It is a noble cause to want to connect all of your advertising media efforts together, whether offline or online, print or digital, so it is all in one data-driven reporting system. The first step in making this happen, is to remember the the primary objective as a marketer is to first and foremost never lose sight of the goal with your audience, authentic connection. Listening to the needs and wants of your customer is the primary means of offering your product or service. If they are not the right fit for your product, as a good marketer, you will want to have the integrity to do what is in their best interest, which might be to recommend something else. If you do not relentlessly pursue genuine connection and support as you would a friend, you risk going down a hole of being consumed by the wrong motives. From a standpoint of being a good digital marketing consultant, this lack of consumer authenticity most often is reflected in being consumed by marketing technology where it becomes a crutch and you become too data reliant. Data is valuable and can be tracked for some things, but it is not the be-all end-all in knowing who your customer is. Let your data be a help in understanding your audience and customer but make sure to understand its limitations. One example that helps provide clarity for me in this regard is the business card. The business card is a useless sheet of paper, really. It’s all about me and what I do and most usually gets lost in a sea of other business cards at networking events. Am I using it as my primary mode of connection, practically forcing it upon people or do I wait until people ask for it? Even then, do I really need it to make a genuine connection and listen to people’s challenges and how I can help? Am I actually interested in solving their problem or am I anxious to just make the business card hand off? Seek genuine connection, not your process or system to check the box for another transaction. The primary goal of any marketing is connecting with others and listening and will far outdo a goal of getting them into our data-driven system so we can understand them. This might seem obvious, but needs to be said, as technology can distract from the goal of knowing and understanding your audience.
With authentic connection in mind, work out your digital marketing strategy. Your website is the hub of information about your product or service that you have complete control over and where you want to ultimately direct those that are interested in your business, a resource provided for more information as a result of an interaction with one of your marketing or advertising efforts. Directing people to your website will help you begin to understand the type of traffic you receive, their interest levels and how clear your message is. When possible, tracking where they came from will help you measure which channels and efforts are doing the most for you.
In many cases you can track a particular channel’s level of success by lining them up with your digital marketing KPI’s through data-driven means, but in some cases such as an event or using traditional advertising media such as a billboard or print advertisement, it can be harder to do so. At the very least, you always want to try and ask a customer how they heard about you to understand by what means they found you, but it can be hard for someone to really understand the triggers that instigated their interest levels, particularly when they used multiple connections to become a customer (and most do). For example, if you are advertising on radio, which most likely cannot be married with your data-driven reporting, your jingle may be catchy but in their time of need, did they search online for a solution and click a Google organic listing or Facebook ad before calling your business? Those can and should be a part of your reporting, captured through Google Analytics at a minimum. In order to know where the lead came from and in theory, which channel is responsible for the lead, you might not get a clear answer when verbally asking, because the consumer chooses the one that is most conscious and memorable to them. When asked how did you hear about us, the customer will most likely reference the radio over their click to call from the website after clicking through an online advertisement, even though the ad might be equally if not more important.
First, when tracking your campaigns, your digitally-based ones should have UTM parameters set for all your external links. In addition, you should use pixel placements or tags to enhance these options, and these are hard-coded in a website or placed through Google Tag Manager, which is my personal favorite because it allows you to bypass the development team. It is important that your tracking is in place so that you can evaluate your website KPI’s and which digital sources and channels give more credit to your digital marketing success.
For your offline efforts, to try and sync them up, remember the golden rule, authentic connection. With this in mind, there are a few things you can consider. All of your marketing efforts should have a primary call to action at the end an offer as a good starting point. When it can be time-sensitive, it will also provide more urgency. But, more importantly, picking one that is requesting the right action depending on the purpose of your communication will help simplify how to measure the result. Here are some options:
- The hashtag # – this is for social listening. It is helpful when you want to have a conversation. It will not be sending people to your website, but if you have a significant presence in social media, it will engage others in a social conversation that will allow you to listen and communicate with others on a specific topic.
- A custom landing page – this can be helpful, especially if it is a short page path, for example, www.bob.com/me that can be remembered. It’s always important to remember which medium you are advertising on. For example, is it a billboard that someone sees when their driving or is it a card they get at a concert? The card will be easy to type in if they have the card, but it could also go in the trash. The billboard will have to be easily remembered. In any case, a memorable page path name, i.e. /me, helps. You will be able to observe visits to those pages as unique to that campaign, especially if the landing page is not connected to your main website page structure, that it has a no index on the page content, or hidden in your robots.txt file. In other words, you can only find it if you type it into the browser bar directly. The goal of the custom landing page is to relate the information to the advertisement itself, potentially answering some specific questions that might result from the advertisement. This is done for digital paid advertisements regularly, in addition to it being relevant, it also helps improve quality scores and cost of the ad. Essentially, Google figured out a way to penalize an ad when it does not relate to the landing page which encourages the advertiser to consider the full experience as opposed to making landing pages unrelated to the campaign itself.
- Directing to the home page of the website – you can always direct an advertisement call to action to the website’s home page, which might be what most should do. It won’t allow you to understand the results of a specific campaign in and of itself because most traffic enters through this page. But, if the campaign is time-sensitive, you can observe any lifts in traffic as a loose understanding of its effectiveness.
- Using a shortened url or a custom domain – this can be used for an advertisement but I would recommend being careful here. The majority of businesses would benefit from more brand recognition by focusing on their main website URL, which is as essential as their logo in gaining brand awareness. When you think about a unique URL for someone to remember, consider it like trying to advertise a new logo or different company name. It requires the person to consider too many unique elements to your brand. Make it as easy as possible for them and keep the recognition of brand factors like the logo, company name, and main website URL consistent. I would recommend using a custom domain only when there is a specific push for a separate branding initiative and campaign. Consider this almost a separate business that needs to be supported with its own budget and employees. If you think of it this way, then you might limit it to a landing page on your current URL to keep it in the family.
- The special/promo code – this is more typically connected to a specific campaign. This won’t technically let you measure which channel is impactful if you are using multiple types of communication to share the info, but it can at least give you more feedback on what is working by campaign than just directing the user to your home page.
Remember that genuine connection is the goal. Tracking these and connecting them with your online channels and reporting is nice, but if it dilutes the message, consider another way to connect with your customer. Don’t be afraid to use the phone and your own voice. I promise, it’s better than texting or hiding behind your data. Don’t hide behind the data, use it to improve your understanding when possible but nothing beats a genuine connection.