Analytics – the key to an effective marketing process

Recently we have been focussing on the value of partnership as a platform for an effective marketing process.

A challenge with partnerships is that many SME business owners like to do their own thing – indeed this can be one of the real freedoms of self-employment

Doing your own thing is great – but this isn’t the same as making it up as you go along. An effective, sustainable marketing process needs a plan. You can share a plan with others who can then support you to achieve your goals.

Sure, plans can be (indeed should be) reviewed and evolved but this process needs to have some structure (particularly if more than one person is involved in delivering on the plan.) No one can mind-read. It isn’t reasonable for one person, even a business owner, to simply change her mind and expect everyone to follow. There needs to be a process.

Why does a plan need to change?

Actually, I think it is better to say that a plan evolves rather than changes because the change comes about through growing experience.

Typically a plan will evolve for one of 2 reasons:

  1. It becomes clear that the plan is going to fall short of delivering on the goals we have set.
  2. A better option comes up, either a better way to achieve our set goals or a way to achieve better goals.

In both of these cases, you need to have some idea of where you are up to. Are you making progress? To know this, you need to be measuring.

It is nearly a year since I last took a look at analytics (not just in terms of Google Analytics but the whole process of measuring where your business is up to) but over recent months we have seen stark evidence of the power (and danger!) of data as much government policy through the pandemic has been driven by very clear goals (reduce transmission, minimise infection, minimise mortality while protecting both the NHS and the economy). All of these goals have been managed by data. the challenge is that, in a world where people are looking for certainty, the data is incomplete, yet decisions still must be made and acted upon.

This is the same as in business. With the (possible) exception of e-commerce order data, analytics aren’t definitive, they are indicative. Analytics suggest trends. They don’t deliver certainty. Even with e-commerce, just because it happened last week/last month doesn’t mean to say it will happen next week/next month. Instead, you should use the indications of the data in conjunction with your own knowledge and experience to make definitive decisions. The data will not normally give you the answer but it can improve your decision making by narrowing meaningful choice. By making decisions from a narrower field of realistic options, it is likely that those decisions will be better.

Using analytics to guide your decision-making process can make that process more effective. More effective decisions are more likely to improve your marketing process.

Analytics in the real world.

I’ll finish with 3 practical tips to help you use analytics in your business to drive a more effective marketing process:

  1. Keep it simple.Analytics systems generate unimaginable quantities of data every day. Don’t get caught into seeing your own data as the be-all and end-all of your business. Analytics is merely a tool (albeit a useful tool!) which should help you run your real business. Keep your analytics goals simple and relevant. It is better to focus on a handful of key metrics that really benefit your business over time, than to blind yourself with data overload in the hope that you might just uncover some ‘magic-wand‘ of information
  2. Use a dashboardThere are numerous dashboard tools out there that can really help keep you focussed on your key metrics. They can take a bit of effort to set up correctly but it is worth it as you can end up with a valuable and practical business management tool. We look at dashboards in more detail in this article.
  3. Remember, business is a process, not an event.When you look at your data dashboard, avoid knee-jerk reactions. The success of your processes become more visible over time – and often in hindsight rather than as you are going along. I regularly find that it is only when I look back over 6-12 months that I really appreciate the progress we have made.

And finally, never forget that running your own SME business is a big commitment of time and effort, so try to enjoy yourself – at least some of the time!

The Power of Dashboards

In the latest edition of our podcast, we talk about the importance of focusing on your business objectives, and using data to inform your decisions, but marketing data is everywhere these days and whilst it allows deep insight into the workings of your marketing campaigns, with this plethora of data comes the issue of information overload. It is often difficult to see the wood for the trees.

In my view there are two key issues:

  1. Data Overload – there are so many metrics available, how do you focus on the important ones?
  2. Data fragmentation – each platform will have its own set of analytics making it difficult to see a joined-up view of all metrics.

As a result, it can be tempting to simply pick the east to access datasets like traffic to your site, or number of shares on your social media, but often these will not be the right metrics to inform your real business decisions. To avoid this we need a way of organising and filtering the data to give you the information you need.

It is this that I explore in this post; looking at how a marketing dashboard can go a long way turning your data into actionable and valuable information.

Seeing the Wood, Clearing the Trees

The first thing that a dashboard will do is to allow you to pick out the key analytics, and display them in an easy to read format.

Most people will be aware of Google Analytics. Whilst being a fantastic platform for getting an insight into how people are interacting with your website Google’s data is not that easy to read. The sheer variety of statistics available makes getting a clear picture of you marketing’s effectiveness challenging.

For example, Google Analytics will tell you how many visitors you are getting, and where they are coming from. However, having your website visitor numbers broken down by source and charted month by month, makes it much easier to see what’s going on.

Furthermore, by pulling data into a dashboard, you isolate it from all the other metrics making it much easier to read.

And you are not just limited to charts. You can display data in many different formats, for example, tables, maps, and my favourite; the gauge.

