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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Developing Your Social Media Marketing Plan

The basic function of marketing as we know it has changed.  It is no longer acceptable to simply push out a message or grab someones attention with a catchy slogan.  You must be able to hold their attention.  It is all about creating content to engage the consumer.  This is where social media comes into play.

Many businesses both big and small fail at profiting from implementing a social media strategy.  Remember, social media isn’t a separate part of your marketing efforts. It must be integrated into your overall marketing strategy for social medial to be effective.

I have developed a simple 9 step process to consider when building any marketing plan and in particular a social media marketing plan (see Figure 1 below).
 Figure 1 Your Social Media Marketing Plan

Understanding Your Customers
Knowing your customers will help you assess the types of media to consider.  And, the emphasis to place on each.  Are your customers older?  Are they more likely female? Where are they likely to purchase/shop?

Where Are You Now?
Who are your competitors and what are they doing promotionaly.  What is their market share compared to yours.  What is your market potential?

A great blog article on helping you understand the steps to market sizing is:  How to Effectively Determine Your Market Size

Conduct a SWOT Analysis
Strengths - Do you have better customer service, better technology, bigger name recognition?
Weaknesses - Do you have fewer locations than your competitor, lower perceived value?
Opportunities - Are you moving into a unique and niche market?  Is your competitor less nimble and capable of change?
Threats - A new competitor could move in quickly, no patent, easy entry.

Check out the following article to help you lay out an effective SWOT analysis:  Discover New Opportunities, Manage and Eliminate Threats

State Objectives
What are you trying to achieve here:
  • Increase the customer base
  • Increase sales
  • Reduce attrition
  • Enhance awareness

Know Your Audience
Detail your segments for targeting and the unique qualities of each regarding demographic, psycho- graphic and behavioral data.  This will be key to understanding the most appropriate social media strategy for each segment. 

Select Your Social Media Channels
There are four dimensions you will need to consider here for purposes of building an effective strategy.

1.  What social media channels make the most sense for your segments? Consider setting a priority of which social media to implement first, second and third.  Especially if there are budget and resource constraints.  This is very important.  But, do NOT make the mistake of thinking you must be in every social media channel available.  Some may not make sense for your business model.

2.  Next think about if you will need a blog or a YouTube Channel?  There are many other beneftis to blogging such as SEO and link building.   Here is a great article by Search Engine Journal that may help:  7 Ways Businesses Benefit from Blogging

 3.  What about gamification of your brand or service?  For example, badges for completing so many tasks.  Serves as a great retention tool. Check out this article:  How to Gamify Your Marketing

4,  And lastly, do you need to worry about monitoring ratings?  Do coupon sites make sense? What about social commerce?

Ensure a Good User Experience (UX)
As you lay out your plan, ensure you are representing the brand consistently across all channels both social, digital and traditional regarding the look, feel, price, options, etc.  You do not want to confuse the customer.  Be very deliberate here.

Regarding mobile, ensure your sites are working well in this environment with good responsive design and a supporting app if that makes sense.  Remember, we are using mobile and tablets at higher and higher rates every day to access the web.  So you need to be where your customers are.  And, you need to give them a good experience. 

The Action Plan
Lay out every step to execute the plan identifying responsible parties and due dates.  Set your budget.  Do not forget the tools.  You will need tools to monitor your social efforts like Hootsuite. Additionally, to help you understand what percent of your budget consider this detailed article on the matter:  How to Allocate your Marketing Budget

Monitor, Manage and Measure
Name one person to oversee the execution of the plan, hold regular update meetings.  And lastly, define how you will determine success of your efforts by establishing measurable KPI's.

Hope you find this road map helpful.  Would love to hear your thoughts.

Perry D. Drake

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Shopping Cart Abandonment Rates Continue to Rise

Wow, I can't believe all the money retailers are leaving on the table. As abandoned shopping cart rates continue to rise, e-commerce sites are not stepping up to the plate as aggressively as they could to recapture these lost sales. 

I realize that in part the reason the rates are rising is that consumers are becoming more sophisticated with respect to shopping and comparing prices online.  But that is no excuse for an e-commerce sites not to reach back.  Just unacceptable.

