Agile Marketing: Float Like a Butterfly

At a recent meeting, a speaker quoted Mike Tyson as saying “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. As the market and our brand’s customers move at ever-increasing rates of speed, marketers must be able to quickly move and adapt their plans to avoid (and hopefully not in reaction to) getting punched in the mouth. Perhaps we should take a lesson from “the Greatest” Muhammed Ali: “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.

Many companies operate using an annual planning cycle, and that’s not likely to change overnight. Boards of Directors and executive leaders need to have confidence that their marketers are not randomly chasing every bright shiny object, and are investing resources wisely. But consumers don’t operate on an annual plan: they are making new choices every day, and are always developing different ways of making those decisions. An annual plan can’t adapt to a new tool like Pinterest, which took off in a 3-6 month period and became an important new source of information for consumers.

By adopting a culture of agile marketing, marketing organizations can respond to market changes in real-time, and increase return for shareholders. Yes, you will plan for the year, but will be always evaluating what is working, what is not, and what new tools and channels are available, so that you can reallocate resources toward the most effective efforts and maintain relevance with your consumer.

How can marketers become more agile?

1. Gain alignment with top management on the high-level objectives and metrics for the year, and only develop detailed plans on a six-week or two-month basis.

2. Focus on what you are doing NOW – not last week or next week. Is it working? How are consumers responding? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, build the systems you need to get you those real-time answers.

3. Hour-long meetings become the exception, not the rule. Change your rhythm: meet more frequently, for shorter periods of time. Many agile marketers use a “daily scrum”: 15 minutes every day or every other day. Longer meetings only happen at the beginning of the project when the team is establishing the goals, and at the end when the team is distilling what they have learned.

4. Most of the marketing budget will go to what you already is working, but set aside a small but specific percentage of the budget for experiments. Be razor-sharp in defining what you are seeking to learn, and establish the success metrics before you begin implementation.

5. Test, test, test. Fail (and learn) fast. Maintain a “backlog” list of ideas that you want to test. Give team members the opportunity to “make a pitch” for funding for a small test of an idea they are passionate about.

Here are links to additional articles about agile marketing:

Digital Advertising Effectiveness: How do I know if it’s working?

As brand managers are spending ever-larger shares of their advertising budgets on digital display advertising, they are asking more and more questions about whether these investments are acheiving the desired results. There are many ways to measure digital campaign results – and in real time and while the campaign is underway. By paying attention to how everything is working, a campaign can be optimized while it is underway, trading out poorly performing creative units and media placements for better performing ones. Here is a checklist to help brand managers work with their media and creative partners to plan and evaluate a digital campaign. (And by the way, it is important to have this conversation while a campaign is being planned; the media and creative agencies need to put tracking tags in place, and establish check-in dates, before the campaign starts to be able to provide the results during and after the campaign.)

There are 3 basic questions a brand manager wants to answer with any digital campaign: (1) how are the media choices I’ve made working, (2) how are the creative units working, and (3) is the campaign acheiving my business objectives?

1. Media effectiveness. Your media agency works with each site on which your advertising is running to understand the results of the buy. These interim results can alert you to changes needed, and will allow you to shift dollars to the sites that are performing best, and to heavy-up on creative units that are proving to be most effective.  Interim reports should include:

  • Impressions delivered to date – is each site delivering as expected, and at a rate that will acheive the desired reach and frequency?
  • Engagement / click-through rates – are site visitors responding as expected? Is the plan delivering the consumer actions (video views, clicks, in-ad engagement) at the rate anticipated in the plan?
  • Conversion rates – are consumers engaging in the action the brand is seeking, such as registering with the brand, making a purchase, downloading a document? How do the conversion rates vary between sites; does it makes sense to reallocate any parts of the media investment?