Say for instance you are running a pay per click campaign. You could set up a gauge showing how much each conversion (enquiry for example) is costing you in advertising. Making it very easy to see if you are on target and that your advertising is being cost effective.

 

Bringing it all together

The other issue is the wide variety of platforms and the fact they all have their own analytics systems. Whilst you can see some external data in Google Analytics, this is limited to the number of visits to your site. Whilst key data, I believe you need to be “joined-up”. To achieve this you are going to need stats from the other platforms and having to switch from Google, to LinkedIn to Facebook to Twitter…. to get the information can become tiresome.

Here again, dashboards are great as they allow you to use the APIs supplied by the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook to bring their data into a central dashboard. What’s more, the dashboard systems usually have connections set up with the main platforms. So usually all you need to access the data is your login to the relevant platform.

Another great use of gauges is to monitor activity on social media platforms. Say for example you have a target of posting 5 tweets a week or 2 LinkedIn posts per month. You can set up a gauge to monitor the number of posts on a platform in a given period. That way it is possible to check, at a glance, whether you are on target.

Data at your fingertips

Metrics and analysis are incredibly valuable. But remembering what you looked at last time, and how you access the data, means that reviewing marketing metrics often gets forgotten. Usually reviewed only when you have time, or when there is an issue. Dashboards let you to pull out the data you need to inform your decisions, and to present it in an accessible and easy to find format, it will also make it much easier to look at the same dataset over time, allowing you to spot and act on trends that may appear, rather than randomly looking around in Google analytics, unsure if you are looking at the same dataset that you reviewed previously.

There is a bit of work to do in setting up a dashboard. But once done, the data is easily available whenever you need it.  It will also be in exactly the same format as last time you looked.

The system we use – Klipfolio also allows you to permanently display your dashboards on big wall screens, so the data is there for you without even having to go and look for it.

If you would like to explore the power of dashboards, we would love to hear from you. So please feel free to get in touch

 

 

Partnership for Performance-Case Study

Where clients and suppliers can work in partnership, there is the opportunity to grow a relationship built on confidence and understanding which allows more flexibility. This is the type of relationship that we thrive on. It is based, not particularly on commercial transactions (although being paid for what we do is important!) but more on having a clear understanding of what we are working to achieve with our client and then focussing on realising on these objectives. In this way, our emphasis is squarely on delivering real benefit – as this case study demonstrates.

Covid-19 Lockdown – An opportunity for evolution

Background

Longmark Tax Conferences have been organising and running professional conferences for specialist tax lawyers and accountants around the UK for nearly 15 years. They have built an enviable reputation for delivering high-quality speakers (predominantly barristers and QCs working in dedicated tax practices) presenting on a varied and relevant range of topics.

We were already marketing ith the conference programme for Spring and Summer 2020 already. The Coronavirus Lockdown came as a significant blow.  Consequently, the Longmark management team took the difficult decision to postpone all conferences from the 2020 programme. Recognising that there was likely to be no quick resolution to the pandemic, the decision was taken to explore the possibility of offering a webcast.

Content for the event was not a problem. Longmark has strong relationships with a number of highly knowledgeable technical speakers. As a result, a presenter and topic for the webcast had already been agreed.

Having run conferences for many years, Longmark is well-known amongst legal and accountancy practices across the UK. They have a valuable contact database so, in principle, marketing the webcast should not be an issue. However, there were some challenges….

The problem

Longmark has a well-established process in place for delivering regular conferences. Typical the lead time for this process to run is 3-4 months from setting the conference date, venue, speakers and content to the conference itself.  The established marketing approach included brochure design and print and direct mail.

For the planned webcast, we had only 6 weeks from initial discussions until the date of the webcast. We knew that we needed at least 4 weeks to market the event. There was no time to use print & direct mail. All marketing would be on-line by email.

Furthermore, we had no established webcast delivery infrastructure

To deliver the programme cost-effectively, it was essential that we automate booking, payment processing and delegate access to the webcast. These all needed to be handled online.  We had no systems established for any of these.

What we did have was a strong working relationship established over many years. As a result, we all had the confidence that we could, and would, deliver.

The solution

Webcast delivery

An undoubted feature of the pandemic has been the rises and rise of Zoom video conferencing. Despite an exponential increase in users placing significant demands, the Zoom infrastructure has proved itself up to the task. We agreed that Zoom would be a reliable platform for the webcast delivery, however, it was felt that the webcast offering from Zoom did not meet our needs. Through a partnership with an online webcast specialist, we were able to develop a way of delivering the webcast reliably to the Longmark website. From here we would be able to manage regulated access to the webcast. It was important to ensure that only paid-up delegates were able to watch the webcast.

Joining it all together

BSA combines technical competence with a thorough understanding of marketing and practical business processes

We have been working with Longmark for 10 years. Over this time, we have built a good working relationship with a solid understanding of their processes – and the technology used to deliver these processes. We already host the Longmark website and manage much of the booking administration for the regular conference programme.

