website’s UX is bad
This is where portal analysts and UX consultants come in - Challenges need to be analyzed and overcome.
- Get analytics reports on metrics related to search traffic
- Compare how this traffic compares with traffic from other sources. Invest in digital transformation tools or platforms to evaluate variances and rectify it
- Ensure the content on landing pages aligns with the keywords that drive traffic.
- Ensure that the keywords for which your pages were listed are actually valid. For instance, if your credit card page gets traffic for the keyword “fastest credit card approval” and your approval process actually takes time, you probably should focus on other relevant keywords and not this.
#6 - SEO is only for customer acquisition
Most marketers engage in SEO efforts to increase brand awareness, recall, salience and customer acquisition. So the content is acquisition-focused.
Moreover, content must be for human audiences and not search engines. When you create content for search engines your focus is only on keywords and other parameters related to SEO such as internal and external linking, etc.
When creating content for humans, you think from their shoes. You think of ‘know, go, buy and do‘-interactions and then create content for each need. The ‘do’ interactions are very relevant to existing customers - how to fix something that is broken, where to get a copy of the warranty, etc. Such content has the potential to fulfill user intents as much as 100%. If you create content that can help customers solve an issue without having to reach out to a high-cost channel such as branch / call-centre, you win!
Channel cannibalization / low cost channel adoption has long been any marketers’ Achilles Heel. And SEO could well be the perfect solution for this.
- Analyze your search words to find what your audience is looking for
- Find the top questions of your customers from call center data
- Develop content around this
- Map keywords to this content and then do what it takes to drive traffic
None of these recommendations are alternatives to SEO. When done right, you can take your marketing to the next level. Even the smallest tweak yields the greatest of results.
Once you plan audience-centric campaigns and accurately define your target audience based on data, you will get phenomenal response. And remember your work is not done once you get clicks or leads. The analysis that leads up to this and the application of that learning is what separates pioneers and leaders from the others.