Every week I try to get out to my sanctuary for an hour or two; the soccer pitch. Its the few places where I can unplug from the daily stress and routines of life and work.
The other night our team had a solid game …rather a blow out of a 11-3. Almost everyone on our team had put the ball into the net. This got me thinking what worked extremely well that evening to pull it off.
My intention wasn’t to analyze this to determine the goal scoring MVP, but instead understand the touch points in the game that influenced scoring each goal.
For example, in those paths we took the ball down the field, who touched the ball, in what order, on what side of the field, etc. before the last person touched it to score.
It got me thinking that soccer, like many other team-based sports, it is not much different than the outcomes I deal with in digital strategies I’ve led for various brands who rely on multiple marketing sources and channels to drive demand, leads and customers.
In the game, every player walks onto the pitch with a common vision, performs a specific function in their position, and plays together as a team with one common goal; put the ball in the back of the oppositions net.
Similar to digital strategy, our teams of experts and the online channels they specialize; Search, Affiliate, Social, Online Display, Paid Search, Business Intelligence & Analytics, Email, UX Designers, Developers, and even the team of offline channels, all work together toward a common goal.
But in the real-world, they often work in silo’s and valued much differently.
Similar to the soccer game, all eyes are typically on the MVP who scored the most goals, and neglect those key influencers who assisted in the MVP to score.
So in your business, who manages the marketing channel MVP (last-touch channel) that scores the conversions and sales? Is it Search, Email or is it direct? Is it the digital channel that first touched the sales lead, or the last-touch channel that converted him to a customer?
Sadly many brands still measure marketing value with the viewpoint of last-touch channel wins. This short-sighted view just shows what is lacking in the Marketing and Sales functions in an organization. They lack the need or will or know-how to look at the customer journey of their business, and determine where and how each marketing channel plays a role, and its value to influence and assist the customer in his or her journey.
This view unfortunately tends to drive budget investment, which is a out-dated practice that needs disruption. A first step towards change, is the understanding and analysis of the various customer touch points that may influence and lead to a conversion.
Think about professional sports where there is significant effort to play together as a team to win. The team salaries (budget investment) will vary, but is balanced between the value each player (marketing channel) provides. This is why some players who rarely score (convert) get such high investment.
So why do numerous businesses invest the majority of their budget on those first-touch and last-touch channels? What about those channels that play a significant role in assisting the visitor towards the converting channels? Email is a great example of an under-utilized and under-invested channel in most digital eco-systems.
Whether businesses and marketing teams are limited by budget, technology or frankly expertise, to understand how best to allocate budgets towards those valuable assist channels, one only needs to first understand and measure how each channel influences the other.
I admit that visibility into the attribution each marketing channel provides can be limited by technology and know-how, but tools are available (Google Analytics, Converto, Omniture) that can give you a glimpse into your online business’s attribution model.
When I think of the soccer game the other night, I wasn’t thinking about who touched the ball first, or who scored the goal, but instead the patterns within the multiple plays and which players contributed or assisted in those plays, the most that led to the converting on our goals.
Every online and integrated brand doing business on the web will have their own online and offline attribution model that they should seek to understand.
But if you already have insight into what channels influence or assist others, aim for an attribution model that is as accurate and actionable as possible. It should cover the full spectrum of digital strategy that influences your customer lifecycle.
And this shouldn’t stop at the final goal conversion. It should extend into the full customer lifecycle journey through to retention, loyalty and win-back of churned customers. If it costs less to retain than win a customer, and you obviously have X% churn, then what channel and/or activities work together to reduce churn, and win-back lapsed customers?
Marketers who employ data-driven decision making as a foundation or influence to help build a digital strategy or program, need only to poke around the metrics to give them this insight. And these insights are derived from a combination of multiple online channels; Search, referrals, direct, social, email, etc.
Whatever your online strategy, it likely leverages multiple online, and offline, channels to build awareness, create demand, drive leads or convert and retain customers. Whichever combination of channels you employ, your decision to use it within your strategy should follow three simple, yet crucial tasks:
Any business, whether it a start up seeking adoption or witnessing high-growth, or larger enterprises evolving into the digital eco-system, each will monitor KPI’s relevant to their objectives.
