Two things I love a lot:
1. Frameworks, because if I can teach someone a new mental model, a different way of thinking, they can be incredibly successful.
2. Visuals, because if I can paint a simple picture about something complex it means I understand it and in turn I can explain it to others.
This post is at the intersection of those two lovely things.
Each of the six visuals re-frames a unique facet of the digital opportunity/challenge, and shares how to optimally take advantage of the opportunity/challenge.
We'll start with digital at the highest strategic level, which leads us into content marketing, from there it is a quick hop over to the challenge of metrics and silos, followed by a recommendation to optimize for the global maxima, and we end with the last two visuals that cover social investment and social content strategy.
A vast expanse of our current existence.
All of the visuals are in the form of a venn diagram, though, as you'll see, I do take enormous liberties with the format. [As Orlando correctly points out in his comment, in taking liberties I've mostly created Euler diagrams. Venn diagrams are a subset of Euler diagrams, checkout the difference.]
Ready to learn, smile and cry (just a little)?
Let's do this!
#1: How to Win, Really Win, at Digital: One-Time PLUS Many-Time Relationships.
The most intense amount of effort companies put into their site happens at site launch or the yearly new product launch. Everyone gets excited, agencies are hired, content is scraped from product box-shots, prettiness is sprinkled everywhere and much happiness, represented by a gigantic sigh of relief, occurs.
All of that is good.
The challenge is that this annual, or semi-annual, update of the content or the website design, is a terrible way to win at digital.
All the stuff you've launched is great for showcasing your company and its products. It delivers conversions when I visit your site once and buy something. But beyond that engagement, that one-time relationship if you will, there is no reason for me to ever come back. Because you don't have anything updated on your website. If I remember everything you sell, I might come back the next time I need something from that everything. Or due to some incredible co-incidence if I bump into your brand when I'm thinking of buying something from your everything.
A secondary, under-appreciated, challenge is that search engines value freshness of content. Once you launch your site, it becomes stale in due course (from a organic search signal perspective). It impacts your organic rankings (even if there are tons and tons of factors that influence SEO results).
A final tertiary challenge is that in a world dominated by conversations and social, your static content rarely entices any new conversations. It is great that you've added a silly string of buttons to all your product pages, but there is hardly a reason for anyone to click on them. (Most of the time all they are is an ad for addthis or some other "free" provider of those buttons.)
If you want to truly rock digital, this is what your digital strategy should look like…
So do your periodic product launches/site refreshes. But almost all your content energy should be poured into fueling the creation of dynamic content! You should have an incredibly amazing blog for your company (more on this below). You should have a robust strategy to earn compelling product reviews. You should have a well defined strategy to create videos and how-to content (constantly updated with solutions to new pain points of customers). You should talk about how innovation works in your company. Your employees should tell their stories. And so on and so forth.
This constantly updated content provides me more reasons to visit your website and stay in touch with your brand. It is also immensely beneficial for search engine optimization (great content, delivered fresh, every day!). Finally it generates a constant stream of social amplification and social conversations!
So do you have a static AND dynamic strategy for your digital existence?
Patagonia is amazing at this. They have a fantastic website where I can buy fantastic stuff that I fantastically love. In addition to that they have amazing content like what you'll see at Patagonia Surfing, and they have a regularly updated awesome blog The Cleanest Line and so much more. As a result I have a one-time and a many-time relationship with the Patagonia brand.
Ditto for one of my favorite hotels in New York, The Standard. Great website for booking rooms and all that. But they also have a great blog/culture guide/all things cool and amazing sub-site called The Standard Culture. I have a time-to-time relationship with their brand (whenever I have to visit New York). I also have a many-time relationship with them because of all this amazing dynamic content – which ensures that I love the brand and that in turn always makes my hands type their url when I have to visit NYC! That is what you want.
I'll be remiss if I did not provide you with two examples of what magnificent product reviews look like.
I love the ones on Williams Sonoma, they are detailed and include a title, a rating, specification on cooking ability and length of ownership sections are my fave and an overall recommendation. They also have, for each review, social amplification buttons! I also love the reviews on Rent The Runway. Can't you just imagine how much value those 102 photos and huge number of reviews add? Not to mention how helpful they are to current or prospective customers!!
So what is your balance of static vs. dynamic? Is it as outsized as the second picture above? It should be.
It is the only way to win big.
#2: The Secret to Content Marketing Success.
Content marketing is all the rage these days. Everyone is contenting a lot of content about content marketing. There is even an institute about it.
On the surface it is hard to argue about the value of content. On paper, what could possibly go wrong with creating or curating content with an eye to driving sales or influencing current or future customers?
Except that most content deployed in the service of content marketing sucks. For two simple reasons: 1. It is actually really hard to create good content, you have to know a lot about the subject matter. 2. We simply can't help pimping ourselves/our products/our services.
