How to Align Sales and Content Marketing Teams

How to Align Sales and Content Marketing Teams

Businesses traditionally grow to a size at which Sales and Marketing are forced into separate corners. But business leaders recognize that these two departments affect each other at every step they take. Without the help of the sales team, Marketing might fail to properly understand the needs of its target market. And if Marketing were to vanish tomorrow, leads for the sales team likely would as well.

Yet the teams often don’t work as collaboratively as they should. In fact, they may even be at odds. Sales might blame Marketing when leads are lacking, and Marketing might criticize Sales when a lead falls through the cracks. The result: more division, less revenue.

Only 46% of marketers describe their sales and content marketing teams as well-aligned. That means 54% of companies are relying on sales and content teams with too much tension between them and not enough cooperation.

To get the maximum return on investment from their content marketing and sales teams, executives need to create a culture that enables those teams to work together. Here’s a three-step guide to creating that kind of company atmosphere.


1. Make communication easy

You don’t have to hold more meetings to encourage communication. After all, nobody likes to sit in a meeting when she could be cracking away at her to-do list. Marketers want to be creating content and marketing materials, and salespeople want to be closing more leads. So rather than cramming these two teams into a room together for a few hours a week, encourage collaboration in an organic, enjoyable way.

At my company, our marketing and sales departments sit right next to each other. When one of our marketers has a question for the sales team, all he has to do is scoot a chair a few feet away or get up and take a short walk. That isn’t just an easier way to answer work-related questions, it also allows these teams to chat and get to know each other better. And it’s a constant reminder that the two departments need to work together cohesively.

If your sales and marketing departments can’t work in close proximity, they can still interact in a beneficial way. Encourage communication through Slack or Skype. You can create specific chat groups or threads that can be designated for the sales and marketing teams to ask questions and collaborate.

Some companies, such as LinkedIn, eBay, Uber, and Google, swear by Slack. Instead of letting large company size interfere with their departments’ communications, they use the platform to enable those departments to regularly interact with one another. When rapid decisions need to be made and key inter-department input is needed, there’s no holdup; and that leads to much more efficiency and transparency.

When borders, halls, or streets have to be crossed to achieve in-person communication, it’s crucial to implement a strategy that allows for faster response time, but it can be difficult to get the masses on board. The easing of this process truly does begin at the top, so a great way to get your departments using these types of communication platforms is by first encouraging the leaders within your company to adopt and use them. Others will follow.


2. Involve both teams in content creation

Isn’t content the marketing team’s job? Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean only the marketing team should work with it.

One of the biggest alignment-related issues is that sales teams often don’t know how to use content in their roles. Though marketing teams are great at creating content that ranks well on Google or pulls in clicks on Facebook, that content might not be easy for the sales team to use for helping potential clients.

The best way to overcome that issue? Get Sales involved in the content creation process. According to CMI and MarketingProfs research on business-to-business content marketing, feedback from Sales is one of the best ways for marketers to research their audience.

Salespeople will know what questions their customers have most often, and marketing teams can create content to address those questions. And hey… your salespeople might even want to create a piece of content themselves!

And content isn’t just blog posts. It can take the form of videos, infographics, podcasts, and other formats.

I’ve found guest posts in relevant publications to be especially helpful. Potential clients are impressed when your company leaders write for trusted industry publications, and sales teams can help you learn what publications their clients love. At Influence & Co., our 2018 research found that the vast majority of publication editors planned to publish the same amount of guest-contributed content, and this year’s numbers show no signs of diminishing. Marketing teams have a huge window of opportunity to guest-post.

When salespeople are involved in the content-creation process, whether by providing a question that needs answering or by recommending a type of content that clients will respond to, they feel more invested in marketing efforts. They’ll know what the content covers, and they’ll be more inclined to share it when an opportunity arises.

3. Keep content updated and accessible

If you have a great marketing department—and I’m sure you do—it’s probably created amazing content about every topic under the sun. But for a salesperson, accessing that content isn’t very easy. Nobody wants to scroll through pages and pages of marketing material to find the right article to share, so most salespeople just don’t.

