Part Two: Creating Digital Experiences People Care About
Part One of this series introduced The Marketing Matrix, a tool to help you create digital experiences that engage today’s audiences. In Part Two we start helping you work with the matrix by identifying who loves you — in other words, who your most valuable audiences are. By the way, you are probably looking for love in all the wrong places.
In fact, just last year I was marketing a major moving and storage company and discovered that their audience was not who we thought it was. This was partly my fault. I had based our targeting on common wisdom that had always worked before:
- Market to audiences who are currently in-market for your products.
- Remarket to audiences who have been to your website.
- Plan and spend media based on traditional audience personas.
All of these turned out to be false. So let’s prevent you from making the same mistakes.
Don’t Be Late to the Game
Google Analytics provides some excellent insights about who you should be marketing to. But remember what I said in this article:
“Waiting on analytics means you’re not thinking far enough ahead.”
Engaging audiences who are currently in-market to buy from you is coming too late to the table. Why? Because they have been searching the internet enough for Google to capture them as being in the market for your stuff, and by then they are also aware of your competition. So the chances that you will now win the attention war have plummeted.
For my client, we had based a good deal of our spend on marketing to people that Google called in-market for “Moving & Relocation.” We had also been using a Facebook audience called “Likely to Move.” But we weren’t getting the results we were looking for. No matter how much optimization we did, we couldn’t get the cost per acquisition for a new customer low enough to make me happy.
So I dug more deeply into the Google Analytics In-Market Audiences reports. This time, I created custom segments for New Visitors, Return Visitors, and Converters. Here’s what I found:
- We were converting really well at 12.34% for “Moving & Relocation” audiences. But when sorting the table of all audiences by conversion rate, that segment was #424 down the list!
- At 21.70% conversion rate was an audience in the market for “Home Furnishings/Kitchen & Dining Room.”
- And at 22.76% conversion rate was an audience in the market for Apartments (For Rent). Which, by the way, outpaced those looking to purchase a home.
Let that sink in. We all know how significant even a 1% improvement in conversion rates is, but this was a 10.5% difference! This taught us a great lesson:
What the better performing in-market audiences all have in common is that they are higher up in the consumer’s decision cycle.
They all point to people getting ready to move, when the opportunity is highest to capture a lead before the competition does.
So with this new knowledge, we started adjusting our buys and bids. We raised bids based on how much better each audience performed to attract more of them and fewer of the underperformers. How well did this work? Stay tuned — that’s coming up in the segment below.
Don’t Waste Money Marketing to People Who Will Never Buy from You
I’ve been saying this for years. And for years I’ve been limiting ad impressions so consumers aren’t bombarded with so many ads they’re turned off. I mean, come on, does anyone really need to see the same ad repeated in four places on the same page every single time that page is viewed? Forever? I see it all the time. That’s just bad planning and even worse management.
For my client, we had already limited ad impressions. But we had implemented something that Google suggested to us — we had set up remarketing ads and search lists for people who had been to the website but hadn’t converted. Made sense to us at the time. Studies even said you had a 300% better chance of converting someone who had been to your site than someone who hadn’t. But we found out otherwise. Google was wrong.
We were spending a significant amount of money on paid search ads. We had done so much optimization that these ads were converting at 16%, outperforming every other channel leading to the site. Yet I decided to break out New Visitors and Return Visitors from Paid Search. I found that Return Visitors who came from Paid Search were 40% less likely to convert than New Visitors from the same channel.
Why? There wasn’t enough data to tell for sure, but I concluded that once someone had been to the site, we were again too far into the decision cycle. We were being compared to every other company in the industry, rather than closing the customer earlier on.
With 27% of all Paid Search traffic coming from Return Visitors, this was a lot of wasted spend. So instead of following conventional wisdom, we decreased bids in paid search engines by 40% for anyone who had already been to the site. The results:
The combination of increasing marketing spend for in-market segments higher up in the decision cycle and decreasing spend for those who had been to the website already LOWERED COST PER ACQUISITION BY 30% practically overnight.
Develop Personas with Real-Time AI (No, Not Artificial Intelligence)
What these last few years have taught us is that nothing can sit for long and remain relevant in marketing. And indifference often results in some not so great things. Consider what’s happened recently:
- Facebook had to remake their lookalike audiences and data privacy after the Cambridge Analytica 2016 US election scandal.