When our current/potential customers encounter the fluff pieces which are glorified vehicles for our not so subtle pimping, they quickly see through both things leading to sub-optimal results. And depending on when you want to open your eyes and see reality, you end up realizing content marketing does not work.
Let me share with you my simple rule for creating content that markets itself.
When people ask me how I decide what I write about on this blog, my answer is that prior to launching this blog I'd decided a simple rule for myself. Only post content that is 1. incredible 2. of value to the audience and 3. sans pimping.
I've worked very hard to follow this rule every single time I post something. The content here – and you are the ultimate judge of this – represents what I consider to be something incredible that you will find to be of value. I have a lot of other incredible things to write, but if I believe you won't find them to be of value, it gets killed. (I wish you knew how many posts I've discarded because they did not meet that simple criteria!)
The rule impacts my work in other, big, ways. For example, if I did not have time to write something incredible of value, I've not written anything. The deadline comes and goes, if I have nothing, you get nothing. It is also the reason my posting schedule over the last five years has gone from twice a week to once a week to once every two weeks to once every three weeks. (Amazingly, the blog traffic has gone from 2k a month to 150k a month!)
Finally, I've never accepted ads on this blog. In the right nav you'll see two discreet sections with my books and my start up Market Motive. That could possibly be considered advertising. There are three posts out of 283 about my book, and just five that mention Market Motive. Very little pimping, because I respect your capability to see what I'm selling and buy it if you feel it is a fit for you. (And you have!)
I'm not unique in following the above visual. There are many, many others. People and companies. Waaaaay more successful than I can ever dream of becoming. If content marketing is their strategy, the common thread is always the same. Something incredible, of value, with the barest minimum pimping.
It is the only way to win big.
#3: Data, Data Everywhere and Yet We are an Abject Failure.
I work with many medium to large companies around the world. Every single one has an impressive array of tools, many of them even have an equally impressive array of analysts.
Yet a heartbreakingly huge number of them stink at a company level. By that I mean they might have some pockets of excellence, but overall their site stinks, their customer experience (end-to-end) is awful, and their digital strategy is, on the greatest possible day when every single star is aligned perfectly, adding 1/10th the value it should.
It is the simple combination of how each division/group of people inside, and sometimes outside (agencies, et. al.), the company are organized and incentivized (as in what metrics determine their bonus).
Acquisition is everything we do to attract traffic. Behavior covers everything that happens after the person lands on our mobile or desktop site. Outcomes are what happen just before the visitor leaves our site (money to us, satisfaction to them).
Companies have an Email team and an SEO team and a PPC team and a Social Media team and a Display team and…. many teams for acquisition. They are often measured on impressions (or worse, "connections") and clicks. Then that is all they optimize for. They take zero responsibility for crappy landing pages, or even 404s on landing pages.
Then there is the "site team." Euphemism for we will do anything to keep the site up but really all we do is launch pages that someone will ask us for and we really don't know who is coming to the site or what is driving them there and we rarely speak to marketing or agency but the site is pretty cool, we think.
Depending on other variables, there might be someone who looks at conversion rates (usually sans a lot of other context).
Each might work on their own little circle, there is no incentive to look end-to-end, or even at the overlaps/hand-offs.
So fix that.
Make sure your executive dashboards obsess about acquisition, behavior and outcome metrics. Make sure that every single report you create has acquisition, behavior and outcome metrics (download this example: Page Efficiency Analysis Report).
Force each team to think end-to-end and you will incentivize the right behavior across your company.
It is the only way to win big.
[Bonus: Download nine additional custom reports, and a VP-level dashboard, I've created with ABO as a foundation, directly into your Google Analytics account: Occam's Razor Awesomeness ]
#4: Optimize for your Global Maxima: Obsess About Macro AND Micro Outcomes!
The average conversion rate for a typical top ecommerce site is around 2%. And sadly, we are not at the top, so we tend to do worse.
When we obsess only about conversion rates on our website, the problem is that that is an obsession with just 2% of the site outcomes. We end up looking at the world through a straw, and the best we can do is a lot less than the best we can actually accomplish.
This is not to say that you should not worry about conversion. You should. But when your strategy looks like the one above, powered by looking through a straw, you'll optimize for the local maxima.
That is not terrible. It is just not awesome. Your parents will always pat you on your head and say "Oh sweetie, you could have been something. Something so much more."
And who wants that? You want to live up to your fullest potential!
That means you'll have to care about your macro-outcome, the ecommerce conversion or your lead submitted conversion or donations made to your non-profit conversion. But you'll also have to care about your micro-outcomes!
