Strategic Thinking

Analyze This! Why Your Google Analytics Matter

If there’s one thing I’ve come to learn about my clients, it’s that they expect results. Many of my clients place a lot of value on measurement, and I am often asked, “How were our leads this quarter compared to last? Are we seeing value from the amount we put into new content on our site?” I find it interesting that a lot of business owners and marketers are unclear of the value they can receive from their Google Analytics reports.

At CreativeWorks Marketing, we dedicate the last week of each month to compiling and analyzing Google Analytics data. Google Analytics is a free tool in which you are able to monitor the traffic to your website in terms of audience demographics, behaviour, referrals and more. Like any good tool, you get out of it what you put into it. A simple Google Analytics report is only valuable when analyzed to help you understand what it means to your business.

The analyzed data is central to your business as it allows you to understand what is and isn’t working on your site so you can implement strategic, not just tactical, initiatives. While many web companies offer Google Analytics reports as part of their services, few of them supply much other than the raw data itself. Being able to read and fully understand what is being told through the data is imperative to your marketing success.

I have worked with multiple clients over the years that receive monthly analytics reports from their “web person” and disregard the information due to a lack of understanding. By ignoring the information provided in each analytics report, you might be missing key information about your business. Variances in online behaviour are important to determine problems and identify trends.

Google Analytics go above and beyond recording how many people have visited your site, it can also help to identify “unusual” behaviour. For example, when one of our clients was the victim of a website scam, we were able to identify new visitors to the site that came from suspicious sources. Finding out this information and alerting our client was imperative to the security of our client’s site, and without Google Analytics we wouldn’t have been able to act as fast as we did.

Analytics are a key part of the marketing process, and website analytics are only one form of such data. If your business is on digital platforms, you need to make sure you have clear analytics reports that also include relevant data on your social media efforts, and ideally include summaries and recommendations for adjustments and changes for improvements.

If you are investing your time and money into a robust website, it’s important that you have an understanding of how your audience is using it. Ask your marketing agency to provide a detailed analysis of your digital assets and explain what changes, if any need to be made. The goal of truly understanding website behaviour is using analytics to its fullest potential.

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The Social Media Election

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been glued to the American presidential election since it began to heat up earlier this year. This election is different from others for a number of reasons. For the first time ever, a woman is the Democratic nominee for president. Her opponent, the leader of the Republican Party, is loudly entering the political arena for the first time. Whatever the outcome is tonight, the 2016 election will be looked upon as a “social media election”.

In the 2012 American presidential election, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were the first candidates who really used social media to gauge voter interest in their campaigns. Facebook was a reliable channel for distributing key campaign messages for both parties, and Twitter was just starting to make waves. Obama successfully generated almost 20 million more followers than Romney did on the platform, and secured the presidency in November of that year. Obama’s victory tweet after winning the election became the most retweeted piece of content on the platform up to that point.

While social media had a huge influence on the last election, nothing can top how it’s altered the current presidential race. The two candidates have been using social media for years, thus allowing voters to tap into their past posts. Take this tweet by Donald Trump, for example:

Somehow I can’t see Ronald Reagan saying something like this.

The use of social media allows presidential candidates to give minute-by-minute updates on their campaign and gives voters direct access into their professional and private lives. Donald Trump has been successful in using his Twitter account to influence his voters throughout his presidential campaign. His brash language and brutal honesty has positioned him as a “no-nonsense” candidate. While some voters find this behavior unsettling, he has appealed to the untapped demographic of American voters who want to abolish political correctness.

Hilary Clinton might not be as “honest” as Donald Trump, but she also has an impressive social media presence. Her slogan “#ImWithHer” has been shared millions of times all over social media. Due to her large celebrity fan base, Democratic social media influencers like Katy Perry and Lena Dunham continue to share supportive messages and images.

Trump relies heavily on his Twitter account while Clinton has broadened her social media presence through Snapchat, blogs and apps. While running completely different campaigns, both candidates have secured a huge social media following. Twitter and Facebook accounts are free to use, but don’t let that fool you into thinking social media hasn’t cost each campaign dearly. Donald Trump’s campaign spent $200,000 to purchase the promoted hashtag of the day, allowing it to be seen from every Twitter user in the U.S. through sponsored posts and the trending hashtags sidebar.

