Are you making these mistakes with your metrics? Here’s how to avoid them

It is important to audit analytics practices and maintain flexibility in your tactical approach to adapt to market conditions and technology that could affect results.

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As a marketer, you are keenly aware of how important it is to monitor your website performance. It’s why Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics are so prevalent and have become integral to understanding the health of any online business. The widespread adoption of data analytics and the user-friendly reporting interfaces of Google and Adobe have led to a general familiarity with data among marketers, along with the confidence to interpret website performance using common metrics. However, while many of these metrics seem straightforward, some of the most widely used ones are trickier to interpret than they first seem. Below are three common mistakes marketers make when deciphering the results, along with advice on how to avoid them. 

Mistake #1: Using time on site/page to make decisions

Content producers, ad agencies, and many other marketers love to mention higher time on site as if it is a clear indicator that visitors to your website are more engaged and a justification that you should pay them more to continue creating such excellent content. Conversely, lower time on site is generally regarded as a bad trend and to be avoided. After all, shouldn’t people be spending more time on your site and taking the actions you want them to take?

The problem here is that nobody, and I mean nobody, can interpret time on site correctly. Why? Consider these three examples:

  • Person A visits your website looking for product information and wants to download a specification sheet for a few similar products. She is also are interested in reading about new upcoming products. She spends six minutes on the site.
  • Person B visits your site and knows exactly what she is looking for, which is the name of a specific part for one of your company’s products, so she can order it via her local reseller. She knows the specific page she is looking for, where the information is located on the page, and ultimately only spends 10 seconds on the page before leaving and taking no other action.
  • Person C visits your site but has 20 tabs open in Chrome and only one of those is your page. He isn’t especially interested in your product or brand, but one of your links showed up in a search results page so he opened it to compare your product to others like it. After 15 minutes of browsing other open tabs, he makes it to your site where he views two pages quickly, clicks on a couple items on the page, then moves on again to a different tab. Eventually, the cookie for his visit times out and he is logged as having spent 45 minutes on your site.

Using typical time-on-site logic, Person A is a “good” visit, Person B is a “bad” visit and Person C is a “great” visit. That obviously makes no sense whatsoever, as both A and B are desirable visits, but C was clearly not. Unfortunately, by using time on site, you cannot determine what type of visit you’re really getting, which makes it virtually useless in decision making. 

Solution: Instead of using time on site, consider using a combination of bounce rate, page views per visit, scroll depth, CTA clicks and overall traffic volume to get a sense for whether your visitors are truly engaged. Most of these metrics are already included in basic versions of Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics, however, scroll depth may require some light instrumentation work in Adobe and similarly it must be manually activated within Google Analytics

If you use time on page because you don’t have much click-centric content for visitors to interact with, consider breaking up your text into sections and hiding some of it behind a “see more” click so that you can better understand if people are interested in reading the full breadth of your content. Some visitors may find this format less friendly for easy reading, but if you’re struggling to find ways to measure engagement, then this minor inconvenience to your visitor may be worth the risk.

Mistake #2: Relying on a single metric with no other context

Another common scenario is when the marketer uses a single metric as the sole indicator of success, without considering any other context. You might think an easily understandable metric like sales or revenue would make perfect sense. But, even with a measure as straightforward as revenue, there may be other factors at play. Maybe revenue looks good in isolation ($10 million dollars, awesome!), but you still missed your target for the quarter, and investors will not be pleased, causing your company’s stock value to tank. Perhaps all your revenue is from one customer, but what if that customer is Sears, they just went bankrupt, and you don’t have any other substantive revenue sources after Q2. Not good!

Although revenue is an extreme example, many marketers use metrics in isolation like this, holding them up as amazing successes, when they are far from it. Traffic volume is one example that pops up frequently. But without the bounce rate and conversion context for that traffic, there is no way to determine if it was good quality traffic or if the ideal intended audience was on the site.

