The Real Difference in Online Marketing

When you put an ad on TV, in a newspaper, or on the radio, the medium you used can tell you how many copies they printed, how many people they guess might have listened or watched, and maybe what a focus group said.

You can watch your sales figures and guess whether the ad worked or not. If it did, you might go ahead and do more ads. If it didn’t, too bad.

Online marketing isn’t like that. We have data. We know when people quit watching that video, whether they shared that blog post, and how many times they chose to download that white paper.

Unfortunately, many businesses act as though they are still just throwing their marketing money around. They wait until the end of the campaign, look at how it worked, and then decide whether to invest more or not.

Online marketing will work that way. You can look at your conversion paths and see that people bought your products after reading your sales page, or look at your analytics and see that people who clicked through your ads were engaged with your website.

But you can do much more.

You can see that people who clicked through on this ad for this keyword bought more, and that those who clicked through from another keyword bought less. You can see that people in this state are reading blog posts on that subject, and see what’s happening with sales in that state.

And then — and here’s the important part — you can make changes. We adapt our online marketing strategies on the basis of information we have. Often, business owners and marketing directors have more information. By collaborating with us, you can make the marketing dollars you spend online work harder and accomplish more.

How often should you change? Not so often that you don’t have enough data to learn from. The rule of thumb for marketing is that you should expect nothing for the first five months. Everything that happens before the five-month line is gravy. If you change after a week because you don’t see action, you will never know whether your campaign is working or not.

We once changed a campaign’s direction because we decided after a few weeks that we were targeting the wrong audience. We thought that the campaign wasn’t getting the results we wanted because we had the wrong target. A few months later, we got a flood of leads… from the market segment we had initially targeted. We weren’t wrong; we just gave up too soon.

Since we had the data, we were able to adjust and recapture the benefits of the work we had done. If we had done this for a client, and they had not shared the information about leads with us, we would never have known. We wouldn’t have been able to adjust to the new information.

This experience was a good reminder for us. Chopping and changing too often ignores the fact that, while the internet may be fast, people still take time to make up their minds. The average time for CPG shopping decisions is currently about 28 days. It’s longer for business services, high price point consumer goods, and purchases tied to life events like weddings or graduations.

So when should you make changes? We like to fine-tune after a couple of weeks; by then, we usually have enough data to be able to tell what’s likely to work. We can’t expect to see changes in sales at that point, though. This is where the online data is so helpful. We can see things that show intent to purchase, or interest in a solution to a particular problem. We can see evidence that people like a marketing approach, or that they’re confused by it. We can see where on the path to purchase we’re losing people. We can see potential sales funnels we might not have anticipated.

What changes should you make? Here’s where A/B testing comes in. We might feel as though we need to use a different voice or a different image. With testing, we can tell whether it makes a difference to our results or not.

Use your data. All of it. Partner with your web firm to set goals, to respond to the information, and to make strategic decisions. That’s a lot better than just waiting to see what happens and making your decision then.

That’s what you had to do in the past. Not any more.

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