What has me so concerned as a marketer is that social media has provided voters with an inside look into the candidates, but it might not be the most reliable way to judge a future president. As we all know, social media is great for storytelling but that doesn’t mean it always reflects reality. One thing I have noticed throughout this entire campaign is that we’ve begun to lose sight of the actual issues at hand. Stories about Donald Trump’s latest misogynistic tweets are as much of a story as the crisis in Aleppo. While social media has played an important role in this election, it’s important to note that it is not the only factor Americans should be looking into when electing their next president.

So where do we go from here? I think it’s safe to say that neither candidate will have their own true voice on social media if they are elected President of The United States.

From a marketing standpoint, both these candidates have utilized social media to their advantage by creating consistent content marketing campaigns to appeal to their voters. However, voters in the United States need to consider that a candidate’s social media personality is likely to change once they have been elected, so they need to be confident in their candidate as a leader, not a tweeter.

Marketing Needs PR: Handling Crisis

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed more and more of a convergence between marketing and PR. The shift comes, I feel, as a result of the increasingly blurred lines between advertising and public relations as I mentioned in a previous blog, but also in part because marketing is so much more in the public eye than ever before as a result of personal brands.

As marketers today, it’s not uncommon for us to look at influencers, sponsor social content, and engage bloggers with opportunities to invest our marketing budgets. These approaches, one could argue, would typically have been part of a PR campaign, but with this paradigm shift many of us in marketing are taking note and making sure our marketing strategies include public relations.

The need for PR as part of your marketing can be highlighted in a situation of crisis. We see it almost daily: big brands make headlines after a bad social media post or a viral video, and because now bad social means bad PR and bad PR can mean a loss in customer and brand loyalty, these PR crises can become marketing nightmares.

As marketers, we need to have resources at hand to handle any scandal or branding nightmare. It’s important to have a plan in place should a crisis develop. In true PR fashion, but with a marketing twist, here are my tips for handling a branding crisis.

 Act quickly- but not recklessly

Once you’ve heard the bad news, it’s important to gather your team and address the situation. Find out what went wrong, and how you can fix it. If you speak first, you control the story, but it’s important that you have all the accurate information you need before you release any information to the public.

Take responsibility

While you might not feel like this was your fault, if your company was in any way responsible for this crisis, it’s important to take ownership. Shifting the blame around just makes consumers think you are dishonest and untrustworthy.

Create a solution

After you have received all the information needed and have accepted the fact that you need to apologize to the public for what has transpired, you need to come up with a solution. People want to know that you see where things went wrong, and you know how to fix it. After apologizing for your company’s wrongdoing, outline how you are going to ensure this never happens again. Once people know that you are fixing the problem, they will begin to move on.

 Rebuild

In the moment, it feels like this situation will completely ruin your business, but it’s important to remember that eventually, a new scandal comes along and people will forget about your organization’s indiscretion. In your effort to rebuild your brand, focus on creating positive buzz for your company, especially if it counteracts the original scandal.

I hope scandal never erupts in your business, but better to be prepared, which is why I advise clients to have a crisis PR plan in place as part of their marketing strategy. This will allow your business to act quickly and effectively, making sure your organization and brand comes out unscathed.

Second Place Is A First-Rate Strategy

With almost 20 years in this business, it’s not that often that I come across a TV commercial that actually gets me excited, but Classico’s pasta sauce competition commercial has done it. It’s not because of the creativity or the out-of-the-box thinking, but because of the strategy! The commercial establishes a pasta sauce competition, the opponents being a group of Italian “Nonnas” and Classico pasta sauce chefs. When the winners are announced, the Italian Nonnas take home the gold, while the Classico group stands cheering. It ends with a voiceover that says:

“Homemade pasta sauce will always win, but with inspiration from the regions of Italy, we’re a close second.”

WOW! I wasn’t expecting that ending! And that is why the commercial is so effective. The commercial has the ad sponsor, Classico, celebrating the fact they didn’t win a pasta sauce competition, and promoting the fact that their brand was, indeed, second place in the pasta sauce game.

Brands usually don’t take this type of risk by admitting defeat, but by doing the unexpected and taking this risk, and creating a strategic approach, it’s a win-win.