Solution: To avoid making ineffective business decisions, always consider the correct context for your metrics before acting. Often, you can confirm that you’re headed in the right direction by making a quick verification that clean data is coming through or by triangulating your findings with an additional metric. 

Mistake #3: Continuing to report on metrics just because they’ve been used in the past

This mistake could certainly apply to more than just metrics: the often-irresistible tendency to perpetuate a business practice simply because “it’s what we’ve always done.”  Many brands insist on using low-quality site metrics for no other reason than they were used in the past. I once worked with a marketing executive who wanted to continue summing daily unique visitors across the company website in Adobe, because that is how the old Coremetrics platform worked (it did not offer de-duplication like today’s more advanced tools do). In doing so, the actual number of unique visitors was over-counted across the site by roughly 30% during the year. That error had a net negative impact on expected revenue and growth targets, which were unachievable due to inflated visitor counts.

Solution: Sometimes legacy metrics make sense, particularly for benchmarking purposes, but it is critically important that you perform regular audits to ensure that all the metrics and reports you’re using to make site decisions are still appropriate, given the changing business environment.

While analyzing metrics is an essential component for making informed decisions about your website strategies, it is imperative that you audit your analytics practices and maintain flexibility in your tactical approach. Be sure you examine a broad and varied set of conditions and metrics. And be adaptable to changes in market conditions and technology that could affect not only your perceptions but your results.  

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Microsoft introduces XLOOKUP in Excel – and it’s a big deal for data reporting

The new feature addresses many of VLOOKUP’s limitations.

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For those working in ad operations and PPC, the VLOOKUP function (and HLOOKUP – its horizontal counterpart) has been a tried-and-true staple of data manipulation in Excel. Now, after more than 34 years as a cornerstone lookup function, VLOOKUP is making way for a new successor.

Microsoft has announced the rollout of XLOOKUP – a powerful new function designed to address many of the known limitations of VLOOKUP. For advertisers and marketers, this means more efficient reporting with less time spent performing workaround functions.

How it works

XLOOKUP function is able to search sheets both vertically and horizontally, which wasn’t a possibility with VLOOKUP alone. XLOOKUP requires only three inputs in order to perform the most common exact lookup:

XLOOKUP(lookup_value,lookup_array,return_array)

  • lookup_value: What you are looking for
  • lookup_array: Where to find it
  • return_array: What to return
XLOOKUP function in action.

Reducing the need for workarounds

XLOOKUP takes aim at the following VLOOKUP limitations outlined by Microsoft:

Defaults to an “approximate” match: Most often users want an exact match, but this is not VLOOKUP’s default behavior. To perform an exact match, you need to set the 4th argument to FALSE. If you forget (which is easy to do), you’ll probably get the wrong answer.

Does not support column insertions/deletions: VLOOKUP’s 3rd argument is the column number you’d like returned. Because this is a number, if you insert or delete a column you need to increment or decrement the column number inside the VLOOKUP.

Cannot look to the left: VLOOKUP always searches the 1st column, then returns a column to the right. There is no way to return values from a column to the left, forcing users to rearrange their data.

Cannot search from the back: If you want to find the last occurrence, you need to reverse the order of your data.

Cannot search for next larger item: When performing an “approximate” match, only the next smaller item can be returned and only if correctly sorted.

References more cells than necessary: VLOOKUP 2nd argument, table_array, needs to stretch from the lookup column to the results column. As a result, it typically references more cells than it truly depends on. This could result in unnecessary calculations, reducing the performance of your spreadsheets.

Why we should care

For advertisers and marketers who rely on Excel for day-to-day reporting, the new XLOOKUP function will reduce the time it takes to match and analyze data from varying sources, such as from ad platforms, servers and CRMs.

XLOOKUP will be able to replace VLOOKUP, HLOOKUP, and INDEX/MATCH by enabling the selection of two columns (instead of the whole range) and allowing columns to be inserted into the desired data range without needing to change the column numbers.