There are a few ways, however, that marketing departments can keep their sales department informed:

  • First, ensure your team has a content marketing strategy mapped out: 81% of B2B marketers say a documented strategy helps align teams so they can work toward a shared mission and goals.
  • Second, provide the sales department or the department leads with weekly updates. Start by sending an email with links to and summaries of each piece of content published during the week. That email takes just a few minutes for salespeople to review, and it ensures that they know what content is available as it goes live. If a salesperson requests an article about a specific question, send that article to him or her individually.
  • And third, create a content bank or a resource library. Includes all content your marketing department has ever produced internally, and organize it according to the sales situations in which each piece of content is most useful. That will make it even easier for your sales team to use it.

* * *

Those are just a few steps you can take to better align your sales and marketing departments. When those departments work hand-in-hand, your content is more effectively and frequently used and clients are better served.

Getting your sales and marketing teams on the same page is the best way to achieve content marketing success.

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Laying the foundation for experimentation-based digital marketing in healthcare

Laying the foundation for experimentation-based digital marketing in healthcare

The headlines are everywhere: biosensors, point-of-care diagnostics, artificial intelligence, next-generation sequencing—the healthcare industry is evolving rapidly. The way healthcare is marketed and delivered to consumers and patients? That’s another story.

The Current State of Digital Disruption in Healthcare

Overall, the global digital health market is growing steadily. In 2015, it was valued at $80B. By 2020, it’s expected to increase to over $200B. The estimated global electronic health records (EHR) and electronic medical records (EMR) market in 2020 alone is $24B. The forecasted global telemedicine market size in 2021? $41B.

Healthcare digital industry growth
Source.

Perhaps that explains why a 2018 study from Ernst & Young found that 91% of healthcare companies already had or planned to begin a digital health initiative within the next year to improve patient experience. How? 51% of healthcare companies said data analytics were the top initiative, followed closely by competitive benchmarking, among others.

Medical startups are securing ample funding in 2019. In fact, the total digital health industry funding worldwide in 2018 surpassed $14B.

Healthcare startups growth
Source.

A study conducted by a team of scientists last year indicates that the best way for large companies to approach digital disruption in healthcare is likely through collaboration. Corporations must learn from startups, and vice versa:

Digital transformation is an opportunity to accelerate health care performance by lowering cost and improving quality of care. At an economic scale, business models can be strengthened and disruptive innovation models enabled. Corporations should look for collaborations with start-up companies to keep investment costs at bay and off the balance sheet. At the same time, the regulatory knowledge of established corporations might help [startups] to kick off digital disruption in the health care sector.

The study looked at how technology corporations, life science companies and medical startups are investing in digital disruption. Technology corporations are investing heavily in adherence hardware and treatment platforms. Similarly, life science companies are investing heavily in adherence hardware and software. Treatment services are also becoming a priority.

Medical startups, on the other hand, are more diversified, actively exploring all six major customer needs: adherence, diagnostic, lifestyle, patient engagement, prevention, and treatment.

Healthcare startups areas of focus
Source.

With the proper funding in their pockets, the increasing demand and their diversified efforts, medical startups will only add to the mounting pressure to tackle digital disruption head-on.

Currently, however, most companies are falling short of consumer and patient expectations.

Michael Song from MedImmune presented some surprising numbers at Digital Pharma EAST late last year:

  • There are 325,000 health and fitness apps on the market.
  • Only 41 of them have more than 10M downloads on Google Play.
  • In fact, 85% have fewer than 5,000 downloads.
  • 50% of mHealth apps will never break even the 500 downloads mark.
  • Over 50% of apps see a usage drop-off rate of 64% after just 30 days.

Yet, according to a survey conducted by Transcend Insights, 64% of patients say they use a digital device (e.g. mobile apps) to manage their health. 71% believe it would be useful if their doctor could access that data as part of their medical records.

Again, the demand exists, but isn’t being met (yet). All of this information paints a clear picture: consumers and patients want the way healthcare is marketed and delivered to catch up to the pace at which healthcare as a whole is going digital, yet companies are consistently falling short of those expectations.

