digital marketing

Unique Problems With Uniques

Uniques are what make the world go around, at least the Internet world. Advertisers care about their reach, the numbers of unique users they get in front of on a campaign. 1 million is the magic number and all of a sudden getting advertisers becomes much, much easier.

Uniques are so important that marketers like me spend money generating cheap traffic to inflate uniques even at a loss. It's a sizable percentage of traffic if you do it right, enough to inflate the numbers without killing your click through rates and bounce rate (the rate people leave the website after the first page view).

It's all about uniques. How are you compared to your competition? Check the uniques on How's the board think you are doing? Just show progress on uniques. But as someone who looks at web metrics and models businesses, unique growth and future prospects of most business have much more to do with member retention (churn, repeat usage), viral coefficients and cost of customer acquisition and value. With positive key performance indicators (KPI) along these lines and you know you have a business that has long term value.

Sometimes that means you make prioritization decisions in development to things that drive uniques even at the cost of longer term value. The reality is that for $500, I can drive 50,000 visitors. $5,000 then 500,000. Not much money to get you halfway to that 1 million unique magic number.

But a new report and analysis say that the whole industry could be overestimating our unique count by a factor of 2 or 3. That's just crazy. If that were accurate it could send shockwaves throughout the industry. Or not.

If the number changes, does it change the performance of existing campaigns? We can still measure ROI. It won't change tomorrow. It just means we are twice as effective at marketing to half the number of people we thought. Or will the new numbers scare off holistic marketers who compare the reach of traditional campaigns? If this plays out, it could be a very interesting year.

Marketing's Dueling Duality About Trust

Moved on from Cialdini's book on Influence and am now reading Seth Godin's Permission Marketing, which is a must read for everyone in marketing. There was an interesting point of overlap: Americas sensual overload on ads. Godin does a nice job explaining how this came about from the emergence of mass media and the rise and diminishing ROI of "interruption marketing."

What was interesting is that it is clear that modern society is overloaded with assaults of information. Cialdini argues that what sets us apart from animals is the ability to make order of all the info coming at us. But with such an overload, we are particularly susceptible to techniques that take advantage of our instinctual responses. We've taken order and created chaos. We took reason and created an environment where there is no time to reason. We've turned ourselves into animals.

Godin puts aside mass media and focuses on being different and learning to earn the trust of a few power users while Cialdini teaches ways to leverage instinctual response to get that initial trust (Godin relents that such sizzle and tricks are still necessary to spark initial interest).

Together they provide an interesting framework to capture and extend the attention and loyalty of customers.

However, it's interesting to note that preying on customer instincts conceptually undermines trust, but when done right is more of a sleight of hand. So being a great marketer means being both a trickster and a trusted advisor. A magician and a mentor. Interesting mix...

The Confluence of Digital Marketing and Traditional Brand Marketing

I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine who is a SVP of marketing for Bank of America that reminded me the importance of bridging the gaps between digital and traditional marketing. Now as a digital guy, I usually think about it in terms of what traditional marketing has to learn from the digital world, but this conversation reminded me that it's a biased approach.

Digital marketing, most specifically Internet marketing, is amazing in it’s exacting nature and real time feedback. I can put a campaign up targeting 36-45 year old married women who have expressed an interest in cheerleading and that day know what I spent, how many of them came to my site, whether they registered, whether they created a group on Weplay, whether they invited anyone and how much they spent. These are the important things to my business and I can know exactly how the campaign performed and make changes. Maybe I change the wording, the creative of the ad, and in fact on launch I probably had at least 2 versions up to test which one did better (A-B testing). And I probably A-B tested the landing page too. So I am constantly optimizing. As soon as I have enough data to declare a winner, I use that as a baseline and try a new test. As long as the incremental value is worth my effort, then I keep testing until I am a well-oiled machine.

Of course I also do this across all my campaigns, targeting and segments so I am slowly weeding out the campaigns that don’t perform so the aggregate performance is great. There are some tools that help with this automated bidding, since campaigns can be optimized by single metrics like cost per registration, cost per group, revenue per cost, etc. The key mantra is always be testing. Always be improving. The only creative, and thus human, decisions on an ongoing basis are wording and basic creative, which a very junior person can do. It’s a machine.

The problem is that traditional media doesn’t have the metrics and real-time feedback so this process is completely different. Imagine creating multiple TV commercials and trying to measure which one was more effective. Tough. Even if you had an answer, how long would it take to change the programming, the budget, reshoot a commercial and leverage that info. The tracking and correlation is difficult and takes too much time. Clicks are instantaneous. And imagine the damage of having a bad ad. I can quickly pull an ad off the Internet, each of the tests in digital are small so they don’t need the same level of effort, creative or buy in. Traditional marketing is slower, more time intensive and each campaign casts a wide net.

So the exact mantras of digital marketing set an unrealistic expectation for traditional marketing. And frankly, the digital guys look down on the traditional guys. How can you run a high cost marketing campaign and not know the ROI? Well, large enterprises have developed sophisticated models to help calculate the ROI, but it still is a little fuzzy and there are a lot of moving parts so you can test the overall ROI, but not pinpoint the exact phrasing, creative, or in store collateral that converted the customer.

But it’s too easy to get caught up in the glory of digital as my friend pointed out. For Bank of America, digital is fine, but they don’t run their business by pure cost per reg. People go into the banks to set up accounts. And measuring how the Internet ad affected consumer behavior and brand impression is not something us digital guys specialize in. When you care about branding and traditional commerce, we are less sophisticated specifically because it’s contrary to our exacting and real time philosophy. It’s not that we can’t apply the same models measuring the impression of a brand before and after an ad just like traditional media does with ad spots. We just don’t. It’s not that we can’t cast a wide net with a single ad to measure effect, it’s that we think it’s against our principles. Why not optimize and measure the clicks, exactly?

Well, it’s easy to forget in our digital fantasy that the world is more than clicks. For Bank of America, it’s brand that drives the business. When you think bank, who do you want to go to? And for a traditional media guy who believes in art as much of science, I imagine digital looks like task work for ajunior guy. It’s a tactic, not a strategy. I imagine they look down on us.

Well traditional media is declining and digital marketing is expanding, so we’ll see an increasing mix of exacting methodology. But in the process, I expect a lot of the traditional guys to come over and teach us digital guys a thing or two.