So you have clarity about what you’re selling, you’re committed to consistency and putting in the time to build your brand, and you’ve identified and incorporated the appropriate emotional triggers into your marketing.
Unfortunately, I have some bad news. Even if you’re doing everything else really well, it’s all being undermined if you don’t capture and crunch the data.
Sure, your gut instinct could be very effective. You speak to people and get good feedback. Your business is profitable and sales are on the up.
But it’s all based on a fragile, ad hoc, way of operating that’s not sustainable in the long term, let alone able to be steadily improved upon.
Meanwhile what are you even basing your marketing on?
Where’s your proof?
Any marketing exercise is useless if you don’t have a way to test and measure.
For one thing, any perceived results might simply be an anomaly or caused by external factors, yet you would incorrectly attribute them to what you’ve just done.
Data doesn’t mislead you. It shows you what actually happened.
It’s up to you to analyse it and decide what to do next, but at least you have factual, empirical evidence on which to base your decisions.
It’s less thinking like a business owner or even a customer (which I often suggest), and more thinking like a scholar. You simply observe behaviour and draw conclusions.
Capturing and analysing data gives you the opportunity to strengthen your message and increase your success.
But it sounds so hard
Doing things well isn’t always easy, but you really cannot afford to overlook data analytics in your marketing, so you must either learn that skill yourself or allocate the budget and the people to get it done.
It shouldn’t be hard to find people. A World Economic Forum study has found that one of the fastest expanding fields of employment over the next 10 to 15 years will be in marketing, with skills in data analytics, social intelligence and new media literacy (no, I didn’t know that was a thing, either).
At the same time, I completely understand that many small business owners are afraid of looking at data and analytics, and there are several reasons.
For some, it’s better to be blissfully ignorant than to risk finding out something unsettling or unpleasant that will not only force you to act, but depress you as well.
Others are concerned that something that they’re personally invested in might not be working all that well and seeing the facts will leave them with no option but to ditch it.
Perhaps the most common reasons for avoidance are that it means making hard decisions and spending some money to implement changes.
What I say to all of that is, once you start getting the insights data allows you to have, and especially once you’ve made an adjustment that makes a positive difference, you’ll be hooked.
I’ve seen plenty of reluctant starters become converts!
Make the most of what you’ve got
Imagine you had a modern truck to do your deliveries but you decided to stick with horse and cart. That’s effectively what you’re doing if you’re marketing without analytics.
Thanks to rapid advances in digital technology, it’s never been easier to collect and review data, and the result of having access to so much data is the potential to gain so many insights that can positively impact your bottom line.
The more you ignore it the more you’re being left behind by the competition who are embracing it, in fact they don’t even have to do it well to be better than someone who’s not doing it at all.
Collecting the data is only a small part and, admittedly, interpreting it isn’t always simple, but sometimes the changes that you make are.
Some businesses and marketers have reported that people have responded unfavourably to a single word in a slogan or marketing message, while others have found that a change of colours on a website has resulted in longer user sessions and more conversions.
Ultimately, that’s the aim of all marketing and analytics: make more sales.
Where to start?
The basic Google Analytics have been around for quite a while now, and you can certainly gain some important insights into users’ online behaviour from seeing where people come from and what they do once they get to your site.
If a particular link or button drives most of the traffic to an important place, whether it’s an enquiry form or a product information page, you’d be thinking about how to put that link or button on more pages.
What’s known as A/B testing, where half the visitors to a website are served one version of something and the other 50 per cent something slightly different is also generally very revealing.
It could be as simple as testing the position or colour of a button, or the text of a call to action. Sometimes both options are effective, but in most cases one will be a clear winner.
Then it’s no longer an educated guess, but a proven fact, that that colour or that text is better than the other version.
Of course you can then keep going, matching the winner against a new option.
Optimisation is an ongoing challenge
Optimisation is a great word for what we’re trying to do, because it means getting the very best from something.
There’s site optimisation, which ensures the performance of a website is as fast and smooth as possible.
There’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which aims to improve a sites ranking on search engines.
Then there’s something that’s a bit more complex, Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO), which involves making small changes to a website (and other digital assets) to improve how efficiently it turns a visitor – a tyre-kicker – into a customer.
Even though it has its complexities, because it is data driven it’s actually just a case of analysing and interpreting what the data tells you.
Again, the important thing is that you gather the data in the first place. You can’t analyse it or act on it if you don’t collect it.
It all comes together in the end
The data is really the final piece in the marketing puzzle. It tells you what’s working and what isn’t, which gives you the information and the opportunity to do it better.
However if any one of the four pillars I’ve covered isn’t in place, the whole thing comes tumbling down.
So be clear about what you’re selling and what messages will help you communicate that clearly.
Be consistent and patient in getting your messages out there, and allowing people to get to know you and your offering well enough to feel familiar and comfortable.
Work out what emotions you want to elicit in potential customers to induce them to decide to spend their money.
Then test and measure absolutely everything … and keep doing it.
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