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From Customer Review to Customer Insight: Best Practices in AI and Sentiment Analysis

Live Webinar: Thursday, September 5 at 1:00 PM ET (10:00 AM PT)

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Customer ratings and reviews have become a critical marketing tool. In fact, 88% of consumers now trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and 95% say that online reviews influence their buying decisions.

But how do you turn customer reviews into customer insights? And how can you apply those insights to your overall marketing strategy to improve reputation and create a compelling customer experience that builds brand loyalty?

Join our data science and review management experts as they show you how to identify and use customer sentiment at scale to make improvements to both the in-store and online experience. You’ll hear the latest trends in artificial intelligence (AI) and how sentiment analysis tools can help you respond to customer needs in a more targeted, personalized way.

Register today for “From Customer Review to Customer Insight: Best Practices in AI and Sentiment Analysis,” produced by Digital Marketing Depot and sponsored by Chatmeter.



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NCS launches AI service to optimize for offline incremental sales in CPG digital campaigns

The Sales Lift Metrics service is designed to provide in-flight data on key campaign tactics, such as audience targets, media placements, creative messaging and ad formats.

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CPG-focused ad metrics agency Nielsen Catalina Solutions (NCS) announced on Thursday the launch of Sales Lift Metrics, a new in-flight campaign optimization service.

Driven by AI and machine learning technology, Sales Lift Metrics aims to deliver weekly incremental sales metrics that advertisers can use to inform and enhance campaign outcomes while they’re still active.

For programmatic campaigns, NCS said the service can help buyers optimize ad spend by tapping into real-time incremental sales metrics, allowing advertisers to dial-up or dial-down spend accordingly.  

“CPG advertisers face urgent demands to reduce budget waste and optimize for sales outcomes,” said NCS EVP of strategy, Carl Spaulding. “Until now, their only options to improve results were to make changes post-campaign or rely on in-flight media performance metrics not directly related to offline sales. But with this innovative solution, advertisers can tap into near real-time insights and refine campaigns in-flight to improve outcomes.”

The Sales Lift Metrics service is designed to provide in-flight data on key campaign tactics, such as audience targets, media placements, creative messaging and ad formats.

Earlier this year, Adobe signed on as a pilot partner for Sales Lift Metrics to test its CPG campaign optimization methodology. According to a representative from Adobe, NCS’ in-flight solution has been able to deliver lucrative insights around the campaign tactics that drive incremental sales “on a much shorter latency than with existing industry solutions.” Adobe added, “With this knowledge, our CPG advertisers can make campaign decisions to gain and maximize incremental sales.”

Why we should care

“Near real-time visibility into the effectiveness of campaign tactics that are the primary drivers of incremental sales has long been a desired ideal for advertisers,” says Leslie Wood, chief research officer at NCS.

The ability to interpret real-time metrics on a tactical level means that advertisers can modify campaigns in-flight to produce more efficient and accurate outcomes. This could help cut down on ad spend while also presenting an opportunity to course-correct during the campaign’s lifetime.

For CPG marketers, in particular, understanding the immediate sales lift on a campaign-by-campaign basis can help build a more complete picture of the immediate market and inform future campaign strategies.

More on the news

  • Sales Lift Metrics is part of NCS’ Optimize Solutions Suite, which also includes NCS Purchase Data Metrics – an automated API tool designed for publishers.
  • Earlier this year, NCS announced its adoption of machine learning technology aimed at building audience segments and driving sales lift metrics.
  • Causal sales metrics are available to all NCS clients to allow them to test, learn and optimize campaigns in near real-time.

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Demystifying visibility metrics in Google Ads

Here are six metrics to help advertisers determine how often – and where in the SERPs – ads are showing up to help identify maximize growth opportunities.

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Metrics to assist you in achieving growth in the Google Ads interface are constantly evolving and this can cause issues for even the most experienced of search marketers. Among the most complicated to sort out and understand are the “share” metrics. While they are excellent for identifying growth opportunities and identifying visibility gaps, figuring out which metrics to use when can be frustrating.

Let’s take a look at six of these metrics and how we can use them to identify growth opportunities within the search campaigns.