Classico hasn’t created a major marketing campaign for over 10 years, so this ad needed to create some serious dialogue. After conducting some market research, Classico found that their consumers frequently make homemade pasta sauce on the weekend and believe that a store-bought pasta sauce will never live up to something made from scratch. They also found that; while their consumers appreciate homemade sauce more, “for those nights when they want to deliver a great meal, but don’t have a lot of time, they want a high quality pasta sauce alternative.”

Knowing this, Classico launched their “Second only to yours” campaign. Admitting their sauce will never beat a delicious homemade sauce appeals to consumers looking for brand honesty, and as I discussed in last week’s blog, honesty is key in a marketing campaign. Classico knows their consumers value high quality sauce, so by informing them that while they are not going to beat their homemade version, they are still a close second, appealing to this busy target market.

In 1962, this strategy was also met with great success when Avis embraced their second-place status as a way to hype the brand’s customer service with the tagline, “When you’re only No. 2, you try harder.” They retired the slogan last year after finally slipping into third place behind Hertz, 50 years after the tag line was created.

As we can see, this risky strategy worked well for both companies. Classico’s ad has now become a viral video, and Avis produced a popular slogan that was used for half a century. However, if everyone started a marketing campaign claiming they were number two, we might be in trouble. These two case studies are great examples of how well-researched marketing strategies can go against the grain and pay off big time.

The Rise of Digital Marketing

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 1.26.20 PMThe digital world is tied directly to data, and data is everywhere. When it comes to marketing, data informs marketers about audiences, their interests, intentions, and where they choose to interact. I believe that being able to analyze big data, create original content and having a sound digital strategy are three key factors a company should consider while aiming for success in the current digital climate.

Big Data

Because of the rise in available data, digital media has become an incredibly integrated part of consumers’ daily lives, and digital platforms are constantly updating themselves in order to provide the best user experience.

Being able to analyze and report data is a key component to any marketing strategy (at least it should be). Everything will be enhanced by the growth of big data – get ready!

Content

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “content is King”. When content is relevant and interesting, consumers cannot wait to read and share your brand’s content. This includes video content too (Instagram recently introduced a looping feature on their videos!).

Also, blogs are making a comeback because SEO matters now more than ever, and you need content to post on your social media sites – what better content than your own, right?

Digital Strategy

The changing digital landscape means digital marketing is constantly evolving, and marketers, like myself, are forced to learn how to use new software, how to use different platforms (including mobile), how to apply new techniques, and how to manage and optimize marketing efforts.

Location matters more now too. As the Internet grows at an incomprehensible rate, users are looking for more local experiences. We’ve seen the emergence of companies, like Uber and UberX, providing local goods and services at the push of a button. Being able to offer customers a local experience (that’s easily accessible via their smartphone – think convenience) keeps you relevant. This means we should see a rise in the amount of geo-targeted advertising, and social content created.

Content creation, SEO, and social media, shouldn’t be treated as specific departments, but rather as skills that exist inherently within your marketing agency (or internal marketing team).

What does this mean for businesses today?

Before you, or your company, settle on a marketing budget, I recommend you look at the latest trends and technology, and understand which of these your customers use so you can create a plan that leverages all available data. The success of today’s marketing campaigns largely relies on sound marketing strategies that have adopted new digital technologies.

If you’re unsure of where to start or if your marketing strategy is outdated, please contact me at info@creativeworksmarketing.ca to see how I can help your business.

Does your company have a digital strategy in place? What are your biggest challenges with digital marketing? Comment and share your thoughts with me!

A Strategy for a Blog? Really?

BloggingBusiness owners ask me all the time whether they should have a business blog. My answer is always the same, let’s explore why.

Starting a blog is serious business that requires a huge time commitment, particularly if you are writing it yourself, so unless it is spelled out in your marketing strategy, you’ll need to create a separate blog strategy to determine its purpose and destiny before you start writing. In some industries you are only as good as your last blog entry, so make sure you can “commit” to this long term marketing tool.

I understand that many may feel a strategy for a blog is a bit “over the top”, but in fact by writing down your plan, you are more likely to commit to it, but also to see its value in the growth of your brand.

