Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Buyer Journey: Understanding is the key to better marketing investments

Traditional mass media marketing has “set the bar” very low for all marketers.

For far too long marketers haven’t had any skin in the game. Traditional mass media marketing had tactics which set the stage for much of marketing to be measured in a soft way. By soft, I mean things like - circulations/page views, total sales lift, CPL, and even brand awareness/value.

The result of this is marketing and management teams have accepted limit visibility into true Marketing ROI. A stat recently came out that helps validate this – “Only 6% of B2B leaders can calculate ROI on all marketing activity

My god. Think about that.

Investing in the ability to track the ROI on all marketing investments will help marketers invest smarter, but also help put marketers into a position of power in organizations. If we can shift the perception of marketing from being a cost center to a revenue generator our power as marketers will be amplified.

How do we make this shift? 

Simple, don’t invest in efforts if you can't tie them to a user journey. There are 2 critical elements to remember here:

1 – The user journey isn’t a funnel.
As shown here the buying process is especially complex in B2B technology marketing. Google’s ZMOT, TechTarget media consumption studies and others find that buyers are researching by consuming 6-10+ assets as they go through a purchase decision. A single attribution model isn’t enough. If someone is researching and consumes 15 assets as they navigate their decision process, only tracking the final assets viewed when they converted to SQL or MQL doesn’t tell the full story. It doesn’t give credit to all the prior engagements that contributed to the conversion. Each engagement has influence and helps drive the next engagement.  We need to understand our relationship and influence at each step. 

2 – As the user journey progresses, so should the goals and metrics of success.
In point 1 we already established that the buyer’s research process is complex. The content we use to help them navigate from start to finish should vary in its goal as they move through this process. Some content might help them better understand the problem they are facing, other content might help them understand better how your solution solves their problem. With this concept in mind, not all content should be held to the same metrics of success. A engagement metric might work for early stage content, while a call to action click might work better for late stage content. We need to adjust the metrics/goals based on the stage and content goal

We need to understand that the traditional elements of marketing are rapidly dissolving. Many of today’s fastest growing brands are built on this concept (Instagram, Dropbox, Twitter) – and many of them got there without tradition mass media marketing. In the book Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday he says "marketing has always been about the same thing - who your customers are and where they are" what growth hackers do is focus on the "who" and the "where" more scientifically" (bold added by me). Call it “Growth Hacking” or anything else, but these companies have been 100% focused on solid metrics, combined with the who and where of their audience. In his blog post Lung Huang expands on this concept Breaking Bad Media with a great analogy. 

The Take-Away:
Focus on growth and impact. Reach only matters if it’s the right people. We need to be able to identify where the right people are in their research process and help them navigate through it with meaningful content.  We need to focus on the hard metrics and invest in technology to track each engagement.

It’s not easy. Vanity metrics are easier to track and might feel better in the short term – but success never comes easy.

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