The competitive metrics

The first four metrics are competitive metrics, meaning that they represent an indicator of where your account is in relation to other accounts that you are competing against within the ad auction. This is an important distinction from the majority of metrics in your Google Ad account.

1. Search impression share

Search impression share is an old favorite. It represents the number of impressions you have received divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive. This gives you a percentage that indicates how well your ads are performing in an ad auction. For example, a search impression share of 68% indicates that 68 times out of 100, your ad is showing on the search engine results page, also known as the SERP.

2. Search top impression share   

This metric is similar to search impression share, but instead of indicating the percentage of time you are receiving any impression on the SERP, it indicates the percentage of time your ad is showing in one of the top positions, above the organic search results. The calculation for this metric is the number of times your ad is showing in the top positions versus the number of times you were eligible to receive an impression in the top position.

3. Search absolute top impression share

Following the same pattern as the above two, search absolute top impression share is the percentage of your impressions that are shown in the very first paid position. It’s calculated by taking the absolute top impressions divided by the number of times you were eligible to receive an impression in the absolute top position.

The ad circled in pink has an impression at the absolute top. The ads in purple are all receiving an impression as part of the top impression share.

4. Click share

This is where things deviate from the norm. Click share, a relatively new metric, is the number of clicks you’ve received on the search network divided by the estimated maximum number of clicks that were possible.

If you have a click share of 68%, you received 68 out of every possible 100 clicks on your ad. This is opposed to impression share which is where your ad showed 68 out of 100 times that it was eligible to show.

Identifying growth opportunities with competitive metrics

When using the above metrics to identify growth opportunities, it is important to remember that these metrics represent your place in a larger environment. They are indicators of how well you are performing against others. That is why they are called competitive metrics (and can be found in that section when selecting columns in Google Ads).

These metrics are useful because they can help you optimize your account. There are two ways you can be losing impression share: either through low quality or a low bid. Use the additional available columns of impression share lost (budget) and impression share lost (rank) to determine what you can do to improve your impression share. If the answer is more budget and you don’t have any additional budget, consider reining in your locations. If the answer is rank, look at your quality score, ad relevancy, and landing page experience.

The addition of click share to the metrics gives us the ability to identify where there is potential for more traffic. In the example above, the campaign I’m looking at has 99.29% of the search impression share, but only 89.55% of the click share. This means that while I’m visible almost 100% of the time, I’m only capturing 89% of what Google deems to be possible in terms of actual clicks.

Using these metrics together, I’ve now identified a campaign where I have the opportunity to increase my click share to potentially capture more traffic. How will I do that? By looking at ad relevancy and copy.

The performance metrics

There are two other metrics that have the word “impression” in them that can help us identify areas of opportunity and provide even more insight into how our ads are actually doing. These metrics are Impressions (Top) % and Impressions (Abs. Top) %. Unlike the metrics above, which are indications of your ads’ placement in the larger competitive environment, these two metrics indicate the actual location of your ads, painting a clear picture of where all of your eligible ads are appearing.

5. Impressions (Top) %

Impressions (Top) % is calculated by taking the impressions that you have earned in the top positions, above the organic search results, divided by all earned impressions. The main difference between this metric and the search impression share (top) is that this is calculated through using your actual earned impressions, not the estimated impressions Google thinks you would have been capable of earning.

6. Impressions (Abs. Top) %

Similar to the above, this metric takes the impressions you have earned in the absolute #1 spot divided by all earned impressions.

Where are my ads actually appearing?

You can use the new Impr. (Top) % and Impr. (Abs. Top) % metrics to determine where your ads are actually appearing. These two metrics are not a reflection of your ads within the greater competitive environment that is the Google Ads auction, but of actual performance.

As we move towards automated strategies and even with basic rules that you can set up in your account, impression share and its variations are important metrics to keep an eye on. It is crucial to understand the differences between these six metrics and how each represents a different facet of account visibility.

