4 Most Important Strategic Marketing Steps

In this post, I will outline the most important steps in creating your marketing strategy. This checklist enables you to create a successful marketing plan.

In this post, I will outline the most important steps in creating your marketing strategy. If you start with this checklist, the rest of your marketing strategy will fall into place more easily.

Marketing Step 1: Who am I?

The first and foremost thing to do is to define your company. This includes the type of the company (a start up, a small local business, a medium-sized company, etc.) and the line of business you are in (banking, catering, consulting services, retail, etc.). Also, think about your branding strategy, i.e. how you want your customers to perceive you. You can use different brand-building models. One very well known model is brand identity prism. At this point, you do not have to worry about brand appearance (logos, colors, etc.). Instead, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does my company (brand) do?
  • What impression do I want to make as a company (brand)?
  • What is the personality of my company (brand)?
  • What relationship does my company (brand) have to the customer?
  • What kind of people are my customers?
  • What are my company (brand) values and principles?

For example: Tuscolo is a small local chain of Italian restaurants that serves real Italian food in a friendly and familiar atmosphere. It incorporates tradition and creates authentic Italian experience through its interior, service and food presentation. It caters for families, couples and groups of friends and colleagues who want to enjoy good food in a relaxed setting.

Marketing Step 2: What is my offering?

Decide, what products and/or services you are going to offer. Do not think in terms of what you can possibly offer. This will produce difficulty in creating a well-defined product portfolio and diminish any marketing efforts.

So, how do you define your offering? On the one hand, there should be a market for it (do some market research or ask your current customers and business partners). On the other hand, this should be something you can do or produce really well (see Step 4). Additionally, think about what is feasible to offer at the current company state. Then, you will also need to define the key features and properties of your products or services.

Marketing Step 3: Who are my customers?

The next important element of your marketing strategy is customers. To make things easier for you, you can use the following plan. Firstly, think in terms of generic target group definition – such B2B or B2C customers and the geographical area you want to serve.

Add parameters such as the size of company and the line of business (for B2B) or age and gender (for B2C). Secondly, specify this by segmenting within your target group. E.g. large vs medium-sized companies, retail vs wholesale, etc. Third, dive deeper into the definition of each segment and develop customer personas. In case of B2B, that would be profiles of individual decision makers. Try to understand their motivation, their needs and wants, how they communicate and what they expect from a product or a service.

Marketing Step 4: What is my USP?

USP or Unique Selling Proposition is the cornerstone of every marketing strategy. It is what sets you apart from competition. Basically, it is the reason Why for your customers. You can develop a generic USP for the company or think in terms of USP’s for separate products or USP’s for different customer segments.

For example, you own a bookstore specializing in nonfiction literature located close to a university. The first customer segment is students. The USP for them is low prices/discount schemes and fast in-store delivery for the books they require for their courses. Another customer segment are university researchers and professors. The USP for them is different: a large range of specialized books in several languages available upon request and courier delivery services. You may have more segments and USP’s:  people living in the vicinity of your shop (you have a good coffee bar), hobby researchers (your employees take time to provide advice on a variety of subjects and make literature recommendations), etc.

Generally, you should not jump into doing anything or start spending marketing budget before you have made these four steps and created a solid foundation for your marketing strategy.

strategic marketing steps

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You’ve Got Mail (Again): Pro’s and Con’s of Increasing Mailing Frequency

In Email Marketing, achieving optimal mailing frequency is a hot topic. On the one hand, sending emails more often can increase up-selling and cross-selling of products and strengthen customer relationships. On the other hand, companies are likely to experience negative customer reactions and lose their customer base, especially if the increase in frequency was too rapid.

In this article, I will discuss what side effects increasing of mailing frequency may have. In the second part of the discussion, I will outline some examples where sending mailings more often will likely bring positive results.