Lets look at the facts.

First of all according to Optinmonster, abandonment rates have been on an upward trend since 2008, and are expected to continue to rise into the foreseeable future.  See the chart below.

According to ReadyCloud, some of the top reasons consumers abandon their shopping carts an be seen below (multiple answers allowed):
  1. Extra costs = 61%
  2. Forced account creation = 35%
  3. Complex checkout = 27%
  4. Slow website load = 75%
  5. High shipping costs =55%
So given these reasons, what is a retailer to do?  Just sit back, wait, and hope the consumer returns?  Well I would hope not. 

Based on a study by Moosend roughly 10% of those consumers that receive a follow up email regarding their abandon cart will ultimately purchase.  So think of all the money left on the table for a given e-commerce site...even if they just recapture 10% of that lost revenue.

Lets run a few numbers.

Consider a modest retailer with sales of $500,000 annually and a 70% abandonment rate.  What are they leaving on the table?  Using the formula below they are leaving $1,166,666 on the table.

[$500K / (1 - .70) ] - $500K 

Assuming they convert just 10% of those that abandoned with triggered emails (a realistic number), that yields $116,666 in saved revenue.  This would certainly cover the cost of the automation of a trigger based email program.  So, there is no excuse.

And, what is more surprising, for those retailers who are reaching out to customers, they are not doing the best job possible.  Believe it or not, based on that same study by Listrak, only 25% of the trigger based emails linked back to the abandoned shopping carts and only 34% of the emails were personalized.

So what is an e-commerce site to do?  My answer...test, test, test.  The cost here is minimal, yet the rewards could be huge.

  • Test the approach (soft or hard sell)
  • Test the offer (discounts, free shipping)
  • Test the timing (wait one or two or three days)

In fact the optimal timing of a follow up email is within 24 hours according to many experts including SmartrMail.

As Nike says, just do it!

Perry Drake, PhD

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Purchase Funnel, Then and Now

The purchase funnel was first developed in 1898 by E. St. Elmo Lewis as a theoretical customer journey from the first point of contact with a brand to the final purchase decision.  As consumers traverse through the funnel the numbers lessen.  This is due to the fact that of all who first become aware of the brand, relatively few actually convert.  Understanding how changes in our marketing strategies at each of these steps impacts the bottom line is key to the success of any business.   Pre web and social media or post, the basics are still the same.

As shown in Figure 1 below, the marketing purchase funnel has been comprised of four main components over the years:  Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action.  This is known as AIDA.  What has mostly influenced the decisions at each stage were brand initiated and included such things as in store demos, TV and print ads, FSI's, coupons and billboards.

 Figure 1:  Purchase Funnel Pre Social Media

Due to the introduction of the web, search engines and social media, the definition of each are changing as is the relationship of each of these to one another.  However, the basic funnel concept still works.  Let’s discuss each of these concepts further in today’s world.

Awareness in today’s world has totally changed due to Social Media.  No longer are we made aware by simple push messages.  Brands are pulling us in and telling us what they have to offer.  And in some cases it is not even the brand that is directly making us aware of a product but rather our friends who are sharing their experiences with us on social media sites.

How a brand keeps our interest is also totally different thanks to retargeting of online ads or tailored web experiences due to cookie drops.

Once we have gained product awareness and shown sustained interest, a brand has many more options today to move us further along that path in order to increase our desire to buy.  Years ago we would have to call to request a sample or go into an automobile showroom to talk pricing.  Today those are no longer the only options available.

And then of course there is the purchase action.  Money is still needed for this to take place, but what has changed is how we can share our purchase experiences (good or bad) with our friends and family.  We can become advocates and make others aware of the product on behalf of the brand.

The new funnel is being depicted in many forms by various companies like Forrester Research as shown below in Figure 3. 

Figure 3:  New Model by Forrester Research

What this figure shows nicely is the “disruption” being caused in the purchase cycle by the abundance of information we can now gather at every step of the purchase process.
But at a high level the “funnel” concept still works.  It shows nicely how as consumers move along that journey their numbers lessen.  

