Back in the days of Don Draper and cronies, the cigarette puffing Mad Men could succeed in their marketing campaigns by dint of a catchy turn of phrase, a hummable jingle and a larger than life billboard image that would remind everyone of the product. One can only wonder what they’d think of SEO, algorithms and social media.
These days, creative types who know their way around a storyboard but treat number crunching as a foreign language are not likely to get very far. No matter how good you are, it’s no longer enough to be a one-trick pony. Instead, you have to be a kindergarten triple threat: Good at writing words, drawing pictures and adding numbers.
The numbers part is what leaves a lot of businesses bewildered. What is all this hype about analytics anyway? It’s how you break the results of your marketing efforts into distinct pieces, so that you go beyond ROI to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Perhaps your latest campaign didn’t yield the increase in sales that you had hoped for. But that doesn’t mean that you totally missed the mark. You can count on the fact that some of your ideas worked better than others; the trick is to distinguish between the winners and the losers.
Startup marketing campaigns typically involve both online and offline modalities. You have a dynamic website and push special offers through your mobile app, but you also buy air time and column inches, the traditional fare that Don Draper would have recognized. So, which part of your ad budget was spent wisely? Without the benefit of analytics, you may never know. Businesses need to be intimately familiar with their key performance indicators (KPIs) — inbound, outbound, referrals, leads per month by channel, and on and on. Perhaps your latest transaction was completed online through PayPal, but it may have been the result of a recommendation by a neighbor or a billboard that your customer noticed while stuck in traffic during the morning commute. And your satisfied customer may have tweeted about it on a trending hashtag.
On your website, it’s not all about click-through, although that is important. What about comments, likes on Facebook, tweets, re-blogs and Pinterest pins? These are the modern day equivalents of yelling “Hey, guys, look at this!” Just because your latest startup marketing campaign didn't quite live up to expectations doesn’t mean you aren’t on the right track. As the business adage goes, you need to figure out what to start doing, what to keep doing and what to stop doing. Concentrating on those things that were hits with your customers and ditching the groaners is the key to making the most of your marketing budget.
So how do you know the difference between the two? Often, it’s a matter of focused number crunching. How long do your customers stay on your website before losing interest and moving on? What was the market share on the radio station on which you advertised on your best sales day and on your worst sales day? How many cars actually drove past that billboard? How many clicked on the embedded link in that text message you blasted out? Did more visitors to your website fill out your contact form on Tuesday night or on Saturday morning? Every day, your customers unconsciously separate “signal” from “noise.” The primary job of your marketing department is to ensure that your business falls on the right side of that line.
Then there’s the matter of demographics. Businesses need to understand who their current customers are and, perhaps even more so, which population groups may include untold numbers of untapped future customers. Having a finger on the pulse of such factors as gender, age, ethnicity and family income will determine what type of approach to take to make the sale. It’s one thing to market to upscale, college educated customers on LinkedIn and quite another to spring for embedded ads on Snapchat. Analytics are what lets your business know when you’ve hit a chord with a particular demographic. That’s a whole lot more effective than wasting money on hit or miss ad buys.
None of this is to say that an understanding of your statistics in any way diminishes the importance of clever words and pretty pictures. For decades, marketers have known that words have emotional connections and that images do as well. Your triple threat startup marketers need to be able to hit that sweet spot. After all, you don’t want to spend all that money unless you’re absolutely sure that your photo of that stacked burger dripping in cheese is going to make folks hungry. Your marketing staff may be more conversant with PDFs and bit mapping than with X-Acto blades and non-repro blue pens, but the principle of appealing colors and graphics along with the right words to get your message across really hasn’t changed much since the days of the Mad Men. Making the sale is still about establishing a connection with the reader, viewer or listener. It’s about feeling the love.