Negative consequences of increasing mailing frequency

  • Increase of spam complaints. This negative effect is most likely caused by how the emails are designed, e.g. the unsubscribe link was not visible, subjects of the emails were similar or the same, etc. It is best to consider email design and regulation compliance first thing before setting up any email campaign.
  • Increase of unsubscribe rate. Customers who receive irrelevant or useless emails tend to unsubscribe. Thus, before increasing the mailing frequency, make sure that more emails mean more added value to the customer. In addition, segmenting your list and approaching each segment with customized offers will increase your chances of success.
  • Increase in bounce rate. The increase in bounces is probably due to poor revision of the mailing list in-between mailings. Ideally, mailing lists should be processed and hard bounces removed after each mailing. In case of repeated soft bounces, these must be removed as well.
  • Increase in costs. If the performance of additional email campaigns is poor, the cost factor plays a significant role. However, if you optimize the campaigns, it will keep constant or even improve the mailing performance when increasing mailing volume. Ideally, this should cause the cost-per-email to drop.

When raising mailing frequency is recommendable

  • You send the emails too seldom (e.g. less than monthly)
  • You sell a product that needs to be replenished or often replaced (e.g. food items)
  • You send mailings to heavy users and brand advocates
  • You send mailings to new users to take advantage of the recency factor (e.g. send mailings frequently within the first month of acquiring a new user)
  • You send promotional mailings for a certain period to latent users in order to activate them
  • You want to inform your customers more often (e.g. you often get new products in stock)
  • The character of your mailings is not strictly commercial, e.g. you offer interesting content
  • You have a special mailing campaign requiring high frequency (e.g. an Advent Calendar campaign)
  • Users actually chose to receive frequent emails (i.e. you offered them a choice of different email frequencies when they were subscribing)

How often you should contact your customers depends on a number of factors, such as the industry, the product, the customers, the sales funnel, etc.  The solution is probably to experiment with optimal mailing frequency by increasing it slightly over a longer period of time. Also, in this case, monitoring and adjusting campaigns accordingly is essential.

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A Comprehensive List of Email Analytics Metrics

In this article, I will describe 13 important email analytics metrics, what they mean, and how email campaign performance can be improved.

In this article, I will describe different metrics related to evaluating performance of email campaigns and how they can be improved.

Here is a typical funnel of an email campaign – from mailing list to conversion:

Subscription ⇒ Email Send ⇒ Email Delivery ⇒ Email Open ⇒ Email Click Through ⇒ Landing Page Visit ⇒ Conversion Funnel from Email ⇒ Conversion from Email

Let us review a set of email metrics connected with each step of this funnel.