Keep in mind, the funnel never was meant to depict a linear path.  What is vastly different today are the experiences or options we have at each of those steps from a marketers and consumers perspective.   What the funnel looks like today is as shown in Figure 3 below.  As you can see there are now many more things affecting the purchase decision.

Figure 3:  The New Purchase Funnel Post Social Media

The biggest difference in today’s world is advocacy.  Brands need advocates for their products.  They need to create them, find them and foster a good relationship with them.  Why?  Because they who the consumer turns to in order to gain information prior any purchase consideration.  Based on a recent Nielsen report, 92% of people trust brand advocates.  Remember, as said prior, control has shifted to the consumer in so many regards.  This makes brands a bit nervous.  Understanding that shift, as Sephora has done, and capitalizing on it will ensure a strong customer base full of advocates for your brand or offering for years to come.

Here is another thought on the new conversion funnel that I like:  https://curatti.com/a-new-marketing-funnel-is-taking-over/

I would love to hear your comments.

Perry D. Drake
Professor of Social and Digital Media
University of Missouri - St. Louis

Why Don't My Double Click Impressions Match My Google Analytics Numbers?

I get asked this question all the time. Not to worry, there is an easy explanation and a fix.

Here is the main reason.  DoubleClick is reporting impressions served or delivered to ad tags.  Analytics packages like Google Analytics of Adobe SiteCatalyst are counting the execution of page tracking code.

If your Google Analytics tracking code is at the bottom of your web page and placed right above the closing of the body section (see Figure 1 below) then you are definitely at risk for reporting discrepancies.  And, the bigger and heavier the page the more at risk you are. 

Figure 1:  Google Analytics code placed at bottom of web page HTML code.
Why is this an issue?  Because a person who clicks on your DoubleClick ad and bounces quickly will in all likelihood never trigger the Google Analytics or Adobe SiteCatalyst tracking code lying at the bottom of your page code.

And if you think about it, people will bounce more and more quickly on ads versus search results.  Right?

So, what is the solution?

One simple solution is to place your Google Analytics tracking code near the top of the page to minimize the risk.  Simple fix.

And, in fact, when you create a Google Analytics account today, Google tells you to place the code at the top of the page right before closing our the header section.  That is not what they used to tell us.   Hence that is why when viewing the source code for most websites you will see the tracking code at the bottom.

So, if you want to minimize the risk of your ad server impressions not matching your Google Analytics or Adobe SiteCatalyst figures, just move the code to the top of the page.  It will not remove the risk completely but will come close.

Here are two other articles on the same topic that also shed more light on this topic.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Why Did Hashtags Disappear from the 2019 Super Bowl Ads?


Every year for the past 6 years I have had my digital marketing students at the University of Missouri – St. Louis do an assessment of the Super Bowl ads regarding their use of hashtags, social media icons and URL’s to help drive conversation.  This year, my students and I were shocked to see virtually no advertiser using hashtags.

Peak usage of hashtags in Super Bowl ads was 57% in 2014 according to MarketinglandSince that year, it has been in decline every year.  In 2015, 2016, 2017 usage of hashtags in Super Bowl ads were 50%, 45% and 30% respectively based on another report by Marketingland.

So why has hashtag usage in Super Bowl ads slipped to virtually none in 2019?  Are they just not effective any longer?  To prove or disprove this point I decided to examine brand mentions for the top five brands from 2018 and compare that to the top five brands from 2019.

For 2018, we can see in the graphic below, Avocados from Mexico had the most mentions during the superbowl at 137,000, followed by Pepsi at 38,000 according to Salesforce.  And, all five of the top brands used hashtags within their ads.  In addition, we should keep in mind this is not really reflective of the true reach which could easily be in the millions for some brands depending on the influence and reach of those that used the hashtags within their posts.

2018 Social Media Mentions, Top 5 Brands (Salesforce.com)

For 2019, virtually no brands used hashtags within their ads.  They all had campaign hashtags in play, but were only using them in their social media posts.  The top five most mentioned brands on social media during the Super Bowl according to Salesforce are shown below.  None of the top five used hashtags upon my examination of their ads. And, as a result we can definitely see much fewer mentions than the prior year.   

