A primer on questions about strategy, budget, and lead gen all CEOs should be able to ask their digital strategy teams.
CEOs (and CMOs) need to ask certain high-level but tough questions of their digital marketing team and agency. This can be a hard task when new digital programs involve something they may not have direct experience with or when the language employed is often a tangle of acronyms and terms for which they have no context. So, on behalf of all the CEOs out there - here is a starting primer on what you might ask your teams responsible for digital strategy and execution:
Challenge your team to directly connect the dots between your business goals and your online programs. Be aware that those programs may support some subset of either your target audiences or your goals.
There's a danger that without strategic grounding, some less experienced marketers or business people may chase the cool factor or the latest shiny gadget, which are always abundant online. Ensure that your digital team is planning at least six months out and ask to see the plan. That requires you to provide budget guidance, of course.
It's possible and, in some sectors even likely, that digital efforts will lead rather than follow corporate strategy, so be sure to ask what you're learning in your online efforts that can be applied successfully to other areas of the business. Find out how that learning is systematically shared across the organization.
Ask your team to show you the latest media consumption breakdown of your target audiences. Often, marketing plans haven't caught up with the media mix preferred by their customers; however, that may be for a good reason. Certain channels may have historically been more efficient or productive and therefore, appropriately received out-sized support. Risk tolerance also comes into the conversation. Within the digital realm there are many channels, modes, and approaches to reach customers, but some are a better fit to motivate action at certain stages in a customer lifecycle. Find out if you have budget allocated all along that spectrum to cover both short-term and long-term objectives.
On Lead Generation
Find out if your cost of marketing (COM) goals are restricting your growth in customers. Efficiently acquiring new customers is fine, but if your efforts can't scale they may not be worthy of the time and effort required to build and optimize the program.
It's important to know the percent of new customers in the mix as you trend over time. Of course, if possible, you want to nurture existing customers for a long-term relationship and not just churn a bunch of expensive new customers each year. Scaling mature programs requires some level of testing or experimentation. You would be wise to ascertain the percentage of the budget allocated to trialing of new digital efforts. That could broadly encompass new site content or features, it could be message or creative testing, or it might be a whole new channel like mobile or social marketing.
On Customer Engagement
Find out how social media practice guidelines have been communicated throughout the organization and implemented in your site and at all customer touch points online and off. Ask how you're empowering your broad teams (customer facing or not) to be effective customer engagement accelerators. Find out if you have a listening tool that gives feedback on your efforts and what happens to that feedback.
Establish the trending in Facebook, Twitter, or other social media as well as e-mail list growth (or shrinkage) if e-mail is appropriate to your audience. Focus on the level and depth of participation, not just the number of "friends," "likes," or "fans."
Find out if you have a coordinated analytics program that captures a full view of customer activity and site and program performance. Make sure the KPIs track back to key business goals and are not exclusive to digital efforts. If CTRs (define) are the basis of your team's reporting, make them go back to the drawing board and tie activity to the conversions that support your business. This may require additional investment in the right tools.
Ask for a monthly dashboard report to have a baseline of all your metrics and trends. Include trending month-to-month and year-over- year with spending included so that you can see the cause and effect of ramping up.
It's important to get a handle on how actionable your data is. It's a little granular but you'll want to know the cookie window used in online marketing campaigns and what is attributed to view-through conversions (vs. click-throughs). Without alignment on the attribution applied, you can get a skewed view of results. Also, ask if individual program results have been de-duplicated so that a conversion is only counted once.
Is That All?
These couple of questions should put your digital team on notice, create synergy with your broader business goals, and give you an accurate and actionable picture of your results. Then you can get back to all the other things a CEO has to take care of in their business.
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Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.
Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.
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