All of these help us as advertisers to determine how often our ads are showing, where in the SERPs that our ads are visible, and assist in taking actions to maximize growth opportunities. While not the only metrics to look at, or even the most important, understanding these different metrics can help you optimize for growth in our account.

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The 4 big reasons agencies need marketing automation to survive

Agency life is hard. Everything is due tomorrow – or yesterday. Clients demand stellar results. Your competition is trying to underbid you. Your creative team wants tacos. Meanwhile, you’re juggling:1. Marketing your agency to bring in new business2. Keeping current clients happy to gain their loyalty There are ways you can accomplish both revenue and […]

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Agency life is hard. Everything is due tomorrow – or yesterday. Clients demand stellar results. Your competition is trying to underbid you. Your creative team wants tacos.

Meanwhile, you’re juggling:
1. Marketing your agency to bring in new business
2. Keeping current clients happy to gain their loyalty

There are ways you can accomplish both revenue and agency growth. The answer: Use marketing automation to increase sales revenue for both your agency and your clients.

The demand for digital marketing services has skyrocketed in recent years as more businesses – B2B and B2C – have shifted marketing spend away from traditional tactics. Traditional marketing and advertising services are moving in-house, and service lines are blurring. One-time projects, inconsistent income, lower value relationships and cobbled-together solutions with no unified reporting will lead to failure.

To survive you must change. The answer is a fully-integrated marketing automation solution where every piece works together to help you drive leads and sales for your agency and clients.

We’ve all heard it – deliver the right message, to the right person at the right time. Marketing automation delivers nurture tracks triggered by prospects as they navigate through your marketing funnel. It’s the service clients and agencies need to grow and cultivate leads to sales.

But there are four more reasons marketing automation is vital to agencies:

1. Research says you can’t afford not to automate
2. Higher-value relationships
3. Prove value to your clients
4. Recurring revenue streams

You can’t afford not to automate:

It’s time to face the facts regarding agency growth. According to Ad Age’s Agency Report 2018, U.S. agency growth is the slowest it’s been since 2010, except for those offering digital marketing services – those grew 7X the revenue.

Couple this with the fact that marketing automation spend is projected to grow 14 percent annually over the next five years, per Forrester. In addition, CMOs say they don’t have the data necessary to feel confident about their spend. Enter marketing automation. It’s the answer to what clients need right now. With marketing automation, you’ll create new revenue streams, attract more clients, provide iron-clad proof of ROI and provide a service that clients feel is just too big and complicated to do in-house.

Higher-value relationships:

Ever wish you had a stickier relationship with your clients? Ever wish you provided a service that not every agency you compete with provides?

Marketing automation is a service you can completely manage for your clients. Many agencies just haven’t caught on to the fever. And, oh my, the services you can provide:
1. Initial marketing automation technology adoption and strategy
2. Creation of email templates, nurture sequences and landing pages
3. Ongoing builds of campaign assets, metrics analysis and optimization
All of these services, plus the investment in the initial learning curve, makes it difficult for clients to change agencies.

Recurring revenue:

Cha-ching. Marketing automation is the key to recurring revenue. Why?
1. You’ll move from unpredictable project work to retainer-based relationships.
2. Marketing automation is necessary for most clients.
3. Clients struggle with the technology.
4. Clients are confused with how/where to personalize.

What this all adds up to is your chance for your agency to be a consistent go-to resource for marketing automation and digital marketing.

Prove value to your clients:

Ever had a client claim they just can’t see what they’re getting for the dollars they’re spending with you? Ever feel like all you do is run numbers and try to show worth, more than you are spending time creating – which was your dream when you got into the agency biz?

Marketing automation solves that, too. You’ll be able to show clients measurable results with comprehensive lead-to-revenue reporting. After all, marketing automation is rooted in data, providing the math you need to help your clients figure out what to double down on and what to toss. The investment in marketing automation and your agency pays off the longer you both use it. You can keep showing improved results month over month while you let the platform do the number crunching. You can make more time to do the things you love.

