by Erin Masercola, PhD.
Remember that scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her compadres finally make it to the Emerald City hoping to find what they know they lack? The Scarecrow wants to find a brain, the Tin Man a heart, and the Cowardly Lion courage. Dorothy just wants to go back to Kansas.
The four friends tiptoe hesitantly into the wizard’s chamber, completely gobsmacked by a bellowing voice and flashing lights. Only Toto remains unperturbed—because dogs always see through any flim-flam. Toto trots up to an inconspicuous curtain beside the display to reveal an ordinary, somewhat impressive man working to manipulate a quite ordinary control panel. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” the man urges. If you’re a small business owner or a sales professional looking to assess and improve the digital marketing strategy that feeds your business, you may wish for your own “Toto” to pull back the curtain and help you peer behind all the smoke and mirrors. You may be working with agencies who spew jargon that’s hard to understand. Or, you may not be seeing the ROI from your current marketing program. Or you may feel so behind or overwhelmed that you just don’t know where to start. Don’t get me wrong. Designing and executing a high-ROI digital marketing strategy isn’t easy, but understanding enough digital marketing basics to collaborate effectively with your marketing team and guide smart spend that yields high ROI isn’t hard. In this post, I’m going to give you a few building blocks to help you create more transparency for your marketing strategy and set you on the yellow brick road to marketing success.
BRICK #1: Make sure that your prospects can find you. Your site’s capacity to come up in keyword searches is called “traffic” or SEO (search engine optimization). Your marketing team is likely giving you dashboards to show you where your traffic is coming from. If they’re not, ask for them. You may assume your SEO is just fine because your site always comes up when you type in search terms from your desktop. Don’t get too complacent, though. Your site may be coming up for you because your browser (Chrome, Safari, or whatever) has stored cookies—signals that help your browser quickly predict and locate where you probably want to go. If you want to take a quick, realistic look at your website as others see it, you must become a “secret shopper” and browse as someone other than yourself. Google’s handy Incognito or other tools that temporarily wipe your browser history can help you take an unbiased look at how your site comes up in searches.
BRICK #2: Get a quick snapshot of what’s helping—or hurting—your site’s SEO. Hubspot, a company that makes marketing and CRM software, offers an easy-to-use diagnostic tool that gives you the data you need to launch productive conversations with your marketing team. In my experience, the Website Grader often reveals SEO “housekeeping” lapses that are cheap and quick to fix.
Tip: You can also use tools like this to assess your competitors’ sites. Check out Marketing Espionage: How to Spy on Yourself, Your Prospects and Your Competitors to Dominate Online by Heather Lutze for additional digital marketing evaluation tactics.
BRICK #3: Understand how conversions are working on your site. Site traffic is important, but it’s not really where the rubber hits the road. To really see how well your site is feeding your business, you must look at conversion data, which is available only if you have analytics available from the “guts” of your site. If your marketing team is not sharing a Google Analytics report with you, ask to see it.
Watch out for this pitfall: Sometimes digital marketing teams make the mistake of focusing on SEO at the expense of conversions. They pack your site with so many keywords that they create what I call “rabbit holes”—vast expanses of copy where the customer gets lost and fails to see or respond to calls to action (CTAs). Your site should be a digital version of your very best sales person and it should jumpstart engagement with your sales team. It should be a tool that inspires your prospects to move farther along the path to becoming customers
Looking at conversion data helps you know how customer-centered your site really is because it tells you whether or not your site is successfully inspiring action. A “conversion” is any completion of an action you’d like visitors to take when they’re on your site. It could be actually buying a product right then and there, but for higher price-points it could be making an appointment, requesting a demo, or leaving lead generation or lead nurture data in exchange for free downloads.
BRICK #4: Make sure your email marketing program is helping—not hurting—your business. Sure, your company may be sending lots of emails to customers and prospects, but if recipients aren’t converting—or even worse, if they are unsubscribing—you could actually be burning leads that your entire company has worked hard to generate and nurture. Burning leads is like burning money, so you should have email marketing KPIs in place that discourage lead burning.
Tip: Ask for email marketing reports that show the following:
• Click-thru rate (CTR)
• Conversion rate
• Hard bounce rate
• Soft bounce rate
• List growth rate
• Email forwarding/share rate
• Contribution margin—how much are you spending on your email marketing program and what are you getting in return?
BRICK #5: Schedule a free digital marketing assessment with The Content Crew. You are probably working with some great marketing folks, but think about it: We expect marketing people to be so many things—brilliant writers, clever artists, charming salespeople, technical wizards, quantitative data geeks, operations gurus, and more. Sometimes, an outside perspective or a little contract help here and there can help a good marketing team become great. Be like Dorothy and don’t travel the Yellow Brick Road alone. Get a little help from The Content Crew and put yourself on the path to strengthening your marketing team and your business.