The tricky thing about this industry shift is the sheer number of factors to consider. For example, according to Bain and Co., the five pillars of digital disruption in healthcare are:

  1. The Amazon Effect: As non-traditional healthcare companies, like Amazon, enter the space, competition and innovation are heating up.
  2. The Digital Revolution: Tech innovations, such as smart devices and machine learning, are making digital treatment and care a reality.
  3. Regulatory Change: New and complex regulations, like the debate over the US Affordable Care Act, make for an unpredictable future.
  4. Consumerism: Consumers and patients have more choices than ever before.
  5. Personalized Medicine: Medical products and services will be increasingly tailored to specific consumers and patients based on their unique medical history.

This digital disruption is a healthcare evolution, not revolution. You will notice the impact in small pockets of the industry first, but it will continue to spread. The best time to start thinking about this shift was yesterday, but today is the second best.

What was going on in your business when you decided to start running experiments?

“It goes back to Providence’s mission. We’re here to help the poor and vulnerable, to ease their way. How can we make the experience as smooth as possible so consumers can get to the healthcare solution they need faster? Answering that question seemed like a really important, worthwhile task. A combination of analytic thinking with that desire to make the consumer’s way as seamless as possible prompted us to drive toward experimentation.”Marc Schwartz, Director, Growth Marketing at Providence Health and Services

John Ekman from Conversionista shared a few industry-agnostic tips for companies looking to chase digital transformation at CXL Live 2019:

  1. Digital transformation is a result, not a goal.
  2. Digital transformation is largely the result of combining momentum, proper resources and strategic evaluation.
  3. There are five ways to “go digital”: digitize the product itself, add a digital service layer to the product, digitize your processes, digitize your marketing and sales strategy, and come up with net new digital products.
  4. Allocate budget and resources to new projects first.
  5. Listen to what your consumers need, act quickly on those needs, and scale.

For the rest of the article, we’ll focus on how to digitize your marketing and sales strategy.

The Challenges of Digital Disruption in Healthcare

You will encounter a number of contextual challenges as you start to digitize your marketing and sales strategy, from stakeholder support to resourcing. Universally speaking, though, there are two major challenges that make going digital particularly difficult in healthcare: Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); and the lack of a traditional online transaction in healthcare.

1. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA)

As Bain and Co. suggested above, regulations, both new and old, have a big impact on the healthcare industry. HIPAA and its Canadian counterpart, PHIPA, complicate the collection, use, and disclosure of personal health information.

These acts are incredibly wide-reaching and nuanced. HIPAA is designed to protect patient rights and promote the safeguard of electronic protected health information (e-PHI). Here is a high-level summary of what’s covered under HIPAA:

  • All e-PHI created or received must be kept confidential and available to those entitled to access.
  • Anyone with access to e-PHI must take all reasonable steps to identify and eliminate potential threats to the security (and integrity) of that e-PHI.
  • Anyone with access to e-PHI must take all reasonable steps to identify and eliminate potential impermissible uses, disclosures, alterations, or deletions.
  • Anyone with access to e-PHI must take all reasonable steps to ensure HIPAA compliance within their entire organization.

Here is a high-level summary of what’s covered under PHIPA:

  • Consent is required if you want to collect, use or disclose personal health information.
  • All personal health information is considered confidential and those in possession of it must take all reasonable steps to maintain its security.
  • Everyone has the right to access their personal health information at any time.
  • Everyone has the right to instruct those with their personal health information to not share it with others.
  • The rules around using personal health information for research, fundraising, and marketing purposes are even more rigorous and nuanced.
  • Everyone has the right to correct errors in their personal health information at any time.

There are a lot of gray areas here. These acts cover everything from a single practitioner medical office to multi-national health plans. What’s important for us, as marketers, to remember is this: PHIPA and HIPAA make sourcing usable data for marketing activities in the healthcare industry particularly difficult.

How have HIPAA restrictions impacted your strategy?

“HIPAA is always top of mind as it should be for healthcare companies. Consumer privacy is of top importance in dealing with such sensitive issues like health. It was interesting to learn In some of the research we did around personalization, that one of the assumptions that people have about healthcare companies is that we’re going to be trustworthy and reliable. Because HIPAA exists, that’s implicit.

