Holistic Marketing Optimization: What’s more likely to show up on Twitter?

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On our June 30 web clinic, Flint McGlaughlin, the Director of MECLABS Group, will be discussing the Compounding ROI of Sequential Conversion Rate Increases: How one company took a small gain and multiplied it tenfold.

As we prepare the content for that web clinic, I wanted to get the perspective of Andy Mott, Senior Manager of Research Partnerships at MarketingExperiments. As his title would suggest, Andy manages Research Partnerships with some major, enterprise-level companies.

As he is on almost every topic from email copy to Jacksonville Jaguars’ draft picks, Andy was fired up about holistic marketing optimization and what marketers who feel lost in large organizations can do to really make an impact…

Marketers can get excited about one-off successful tests that show huge gains. And rightly so. But in next Wednesday’s web clinic, we’ll be focused on teaching how to take a step back, look at the big picture, and drive even greater ROI. That’s hard enough for a small ecommerce site. But what does that mean to a marketer in a Fortune 500 company?

BuckAndy Mott: In some ways, the average marketer has a bigger challenge than a CEO. The goal of a CEO is simple – make more money. You might argue that CEOs should have a wide range of goals from satisfying all stakeholders to running oil rigs that don’t explode, but the end result of all those decisions boils down to one clear place – the bottom line.

However, once you move down the chain of command from the CEO, things get a little more murky, don’t they? And when you finally find yourselves in the deep, dark trenches of the marketing department, it becomes clear why holistic marketing optimization is so difficult.

Most marketers aren’t given the simple task of “make more money.” Sometimes their compensation is driven by secondary or tertiary goals that actually conflict with their colleagues.

So there are too many cooks in the kitchen and they’re not even cooking the same meal?

AM: Well, beyond just individuals with conflicting goals, many large marketing organizations, have entire siloed departments that are working towards (because they’re getting compensated for) different goals. For example, the email marketing group is hyper-focused on open rates and clickthroughs because their bonus depends on it. And then you have branding, product group A, product group B, the search marketing agency, the creative agency…

And then the battles begin. All these different groups end up throwing more elbows than Kevin Garnett grabbing a rebound, fighting for space on the homepage and engaging in turf wars over who should be in control of the optimization cycle.

If you’re shaking your head right now agreeing with Andy, feel free to use that tweet button in the upper left to share your most frustrating experiences.

AM: I’d love to hear what marketers out there have to say. Here’s my story. I was working with a major company that had several divisions and layers with (much like an unoptimized landing page) competing objectives.

The technology organization had a set of benchmarks for different back-end aspects of a product. Each aspect had to meet an individual benchmark. Essentially, the focus was on separate checkboxes and not the big picture. After all, the customer didn’t interact with separate backend pieces, the customer just knew how the overall product worked.

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One aspect of the product did not meet its individual technology benchmark, but the impact on the overall product performance that the customer would notice was minimal (less than 1%).

Now, there was a fix that would ensure that this piece met its benchmark. However, the fix would mean that that 1% of customers would not be able to use the product at all. They would install the product and be met with a totally blank screen.

So, essentially, either 100% of customers would feel a less than 1% impact (and probably not even notice). Or, 1% of customers would feel a 100% impact – the product just wouldn’t work.

So what do you do in these situations? How do you take a holistic approach when different groups and organizations differ over the right thing to do? Who should decide?

AM: The answer is very simple – the customer is in charge. And you, the intrepid marketer, must be their advocate.

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” That sounds great, Andy, but it’s easier said than done. I hope you have a Henry V-style motivational speech in you, because speaking truth to power is one of the most difficult things any person in any organization will ever be asked to do.

AM: And, I would argue, the results are just as predictable as they are dire, from oil-covered pelicans to plane crashes that wipe out the entire leadership of Poland. The people higher up in an organization tend to have all the power yet are the farthest away from where the rubber meets the road and the impact of the actual decisions.

So how do you decide when to stick your neck out and how do you protect yourself to make sure that, even if you’re wrong, your head doesn’t roll?

AM: Here are the main points I try to keep in mind:

  • What’s more likely to be tweeted? – So, from the story I just told you, what do you think will be more likely to be tweeted? Marginally slower load time? Or a program that you took the time to download, and then when you try to run it, your screen is totally blank?
  • Emphasize the value of sequential conversion rate increases Sure, if you’re in charge of search marketing and you optimize your patch, you’ll see a gain. But what if you took a holistic approach? What if, as an organization, you optimized the PPC ads, the landing page, and the shopping cart or lead gen form? The total ROI increase would be so much more beneficial for the entire organization. Focus on the value to the entire team.
  • Just recommend tests – Every marketer likely has a slightly different opinion about what makes the best headline. Or copy. So go back to the simple principle above…the customer is in charge. You don’t have to fight for your idea over someone else’s. Just propose a test. And that way, the customer will tell you with his actions what works best.
  • Share the credit, take the blame – This is just one of my maxims in life. I learned it from Dwight Eisenhower. Or perhaps John Wooden. Or maybe it was Harry S Truman. You see my point. Every true change agent leads the charge by focusing on the benefit to the team over the individual. You don’t just want to be able to make a difference in your career. You want to make a habit of it. And while you’ve probably mitigated the downside risk with the testing suggestion above, something can always go wrong. Other organizations (and superiors) will trust you more next time if you don’t try to pass the buck.
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OK, Andy, I like the practical advice. But you can’t overlook the fact that what you’re asking is still very hard to do. Isn’t this what the President has been criticized for lately? All common sense and no emotion?

For this blog post to work, it needs to be an inspirational blog post that will be posted in every marketer’s cubicle in the nation. Where’s my Braveheart moment? “They can take our marketing budgets, but they can never take our freeeeedddoooooommm!!!”

AM: I am seeking to inspire every marketer to speak up for what’s right against the tide of inaction, inefficiency, and incompetence that can define the modern-day large corporation. But I will do you one better Dan. I’ll see your Mel Gibson quote, and I’ll raise you one. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes, from a man that optimized an entire nation…

The Man in the Arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

– President Theodore Roosevelt

Related Resources

Compounding ROI of Sequential Conversion Rate Increases: How one company took a small gain and multiplied it tenfold

The Business Case for Testing: How one marketer convinced her business leaders to start testing and drove a 201% gain in the process

Embrace Your Inner Sleazeball: How to gain enterprise approval for the marketing resources you need to succeed

Photo Attribution: Marshall Astor

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6 Comments

  1. Brian Carroll says

    Great thoughts. This post reminded me of where I think marketers have an opportunity and that starts with our heart.

    What drives us? What role does the heart play in our job as marketers? How do we create relevance and results for ourselves, our colleagues, and those future customers we hope to reach and influence?

    Can you market something without passion and still be successful? If so, why would you want to?

    I’ve wondered how we can be passionate advocates to others outside our companies if we don’t have close relationships and trust inside our companies?

    To me, disharmony is the enemy of execution. I liked something Seth Godin wrote a while back, “…just about every successful venture is based on an unoriginal idea, beautifully executed.” I agree. We must do ordinary things consistently and be open to the extraordinary ideas that could lead to a breakthrough.

    It starts with our individual heart and our passion (Do I believe in what I’m doing?). Then we orient ourselves to our companies collective heart and passion (Do I believe in my company and what my company does?). Finally, we carry heart and passion outside our companies (Do we believe in what we’re doing?). I think it all It starts with a passion inside that comes from a belief in something greater.

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