2019 Social Media Mentions, Top 5 Brands (Salesforce.com)

This year the most mentioned brand was Bud Light at only 31,500 in comparison to the top brand in 2018 (Avocados from Mexico) at 137,000 mentions.  A significant difference to say the least.

My students this semester thought that the Pepsi "More than OK" campaign was one of the best executed across the digital channels but felt they missed out on additional reach and exposure by not having the "morethanok" hashtag appear on the TV ad. They also felt that Pepsi missed out by not driving those not familiar with their abundance of fun social media content to their social media channels.

They also felt the Doritos "NowItsHot" campaign was a hit given how they ensured a large audience by mashing up Chance the Rapper with the Backstreet Boys.  This is a great way to grab the attention of the broadest audience possible across generations.  But they thought the hashtag strategy was a bit weak. Engagement could have been centered around how we eat the Flamin' Hot Nacho flavor or asking us if we prefer hot or regular.

So why did almost every advertiser not use a hashtag in 2019?  Why would you not toss your campaign hashtag (or a new one) at the end of your ad?  Why would you not want to drive significant conversation around your brand at a time when it will be seen by 103 millions viewers?   The benefit of a hashtag is to help evoke conversation and extend your voice around an event, cause, emotion and in that moment. Why would you not want to do extend your reach?  It seems crazy to me! 

So what happened?  Given recent marketing missteps by various brands like Dove and H&M and others were advertisers afraid this year of making a misstep themselves in front of such a big audience.  Were they all just playing it safe?  Did they lack the resources to monitor the conversation?   I am anxious to see what 2020 brings us, or should I say doesn't bring us.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Measuring Social Media ROI

It has been 3 long years as I close in on the completion of my Ph.D. in Education Technology at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.  As I finalize my dissertation on the use of social media by universities in communicating with students and alumni there are many interesting questions my committee have been asking.  I will share my answers to some of those with you now specifically on the measurement of marketing ROI for both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

How do not-for-profit organizations, such as universities, measure return on investment?

Measuring ROI for traditional nonprofit organizations can be difficult as many of the positive outcomes of spend on research or a marketing campaign or appeal may be intangible with a social (ethical) component.   Quantifying those benefits are difficult to say the least but can be recorded and noted.   However, other outcomes of marketing and research spend can be quantified. 

For example, if a university spends dollars on research for a new drug and takes that drug to market then we can weigh the costs versus the outcomes (sales) against one another.   But even in this case, a clear cut example, we are still missing the value brought to the lives of healthier adults or children due to the use of this new drug.  So in this case we know our hard ROI figures are definitely understated.  By how much, it is hard to tell.  But certainly we could try to apply values to our formula.

Regarding pure “marketing” ROI, nonprofits can measure this in various ways.  The metrics to consider depend on where in the marketing funnel the dollars are being spent.  There are many funnels for nonprofits but in general it comes down to these main four components shown below from top of the funnel to bottom respectively with tactics and metrics also listed:

For universities the above funnel is the same for the alumni association or those in development.  But this funnel does not work for those in charge of student enrollment.  For this function, a more traditional funnel is in play as shown below:


With marketing automation tools like Hubspot, Eloqua, Marketo and Salesforce, most of these various actions can now be tied back to the initial visitor via tags.  The challenge is in determining the correct attribution model to clearly understand the value each part of the marketing strategy brought to the table.  In a panel session I moderated last month on marketing ROI which included digital strategists from Purina, Centene, Linkedin, Adobe and Perficient, we all agreed that measuring ROI is difficult due to the complexities of marketing these days, but as long as you stick with one attribution model you will at least be making apple to apple comparisons for assessment purposes.  No metric will be 100% accurate in the digital marketing world.

A recent article reported that only 15% of organizations (for-profit and not-for-profit) can quantify the impact of social media.  Discuss how organizations should measure the impact of adopting digital media strategies.  