  1. Subscription conversion = subscriptions / visits of the sign-up page. In order to get more people to subscribe, your sign-up form should have a clear call-to-action and ask only for necessary information. Short info on data protection will establish trust and offers of incentives (e.g. a free sample, a whitepaper download, etc.) will motivate more users to share their email address.
  2. Subscriber list growth rate = (new subscribers-old subscribers) / old subscribers. In order to constantly increase your subscriber base, you should both receive sufficient amounts of traffic to your subscription page and have a high subscription conversion rate.
  3. Number of emails sent. This is the starting quantifying point of email campaign funnel analysis. The only way to improve this metric is to increase the size of the mailing list. However, to ensure that the email addresses are valid and to comply with double opt-in procedure, avoid buying email lists.
  4. Delivery rate = number of emails delivered / number of emails sent. Delivery of the emails you send depends on several factors: white- or blacklisting of your IP by email service providers, existing or non-existing (hard bounce) email addresses, how full the recipient’s mailbox is (soft bounce), if a user has moved previous emails to spam, etc. In order to increase the delivery rate, make sure to revise your mailing list often and to remove obsolete or false addresses. In addition, you should always include a clearly visible Unsubscribe link and avoid using HTML-only emails with images.
  5. Open rate = number of emails opened / number of emails sent. This metric is greatly influenced by the subject and the timing/frequency of the emails sent. In order for the email to appear relevant for the user, you can apply segmentation and some degree of personalization to your email campaigns. When comprising the subject of the email, be precise and avoid words and expressions which can cause your email be filtered as spam.
  6. Unsubscribe rate = number of unsubscribe requests / emails sent. Clearly, it is best to keep unsubscribe rate as low as possible. In order to do this, make sure to deliver the message relevant to the recipient. In addition, high mailing frequency (e.g. once per day) will likely cause most users to unsubscribe (see my next post). Ideally, you should let the subscriber choose the mailing frequency optimal for them.
  7. Click-through rate = clicks on the links with the email / emails sent. In order to measure how many times a link in the email was clicked you can apply a campaign ID to the  URL, e.g. https://marketing-to-convert?cid=email&campaign=spring-break&link-id=001. In order to increase the click-through rate, the email CTA should be clearly visible and correspond to the email subject. You may also want to place links in the body of the email and  behind corresponding images. As has been stated above, the offer should be delivered at the right time and to the right user. Thus, factors such as user past activity and interests will play a role.
  8. Unique open and click-through rate. These metrics are basically the same as above however, only one open and click-through is counted per visitor (even if they interacted with the email multiple times).
  9. Landing page visits. Normally, this number will be equal to click-throughs. In case it is not, do review link tagging and check if there are any broken links.
  10. Cost per visit = total cost of a mailing campaign / number of visits to the landing page. Using this metric, you can compare the effectiveness of different campaigns. (The cost of a campaign is the cost you incur for sending an email multiplied by the number of emails sent.) Improving cost per visit can be achieved by generating more visits from your mailing i.e. by offering relevant content and compelling CTA’s.
  11. Landing page bounce rate = bounces / visits to the landing page. In order to decrease bounces on the landing page, make sure that landing page reflects the information in the link user clicks on. E.g. if you are making an email campaign about a particular product, do not send users to Products Overview page.
  12. Pages per visit from email. This metric demonstrates if users found your site engaging enough to move on from the landing page. However, a large number of pages viewed may signify that your site is difficult to navigate. Make it clear to the user where to go next from the landing page by integrating links or offering a small navigation menu.
  13. Conversion from email = number of conversions / emails sent. Bear in mind that conversion is not always a sale. Contact form submission, leaving a review or recommending your product to a friend can be counted as conversion actions. In any case, conversion rate will be the most important measure of your email campaign success. Optimizing conversion rate involves all stages of the funnel: from segmenting the mailing list to streamlining the user journey from the landing page.

This list is by no means an exhausting one but contains some important metrics that can be used to track the performance of email marketing campaigns.

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Men Shop on Mars, Women Shop on Venus: Gender in E-Commerce

This post is a recap of the 20th E-Commerce Forum at Flagbit in Karlsruhe that was dedicated to the topic of gender in e-commerce.

gender in e-commerce
Source: Unsplash

The presenter, Astrid Wunsch, spoke about the gender-related differences in buying behavior that any online-shop owner needs to consider. The presentation was followed by a lively discussion and experience sharing. Summarizing the main points, the following recommendations can be given.

  • Consider who your audience is. Even though your products will mostly define who your target customers are (make-up products as a female domain, vs. men shopping for electronic goods), do not simply make assumptions without checking your customer data. For example, on the website selling vacuum cleaners, 2/3 of buyers were female. Also consider cross-buying, e.g. women buying clothing for their husbands. On a voucher aggregator platform, one of the most popular vouchers selected by men was that of a perfume shop.
  • Adjust the buying process in your shop. Men are normally result-oriented and know what kind of product they want. They prefer clear-structured shops with search and filter functions and few distractions. Women, on the contrary, like looking around and enjoy the buying experience itself. Their buying decision takes longer, as they need to consider a number of alternatives first. Women also like to be advised in the buying process,  so it is a good idea to set up a live chat or a customer hotline.
  • Think about product presentation. Male users need technical data and product details. They prefer to see the product in 3-dimensional view, isolated from context or other products. They also respond positively to product videos. Female customers pay more attention to colors and patterns of a product page. They also like to see products in real-life context, surrounded by other objects and performing their function. Women get more influenced by stories and testimonials around products, as well as positive social media signals.