We also found that consumers give more data use latitude to a healthcare company if it helps them. So it puts the onus on the healthcare company to ask, ‘Is what I’m doing helpful for the consumer?’ It should never just be helpful to you.” — Marc Schwartz

2. The missing transaction

As Marc Schwartz, Director of Growth Marketing at Providence Health and Services, explains, there is often a lack of a traditional online transaction in healthcare: “There’s no basket. There’s no actual care that happens on our site; the care happens in the doctor’s office. Our doctors and their services are our product. So how quickly and easily we get someone to a doctor’s office becomes really important. Your measures of success need to be different.”

This forces you to adopt a utilitarian mindset. Your visitors already know what they want to do and they’re already convinced they need to do it, they just want to get it done as painlessly as possible. They need to find a doctor with availability, they need to find a clinic close by, they need to book an appointment with a specialist, they need to understand the science behind their unique condition—you name it.

The burden of persuasion is lifted, but this forces added pressure onto your user experience (UX) and customer journeys.

Why Experimentation is the Crux of “Going Digital”

Think of experimentation as your emergency vehicle through this complex period of digital disruption. Why? There are the internal benefits, of course:

  • Experimentation brings voice of customer data to the forefront by prioritizing consistent research and improvement.
  • Experimentation encourages strategic resourcing and unbiased digital decision-making.
  • Experimentation processes can be applied to every element of your sales and marketing strategy.
  • Experimentation fosters a test and learn culture.

More importantly, though, experimentation benefits the end consumer.

Schwartz explains: “Experimentation has made us realize how many hoops we make our consumers jump through just to do a transaction, and how frustrating that is. Experimentation forces you to ask why and the more you ask why, the more you realize your language is confusing, the number of steps required is too daunting, you don’t give enough direction, etc. Frankly, experimentation has shown us how hard we’ve made it for consumers to do what they want to do.”

It’s not enough to simply “go digital”; you have to “go digital” effectively. That means a commitment to fine-tuning the UX and customer journeys, a job that’s never truly done, according to Schwartz: “In reality, our biggest competition is always the latest consumer experience that someone has had. That changes the playing field, you’re never done.”

If digital disruption and transformation is the destination, experimentation is the emergency vehicle with its lights on and sirens blaring. Without it, at best, your digital sales and marketing strategy will be stagnant. At worst, you will be making important business decisions based on bias and subjective opinion.

What’s the most valuable thing experimentation brings to the table, and why?

“It’s helped us understand what’s most important to consumers. The site doesn’t exist for us, it exists for our consumers. Experimentation is one form of research that gives you insight into the mind of the consumer, which then allows us to drive action and results.

One of the questions you have to ask when an experiment wins is why. What makes it a winner? Same thing when it loses. Why did it lose? Were you out of touch with the consumer? Winners and losers, research—it’s all an opportunity to listen to the customer and improve relevancy. If you’re not helpful to consumers, if you’re not of value to consumers… why do you exist, why are you here?” — Marc Schwartz

How to Lay the Foundation for Experimentation

Before you launch your first experiment, you want to master the basics and lay the groundwork for an effective experimentation program that will grow with you through your digital expansion. That means:

  1. Setting meaningful goals and defining your metrics.
  2. Defining scalable, repeatable processes for identifying and prioritizing opportunities.
  3. Mapping your existing customer journeys, defining your ideal customer journeys, and identifying gaps and opportunities.

1. Setting Your Goals

The lack of a transaction makes setting goals and defining metrics more tricky in healthcare than in other industries. Often, it means there are more customer journeys to account for, which means more conversion points to optimize. Take Swedish Medical Center, for example. Here’s their current “Find a Doctor” page:

Healthcare digital marketing example
The “Find a Doctor” funnel.

From here, a consumer might:

  1. Use the search function to find a doctor based on a number of different inputs.
  2. Find a doctor based on a single filter (e.g. “Specialty”) below.
  3. Call the 1-800 number to have a representative help you find a doctor over the phone.

Each of those three options leads the consumer down a separate customer journey to achieve the same result: finding the right doctor.

In e-commerce, on the other hand, you would have a more structured, linear funnel. The consumer visits the product page, they add the product to their cart, they enter their shipping and payment information, they review the order, they complete the purchase.

You need to get aligned on what’s important to you as an organization from the beginning. Is it as simple as the number of appointments booked? Is it how quickly visitors are able to book their appointment?