- The rise of GDPR (that’s scaring website owners to death who don’t have proper privacy policies).
- Google getting onboard with policing those creepy ads that follow you around. (Wait, don’t they also create those?)
I had been pretty indifferent about using personas to plan marketing until recently. Remember when everyone was using personas? And then they weren’t? Well, they’re back. However, persona development today is done entirely differently.
We have so much first-party data that we never had before: where people go online, what they buy, what they spend time-consuming, how they respond, what most influences them. We can now develop personas using Audience Intelligence (AI) that stitches this data together with insights from social media conversations happening in real-time.
The granularity of our Audience Intelligence helps us predict wherein a decision cycle a consumer is, and reach them at the right time with the right message.
This is no longer just a holy grail. My agency partners with a company called People Pattern — the same folks who brought you the ridiculously good social media analytics and marketing tool, Spredfast. We’ve used People Pattern successfully together for a number of giant enterprises and non-profits, and it is now part of nearly every strategy we engage in.
Here’s what we do:
- Ingest all available first-party data from a client’s CRM, loyalty program or owned email list.
- Find public social data from the client’s audience and competitors’.
- Combine this data with our own database of over 500 million (and growing) profiles.
- Analyze audiences’ online conversations to find out who they are, what they talk about and what interests them.
- Cluster audiences into interest groups to uncover uniquely deep personas and subpersonas our clients didn’t know existed.
With this data we then have the power to:
- Find new audiences to market to who share similar attributes.
- Identify top prospects and align them with brand advocates.
- Find out who our top influencers are and who they’re influencing.
- Personalize messaging with current interests (because they constantly change) in email and social marketing.
- Waste far less money by planning media that engages those who want to buy from us, and not those who don’t.
Who Are Your Most Valuable Audiences?
So what are the key takeaways here? Who should you add to The Marketing Matrix as an audience you want to flesh out? First, you need to truly understand how to read Google Analytics (or whatever you’re using).
Remember, analytics are snapshots of what IS happening, but not what COULD BE.
Understand that today’s websites are no longer linear. People don’t enter at the same place in the funnel every time. Megamenus confuse navigation metrics. There’s a host of problems with reading analytics like you used to.
Ignore all the extraneous stuff like time on page, bounce rates and number of page visits. These metrics were created by developers, not by marketers. I could convince you why all of these measures are good for your business or bad for your business from the same numbers. Try it. It’s not hard. They just don’t provide the insights you need.
Try this instead:
- Start by diving into In-Market Segments and Affinity Categories, looking for the highest converters. Wherever possible, swim upstream in your ideal customer decision cycle and determine where you can reach people before they are either overwhelmed or comparing you to the competition.
- Review your existing customer data and look for commonalities between your best customers, those who converted right away, and those who have been with you longest.
- Add whatever demographics you can to your segments: age, gender, location, device, occupation, language, etc.
- Then, add psychographics. We identify things like interests, digital behavior, sentiment, life stage, and purchase behavior.
- Finally, overlay this with real-time conversation data that captures things like brand mentions, brand affinity, influencers, competitor considerations, and keywords.
You should have a clear picture now of the ideal person who will love what you have for them. Give them a cool name. I remember we had “Desperate Housewives” as a subpersona once, and we smiled every time we talked about her. You gotta keep marketing fun, my friends. This also helps paint an image in your head, and those you team up with, that keeps things focused.
Record your top 4—don’t drive yourself crazy by attempting to do too much. Prioritize audiences based on how well they align with the business goals of the property you’re developing.
Then, with all the insights you’ve gathered through this process, start with the top priority audience and write down 3–5 key “Triggers” that motivate each audience to act. If they aren’t obvious, do some comparative research, studying the other brands your audiences like, and thinking through differentiation, logical appeal, emotional appeal, and how those brands motivate action. Be sure not to guess or inject your own biases here.
Hold onto all your notes! With all the information you’ve gathered, you’re well on your way to filling out the next areas on the matrix.
Watch out for more articles on The Marketing Matrix where I dive deeper into each section. Part One can be found here.
In the meantime, get The Marketing Matrix here and use it. Though it looks simple on its exterior, I’m hoping the realities it confronts you with to bring your digital experiences to life keep you awake at night, challenging you to become a better creator.