But not all marketing automation platforms are created equal. When considering marketing automation, keep in mind you want a platform that allows you to manage and control your clients AND gives you the margins you need to grow revenue for your agency.

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Simplifying Google Analytics configuration with Google Tag Manager

Using analytics through GTM allows you to simplify the code in place on your site and quickly set up advanced features like cross-domain tracking.

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Google Analytics is a crucial part of any online marketer’s toolbox. Getting analytics data starts with a proper installation of the tracking code. Thankfully, Google Tag Manager makes this process simple, even when modifications to the Analytics code are required.

Google Tag Manager (GTM) allows you to deploy Google Analytics tracking without adding any further code to your website. Extensive configuration options allow you to tweak the setup based on your needs.

In this article, I’ll cover how to set up Google Analytics through GTM, along with some tips for customization based on your needs.

Installing a global Google Analytics tag

Navigate to your desired GTM account and container. From the Overview screen, select “Add a new tag.”

Next, click within the Tag Configuration box to choose a tag type. Select “Google Analytics: Universal Analytics.”

Leave the “Track Type” dropdown set to “Page View.” Next, under “Google Analytics Settings,” choose “New Variable.”

Now, you’ll create a variable that includes your unique Google Analytics Tracking ID. After a one-time setup, you’ll be able to reuse this variable in any future GA tags. You can also customize settings for the variable under “Advanced Configuration,” or override settings within a specific tag by checking the “Enable overriding settings” box.

Find your Tracking ID (you can locate this quickly by going to Tracking Info > Tracking Code within the Admin section of your GA account) and paste it into the respective field in GTM. Name and save the variable.

Now, return to editing your tag and select the GA variable you created.

Next, click within the Triggering section to choose which pages you want the tag to appear on. To deploy globally wherever your GTM code is in place, select “All Pages.” Submit changes to push your tag live.

Event tracking

Events are incredibly useful in Google Analytics to track any interactions that aren’t registered by default. Some possible actions include clicks on elements within pages, scroll activity, file downloads, video views, and form submissions.

To fire an event, choose “Event” from the “Track Type” dropdown when creating your GA tag. Next, fill in the fields with the appropriate parameters for your event.

For instance, in this example, we’re tracking a whitepaper download. Our fields include:

  • Category: “Whitepaper”
  • Action: “Download”
  • Label: “Blue Whitepaper”

Also note the Non-Interaction Hit dropdown. By default, when set to “False,” the event will count as an interaction, meaning the session won’t be considered a bounce if the user completes the associated action. If you set this dropdown to “True,” a user could complete the action but still count as a bounce if they leave the page before doing anything else.

Cross-domain tracking

If you’re using the same Google Analytics account across multiple domains, you should enable cross-domain tracking to ensure that users are being tracked properly when going from one domain to another. Otherwise, they’ll be seen as separate visitors to each domain.

First, under “More Settings” for your GA variable, open the “Fields to Set” section. Type “allowLinker” for Field Name and “true” for Value.

Next, further down in the “More Settings” options, click the “Cross Domain Tracking” dropdown. In the “Auto Link Domains” field, insert all domains you’d like to track, separated by commas.

If you’re using a form that takes a user to another domain upon submission, you’ll also want to choose “True” in the “Decorate Forms” dropdown.

Save the variable and submit to push live. You should now see unified reporting across domains, eliminating duplication of user counts if the same people visit multiple sites with your GA tag.

Enhanced link attribution

Google offers a handy Page Analytics Chrome extension, which allows you to visualize click data for links on your site. You can see how many clicks occurred on each link, as well as what percentage of total clicks for a page went to each.

Unfortunately, by default, this report groups together counts for any links going to the same URL. So if you link to the same URL from both a top navigation bar and your site’s footer, each link will show the same click count.

Thankfully, a simple setting change allows you to differentiate between clicks on different elements. When editing your Google Analytics variable, look for the “More Settings” option below where you entered your Tracking ID.

Within the options that appear, click “Advanced Configuration.” You’ll now see a dropdown labeled “Enable Enhanced Link Attribution.” Select “True” here.