Ask yourself a few questions before moving on to step two:

  1. What metric restrictions exist currently? What’s feasible and what’s not? What will be feasible in the future? What’s worth investing in now to make things easier and more reliable in the future? For example, only some doctors have online appointment booking enabled on Swedish and Swedish has no control over the availability of the doctors.
  2. How comfortable are you with directional metrics and data? What’s your risk tolerance?

2. Defining Your Processes

Amateurs rely on hacks and tactics. They throw opinion after opinion at the wall to see what sticks. And sure, occasionally, they might get a big win. But they won’t know why or how to replicate the success. Instead, they’ll simply continue to throw more ideas at the wall.

A better way to approach experimentation is through repeatable, scalable processes that prioritize insights and learning. Pros design experiments in a way that brings value, regardless of whether or not the experiment won.

At WiderFunnel, we use the Infinity Optimization Process to generate experiment ideas and lift revenue:

Infinity Optimization Process (TM)
WiderFunnel’s Infinity Optimization Process™

On the green “Explore” side, we gather quantitative and qualitative data to generate informed experiment ideas. That means looking at old experiment results, diving into digital analytics, conducting user testing, interviewing consumers, etc. On the blue “Validate” side, we:

  • Prioritize experiment ideas from the “Explore” side.
  • Create hypotheses for our high priority experiment ideas.
  • Develop an experimentation plan and design the experiment.
  • Loop in UX/UI designers.
  • Conduct quality assurance for the experiment.
  • Run the experiment.
  • Analyze the results.

Note the infinity loop surrounding both sides! Experiment results feed back into the green “Explore” side.

Also, notice how the “Explore” side revolves around the airplane icon in the middle? That’s our LIFT Model®:

WiderFunnel’s LIFT Model details the 6 conversion factors.

By focusing on these six conversion factors when evaluating your website and conducting research, you will focus your efforts and avoid subjective opinion (as much as humanly possible, anyway).

We’re using this to drive smarter hypotheses that fuel experimentation. Research and experimentation go hand-in-hand. All of the data we collect… all of the website click data, all of the heatmap data, all of the feedback from visitors—we use every data source we can come up with to get to the heart and into the mind of the consumer. Then we drive experiments using that information.

— Marc Schwartz

The optimization and experimentation process looks a bit different at every company and you will undoubtedly end up tweaking it to suit your unique needs. What matters is that you’re relying on a process that you can run through repeatedly. Experimentation is the act of consistently, purposefully mining for minerals, not striking gold.

3. Mapping Your Existing Customer Journeys & Identifying the Opportunities

Now it’s time to map your existing customer journeys. What’s the current state of your website (or other digital asset)? Here are a few questions you should ask yourself at this stage:

  • Where are visitors arriving from?
  • What do visitors come here to do?
  • What am I asking them to do here?
  • How many steps stand between them and their end goal?
  • How many of them make it to step one, step two, step three, etc.?

This is where the LIFT Model comes in handy. You can evaluate the current state based on those six conversion factors as well: value proposition, relevance, clarity, urgency, distraction, and anxiety.

Using Behavioral Science to Gain a Deeper Understanding

Providence works with WiderFunnel’s behavioral science team to conduct in-depth research that illuminates the existing customer journey.

In one study, 10 participants were asked to complete four key tasks (find a doctor, find a location, schedule an appointment, and register for a class) on a Providence-owned website and on competitive websites.

The study had two parts:

  • Part 1: Task-based, unmoderated interview.
  • Part 2: Self-reflection questions. For example:
    • How easy or difficult was it to complete this task?
    • How would you rate your experience completing this task?

WiderFunnel’s team of behavioral scientists then examined all of the video recordings, and assigned ratings based on their observations of friction and ease. They also conducted a sentiment analysis based on what respondents were saying while attempting to complete each task.

Watching these 10 participants try to use their website has been invaluable to the Providence team. Seeing (and hearing) pain points, clarity gaps, distractions, etc. helped map their existing journeys and visualize their ideal journeys, effectively fueling their experimentation pipeline.

Once you have a firm understanding of the current state, you can move on to mapping your ideal customer journeys. Your job now is to imagine how you can get your visitors to what they want as quickly as possible. In other words, your job is to improve the user experience and your customer journeys.

