Five Agency Resolutions for 2005

Happy New Year!

Below, the five resolutions my agency will emphasize in our work for leading online marketers this year.

Measure the Right Metrics

The Internet is a truly accountable marketing medium. Yet many marketers are buried in data and lack insight. Let’s learn from the CRM (define) industry, which made some mistakes when trying to build a complete picture of consumer behavior. Don’t try to measure and optimize the entire customer lifecycle (yet). Instead, focus on a handful of actionable performance metrics that provide the highest potential return.

It’s harder than it sounds. Here are a couple of guidelines to consider incorporating into your 2005 Web analytics program:

  • Make sure your measures address business imperatives beyond sales metrics, such as brand awareness and customer service.

  • Don’t use two metrics when one will suffice. Use two when one doesn’t sufficiently address the objective.
  • Raise awareness within your organization about the importance of key measures and communicate progress on a weekly basis.
  • If you can, combine online advertising and Web interactions to provide a richer, more holistic picture of a customer’s relationship with your brand.
  • Although measures should remain relatively consistent, don’t be afraid to make changes if they’ll lead to more successful marketing programs.

Use Cross-Channel Programs to Drive Customers Online

Customers choose how and when they want to interact with your brand. Countless cross-channel studies validate the assumption that customers are multimodal. In other words, a customer might see drapes in a catalog, visit a store to touch the fabric, then buy them on your Web site or on eBay.

The challenge is to create a meaningful dialogue with the target audience when they have so many media choices and stimuli. The Web is a great place to create a richer, more meaningful conversation with your audience. They’re willing to spend time online exploring your brand because of the medium’s active nature.

Cross-channel strategies are challenging to pull off, particularly in large companies with complex product lines, distribution channels, and success metric silos. Best-practice marketers develop high-impact, big ideas and use them to align and coordinate stakeholders to deliver an exceptional cross-channel experience.

Be Creative. Be Bold. Engage Your Customer’s Mind and Heart

Over the last few years, Internet marketers have focused on delivering new features to meet increasing customer expectations. It’s natural to explore the power of customers’ emotions to create an experience that’s differentiated and unique to the brand. Why? You want consumers to fall in love with your product/service and brand. The online medium is a great place for that courtship to take place.

First, you need to really dig into your target customer’s mindset. Think like they think. Experience your brand the way they do. Take field trips. Call the customer service hotline. Empathize with them. Know them. If at all possible, conduct primary research so you can develop a clear, fact-based understanding of your target market.

More sophisticated Internet marketers create personas to give everyone in their organization a common, uniform understanding of the customer. This exercise helps you get to know your customer on a personal level; their passions, pet peeves, and undiscovered or unmet needs. It also helps you identify key loyalty attributes, particularly for considered purchases, that turn customers into advocates who help spread the word about your brand experience. Once you have a clear picture of your target, put the best minds in your company, agencies, and partners behind creating that single big idea that captures heart, mind, and soul.

Test Early, Test Often

Research and testing sound time-consuming and expensive. In the past, they were. However, in the Internet world valuable insights can be gleaned quickly and inexpensively. In that spirit, test ideas big and small; analyze, learn, iterate, evolve, then test again.

Internet survey tools are inexpensive and often include real-time reporting capabilities. Other approaches that can provide a more complete customer picture for more critical decisions include traditional focus groups and usability research.

Bottom line: Testing is easier and less expensive than losing customers or failing to attract new ones. Use smaller testing initiatives to inform larger strategic initiatives.

Pay Attention to Word-of-Mouth Marketing

You’ve heard all the buzzwords: “blogs,” “blog syndication,” “viral campaigns,” “consumer-generated media,” “word of mouth.” Still wondering how they fit into your overall online marketing efforts? This emerging phenomenon is confusing, and we’re all still learning. One thing is certain: Pay attention to it. Due to the networked Web community, one friend’s word can be more influential than thousands of banners.

We learned this when we took a close look at our site’s analytics. We found that after search engines, the most powerful referrer to our site was a message board posting from an MIT student that references our Benjamin Moore case study.

Monitor word-of-mouth activities on the Web. There are a variety of companies that can help you do this, including Intelliseek. Then, learn from those activities. After all, these are your customers, or potential customers, who are taking the time to talk about your brand. Learn how to harness the power of this dialogue or ethically influence it. A new organization, the Word of Market Marketing Association (WOMMA), is helping the industry create some rules of the road.

I hope these resolutions will help you, too, as you embark on your 2005 Internet marketing initiatives.

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