Once you’ve saved and published this change, you’ll now see unique counts for each link in the Page Analytics report.

Conclusion

Google Tag Manager offers an extensive integration with Google Analytics, allowing you to configure anything from installing the default code to covering advanced tracking scenarios. Setting up Analytics through GTM allows you to simplify the code in place on your site, as well as easily allow access to tweak settings without requiring development updates. You can quickly set up advanced features like cross-domain tracking.

If you haven’t done so yet, make GTM a part of your workflow for setting up Google Analytics implementations. Explore advanced options to customize as needed. You’ll save time and reduce friction with developers.

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Choosing a marketing automation platform

The proliferation of digital channels and devices can make it difficult for B2B marketers to accurately target prospects with the right messages, on the right devices, at the right times. Faced with these challenging market dynamics and increasing ROI pressure, B2B marketers at companies of all sizes can gain benefits from a marketing automation platform. […]

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The proliferation of digital channels and devices can make it difficult for B2B marketers to accurately target prospects with the right messages, on the right devices, at the right times. Faced with these challenging market dynamics and increasing ROI pressure, B2B marketers at companies of all sizes can gain benefits from a marketing automation platform.

MarTech Today’s “B2B Marketing Automation Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide” examines the market for B2B marketing automation software platforms and the considerations involved in implementing this software in your business. This 48-page report is your source for the latest trends, opportunities and challenges facing the market for B2B marketing automation software tools as seen by industry leaders, vendors and their customers.

Also included in the report are profiles of the 14 leading marketing automation vendors, pricing information, capabilities comparisons and recommended steps for evaluating and purchasing.

If you are a marketer looking to adopt a marketing automation software platform, this report will help you through the decision-making process. Visit Digital Marketing Depot to download your copy.

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See how agencies are putting data-driven marketing to work

Companies looking to remain competitive must now find ways to address consumers as unique individuals with highly specific, personal preferences. This is the essence of data-driven marketing. By gathering rich, relevant data on consumer behavior and demographics, businesses can target their leads and customers on a far more personal level, optimizing their engagement rates while […]

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Companies looking to remain competitive must now find ways to address consumers as unique individuals with highly specific, personal preferences. This is the essence of data-driven marketing.

By gathering rich, relevant data on consumer behavior and demographics, businesses can target their leads and customers on a far more personal level, optimizing their engagement rates while ensuring a positive brand experience.

But delivering on this data-driven expectation can present a number of challenges – particularly for digital agencies, whose clients are throwing unprecedented amounts of data in their direction.

In an effort to find out how agencies are overcoming some of these obstacles, SharpSpring partnered with Ascend2 to field the Data-Driven Marketing Trends Survey. This paper draws on those results to offer an in-depth view of the challenges involved in successful data-driven marketing as well as the many ways in which agencies are helping their clients stay ahead of the curve.

Visit Digital Marketing Depot to download Data-Driven Marketing: Let Your Data Take the Wheel.”



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4 steps to becoming an experience brand

If you are truly interested in meeting consumer expectations, you’ll not only be measuring and tracking those experiences but also consistently making updates to improve them.

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Once a primary differentiator, reliable customer service has now become a mandatory commodity. With rising consumer expectations and automated technologies, experience has replaced this long-heralded advantage.

Brands positioned with a customer-first, always-on experience optimization approach and those who build for personalization are poised to be market leaders. Becoming an experience-focus brand has been painted as more difficult than it is. The answers and truth are right in front of us. Your consumers have those answers, you just need to ask – and pay attention.

In working with more than 30 brands on their experience strategies, I’ve found four critical steps to helping brands successfully migrate to become customer experience leaders in their market. The simple formula is to identify, measure, build and test.