Healthcare digital marketing customer journey example
An alternative to Providence’s original “Find a Doctor” funnel gives consumers the chance to “Book an Appointment”.

What does your research tell you about what your visitors want and how effectively you currently deliver that value to them? Are there any technical limitations or gaps that you need to solve for to bring your ideal state to life? Essentially, what opportunities exist for you to close the gap between these two states? Those opportunities are the breeding ground for your data-informed experiment ideas.

What results have you seen because of experimentation?

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in consumers moving through our doctor funnel and our location funnel. We’ve seen that we’ve eased the way of the consumer, which has led to big learnings overall.

We’re always looking for opportunities to anticipate intent and then meet that intent. Experimentation has helped us understand where we’ve gotten intent wrong. It helps solidify our thinking and also inspire our thinking.” — Marc Schwartz

Maybe your findings indicate you should experiment with something as simple as fewer steps, a shorter customer journey. Or maybe they indicate you should experiment with Tealium to provide your phone representatives with live, anonymous consumer data. Whatever the case may be, you’re ready to turn your opportunities into hypotheses, your hypotheses into experiments, your experiments into insights, and your insights into revenue.

Examples of customer journey improvements

We’ve improved Providence’s mobile hospital pages to increase engagement with nearly every action a user can take on that page, from finding additional information, getting directions, or calling the hospital itself.

Healthcare Digital Marketing Experiment Example 1

In another experiment on Providence’s location search funnel, improvements to the user interface (UI) dramatically improved engagement with all elements on the page. We were able to reduce frustrating back-and-forth visits to the second, third, fourth page of results, indicating a much better overall user experience.

Healthcare Digital Marketing Experiment Example 2

Tackling Digital Disruption with Experimentation

Digital disruption isn’t coming, it has arrived. (It’s even had a few years to unpack and make itself at home.) Here’s what healthcare companies can do to tackle it head-on:

  1. Recognize experimentation as the crux.
  2. Use the Infinity Optimization Process as inspiration to define relevant internal experimentation processes ahead of time.
  3. Map all existing customer journeys.
  4. Map all ideal customer journeys.
  5. Plug the gaps between those two states (existing and ideal) into the experimentation processes defined in step three.

The great thing about experimentation is that it’s a positive feedback loop. The more experiments you run, the higher the quality of your future experiments. It’s simply a matter of getting started—before you’re left behind.

Are you a marketer in the healthcare space, facing digital disruption? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts, challenges, questions, and strategies in the comments section below.

Author

James Flory

Senior Experimentation Strategist

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How to use domain authority for digital PR and content marketing Search Engine Watch

Study: How to use domain authority for digital PR and content marketing

Study: How to use domain authority for digital PR and content marketing

For the SEO community, Domain Authority is a contentious metric.

Domain Authority (DA) is defined by Moz as

“A search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A Domain Authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.”

Some people say that this score does more harm than good because it distracts digital marketers from what matters. Improving your DA doesn’t mean you’re improving your rankings. Others tend to find it useful on its own as a quick way to determine the quality or trustworthiness of a site.

Here’s what I say, from a digital PR perspective, domain authority is valuable when you’re using it to compare sites relative to one another. In fact, DA provides value for us PRs and is incredibly useful to our work.

Think of it this way. There are more websites than ever before, about 1.5 billion to be exact and so in some ways, this means there is more opportunity for marketers to get their content out in the world and in front of new audiences. While most people think that journalism is dying out, an enlightening post on Recode by Rani Molla explains that “while job postings for journalists are off more than 10 percent since 2004, jobs broadly related to content have almost quadrupled.” 

In other words, if outreach is executed well, there are more places than ever to get your content featured and lead to driving traffic, broadening your audience, and improving your search ranking.

But even the most skilled PR teams can’t reach out to 1.5 billion sites. The knowledgeable ones know that you really only need one successful placement to get your content to spread like wildfire all over the Internet, earning links and gaining exposure for your brand in the process. With so many options out there, how do PR professionals know which sites to spend time targeting?