Today many CMO’s are still having major issues quantifying the impact of all of their marketing campaigns.  In a recent article by Adobe, 93% of CMOs say they are under pressure to deliver measurable ROI; only about 20% of marketers are successful at tracking their content marketing programs; and only 8% of companies said they can determine the ROI of their social media spending.

We must keep in mind that the definition of social media ROI really depends on the goals.  Not all goals will be quantifiable and may be non-financial.  And, as I spoke prior, regardless of the efforts we will not be 100% accurate in our figures.  I am a firm believer that you first define your metrics and formulas the best you can and secondly stick with that same measurement strategy throughout for clear apple to apple comparisons.  Doing so, will allow one to compare one campaign versus another with minimal risk of misinterpreting. 

Let’s consider some specific goals:
  • Lead generation – click-throughs can be easily tracked from social media posts to the website for signup forms or downloads.  Future engagement can then be tracked on these visitors on social going forward.
  • Donations – click-throughs can be tracked from social media or emails campaigns and actions noted.  Future engagement and actions of this donor can be tracked elsewhere going forward.  Re-targeting campaigns can be used as well.
  • Site traffic – for publishing sites it is all about visits, page view and their return rate.  Metrics can be set and monitored over time.  Traffic sources will be followed closely and difference in content consumption noted.
  • Revenue – Last but not least, was a sale made?  Where did they come from, what content did they consume along the way, how much nurturing was required?
In general, ROI can be captured with some effort.  But even if we could follow every prospect and customer around digitally, there are many things outside of our control (as marketers) that mess up metrics.  These include individuals that delete their cookies on a regular basis (1/3 of us delete our cookies on a monthly basis); search in stealth mode; use Adblock Plus (a popular browser plug-in which blocks ads); share a computer with their spouse at home; etc.
Another recent article indicated that analytics are only useful if they are considered across the organization.  Comment on this statement.

I could not agree more with this statement.  In order for an organization to fully harness the power of data and technology all within the organization need to be on board.  The organization must create a data-centric culture.  To me this means making data easy to request, capture, access, display and interpret.   

Data can (and today must) be used strategically by every individual in an organization from a copywriter to the HR representative to the web developer in order to stay competitive.  And in today’s faced paced world, companies need to be ready to shift and pivot when the market says.  Companies need the latest and best data to help them answer those important questions.   It is a shift in thinking.  We must now ask at every level and every department, what data do you need to support your business goals?

Today tools including Tableau, SAS, IBM, and others make the date capture, analysis, reporting and visualization very easy for the novice.  Most tools are point and click unlike when I was a young analyst at the Reader’s Digest Association in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  An organization, by the way, that was way ahead of its time in terms of a culture of no silos, all had a place at the table and data was at the heart of every single decision made.

Yet another recent article indicated that non-consumer facing organizations have greater success in using social media.  Comment on this statement.

The use of social media and strategy for B2B is certainly different than B2C.  I am not sure I would agree with the author of the article that B2B has far greater success in the use of social media.  I think it is just different and your success depends on your strategy and deployment and measurements.  

Let’s talk about content, channels and goals for these two business models to understand better.

  • For B2B the strategy is clear.  It is whitepapers, e-books, downloads, forms, case studies and more.  All easy to track and present.  
  • For B2C, caution has to be taken so that it is not perceived as a push.  The content needs to be visually stimulating and entertaining in some cases.  Native ads are also used for this purpose.
  • For B2B it is certainly LinkedIn for the main channel.  Twitter most likely following.  And Facebook last.  But of course there are always exceptions.  You must understand your audience and it’s demographic.
  • For B2C, it is pretty much all social media except LinkedIn.  And, again which is priority depends on your audience and their demographic.
  • For B2B it is a download, form signup, e-book, newsletter.  All easy to track success of campaigns with marketing automation tools in use today.
  • For B2C it is sales for the most part.  And the journey to get to that sale can be complex and fraught with attribution issues as previously spoken about.
This educational journey of mine has been very fulfilling.  I hope you find me sharing answers to questions posed by my Ph.D. committee helpful in understanding the complex world of measuring marketing ROI.