Integrated Marketing Smoke and Mirrors

It’s a common occurrence to find organizations juggling multiple vendors to execute different marketing programs and channels. And, its even more common to hear that it is impossible to integrate these disconnected vendors’ metrics into a single tracking and reporting system.

We heard that recently from a company that had been over-promised and under-delivered by marketing firms and agencies in the past.

The multinational company distributes products through a network of large independent contractors. They needed an integrated marketing program that could promote, track and report on each independent contractor, and do so through online, offline, print and broadcast channels. Basically, they had a complex need that required a turn-key solution.

The head marketing person said, “I can find individual marketing firms to execute individually on Web, E-mail, Direct Mail, Phone, Media Outreach, Print Advertising and Broadcast Advertising. But, that means I have to manage tons of vendors and it is impossible to compare and contrast metrics across them all.”

We said, “We can do do it all under one roof, and we can do it in a turn-key, automated manner.”

He replied, “Well, we have yet to find a company that can do this, but seen a lot of smoke and mirrors from companies in the past.”

Little did he know that what he really needed was some real smoke and mirrors.

He went on to definitively list the complexity of the cross-marketing program he was looking to execute.

“OK…., so here’s what I need,

  • Online Web, Social Media and Online Advertising
    • Keyword research
    • 150 personalized websites that run a blog, video and dynamic content.
    • Unique, geographically-driven SEO on each of the 150 websites
    • Content marketing
    • News articles published on Google News weekly
    • Monthly interview with certified news journalist
    • Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign and associated A/B testing
    • Facebook fanpage with Facebook advertising and associated A/B testing
    • Twitter feed
  • Data-Driven Direct Response
    • Data targeting
    • Build predictive model of likely buyers
    • Direct mail design, copy and strategy
    • A/B testing of direct mail pieces
  • Media Buying
    • 150 different cable television commercials
    • Radio commercials
    • Print advertising

… so, those are the cross-media marketing needs I have. But, here is where it gets even trickier. I need to know exactly where every lead that goes to my 150 contractors came from. So if they came from a specific advertisement, or any of the 150 websites, or a specific commercial, I need to know. I need to compare each aspect of the program so I can fine-tune and adjust my budget to the campaigns that are more successful. Plus, I need reporting that is clear, on-demand, and fully automated. To put it bluntly, I need this to be absolutely turn-key. Now, is that possible?.”

We answered, “Absolutely!”

“I don’t want a lot of smoke and mirrors, as I have been burned in the past,” he cautioned.

Our reply caught him off guard. “You can’t do this without some smoke and Mirrors(TM).”

We went on to describe Echo’s proprietary Cross-Media Marketing Console (CMMC), which is an innovative, rules-based engine that manages, tracks and measures limitless “events” (Print, Web, Social Media, advertising, E-Marketing, direct mail, Phone, etc). CMMC tracks, analyzes and reports on all campaigns through a single system. Suffice to say, this engine puts out some smoke.

The platform also features Mirrors(TM), which are personalized webpages that are driven by a powerful engine that integrates all of your content and online media into a relevant, single-site, communications hub. Mirrors are highly personalized due to the fact that each mirror webpage can be customized by the end users so that they select what types of content that matters most to them.

In short, Echo does use Mirrors, and uses proprietary rules-based engines that are smoking.

Donor-Based Organizations and Big Data

With the news about the National Security Agency data mining phone, email and search records from Google, Yahoo, Verizon and other communications giants, everyone now knows something about big data.

And, one thing we have all concluded is that analyzing data to profile individuals is a highly efficient way to narrow down targets.

In the case of donor-based organizations, sophisticated data profiling translates into reduced marketing costs and increased donations. That’s a good thing.

So, what does donor profiling look like in a nutshell?

Let’s take a Hospital as an example.

It would be foolish to think that a direct response program out of an Oncology Department would target the same people and with the same message as a program out of a Pediatric Department.  So, an important step is refining targets is to profile existing donors.  By analyzing numerous characteristics and donation history, a model of the active donor begins to emerge — such as wealth, age, preferred donation method (direct mail or online), etc..  In the case of the Oncology Department, the donor profile is different than that of the Pediatric Department.

From this model, we append (add) to the donor profile from other robust consumer databases to create a more complete picture of potential donors.  We then look for “look alikes” that share demographic or psychographic attributes.

The refinement does not stop there.  In the example of the Oncology and Pediatric Departments, each month we append both in-patient and out-patient data to continuously refine the lists.  This monthly audit enables us to determine if the donor profile is morphing.  Each target in the refined list is then assigned a score, which defines whether or not they will be sent an appeal.  And, depending on the profile and score, a specific cross-media channel is determined to maximize response.