That’s where DA comes into play. When it comes to link building, content marketers know that not all backlinks and brand mentions are created equally. The value of a link or mention varies depending on the referring website. Moz’s DA score is a way for us PRs to quickly and easily assess the quality of the websites we target for our client’s content marketing campaigns.

Our team tends to bucket online publishers, blogs, and websites into three categories:

  • Top-tier
  • Mid-tier
  • Low-tier

Keep in mind, particularly with the new Moz update, when deciding who to pitch, you must take a holistic approach. While domain authority is an excellent way to quickly assess the quality of a website, a site’s DA can change at any minute due to a multitude of factors, so make sure you are also taking into account your goals, the site’s audience, social following, and reputation as well as Moz DA score. In response to a Marketing Land tweet about the new DA, Stevie Howard says it perfectly.

Screenshot of Stevie Howard's tweet in response to a Marketing Land tweet about the new DA

Top-tier sites

What constitutes a top-tier website? Can a top-tier site have a low DA? Potentially, but it’s uncommon.

When you look at the holy grail of media coverage, DA tends to align perfectly. Take, for example, the following seven major publishers that any brand or business would love to earn coverage on. The DA scores for all of these sites fall above 90. These sites all have an extremely large audience, both on-site and on social media.

List of top tier sites having a DA score of 90 and above

Our team at Fractl has an innate sense of the online publisher landscape, and the largest and most well-known content publishers out there all tend to have a domain authority above 90. This is what we consider to be the “top-tier”.

These publishers are difficult to place with because of their large audience, social following, and reputation, so for the best chance at earning organic press mentions on these sites, offer them authoritative, unique, exclusive, and newsworthy content.

Mid-tier sites

Mid-tier sites may not be the holy grail of news publishers, but they’re our bread and butter. This is where the majority of placements tend to happen. These publishers hit a sweet spot for digital PR pros—they’re not as sought-after as Buzzfeed and don’t deeply scrutinize pitches the way The New York Times does, but they have large audiences and tend to be much more responsive to content pitches.

I tend to categorize the mid-tier as publishers that fall within a DA of 66 to 89. Here are some examples of publishers that may be considered mid-tier.

List of mid-tier publishers that have a DA of 66 to 89

Low-tier sites

Don’t underestimate a low-tier site simply because of its domain authority. For example, it wasn’t long ago that personal finance website, Money-ish, had a DA of 1. Launched in 2017, it was first its own website before being absorbed as part of the larger MarketWatch domain. MarketWatch has a DA of 93, with social engagement as high as 12,294,777 in the last year. If you ignored Money-ish because of its DA when they first started, you would have missed out on a chance to get your content featured on MarketWatch as well as build relationships with writers that are now under the MarketWatch umbrella. There are all types of content, and most marketers can figure out which projects have “legs” and which have less appeal. These lower-tier sites are often very niche and the perfect home for content that is aimed towards smaller, more precise audiences. These lower-tier sites also tend to have a high engagement where it matters, your target audience. Consider the site’s community. Does this site have a ton of email subscribers or high comment engagement? Are they killing it on Instagram or on another social network? You never know which site will become the next Money-ish, either!

List of low-tier sites with DA below 60 or 65

Pitching differences for each tier

There are plenty of sites that fall within different ranges of domain authority that would be an excellent fit for your content. It all just depends on your goals. In Fractl’s latest internal study, we were able to identify trends in the way journalists respond to PR professionals, based on the DA of the site they write for.

Graph on how journalists respond to PRs based on their sites DA score

Observations

  • Feedback from writers working for sites with a DA lower than 89 was most likely to be complimentary of the content campaigns we pitched them.
  • The verbiage of their responses was also more positive on average than those from journalists working for publishers with a DA of 90 or above.

An example of the feedback we received that would be labeled as complimentary is,

“Thanks for sending this over, it fits perfectly with our audience. I scheduled a post on this study to go up tomorrow.”- Contributor, Matador Network (DA: 82)

Those of us that have been pitching mainstream publishers for a while know from experience that it’s often easier to place with websites that tend to fall in the mid to low-tier buckets. Writers at these publishers are usually open to email pitches and open to writing about outside content because such websites have less stringent editorial guidelines.