2. Creative effectiveness: by tagging each ad, the creative agency can determine if some creative executions are performing better than others, and can suggest changes to the ad rotations or to the units themselves to improve performance. Questions that could be evaluated include:

  • Which images and copy lines are more likely to drive click through and / or conversions?
  • If using video, which units result in the highest percentage of completed views?
  • Do certain creative versions work better on certain sites?
  • If there were different offers in the ad rotation, which offer is driving the largest reaction from the target?
  • If the campaign includes social sites, what units are providing the best rate of earned social impressions?

3. Campaign effectiveness: by using a third-party research partner (such as Dynamic Logic or Research Now), you can compare the effect your campaign has on exposed consumers with a control group. This sort of study can help to determine:

  • rates of ad recall
  • consumer measures: shifts in awareness, intent, purchase rates
  • brand measures: shifts in attitudes and usage
  • how the target consumer reacted vs. other consumers in the exposed group
  • changes in these measures over time (to assess the optimum frequency level)

How to Measure Engagement using Facebook Insights

Facebook Insights for Brands provides a TON of information about what is happening on the brand’s page; to avoid wasting time looking at everything that’s available, a marketer  must pick and choose what matters. Many marketers use Facebook as a tool for generating consumer engagement with their brand, with the objective of building an emotional connection between the brand and the consumer. When the brand creates something that is meaningful to the brand’s fans, the fans are likely to share that content with others, which will expand the brand’s reach and deepen the impact of each interaction.

If your Facebook strategy focuses on consumer engagement, I recommend two levels of reporting: one is at the “page” level, and the second is at the “post” level.

For Page Level reporting, I suggest the following metrics. The report  should include columns for the current month and the prior month; the current version of Facebook Insights only goes back to July of 2011, so we are not yet able to add a third column for the same month in the previous year. Although daily and weekly numbers are available in the Insights reports, I focus on the “28 days” metrics to smooth out the daily fluctuations.

  • Lifetime total likes
  • New likes in the month (number and % growth)
  • New unlikes in the month (number and % change)
  • 28 day page engagement, which is the number of unique users who engaged with your page in any way during the past 28 days. This includes page “likes”, along with any clicks on content, any stories created through likes, comments, shares, and posts or recommendations created by users. I show this both as a number, and as a percentage of total lifetime likes.
  • 28 day total reach, with separate lines for organic, paid and viral. This is the number of unique users.
  • 28 day total impressions, with separate lines for organic, paid and viral. This is the total count, so may include multiple impressions for a given user.
    • I include a percentage for the viral reach and impressions number, so we can see if we are getting better at creating content that our fans want to share.

For Post Level reporting, the percentages are more important than the actual numbers, because we are trying to create posts that generate engagement. The Insights reports provided by Facebook don’t include percentages, so we download the file and add columns to get us to the data we need.  For each post, our spreadsheet includes the columns listed below, allowing us to sort the results in all sorts of ways. I’m not as interested in reach numbers here – the number of impressions and the interaction rates they generate is the focus.

  • Post date and time
  • Targeting used (if any)
  • Post copy
  • Category (we have several topic / content categories that we use in our editorial calendar; this column allows us to identify any variations in interactions by category)
  • Total impressions
  • % of viral impressions (as a percentage of total impressions, how many impressions were in a story generated by a friend)
  • % engaged users (as a percentage of total impressions, the number of people who click anywhere in the post)
  • % likes
  • % comments
  • % shares
  • % other clicks
  • % negative feedback

Analysis of these results over time can guide the development of individual posts. If I want to maximize the reach of a given post, I will focus on the sorts of posts that generate the most post likes or the highest number of engaged users. If my goal is to generate click-through to an app or other content, I will use these results to determine what tactics are best suited to encouraging click-through – and that is usually different from the tactics that will generate the highest number of likes.

Facebook Insights for your Brand

The platform that Facebook has developed for brands includes a standard set of Insights, visible to site administrators. There are four Insights tabs providing an overview of the level of interaction with the page and its content; additional data can be downloaded for deeper analysis. The brand’s objectives for the page will determine which of these metrics will be important. Here’s a rundown of what is available. 

The Insights Home tab provides top line stats: Total Likes, Total Friends of Fans, People Talking about This and Weekly Total Reach.

