Online marketing is a fickle beast – and you have to do it all the time. Like many of you, at the end of the year, we take time to reflect on our performance with tasks & projects over the past 12 months, especially as it relates to business development (AKA sales and marketing). Here’s the methodology we use to measure our online marketing effectiveness. Hopefully you can use this to guide your online marketing plans for the next year too.
TAKE STOCK OF ONLINE MARKETING RESULTS
The first thing we do is review our analytics. We compare metrics month over month and year over year – this helps get a perspective on business growth, seasonal changes, strategy changes (we spent more time on content marketing in May, and we launched a new SEO friendly website in December). It’s imperative to align the results with the activities as much as possible. We do it during the year too, but the big picture review matters as well.
You may have heard the term KPI (key performance indicator). We keep an eye on a variety of KPIs for our business, including:
- Website visitors: traffic should be growing for any healthy business
- Bounce rate: making sure we’re not getting the wrong kind of traffic
- Subscribers: the gold standard for us – from an engaged audience
- Open rate: we take pride in sharing good content for all our clients, and this is part one of the litmus test
- Click rate: …part two of the litmus test…
We also pay attention to a trio of other important metrics: trends, conversions and (most importantly) revenue. We use a spreadsheet to slice & dice all our KPIs. We also do this for a number of our clients to help them make strategic online marketing and business plan adjustments.
Note, it is important to keep the number of KPIs small to keep everyone’s attention focused on important goals.
WHAT ONLINE MARKETING STRATEGIES FAILED
If only everything went according to plan… Alas, some strategies don’t pay off. All that time on Twitter? Not sure we got what we hoped. Ad money spent on Facebook? May as well have gone to the racetrack. Averaged 10 unsubscribes on every newsletter. That’s not good…
KPIs can also show negatives. For example, unsubscribes or low open rates may mean it’s time to adjust how the newsletter is assembled. Or traffic declining may indicate a problem with Google (not mobile friendly?). Our old website didn’t work well after mobilegeddon hit in April…which required us to take action soon after.
WHAT ONLINE MARKETING TACTICS AREN’T YOU DOING
We recommend starting with basic online marketing tactics. First, tracking metrics is a requirement. If you don’t have an eye on your online marketing results, start in January (log basics from December now, and compare after a month). Once you have a handle on the basics, keep an eye on new ideas that you’ve heard about but haven’t tried. Blogging? Keyword research and PPC? Landing pages? There are dozens of things to do, so research and make a list.
UPDATE THE ANNUAL ONLINE MARKETING PLAN
Planning is a luxury you must afford. Keep it simple: do more of what worked and do less of what didn’t. Then do what you should be and aren’t. When it comes to things that didn’t work, consider why. Ad budget was too small? Landing pages were poorly designed? Didn’t split test?
Keep the plan flexible too. For example, we like to create an editorial calendar at the beginning of the year, but it’s more of a guideline than a rulebook… If something comes up (especially questions from customers or prospects), rest assured they move up on the content calendar.
EXECUTE: ONLINE MARKETING ACTION
Put on your training shoes, and just do it. Take little steps at first, then go for full strides.
ONLINE MARKETING EXPERIMENTS
Stay abreast of ideas in online marketing. If there’s a new social network or an app that’s gaining ground, see if it fits your business. Over the past couple of years, for example, Instagram and SnapChat have created business opportunities for those who could figure it out.
Here are some good resources (subscribe to the newsletters!) for what’s happening in online marketing:
Moz: for SEO
Quicksprout: for Content Marketing
Really Good Emails: for Email Marketing
MEASURE & ADAPT: LEARN FROM ONLINE MARKETING RESULTS
If you have good metrics defined and you’re measuring them, they become a performance management tool. They give everyone a clear picture of what is important. Keep performance front and center – don’t set the goals in January and then review them next December. Check in regularly and share the results with your team. Learn from your successes and failure, then adapt. In the end, you will almost always move closer to your marketing goals.
We hope you enjoy prosperity in the new year as a direct result of your improvements in online marketing!