And the standard KPI’s as site traffic, attrition, conversion funnels, churn, revenue, CPA by channel or customer type, etc. a granular view on the touch-points that influence online purchasing decisions and conversion needs a deeper measurement than just last-click attribution.
How your customers flow through various online channels, both online and offline, an understanding is needed of the entire user-path to conversion, and how each digital asset places a role to affect the customers decisions to convert.
In order to get these understandings of the associated customer touch-points, greater decision confidence can be made.
You really need to know which channels and devices really influence the customer in their journey, and the triggers to make that final purchasing decision, rather than looking at those touch-points as individual silos.
Does the most valued customer find you from Search on mobile, then influenced via thought-leadership discussions via niche social platforms, then re-inforced through re-targetted behavioural basedÂ Display on desktop, and finally arrives to your site via Search produced by social SEO?
Remember, only greater-decision making confidence can be attained when you have the capabilities to associate the various touch-points in your business. Not to mention the greater ROI, lowest CPA and biggest performance lift.
When you have visibility across digital channels it gives you the ability to assess the influence of each. Now similar to my soccer game, understanding which players (channels), and combination of players (paths) led towards more goals (conversions), the similar applies in a digital strategy.
And in some games where those plays or players drop in performance, you as the coach need to make new changes to test and optimize the performance of those channels.
Don’t place just one priority to a channel. Spread the investment across and seek to measure and optimize each to understand the optimum conversion paths. Unfortunately its typically the case that organizations and agencies focus on one or two channels, and buy new customers through Paid Search, or employ a small piece of an inbound marketing content strategy to optimize Search (SEO) or Social.
But when you employ multiple channels, and aim to understand the value of each, any change or optimization in one channel can and will affect another. For example, a change in your Paid Search program or SEO may alter the efficiency of your email program.
I’ve led digital strategy where the online path to purchase is as clear as day. In one example, after an average of 6X exposure in an Online DisplayÂ prospecting program, it would lead to a 95% post-impression influence on those customers who then converted from organic Search and direct. But for those 5% who converted through on post-click in Display, 74% converted from desktop and 26% from mobile. Knowing not just the channels that your customers travel, but also devices is just as important in some digital eco-systems.
This is why knowing the path-to-purchase is important for any online or integrated businesses, as there isn’t necessarily a direct correlation between an ad or marketing message and purchase. Albeit, that message may still pay dividends in ensuring the company is top-of-mind when the consumer decides to pull out his credit card.
If you’ve followed my analogy between soccer and digital channel influences, you’ll get realize that evaluating cross-channels, and optimization of these channels, is a necessity in order to attribute value to almost any channel investment, or media buy.
This will help you understand what media outlet or channel drives the most sales, and most effectively and efficiently. It will help not just understand which channel provides the most value, but also where to optimize to maximize spend efficiencies to lower the overall cost of customer acquisitions.
If you want to try this today and have access to Google Analytics, it will provide a decent high-level understanding of your websites multi-channel touch-points, and the chasnnels value. But for brands who have the money to invest into marketing as a revenue-centre vs. service-centre, there will be a need to store greater amount of data, both customer and marketing data, to decipher the cross-channel touch-points.
This plays into evolving a data warehouse strategy (talk to your Business Intelligence Director), who will help drive the CMO’s needs to optimize marketing across all channels leading the online paths to purchase.
To wrap this up, aim to understand your customer paths and the attribution that influences the touchpoints that lead to conversions, even across multiple devices – mobile and tablet. It will be a massive catalyst of change in your marketing decision making to know how your customers use different channels, and those channels across devices with your business.
When you understand this you can shift budget investments to the strongest channels (and devices) to drive down your CPA’s and drastically improve marketing ROI and customer CPA. Not to mention you’ll look like a rockstar in your team!
Got a question or experience to share in understanding cross-channel value? Comment below, and knowledge share with others.