In Europe, buying power of women is constantly increasing, and besides, women influence over two thirds of all buying decisions. Nevertheless, most online shops and websites in general still appeal to and made for a male audience. Maybe it is time to start thinking in the other direction?

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Don’t Dive Off the Shallow End: 7 Rules for Web Content Creation

7 rules to help making content creation within an organisation easier. Includes content framework and other advice.

Content Marketing is one of the biggest trends now. However, as with many fast-developing Internet trends (SEO or Social Media in the past), there is an urge to do something but little understanding of how it has to be done.

7 Rules for Web Content Creation

 

In this article I want to share 7 basic time-saving rules for crafting Web content.

1. Have a concept

Consider creating a content framework where you define your cornerstones:

  • Who are the readers of the content? What motivates them?
  • At what stage of the buying process are the readers?  How high is their level of awareness of the subject on which you are writing ?
  • What do you want to achieve by creating the content? Look at this from several angles: the customer (information needs), the company (e.g. customer retention), and additional benefits (e.g. SEO).
  • How would that content fit in the overall company strategy and the current marketing campaign?
  • Which format is the most appropriate? Do not just think in terms of blog posts: white papers, infographics, press releases, tweets, online tests, presentations — these are all valid and working formats of online content.

2. Have a plan

If you are writing within an organization, treat your content creation process like any other project. Define the roles, the responsibilities and the deadlines. Think about the stages the project will go through (briefing, planning, first draft, correction, second draft, etc), and how different roles are involved at each stage. Do not forget about the documentation of the process: either use a project management tool you have, or place your project schedule on a shared resource, Intranet or cloud-based.

3. Have a structure

This might remind you of the school times, but do create a detailed plan of what you want to write about. If there is limited space (e.g. on an infographic), note down the required length of text blocks.

If you are writing a white paper or a blog article, decide in how many smaller parts you will divide it and how to structure them. Generally, consistency is the keyword. The paragraph headings should be of the same format and the text parts of the same length.

Do not forget about the main idea that holds all of your text bits together and contributes to the strength of your argument. And even though users online are said to read diagonally, introduction and conclusion (or summary) are still the important parts of any text.

4. Be brief

“People online do not read”. It is, of course, an exaggeration, but keep it in mind when starting a writing task. What does it imply?

  • Add visuals and make your content as appealing as possible (use colors and highlighters where appropriate, but do not overdo).
  • Make sure your paragraphs and sentences are short and easily digestible. Use bullet lists to present a series of arguments.
  • Use paragraph headings as pivot points to keep the user reading by arousing his or her interest in what comes next.
  • Within your text, avoid unnecessary padding such as filler phrases and redundancies. In short, if you can say the same thing with fewer words, go for it.

5. Be precise

Because of the usual practice of skimming through Web pages, the information is often misinterpreted or badly understood. Highlight the most important points through moderate repetition and rewording. You may use the writing formula: “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell it to them, and then tell them what you have just told them” for delivering your main message. Having a consistent structure and writing correctly will also help to improve the preciseness of your expression.

6. Be correct

Even though the Internet seems to accept rather causal style, your text has to be correct. Ask other project participants to proofread your text, and work with credible sources to polish your writing and achieve grammatical and stylistic correctness. I use the Associated Press Stylebook, but there are other style guides, as well as dictionaries, grammar checking software and content creation tools you can use. Be aware that the norms in the US and UK English are different, so choose one language variant and stick to it.

7. Be true

Apart from grammar, factual correctness is important. Even when producing marketing texts, observe the boundary between promoting a product and misinforming your readers.

  • Research. Have you done thorough research on the topic? Research may include field tests, talks to product experts or to the customers, or information from special literature or industry press.
  • Citations. Are the sources you quote trustworthy? Is the information you use still up-to-date?
  • Details. Does your text cover the topic well or does it leave a lot of open questions? Can the reader follow your line of argument without interruption?

In conclusion, there is no magic wand for creating marvelous content within minutes. Writing a good text takes a lot of time and (collaborative) effort. But having a plan and working through it consistently will make content creation easier and accelerate your learning curve.

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