One of the greatest achievements in starting a business is when you reach the point at which you can conduct a marketing campaign and predict with great confidence the outcome of the campaign, regardless of the end goal. When you can accurately predict the outcome of each individual marketing effort, you can then grow your business rapidly and predictably.
Here’s a scenario from one of my previous lives that illustrates the point. We had grown our opt-in email list to more than 120,000 email addresses. We knew (within a certain margin of error) what our email open & read rates were for various types of campaigns. We knew what our click through rate would be (again, within a certain range). We knew the price of the new product, both as a stand alone item and as part of the bundles we regularly sold. Finally, we knew the length of the sales cycle from each email campaign. Knowing all this information, we were able to predict very accurately how much revenue would be generated and when it would hit the bank.
That’s a very powerful feeling which gives the entrepreneur tremendous confidence in taking risks. So how do you get to that point? Here are 4 steps to predictable marketing outcomes.
- Start with the metrics in mind. Stephen Covey famously said “start with the end in mind”, and he is of course correct; however, when we begin our marketing efforts with measurement in mind, we build into the DNA of the marketing organization the functional ability to measure everything we do and everything that happens, whether we intend for it to happen or not. If we had never tracked our marketing funnel numbers in the example above, we would never have thought of predicting the outcome, much less been able to actually predict it. We would have guessed, hoped, and waited, instead of pushing forward knowing the outcome.
- Track every campaign on its own. It’s one thing to know that “overall, our email open/read rate is 9.45%.” Really, that’s great, but every email campaign is different. Your monthly newsletter is different than a hard launch of a new product or service, and your audience’s reaction to each different type of campaign is going to be different. So, tracking each campaign on its own enables you to get more granular with the type and timing of each campaign, so that when you conduct a similar campaign, you are predicting apples vs. apples, not oranges. One of the most powerful tools available for tracking individual campaigns is the Google URL Builder, which I’ve written about here. Create individual tracking URLs for each campaign, and even different landing pages for segmented audiences within each campaign, e.g., Facebook audiences vs. Twitter audiences.
- Segment your audiences. Put everyone on a list, or multiple lists, especially within your social media audiences. It’s not fun to do this after the fact for social fans/followers, but it’s worth the effort. If you’re just starting to build your social audiences, start out by always always always putting everyone on a list, so you can then later target those lists. Segmenting your audiences in Google Analytics can be done anytime, and is an extremely powerful way to hyper target the prospects who are already familiar with your offerings and have engaged with you digitally in some form or fashion already.
- Run many tiny experiments. The beauty of digital marketing is the ability to conduct lots and lots of little digital experiments to test various tactical methods of engaging your audiences. We can guess all day at what might work, but in the end, until we put it in front of a prospect, we don’t know how they will react. By conducting many small, inexpensive experiments in a short amount of time, we can get to the point of predictability much faster than we used to. For example, spending $50 on Google Adwords or a Facebook Ad (don’t “boost post”; doesn’t work) or a Twitter campaign can teach you huge lessons about your audience and your messaging.
Building these four tactics into your marketing machine will enable you to get to predictable marketing outcomes very quickly.
I mentioned above that we were able to predict very accurately what the outcome of a given marketing campaign would be. What I did not mention – for obvious emphasis – is that it took us years to grow that email list and understand our audience and how they would react to various marketing tactics. We did not yet have Google Adwords, Twitter Ads, Facebook Ads, and the ability to segment our audiences in Google Analytics. Now you do.