With over five years of experience writing various blog strategies for my clients, I have outlined a few key tips to consider when creating a strategy for your blog:

  1. Create a goal for your blog.

In other words, why do you want to have a blog? Is it to position you or your brand within an industry? Is it to provide guidance to your audience, or insights into industry trends? Or is it simply to provide tips to show your knowledge. Make sure you are very clear about the “why”, as it will help you determine the outcomes and direction of your blog strategy.

  1. Decide who your audience is going to be.

Who do you want to engage with and speak to with your blog? Are you trying to target C-level individuals, front line staff, or middle management? The more narrowly you define your target audience, the easier it will be to identify those people, cater to their needs with your content, and reach them with your messages. This audience should tie in to your key audience for your brand, so look to your marketing or branding strategy to help you determine audience.

  1. Content is still king.

Your primary and ongoing goal should be to continuously develop innovative content and put a truly unique spin on whatever topic you’re blogging about. Make sure your blog highlights your unique knowledge, voice and personality. Having a unique voice is one of the easiest ways to set it apart from your competition. Try to incorporate proprietary information, facts or research. The more unique and innovative your content and the better you target your audience, the easier it will be to build a following.

  1. Create an editorial schedule, and stick to it.

To build and maintain a steady audience, you’ll need to commit to a regular schedule for your blog. It has to be frequent enough that your audience expects it yet is not overwhelmed by it, so knowing your audiences tolerance is key here. Make sure you don’t over promise and under deliver as your audience could simply move on.

  1. Track and measure your success.

Most blog sites have great analytics, so make sure that you are tracking which blogs are giving you the best engagement and maybe consider creating a few blogs on a similar topic, or a series on the same topic. Always try to give your audience what they want and one way of ensuring this is tracking your analytics.

Do you have a business blog? What is your blog doing or NOT doing for you that you wish it would? Have you ever considered writing a blog strategy? I look forward to your comments and discussion.

Is a Company Mission/Vision Statement as Useful as a Marketing Strategy?

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Ideally, to be successful in business you need to have mission and vision statements, as well as a marketing strategy. They are all equally important as they are all powerful sign-posts to provide clear and succinct directions. The mission and vision statements are focused on the purpose and aspirations of the company, while a marketing strategy focuses on highlighting what is unique about your company to a targeted audience.

Unfortunately, mission and vision statements are often confusing or too generic, mixing values, aspirations, philosophies, strategies and descriptions. Let’s be clear about the difference between a mission and a vision statement:

  • A mission statement articulates the purpose of the company, why it exists, and what it does and for whom. It should serve as an ongoing guide that spells out what the company is all about. The mission should focus on the here and now.
  • A vision statement outlines the goals and aspirations for the future. It creates a mental picture of a specific medium-term target and should be used as a source of inspiration.

With those definitions in mind, I have outlined below what I believe to be the reasons why having all three of these documents written down and adhered to is essential to helping you clearly define your goals, objectives, audience and value both internally and externally.

Mission and Vision Statements are commonly used to:

Internally

  • Guide management’s thinking on strategic issues, especially during times of significant change
  • Help define performance standards
  • Inspire employees to work more productively by providing focus and common goals
  • Guide employee decision making

Externally

  • Enlist external support
  • Create closer linkages and better communication with customers, suppliers and alliance partners
  • Serve as a public relations tool

A Marketing Strategy is commonly used to:

  • Define what makes your service/product unique (besides price)
  • Create a Unique Selling Proposition
  • Define key target audiences for specific services or products you offer and where they are
  • Define what types of marketing tactics can be used to attract your key audiences
  • Define what your company values and how that relates to your audiences’ values
  • Define the frequency of the marketing tactics
  • Define measurement for each of the tactics for ROI tracking

I find that a good way to start the process of creating these key pieces of business documentation is to ask key people in your organization to answer the following questions:

  • For Mission (or Purpose): What is the core purpose of the organization? What do we do and for who?
  • For Vision (or Ambition): Where do we want to be in 5 or 10 years time? What are our aspirations?
  • For Marketing Strategy: What makes your service/product stand apart from the competition?

 

Do you feel your corporate mission statements and marketing strategy are useful, or do you disagree with me and feel (even well crafted) vision and mission statements and marketing strategies are not necessary/useful? Please share you views in the comments below!