Some of these micro-outcomes will directly lead to your macro-outcome. For example, people signing up for your email marketing list will convert in the near future. Or people who create wish lists, sign up for product alerts, watch product videos today etc. They are all signaling intent to convert.
But other micro-outcomes might not be directly related to a near future macro-outcome. For example, people who subscribe to your blog's RSS feed. Or people who follow you on social media or subscribe to your YouTube channel or sign-up to volunteer for your non-profit or download your utility marketing mobile app etc. All these outcomes bring people closer to your brand, an awesome outcome.
When you measure the success of your AdWords campaigns or your email blasts or your Facebook ads or any other acquisition initiative, make sure you report your macro-conversion rate. But don't stop there. Make sure you report your micro-conversion rate as well. Teach your company to optimize their digital strategy for a portfolio of outcomes, macro plus micro. And if you compute economic value of digital – the value of macro plus micro outcomes – your career will be on the fastest possible track to fame and happiness!
Best of all, this will mean you are optimizing for the global maxima.
It is the only way to win big.
#5: Rent or Own? The Optimal Social Media Investment Strategy.
This is a new trend amongst companies. Swept up in the fervor of Google+, Facebook, YouTube and other social platforms, they are massively shifting their resources (people, time, dineros) into their presence on these new platforms.
That in of itself is not a bad thing. Everyone knows there are a quadrillion people on Facebook. It is absolutely a valuable audience.
The bad thing is that all this seems to come at the cost of investing resources on efforts related to the company's website. So many companies have irrelevant posts by expensive employees on Facebook all day long (more on this below), and don't spent the little bit of money to create a mobile website. #arrrrrhhhhh
Remember, when you create a presence on Facebook, Google+, Sina Weibo, Vkontakte, you are renting.
You don't own the domain, you don't own the customer data, you don't create/own the rules, you can't influence changes, you don't have a say in how many characters you can type or how long your video can be or how much creativity you can express. You play by their rules (after all you are just renting).
This does not make those platforms any less valuable. But it is astounding silly to have your rented presence come at the cost of a platform you own!
Build your own magnificent platform first. Where you create the rules, you control the evolution, you own the customer data, you have a direct relationship with your audience, you get to decide what happens next (or if ever!), and there are no limits to your experimentation with creativity!
Once you nail your own existence, move on to nailing your rent existence.
And going forward, always forever remember the balance between own and rent. Outsized investment in own and an appropriate, demonstrated by the best social media metrics, investment in rent.
It is the only way to win big.
#6: The World's Greatest Social Media Strategy.
Why does L'Oreal Paris USA, a multi-billion dollar corporation with a marketing budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, have fewer followers than I do on Twitter?
Why is the talking about this brand metric for Avis rent-a-car less than half of what it is for my brand page (and I have 50,000 fewer Likes than they do!)? Remember, Avis is a corporation with thousands of employees in tons of countries.
Why does TravelZoo have 224k fewer Followers on Google+ than I do?
All these companies are big and magnificent, and I'm very small and inconsequential. So, why?
The answer is simple: this is their social media strategy…
They wake up everyday and, on the world's greatest channels for conversations, they shout at people. Every single post they write, every single tweet they send, is simply another variation of BUY IT NOW!
The challenge is, as the See Think Do framework emphasizes, a tiny, tiny, minority of the audience is there to buy anything. (If you need more proof, just see how poorly advertising performs on these platforms.)
Just because you are good at shouting on TV/Radio/Print/Display does not imply that that is what you do on social media. Even if you somehow manage to get a bunch of Likes/Followers/+1s, your conversation rate, amplification rate and applause rate will be pathetic.
So stop that.
These channels are awesome (also see visual #5 above). Here's the strategy that works…
Pimp your stuff sometimes – say twice a week. And if you can be clever about it, like getting your customers to pimp for you, even better.
Ninety-five percent of the time create conversations and try to add value to your customers/likers/+1ers.
Write about topics both of you are interested in. If you sell smoothies, talk about food, how to develop a great palette, travel, evolution, agriculture, the future of the planet… the topics are endless.
Provide utility. Share tips on how to make my life better. Share tips on a healthy lifestyles, exercise, wellness of children, latest relevant mobile apps…. the topics are endless.
Your customers have given you permission to interrupt their day. Don't suck at it. Be respectful of their attention. Create a warm space in their heart for your brand. Contribute something incredible, of value.
That is the only way to win big.
That's it. Six simple visualizations, and solutions, for complex marketing, analytics and life challenges.
As always, it is your turn now.
Is there a venn diagram that resonates more with you than others? Which one least reflects reality? What does your company's digital balance between static and dynamic content look like? What percent of your social contributions is BUY IT NOW? Does your company execute for visual number one or two for outcomes? How incredible and of value is your content marketing content?
Please share your wisdom, stories, critique, and praise via comments.