5 Best Practices to Boost Marketing Spend

There is much more to multichannel, multi-touch market­ing optimization than just asking whether you should invest your next marketing dollar into Channel A or Channel B.

Success may require you to invest in Channels A and B. For example, one company (Seton Hall University) found “that the combination of direct mail and email, although expensive, resulted in 376% application rate versus 76% for email alone.”

Success isn’t just about selecting channels generi­cally; it also depends on where in each prospective customer’s journey (awareness, initial conversion, LTV growth, retention) you use which channel and marketing message. B2B marketers put this perspective into practice with their drip campaigns that nurture leads through multiple channels over time until they are ripe for sales.

Success in 2012 requires attention not just to multiple channels, but to multiple digital devices. For example, The New York Times reported in December that “79 percent of shoppers used their cellphones for research; however, only 58 percent have made purchases on their phones.” So, it follows that customers are using their PCs vs. tablet computers vs. smartphones for different purposes. So, which campaigns should you target to customers on which devices?

Finally, are all your microconversion steps on each channel optimized, or are you unnecessarily leaking prospects from the funnel?

Five must-dos to grab the opportunity by the horns
With the right analytics and marketing actions, multi­channel customers can become your most valuable—if you are able to use the more frequent interactions that you have with them for better persuasion. Start with these five best practices:

Use data on contact history, transactions, and (digital) interactions to look for gold
Customers routinely research their purchases online today, regardless of which channel they ultimately buy from, so it is no longer enough for marketing analytics to rely solely on data on sales transactions and preceding marketing contacts. Data on digital interactions that happen between transactions cannot be missing from your analysis!

Many SMBs use free web analytics solutions such as Google Analytics to understand how their digital marketing channels are driving traffic to their websites. Larger enterprises can make use of additional capabili­ties available in their commercial digital analytics solu­tions—for example, to import offline transactions of registered online customers to reveal whether online marketing efforts are to be credited for the sale. What’s more, in some tools, display ad impressions and inter­actions with a company’s Facebook pages can also be correlated with downstream visits to the website and purchases, even if there wasn’t a direct clickthrough.

Meanwhile, cross-channel customer marketing analysts at larger B2C organizations are increasingly importing data from their digital analytics tools into their inhouse marketing data marts to assemble a more complete picture of results. Such a data warehouse has the potential to reveal how interactions via one channel impacted outcomes via other channels.

Compare multiple marketing attribution models side by side
To evaluate their digital marketing efforts, market­ers typically use their digital analytics tool’s built-in capabilities for marketing attribution analysis. These capabilities usually consist of a choice of rules for giving credit to one or multiple preceding touchpoints for sales that followed downstream. You may give all credit to the last touchpoint before a purchase or the first touchpoint that acquired a site visitor, or share credit among mul­tiple touchpoints. You may also analyze which combina­tions of touchpoints led to results.

This is an art, not a science. So it is best to compare multiples of these attribution schemes side by side. For example, Matt Bailey of Hanover Direct, the catalog and ecommerce retailer behind The Company Store, Company Kids, and other well-known brands, is quoted in a whitepaper from Web Analytics Demystified, a strategy consultancy, that roughly 60% of sales attributed to “last touch” had at least one other campaign response prior to the conversion. “First-click attribution gives me visibility into 40 to 60 percent more keyword-driven sales than the last-click model alone,” said Bailey. “This kind of insight goes a long way toward explaining which 50 percent is working for me, and that is allowing us to continue to profit by our online marketing efforts in an increasingly difficult economy.”

Cross-channel marketing analysts using campaign management tools have available to them even more sophisticated attribution schemes—e.g., matching a purchase back to the best fitting touchpoint in the mar­keting contact history—that is, the one that was most closely related to the purchased item. Alas, too many marketing organizations are still not making regular use of the technology they already own and are instead relying on occasional, weeks-long analysis projects for campaign analysis.

Keep doing those deep dives—but also don’t neglect the lower hanging fruit available to you in your toolset!

Experiment where possible to identify the campaigns that actually moved the needle
Rules-based attribution can only show a correlation of outcomes with preceding touchpoints. Getting a reliable answer on which campaigns drive incremental sales usually requires hold-out testing. Don’t neglect such controlled experimentation, either with your direct marketing efforts or digital marketing campaigns.

Some marketing channels don’t lend themselves to controlled experimentation, however—e.g., natural (organic) search traffic to your website or walk-in traffic to your bricks-and-mortar stores. With these channels you can use your reports to derive a hypoth­esis, for example, that traffic from keyword “blue shoes” seems to acquire customers who buy not only shoes, but certain accessories along with them. But now you need to test this hypothesis by targeting a campaign to this customer segment and using a holdout group here to get proven answers.

Build profiles of customers’ journeys of interaction with you over time
The next opportunity comes from realizing that differ­ent campaigns will be successful at different points in a customer’s lifecycle with your brand. So, use the built-in capabilities of your digital analytics or marketing auto­mation systems to build profiles of individual customer behavior over several milestones. E.g., lifecycle analytics can reveal which of your past marketing campaigns and digital properties (e.g., mobile site or app) have been most successful at turning 1x buyers into repeat buyers.

Use analytics and customer profilesto drive marketing automation
Now, close the loop by taking action on analytics. Use the analytics and customer profiles in your marketing automation programs. For example, you may configure your digital marketing programs to target a cross-sell campaign to all new 1x buyers daily using the market­ing offer that has been shown to drive best results for turning these 1x buyers into repeat buyers. Or, you may configure your cross-channel marketing programs to target win-back offers to customers who haven’t been purchasing in stores lately and haven’t logged in online either.

Akin Arikan is a multichannel marketing evangelist for IBM.

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