Identify audiences and journeys

Identify your audience

Let’s start with an exercise. Suppose money is no object, and you get to pick out a new vehicle. Take a moment to picture what you’d like to buy. Now that you have that vehicle in mind, let’s assume that this is the vehicle everyone else wants. It seems ridiculous that the vehicle you want is assumed to be the vehicle everyone else would want. But, how often do you create experiences using that same assumption? As you design an experience, you need to have an audience in mind, but oftentimes, experiences are developed in a vacuum without consumer feedback. In our current environment audience strategy and experiences should never be developed without some type of consumer insight.

Here are a few questions to help you get started in assessing your audience(s).

  • Who is my current audience? 
  • What data sources do I have available to me (research, analytics, databases, etc.)? 
  • What do they prefer? What are their motivations? 
  • Who is/not responding?  
  • Do my loyal customers look different than everyone else? What type of data and insights am I missing? 

Identify audience journeys

I often think of the journey as the foundation. The good news about building out an audience journey is that there are a lot of good approaches. I do not believe there is one single source of truth to creating an audience journey. The important thing is that you create one. If your budget, resources, and time only allow for a whiteboard brainstorm session, then do it. If you have behavioral data at your fingertips and can look at connected event stream data by specific channels and by individual, then do it. If you have the ability to conduct primary research, please do it.

After building a journey, the first mistake I see is that too many brands try to tackle fixing all of the possible interactions they’ve discovered. Prioritization becomes key; if you are able to gather consumer-driven insights to measure and help you prioritize experiences, then that should be your next step.

How do they behave? How do they buy? What are the most common paths to purchase? What are all of the possible interactions?

Measure experiences

Beginning to think from the consumer’s perspective is the right first step, but it is far more effective to actually measure experiences from their direct interactions. Always-on customer-listening engines have been around for decades. Today’s new wave of measurement is more effective but needs to be further elevated. The Customer Effort Score (CES) has come to the forefront of this movement but is lacking in three critical components: measuring multiple interactions, measuring importance, and measuring revenue. This four-dimensional approach has the power to begin moving the needle.

The measurement of ease to work with a brand across interactions, prioritized within the journey, allows brands to identify the most critical points within the consumer experience. This enables brands to find quick wins to remove as much friction as possible. In the example provided in the image above, one would initially think that “compare plans” and “cancel subscription” should be the areas of focus, but a closer look at importance guides you to prioritize “compare plans” to have the greatest impact.

What are their significant phases of interaction in their journey? Which interactions are the most important? What interactions are in desperate need of help? What is the revenue associated with each interaction?

Build

With a foundational and an architectural assessment, you’ll be poised to build best-in class experiences based on consumer insights. Along the way, an audit of data and technology will become critical to supporting the automation of personalized, people-based experiences. The alignment of key stakeholders across the organization will be another critical component to driving change, which is why a data-driven approach to prioritization from the consumer’s perspective is needed for the potential political battles you’ll be up against.

Another supporting point for your internal journey will be the results from prioritized quick wins. A four-dimensional prioritization of experiences allows the brand to hit the ground running, making immediate improvements to prove out the work, while also laying out critical interactions that may take more significant efforts to improve for long-term planning.

Who are the key stakeholders (detractors/supporters)? What quick wins are we going to tackle? What is our long-term experience roadmap? What technologies/data do I need? 

Test experiences

Another shift in the market over the years has continued in the same vein of always-on, quick-win optimization. Take, for example, website redesigns, as depicted in the image above. Traditional methods would call for significant redesigns every couple of years, requiring weighty amounts of time and money, with gaps and subpar experiences in between. There is a better way. If you are truly interested in meeting consumer expectations you’ll not only be measuring and tracking those experiences on an ongoing basis, but you’ll be consistently making updates to improve them.

What approach are we using today? What tools do I need to conduct testing? What should we test first? Who (internal and/or consumers) should I gather feedback from?

I believe Dentsu Aegis Network Americas CEO Nick Brien sums it up best when he says, “There’s been a fundamental shift in the balance of power. When I started in marketing, I lived in a brand-led world – you changed consumer behavior. But now we live in a consumer-led world. It’s about changing your brand behavior, it is about personalization, it is about relevance, it is about engagement.”

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