These processes require far more analyses that inferred above.  They also require important strategic interpretation of the data.  The simple outcome is that we fully understand who the donors and targets are; and we understand the preferred communications channel.

The bottom line is that data profiling, appending and auditing increases response rates and decreases marketing costs for donor-based organizations.

New Research on Content Marketing, Social Media and Conversion

A new online marketing research report for membership-based organizations was revealed earlier this week by Echo Communicate, a cross-media marketing firm based in Baltimore, Maryland.

This is the second in a two-part series on the research by American News Report. The first article reported on search engine optimization (SEO), website traffic and keyword research.

“This pioneering research is designed to define an online marketing strategy and actionable roadmap for membership-based or donor-based organizations,” said Jordan Grable, Vice President of Strategic Accounts at Echo Communicate.

The research was conducted with a medium-sized, membership-based organization that plans to expand its membership by targeting and acquiring a new consumer audience.

The organization will deploy a cross-media marketing campaign including direct mail, social media and the Internet.

Winning Online Requires Knowing Your Online Footprint

“Bill Gates said it best in his 1996 essay, Content is King. Today’s online experience is the delivery of informative, original content and doing so in a way that facilitates conversation,” Grable said.

“This part of the online marketing research focused mostly on content and the massive distribution potential content has for member-based or donor-based organizations.”

Content Marketing – Original, Valuable and Engaging Information

Content is considered by many as the currency of the Internet.  It drives search engine results, and delivers value and information to visitors.

“Like many member-based or donor-based organizations, this client generates a lot of fresh, original content,” Grable described. “Our research found that they were missing significant opportunities to capitalize on their content by publishing it through all of their channels.”

Surprising Finds:

“The client’s process for publishing a magazine article was mainly have the content reside in the printed form,” Grable noted.  “They would later tack it onto their website in PDF format, which is difficult for search engines to find. That singular piece of content could have also been disseminated through online news, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and published on an organization’s blog.  Each of these ‘channels’ gives an opportunity to point new and existing audiences to the website.”

Social Media Analytics – Efficiency Is Not Difficult

When asked how social media channels are defined and assessed, Grable stated that, “the landscape for social media changes so quickly that brands need to be strategic in selecting which channels they engage, and how they maintain each channel.”

“This client is active on several social media outlets, so we began our research on identifying their Web, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Blogging competitors.  The objective was to understand how well or how poorly both they and their competitors were engaging their audiences.  This uncovered a best practices roadmap for ongoing social media management,” he added.

Surprising Finds:

“The client managed its social media properties as silos,” Grable described.  “So, when they post on a topic of importance on Facebook, they were not carrying that same topic to Twitter or Pinterest.  Leveraging content is a simple way to drive engagement in all social media channels. It is good for brand consistency, but more importantly, it is an extremely efficient way to manage content.  Now, I’m not suggesting a cut and paste into each social media channel because, obviously, each channel has its own style or file format.  But, a YouTube video can be turned into an image and caption for Pinterest, and a short intro and link via Facebook and Twitter,” he explained.

On-Site Conversion

On-site conversion is the process a website takes a prospect through in order to convert the prospect into a donor or member.  The process typically concludes at an e-commerce application.

American News Report asked Grable to share the most common mistakes member- and donor-based organizations make in their conversion process.

“The most common mistake is funneling a prospect through too many steps that the prospect does not see as relevant,” Grable replied.  “Simplicity is paramount.  Think of Amazon.com: They take you to order processing in a single step for a reason.”

“Next, it is critical to continue to brand and message to the prospect during each step in the process, so their purchase decision is reinforced all the time.”

“Finally, many organizations fall victim to letting the e-commerce, or accounting side dictate what the prospect experiences, which is one of the noteworthy and surprising finds we experienced during our research.”

Surprising Finds:

“When our client’s prospects tried to become members, they were placed into a path requiring over ten steps before being able to join. The first step in the process sent the prospect to a differently branded website, which caused confusion. They then had to register on the website, which was a process into itself, before having the opportunity to sign on as a member.  The primary reason for this was the organization set the system up according to rules that were relevant in the past, but no longer carries relevance.  Our audit delivered a concrete roadmap for accelerating the process in a branded and simple way,” Grable described.

As online marketing and associated channels evolve daily, some organizations are turning to robust research to help navigate the increasingly complex and competitive fight for online attention.

New Online Marketing Research on SEO, Website Traffic and Keywords

New online marketing research for membership-based organizations was unveiled today by Echo Communicate, a cross-media marketing firm based in Baltimore, Maryland.

“This research is the first of its kind for membership-based or donor-based organizations,” said Jordan Grable, Vice President of Strategic Accounts at Echo Communicate. “It is a comprehensive body of work that uncovers the fact-based ingredients for these organizations to develop their online marketing strategy and an actionable roadmap.”

