The Interactive Marketer 2.0

Last week, a friend was sharing war stories with me about an upcoming site launch. His highly recognizable site, which will remain anonymous in this column, rakes in billions. I congratulated him and asked how they’re going to optimize post-launch. He told me they’re pausing optimization for six months to collect enough “control” data.

Today’s interactive marketers face and make these types of decisions several times a day. At a glance, my bud’s decision seems sound. But does it hold up if the company’s goal is to maximize sales, increase conversion, increase return on marketing spend? Or even realize a speedy return on the new Web site’s cost? Probably not.

I’m sure the new site will perform better, but a significant amount of customer insight can be gained in six months, especially when comparing to the control of the old site. Are elements and pages on the site doing what they’re supposed to do? Can changes be made to move the needle even higher? How do they document that design changes were increasing revenue?

How many opportunities to improve business will be missed for six months? How much money will be left in wallets?

This story demonstrates the challenges today’s marketers face. What follows are some tips I shared during my keynote presentation at Search Engine Strategies Toronto.

Traffic and Campaigns are the Means, not the End

For decades, marketing has existed in silo-centric tubes called campaigns. Today’s interactive marketer is managing and creating more campaigns than ever, and has to keep on top of delivery and analytics technologies while juggling third parties and internal staff just to move a campaign out into the real world. Many have become quite good at this, mining for keywords, launching landing pages, and adjusting for SEO (define). The better ones are neck deep in analytics, constantly adjusting, tweaking, and chasing mostly small traffic increases.

But the marketing game isn’t playing nice and refuses to remain static. It’s morphing fast. Campaign costs are rising, and the needles are moving less for even the most effective marketers. Profitable customer behavioral insights are few. And interactive marketers are running out of ideas. So they move on to the next campaign and repeat.

Some marketers’ budgets are being choked. And optimization is the first line item to get slammed up on the butcher block.

To top it off, visitors are expecting more and paying attention less.

Pay Per Conversation, not Pay Per Click.

We recently searched for “pink roses.” The results page looked promising, with several relevant ads above the organic listings, several ads that looked enticing, and several organic links of interest. Sadly, we had to click through three ads and the top organic listing before we landed on a page that included a prominent image of pink roses.

Again, this is the result of the silo mentality. Marketers are experts at directing traffic to the front door, but lack the insight to get visitors to the products and then to the register. This results from failing to plan a persuasive scenario. I’m not saying this is easy with the long tail (define) of terms we’ve become responsible for. This is the minimum required if you expect to convert visitors.

I wonder how many of these marketers would slow down or turn off the traffic on this term and assume that “pink rose” doesn’t convert.

They’re thinking about campaigns, not people. And conversion rates remain flatlined. They think of the volume of click and the ad CTR (define), but forget that an ad’s objective is to initiate a conversation with a visitor. That conversation begins on the Web site.

Process, People, then Tools

This is tragic considering how many tracking, implementation, testing, and measuring tools are now available (even for free).

The interactive marketer 2.0 will understand how to optimize and plan for visitor intent, not just traffic. This marketer will spend less and get better conversions. This marketer will know what spikes the needles and how to duplicate it. A few of these marketers already exist.

Amazon is the benchmark example of embracing an optimization culture. They have good people, and testing is ingrained into the organization.

Look at the evolution of its “add to cart” strategy. This evolution reflects better attention to the customer (improved, visible and usable buttons in prominent positions) and reflects a tie-in with Amazon’s overall strategy. Rest assured, there was a cycle of optimization, testing, and customer insight that contributed to each improved element.

Pay attention to this space on Amazon. Chances are it will get even better. Look at how many times Amazon paid attention to this one area over the course of years, while many companies have never reexamined it. In fact, an Internet Retailer 500 study showed that nearly 76 percent don’t test.

The key is to have a process. One such process, persuasion architecture, is based on asking three questions:

  1. Who are we trying to persuade?
  2. What action(s) do we want them to take?
  3. What action do they want to take (not always identical to No. 2)

Can you see how these questions are answered in Amazon’s strategy?

Interactive Marketing Optimization: Eliminate Risks, Reap Rewards

There’s almost no downside to optimization and testing. It’s easy to make a case for keeping optimization in the budget. Throwing up things to test (a.k.a., the infinite monkey theorem) isn’t effective. You must optimize your conversations.

In conclusion, follow these steps when thinking outside the campaign.

  • Get good at free tools, then pay for them. Tools aren’t the indicator of success, but having a process and the people in place to take action are.
  • Set up a system for content planning and optimization. If this isn’t a top cultural priority, expect tomorrow’s customer to keep finding ways to ignore you.
  • Take more time planning experiences for how people gather information and make decisions. Don’t take your content lightly or your customer will click the back button.
  • Take less time idling on execution. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing wrong.
  • Invest in continuous optimization. If it isn’t right, you can fix it quickly, easily, and cheaply with tools like Google Website Optimizer.
  • Have better conversations, make more sales, leads, subscriptions, etc.

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