Thanks to our existing partnership and knowledge-base, we were able to focus immediately on the webcast challenges. Additionally, using our combination of technical and practical business competences we were able to develop a technical specification for the online booking, payment processing and delegate management systems and how these might be quickly and effectively implemented to allow the marketing for the webcast to go ahead quickly.

We built, tested and launched the online booking and delegate management systems within 2 weeks. Furthermore, within hours of the launch, we received the first bookings.

BSA promoted the webcast through an e-mail marketing programme supported by social media – primarily LinkedIn

The outcome

The systems we had set up ran effectively. BSA’s end-to-end involvement in the technical, marketing and admin processes meant that the inevitable tweaks that were required as the new processes became established were developed and implemented seamlessly to ensure that the marketing and delegate3 registration processes could continue unimpeded.

By the time of the broadcast, we had over 230 registered delegates. The event went out without a hitch and the feedback rated the overall experience at over 95%.

Undoubtedly, the fact that there was an effective partnership between Longmark, the speaker, the broadcast manager and BSA was key to bringing this event in on-plan. It really was thsi partnership that delivered the performance

The long-term benefits

Undoubtedly, the webcast was a success, even as a stand-alone. However, delivering the webcast has also driven longer-term benefits:

Although we expect physical conferences to return as soon as is realistic, this project has shown that webcasts are deliverable and practical for Longmark. Online presentations may offer an additional option for the Longmark business going forward,

The technical systems and processes are now in place. Running future webcasts will be straightforward.

Physical conferences can benefit from the automated booking and registration systems set up by BSA. The new systems can streamline the delegate administration for future conferences. This will prove significantly more cost-effective, reducing event administration costs into the future.

Let Mike Longman of Longmark have the final word….

We have worked closely with BSA Marketing since 2010. During that time they have gained a deep understanding
of our business aims and processes. BSA has become an integrated part of our marketing function. We discussed
our plans with David and the need for us to re-engineer the back end of our website and facilitate online
bookings/payments and host the broadcasting of the online lectures. 

We set the BSA team a tight deadline to devise, test and implement the new system and they went above and beyond to not
only meet the deadline but also offer much needed hands-on support with our delegate queries as our first live webcast took place.

The webcast was a great success, and it was reassuring to have BSA partnering with us on this new venture. 

We couldn’t have done it without them.

Contact us to discuss how a partnership with BSA can help your performance

The Power of Partnership

It’s is often stated that in business, you should look to surround yourself with people who have knowledge and talents in areas where you might not be so well versed. This is a great philosophy, and one that people running small businesses would be well advised follow.

We all have a skillset, and the combined skillset of those you employ creates the skillset for the business. Using the above philosophy internally should create a strong offering. But what about those times when you are asked to do things peripheral to that core offering?  Whether you are bringing in experts like accounting, marketing or legal to help you run your business, or , accessing complementary skills that allow you to offer broader services to your clients, partnerships become a powerful tool.

But I can do that!

Sometimes an opportunity arises that requires a skill that is not central to your offering. When it does, thinking “I can do that” and looking to fulfil your clients request directly is tempting. However that can be a dangerous approach. It’s dangerous because it is likely to:

  1. Lead to your delivering a sub optimal solution to your client
  2. Create additional stress and take a disproportionate level of resource to deliver

Combine these, and whilst generating extra income, you risk negatively impacting both your reputation and your profitability.

Focus on what you are good at

I am sure I have said this before, but I make no apology for repeating myself. You should focus on your core strengths and not aim to be all things to everyone. That way you can avoid the issues outlined above.

But in focusing on your strengths, you are likely to expose gaps in your offering. Reducing your ability to offer a joined up approach for your clients. This is where partnerships are powerful. By identifying other individuals or organisations who’s core strengths plug theses gaps, you can provide a full service to clients without getting bogged down in areas where you are not so strong.

Partnerships can deliver revenue too

Its true, moving to the use of partners rather than direct delivery for these peripheral services, can impact revenues as some of the revenue that you would have earned is now going to your partners. However, it is also likely that their clients will have need for services which are at your core, and peripheral to theirs. I these instances, it would make sense for them to pass these over to you. Whilst this should never be the main reason for working with a partner (That should be their ability to deliver for your clients). It is a great bonus when it happens. And its surprising how often it does.

Three Steps to Good Partnerships

I would just like to finish with 3 steps that will point you in the right direction to working with partners

  1. Identify your core strengths and more importantly, the things you are asked for that are outside of this.
  2. On the back of this identify areas where partnerships could be valuable
  3. Create a process to find and develop relationships with others who are better than you in these areas

If you are into networking, this last step can really breath life into networking sessions, as it moves the focus away from Sales – Who in the room can I sell to? and onto building relationships – Who in the room could I work with to enhance my business offering and help me deliver benefit to my clients?

But that’s another post!