The insights tab also shows a trend graph for People Talking about This and Weekly Total Reach, along with bubbles that symbolize the number of posts made.  The “people talking about this” number represents the number of unique people that have created a “story” in the previous week; a “story” is any of the many way a person could interact with your page content, including liking the page, posting to the wall, interacting with a wall post, mentioning or tagging the page or responding to an event.

This page also shows a listing of recent posts and their performance: the number of engaged users who interacted with your post, the number of people “talking about” the post, and the “virality” of the post (the percentage of folks who interacted with it compared to the number who saw it). These statistics are accumulated for a 28 day period, and additional detail can be viewed by clicking on a result. You can spend a lot of time looking at all the data here; it is most efficient to download the file on a regularly scheduled time frame, and analyze the results in a way that is consistent with your brand’s objectives on Facebook.

The Likes tab provides additional details about the people who have chosen to like the page – all the data here is based on the data in a consumer’s profile: gender and age, the top countries, cities and languages represented. This tab also includes a chart that shows the “source” of recent likes, which is particularly useful when the brand is running an advertising campaign that is intended to increase the number of likes. When an ad campaign isn’t running, the common sources of new likes are Facebook recommendations, the Facebook page browser, and from the viral spread of fan activity; an example of sources is shown on the left. This tab is also a good place to keep an eye on the number of “unlikes” – if the graph spikes, it’s a sign of trouble!

The Reach tab helps the marketer understand the reach and frequency of the content: who is actually seeing the brand’s posts. As with the “likes” tab, you can see the gender, age and country, city and language of those who actually saw content from your page within their news feed. Facebook delivers content to each user’s news feed based on an algorithm; not every fan will see every post that is made by the brand. Reach can be improved by improving the rate at which consumers interact with the brand’s posts; as they become more valuable to the fan base, they will be delivered more frequently to a wider number of fans. This tab also allows the marketer to see the sources of reach(organic, paid or viral) and the frequency (how many times a unique person viewed the content).

The Reach tab also provides information about the number of page views and unique visitors, so you can judge whether visitors are going deeper into the page once they land there. You can see the number of visits to each tab within the brand page, and the top external referrals to the page.

The final table is the Talking about This tab, which provides the the gender, age and country, city and language of those who interacted with the brand’s page and created a “story” that posted to their own News Feed. By comparing the demographics of the people who were reached by the content with the demographics of the people who interacted with it, a marketer can determine if their content is resonating with the target consumer. By using the drop down menu available, you can see the relative strength of your own posts compared to posts by others in generating “talk” and viral reach among your fan base.

All of the data is just that – data – and it can be very easy to waste a lot of time looking at all the statistics and results. Each brand manager must define what they are seeking to accomplish with their Facebook page, and then determine which data points will provide the insights to determine whether those objectives are being met, and which tactics are most effective in generating the desired behaviors. Narrow down the important statistics and results, and create a monthly report that provides a consistent measure of results, and how they are changing over time.

The Three Easy Pieces of Digital Marketing: Part Three

This post is the third in a series, in which I discuss the three basic elements of any digital marketing program: Landing Pages, Traffic Drivers, and Measuring the Results. The good news about digital marketing is that there is a wealth of data available for analysis. The bad news about digital marketing is that there is a wealth of data available for analysis. Where do you start?

Forgive me for stating the obvious: you start at the beginning. And the beginning of every marketing campaign, digital or otherwise, is the definition of objectives. What are you trying to accomplish, and  what are the business goals by which you will define success? Are you seeking to increase levels of brand awareness? A greater number of consumers engaging with your brand? Or maybe you happy with the number of consumers that are engaging with the brand, but you want to deepen the level of engagement to build their loyalty and advocacy? A clear definition of success is the first step in measuring results, because you need to set up the mechanisms to track the results that will answer your questions.