Grable noted that the specifics of the research are proprietary, but he was enthusiastic to share some interesting and surprising findings with American News Report in this two-part series.

Research Background
The online research was conducted with a medium-sized, membership-based organization that plans to expand its membership by targeting and acquiring a new consumer audience.

The organization’s strategy includes deploying cross-media marketing channels, including direct mail, social media and a revamped consumer-facing website. The organization currently has two established websites and is active with social media. Heavy emphasis is placed on online marketing as the means to generate awareness and acquire new consumer members.

The First Step to Winning Online Is Knowing Your Online Footprint

“You don’t know what you don’t know,” Grable said when describing how it is “mission critical to understand your entire online footprint in order to know how you stack up against everyone fighting for the same eyeballs that you are.”

He defined the “online footprint” as being made up of many ingredients; four of which we’ll cover in Part 1 of this two-part series.

“Online marketing is really like cooking where you need the right amount of each ingredient, and if you don’t have all of the ingredients the outcome can be quite disappointing,” Grable says.

Ingredient #1: Site Traffic Analysis

Most organizations are currently using some type of browser-based metric tool to track their website traffic, like Google Analytics, which provides extremely detailed and valuable information about a website’s traffic.

“Most organizations don’t dig any deeper than the basic traffic figures they use to report increases or decreases in traffic over time, and the number of visits and unique visitors a site attracts. But, conducting deep research on a site’s traffic can uncover incredible strategic or actionable opportunities,” Grable added.

Surprising Finds:

“During the last month of measured data, we uncovered that the organization generated a statistically significant increase in traffic due to content placement on a certain social sharing site. The resulting strategy is to include that social sharing site in the organization’s broader social media strategy, which is expected to increase traffic reliably and substantially,” Grable added.

Ingredient #2: Keyword Phrases

Keywords and keyword phrases are the basis for all search engine results. They are the currency of Internet and allow any organization to maximize their organic search opportunities.

“When we conduct keyword research we are really creating a fluid dictionary of words and phrases that represent the organization, its members, and its industry. A mistake many membership organizations make is, they don’t create a robust dictionary, and they don’t add to it regularly,” Grable continued.

“The keyword dictionary we researched and developed included over 100 new keyword phrases, representing an increase of over 20 million searches each month. That’s a lot of missed membership opportunities.”

Surprising Finds:

“The keywords the organization identified were the few and obvious ones, but when we investigated the words that actual website visitors enter into search engines, there was an absolute disconnect. Only one keyword the organization identified was entered into search engines and resulted in their website being found. And guess what? The key word was the actual name of the organization,” he stated.

Ingredient #3: Define Your Competition

Competing online is entirely different than competing offline. Online competition is principally about competing for words people enter into search engines.

“Most organizations define their competitors as other like-minded organizations attempting to attract and acquire the same members, donors, or customers. What our research uncovers is that competition is not for members, it’s for eyeballs, and there are a ton of companies competing for the same demographic,” Grable said.

“Here’s an example. Let’s say the organization is for supporting people with hearing loss. The organization is not just competing with other support organizations; it is competing online with all companies that sell products to the hearing impaired. So typing ‘hearing loss’ into a search engine will result an enormous number of results. Knowing exactly what your online competitors are doing with keywords and content allows for organizations to adjust their keyword dictionary and marketing strategies,” he stated.

Surprising Finds:

“If you can believe it, the competitive research led us to conclude that helping a competitor could create strategic access to the new target membership demographic. Sounds strange, but it’s true,” Grable began to explain.

“Our client does a tremendous job of generating quality, fresh, original content and an extremely frequent pace. Their competitors generate content infrequently, so a strategy to syndicate content was identified. The benefit to the competitor is they now have additional and valuable content for their blog. The benefit to the client is that the syndicated content includes backlinks to their homepage, which drives a highly targeted audience to their website,” he said.

Ingredient #4: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The primary purpose of SEO is to return a search engine result on the first page based on keywords a target audience types. SEO is generally split into on-site (on the webpages an organization controls) and off-site (on the webpages controlled by others).

Grable described that the SEO research reviewed the standard protocols, conventions and programs recognized by all search engines, resulting in 15 breaches of On-Site protocols.

He said they also uncovered eight critical Off-Site “opportunities”.

Surprising Finds:

“One of the most basic and critical SEO protocols is to have a meta-description on the home page, and they did not. With no meta-description, the Google search algorithm has a tough time classifying the broad content on the website. You know the description that Google puts below a webpage title and URL? Well, that’s the meta-description, and if you do not have it in place, you just missed the opportunity to tell searchers who you are and why you are relevant,” he described.

In Part 2 we’ll explore social media, content marketing, online news and onsite sales/conversion.