GUEST POST: The First Rule of Data-Driven Marketing

It might seem obvious, but you’d be amazed at the number of companies who skip the basics of good SEO and data-driven marketing and web practices.

Graciously contributed by Frank Jones of OptSus Marketing and the Raleigh SEO Meetup.

Ready to stop spending money on ads and start investing in marketing? To do that, you need to have some data-driven marketing knowhow. For a lot of people, “data” is a scary term. It conjures up images of high school math class, graph paper, long equations, and letter mixed in with numbers.

If you are mathematically inclined, I just described your Shangri La. However, everyone else is starting to tune out – so let me reassure you that this discussion will not be filled with numbers and equations. We are going to explore what you should focus on, what’s working now, and what everyone else is doing.

What Should You Focus On?

The key to getting started with data-driven marketing is to know what you want someone to do when they visit your website. That seems like a simple concept, but you would be surprised how many people I talk to who don’t have a good answer for this.

I’ll ask, “What is the one thing you want someone to do when they come to your website?” They claim that one action is:

  • Read our content
  • Like us on Facebook
  • Follow us on Twitter
  • Subscribe to our YouTube channel
  • Look at additional pages on our website
  • Subscribe to our email list

These answers are not completely wrong. Each of these things can be part of your business model and sales funnel. The problem is, none of these are valuable on their own – they are one part of a larger process. We are asking about the “one thing” you want someone to do.

That one thing must always be connected to revenue. This is because you cannot pay your hosting fees with readers, likes, followers, subscribers, or page views.

What we are doing with this exercise is identifying the key performance indicators (KPI) which are important to your business. These will be the numbers we measure and how we will define the return on your marketing investment.

If you can sell a product or service without ever engaging with Facebook, would you really care about having more likes on their platform? This is a secondary metric you can use, but only after you have a strong grasp of the core KPI that drive revenue in your business.

What’s Working Now?

The truth is, many businesses will have multiple ways to drive revenue. You may find that there are multiple KPI directly generating income for your business. However, you should always start by identifying one and expand from there.

For one of my dental office clients, there KPI include:

  1. New patient form downloads
  2. Appointment request form submissions
  3. Click-to-call link tracking
  4. Contact form submissions

These are ranked in the order listed above because the #1 KPI is most closely related to revenue and #4 is less connected to revenue. As an example, it is unlikely that anyone will download the new patient forms if they are not a new patient. However, someone may submit the contact form for any number of reasons that are not connected to revenue for the business. Often, the contact form is the first step for a new patient – but this is not always true.

Using Goal Tracking in Google Analytics, we can monitor these KPI and develop reports that help us see what is driving this behavior. After collecting some data with the goal tracking in place, we can see what is working in their digital marketing. Reports can show us things like:

  • What pages did someone look at on the site before using the click-to-call button?
  • On average, how many times do people visit the site before downloading the new patient form?
  • Which ad did someone click on before submitting the appointment request form?
  • What keyword brings in the most traffic which results in submitting the contact form?

What’s Everyone Else Doing?

Recently, I was working with a client to develop their digital marketing strategy and found they did not have any goal tracking in place. Another agency built their website and was providing the hosting as well as management services. I wrote an email outlining how to implement goal tracking in Google Analytics and asked the client to forward this to their website management company. For a website developer, this is not difficult to setup. However, I was surprised by their reply.

This other agency said they had been building and managing websites for over five years and never had any requests like this. They claimed the setup for goal tracking in Google Analytics was more advanced than their typical work. This surprised me because goal tracking in Google Analytics is more than 10 years old now – that’s ancient technology in internet terms.

As you can see, everyone else is buying ads and not measuring the return on their investment. These tools are not new, but they are not commonly used either. All you have to do to get ahead of the competition is use the tools already available to you.

In some niches, there are strong competitors using much more advanced tools for conversion rate optimization. However, there is a lot of opportunity in many niches if you just use the free goal tracking tools built into Google Analytics.

For more information about developing your marketing strategy from this question, check out this video on discussing Data Driven Marketing. This topic was covered in more detail at the WordCamp event in Atlanta.

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While you are at the next digital marketing conference (like Digital Summit and Internet Summit!), consider the one thing you want someone to do when they visit your website. That same thing we discussed at the beginning of this article will help you avoid the topics unrelated to your business goal. Remember, Facebook followers and page views are vanity metrics and you want to focus on the KPI that drive your bottom line.

Frank is the organizer of the Raleigh SEO Meetup and marketing director at OptSus Marketing. Read more about his experience with data driven marketing to learn about the three questions you need to ask before starting any digital marketing campaign.