Measuring the results of traffic drivers is primarily a game of numbers: how many consumers saw the tactic, and how many did what you were seeking to accomplish with the tactic. Just because I’ve termed this group of tactics as “traffic drivers” doesn’t mean that the number of click-throughs to the landing page is always the primary objective. If a brand is seeking mass awareness, you may be more interested in the number of impressions, the reach and frequency delivered to your potential consumers. When that’s the objective, the bulk of marketing campaign dollars may be spent on online and offline broadcast vehicles. But if bringing traffic to your landing pages is the brand’s primary objective, measurements should focus on identifying the most efficient tactics that generate click-through from target consumers. When possible, marketers should seek to align offline and online measurements to get a true picture of campaign results; Microsoft has developed a white paper on this topic.

Measuring the results of landing pages focuses on consumer behavior once they arrive on the page: what they did, how long they stayed on the page, how they moved through the variety on content options provided to them. Did they come back later? Did they share links with others? Did they respond to an offer or download content? There are lots of things the marketer can measure, but the focus should be on only those actions that are relevant to the brand’s objectives. The most common tool used for measurement of web page activity is Google Analytics; Facebook applications (but not the brand’s Facebook wall) can also be monitored using this tool.

It is easy to become overwhelmed by the volume of data available. To tame the monster, identify the three most important questions that you need to answer about your campaign. Clearly stating those questions up front, before the campaign begins, allows you and your agency partners to build the tools that will allow you to answer those questions once the campaign is underway.

The Wisdom and Foolishness of Crowds

In his 2004 book The Wisdom of Crowds, James Suroweicki helped us understand how a diverse collection of information from independently thinking individuals can result in a more better or more accurate decisions and predictions than individual experts. That’s good news for a democracy!

With the rise of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, businesses and brands have sought to use social media listening platforms to learn more about their consumers and identify emerging trends and opportunities. But businesses need to exercise caution in thinking that the information they gain from these platforms is coming from a “wise crowd”.

In a thought-provoking article in the Wall Street Journal, Jonah Lehrer pointed to a recent study finding that the interconnectedness created by our social networks actually decreases the collective wisdom of the crowd. We are more frequently influenced by the expressed thoughts and opinions of others, and the real-time nature of social networks can create a powerful trend towards “group-think”. While our instinct would suggest that the access to a larger volume of information would make each of us smarter, the reality is that the volume forces us to put tighter filters on what we allow ourselves to read, see, and consider. Each of us is more likely to listen to a friend, or someone who shares our own opinions, and so be reinforced in our existing opinions,

So, while social listening platforms can provide excellent anecdotal information, we need to be careful that the “crowd” to which we are listening is “wise”. According to Surowiecki, three key criteria separate wise crowds from irrational ones: diversity of opinion, independence (people’s opinions aren’t determined by those around them) and decentralization. We may want to “tune” our listening platforms to assign relatively more importance to individual comments, and relatively less weight to the feedback. We need to be careful not be be swayed by sheer numbers and to trace sources: if thousands of tweets can all be traced back to a single information source, one can hardly argue that diversity, independence and decentralization are at play.

Does this mean that brands shouldn’t pay attention to “group think”? Not at all! A brand ignores the “group” at its peril: just ask United and the 11 million folks who have watched a video about their terrible baggage handling of one guitar! Or the 40 million folks who watched the Old Spice responses campaign in one week. The group “herd” mentality can help or hurt brands. We just need to be careful about how we seek to learn from the crowd.

Measure What Matters: Sites and Apps

A recent white paper from WebTrends’ Eric Rickson provide a great outline of the important measurements of success for any web site or application. Eric’s articles were directed specifically to mobile-based experiences, but they are equally valid for desktop-based experiences too. If you are designing a new site or application, or evaluating an existing one, be sure you are designing your strategies so that the answer to each of these questions is “yes”:

1. Are people finding and using your mobile properties?
2. How engaged and loyal are your users?
3. Are they engaging in high value activities and becoming customers?
4. Are we retaining customers and encouraging repeat usage?

Eric’s blog suggests specific KPIs that you will want your agency to build into the site: