In our earlier articles, we have talked about different marketing functions operating in silos (here), and how that severely limits the growth prospects of your business. While the problem gets exponentially intensified with the size of the company and the teams operating within, even small startups aren’t insulated from this problem. Heck, even if you are a one man army, you could be suffering from this challenge. When you think about search, you are thinking about search, and when you are thinking about email, that is what you are thinking about.
The main reason behind this being a challenge is the discontinuity it brings to your overall marketing. If one hand isn’t talking to the other, let alone working with it in sync, how can you expect the output to be anything but suboptimal?
Now, what good would highlighting a problem do if I do not make the effort to help you overcome it as well! So today I thought we would look at how two different marketing functions can coexist and co-operate. And to make things more interesting (and to illustrate how it is possible for any combination of marketing functions), I decided to take up the example of two estranged brothers - search engine strategy and email marketing strategy.
Why integrating your different marketing functions matters?
Rome wasn’t built in a day… … but they were laying bricks every hour.
Every single bit of work you do in marketing adds to the potential reach and exposure you bring to your product. With every little bit of incremental work, you are reaching more customers by the hour. The problem, and it is quite intensified for an early stage bootstrapped startup, is when your efforts are distributed all over the place, the visible results are just as much watered down. Sure, as long as you are consistent and maintain the discipline, the results would accumulate over time, but till the time that happens, it can be disconcerting at best to put in the efforts and not see proportionate results.
Much like Rome, integrating your marketing approaches across different channels stacks up the results on top of one another, making the results much more quantitative, and in most cases, qualitative as well.
It’s all about compounding the effects.
How to decide which marketing channels to integrate together?
Each of the marketing channels you use have a primary goal. It could be building brand awareness, educating your audience, generating qualified leads, establishing thought leadership and subject matter expertise, revenue generation, customer activation, brand engagement. A lot of different objectives are there to choose from. But that is the first thing you need to do : choose a primary objective you would be chasing down via a marketing channel, or an activity. This will help you not only in deciding on how to converge different channels onto the same path, but also channel and focus your energy right by targeting it at attaining that goal.
Also, do not make the mistake of having a vague goal, the most common being : grow the business. The more vague or broad your goals are, the more difficult it would get for you to list down the pathways you could be taking into achieving those goals. Having broad goals would also make it difficult for you to set reasonable yet concise targets to measure performance and have accountability.
Your goals need to be concise, precise and measurable.
Once you have listed down the different weapons you are going to be carrying in your arsenal, it is time to start looking for overlaps. The more defined the overlap is, the more suited those channels are to work closely with each other. Just look at it this way, if the goal of my twitter presence is to increase brand engagement, how could it be useful to integrate my twitter strategy with my emails (which has the least to do with engagement).
In this particular example, we chose search engine and email marketing because both of them are gunning for the same prize - generate more leads for the business.
Both methods follow a similar approach - drive people to the website, with an aim of getting them to convert - either as free trial activations or paying customers. If anything, your email marketing here is just a step deeper into the cycle. While search strategy would be targeting at all prospective customers, email strategy would be targeting customers who already found you via search and became subscribers but not customers yet. So, it makes sense that their broader approach is aligned with each other.
I hope you caught on to the one caveat there. While your search engine strategy would be solely focused on this goal, you may be having different email marketing buckets - with one bucket looking at converting subscribers to activations/customers, and the other looking at re-activating customers that have churned out, or have gone dormant. To get the best results, it is crucial that you look at individual ‘goals’ and consider each activity chasing an independent prominent goal as a channel of its own. This way, you would be more methodical in your execution approach and witness better conversion numbers.
So, how do you go about it?
#1. Use email marketing as an extension of the searcher’s journey
Your web analytics data gives you a lot of information about your users. Where the traffic is coming from, what made it come your way, and what route do they take once they are in.
You also already know of the different pages on your blog that attract the incoming traffic (entry pages), as well as the pages attracting the most eyeballs (top pages).
If you have set up email subscribe goal in your Benne Analytics dashboard, you also have a fair understanding of what makes visitors subscribe to your newsletter.
Use all this information to plan the email flow for your new subscribers. Send them the top content from their particular areas of interest. By including this basic personalization in your email content, you would increase how much your subscribers engage with your emails and keep on bringing them back to your website. The more frequently they find you serving content of value, the more trust they will have in your product’s ability to add value, increasing the chances of conversion.
#2. Two-way feedback mechanism
It is a two way street. While the searcher’s journey helps you decide on the content of emails for your new subscribers, accessing the factors leading to a visitor subscribing to your newsletter will help you understand the most valuable content on your website.
Set up goals in your dashboard to better understand what drove your visitors to subscribe.
Now, you have two categories of content here:
- This content that seems to be perceived as more valuable than others by your audience
- Related content, that talks about similar areas/pain-points/challenges
Use both of these.
Use the valuable article to set up links that guide the users to other areas that build up on the value you have already presented them with.
Add links to this valuable piece in other related content with lower goal conversion % to help increase the chances of the visitors subscribing from here.
#3. Create hooks to newsletter subscription within your content marketing
There are two tools at your disposal here. One, your email marketing platform’s analytics data (Mailchimp, CampaignMonitor etc.). Two, your own analytics dashboard (Google Analytics, Benne Analytics etc.)
Use the two of them in conjugation to understand what kind of emails perform the best. Which ones seem to intrigue the recipients the most (open rates - Mailchimp’s dashboard)?
What sort of content drives the most clicks (click thru rate - Mailchimp’s dashboard, campaigns and medium traffic data - Benne Analytics dashboard)?
What content drives the most conversions? (goals - Benne Analytics dashboard)
Use this insight to come up with content ideas for your blog that is most likely to attract visitor attention and drive conversions. You can test out the performance of these content ideas, and further refine your execution by promoting these content pieces by strategically placing them within your highest traffic generating content, blog homepage, lead magnet forms etc.
In order to get this information right, you would need to set up UTM parameters for the links in your email. You may find this article helpful on how to do that.
#4. Offer a condensed yet complete meal in the emails you send, but get them hungry for more
I hate the emails I receive from LinkedIn. They rarely offer much valuable information, if any, and serve as mere notifications with the sole intent of driving you back to the website/app. It may work, but it leaves the user with an extremely cringeworthy experience. The ideal way would be to give me as much condensed information as possible, so that “I” can decide whether or not the particular activity is important enough for me to go check it out further.
That’s what you should do when sending out your emails. Don’t treat your emails as baits, treat them as an additional channel for you to offer value to your audience. Having your users trust you with their emails is a privilege, treat it as such.
The ideal way to include content within emails is to have enough of a summary there for the user to access if that is something he would be more interested in reading about or not. The downside to this approach is you could see fewer clicks, but the clicks that you would receive would be more qualified ones, that serve you with valuable insight.
Another approach to have the users take actions from the emails is to pose intriguing questions, or extend a helping hand to any problems they could be facing.
More engaged user -> more brand recall -> better perceived value of your product -> More conversions.
It’s all about different functions working with each other to a common goal
Instead of picking search engine and email marketing like we did here, you can pick an altogether different set of marketing functions/channels, and use this approach to formulate a strategy. The basic principles will remain the same:
- The channels you choose (or parts of a channel) need to be working towards a same common goal.
In this particular case, our goal was to increase leads (or free trial activations). So we worked backwards from there. The goal for your superset could be different. Think about a different set of two - your blog and twitter.
On Twitter, my goal, for example, is to drive conversations, drive engagement. (Which is why I invite a conversation any time I insert the Twitter handle of Benne.)
The entire strategy will be built around that outcome. Even if I am sharing the link to the latest article on our blog, I would not do it as a tweet containing just the link. If I did that, the goal there becomes driving clicks and traffic to that article, and that isn’t what I want our Twitter presence to be about. So, I would rather post a twitter thread that’s a condensed version of the article, and I would end the thread with a link to the article. This way, the primary goal remains conversations around the content of the thread. At the same time, while sending traffic to the article is no longer the primary goal, it is still there if the thread interests my audience.
The shared goal needs to be the right fit, and feel natural and not forced
It is not advisable to do it retroactively
Square pegs and round holes my friend. The goals, the intent and the strategy will determine the direction and route your actions would take to execute the said strategy. It is not always possible to make slight alterations to your past actions and make them fit the new narrative. The intent when you took those actions may have been completely different, after all. So be exremely careful in retroactively implementing this approach. If it feels the right fit, sure - go for it. If not, best to leave it alone.
- Follow the data, not your gut
Let data drive your decisions. No matter what channel you consider, you have access to tons of analytical data. And if you are using your UTM parameters and attribution models well, then most of the data needed for analysis will be present right in your analytics dashboard. So let this data tell you how your users behave. Don’t make those assumptions for them. And if making assumptions is unavoidable, make hypothesis backed by strong rational arguments, and test out those hypotheses by a short pilot run.
Also. You need to remember that you won’t hit oil with the first hit of your shovel. Once you have executed on any piece of strategy, analyze its performance on a weekly/monthly basis. See if it improved your conversions in any way. And irrespective of whether the graph went up or down, figure out the reasons behind it and make necessary modifications. (It is crucial that you analyze and finetune your strategy even when the graph is going up. The more you do that, the more you can accelerate your growth.)
Questions, Suggestions, Feedback, Criticism? I would love to chat.
That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.
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