Conversely, publishers that fall into our definition of “high-tier” were less positive on average than writers working for publishers with a DA less than 90. On average, the higher the DA, the less positive the language becomes.

Why might that be? It makes perfect sense that publishers like The New York Times, CNN, TIME, and The Washington Post would be less positive. They’re likely receiving hundreds of PR pitches a day because of their popularity. If they do respond to a pitch, they want to ensure that they’re inquiring about content that would eventually meet their editorial guidelines, should they decide to cover it.

According to our study, when journalists at publishers with a DA of 90 or above do respond, they’re more likely to be asking about the methodology or source of the content.

An example of this feedback is from a staff writer at CNN.

“Thanks for sending along. I’m interested to know more about the methodology of the study.”

A response like this isn’t necessarily bad, in fact, it’s quite good. If a journalist is taking time to ask you more about the details of the content you pitched, it’s a good indication that the writer is hoping to cover it, they just need more information to ensure that any data-driven content is methodologically-sound.

Conclusion

Domain authority will continue to remain a controversial metric for SEOs, but for those of us working in digital PR, the metric provides a lot of value. Our study found a link between the DA of a site and the type of responses we received from writers at these publishers. High DA sites were less positive on average and requested research back methodologies more than lower-tier sites. Knowing the DA of a site allows you to:

  • Improve your list building process and increase outreach efficacy
  • Customize each outreach email you send to publishers of varying DAs
  • Anticipate the level of editorial scrutiny you’re up against in terms of content types and research methodologies
  • Optimize content you create to fit the needs of your target publisher
  • Predict the outcome of a content campaign depending on where you placed the “exclusive”

Remember, just because a site has a high DA, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good fit for your content. Always be sure to take a holistic approach to your list building process. Keep in mind the social engagement of the site, the topics they cover, who their audience is, their editorial guidelines, and most importantly, the goals of you or your client before reaching out to any publisher solely based on domain authority.

Domenica is a Brand Relationship Manager at Fractl. She can be found on Twitter .

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Content Marketing in a Data-Driven Era

Content Marketing in a Data-Driven Era

Though no longer a new concept, content marketing still regarded as a surefire way for marketers to tell their brand story and win the hearts and minds of customers.

The truth is more complex than that.

Delivering quality content to educate and build trust with customers is a sound concept, but actually executing on that idea—in a way that serves both the customer and the marketer—has never been more difficult.

Generating high-quality content is risky business: It takes time, coordination, and money to produce pieces that will capture your audience’s attention. And with 2.5 quintillion bytes of online data being created each day, we’ve entered a vortex of neverending content, making it nearly impossible for content consumers to differentiate valuable information from background noise.


If you are one of the countless marketers who has arrived at a similar conclusion, you might find yourself asking some soul-searching questions:

  • What can be done to revive the deteriorating standard of content?
  • How can we improve the content experience both for consumers and for marketers?
  • How can we harness data to create personalized content that serves the user in a more meaningful way?

There is good news: Martech proliferation, limitless creativity, and forward-thinking leadership are propelling content marketing into a new age of growth and development.

Content marketing can—and will—be saved. Here’s how.

The Thirst for Immersive, Interactive Content Experiences

Content is being reimagined. Although the demand for content is strong, so is the competition among those creating it. In 2017, Internet usage reached 47% of the world’s population, equating to 3.8 billion people. The Web isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Traditional content pieces, such as PDFs, infographics, and calculators, aren’t capturing customers’ attention like they used to. What’s more, those traditional formats give very few insights back to their creators: Views and downloads give us a surface-level idea of how a content piece performs, but not much beyond that:

  • Did the downloader skim the content, read the whole thing, or bounce right out?
  • Did a marketing piece get downloaded by an optimistic IT professional, only to end up in the electronic recycle bin?
  • Did it get downloaded and shared?

There are some secrets a PDF just won’t share.

Content marketing has been proven to generate three times as many leads as outbound marketing, for 62% less. Given the massive investment organizations are making in content marketing, surface-level insights aren’t enough—for those making the content, or for the executives making budget decisions.

As marketers, we have to find a way to report on content performance at a more granular level.

Adopting the Data-Driven Approach to Content Creation

“Flying blind and hoping it works” is a failed strategy, and a sure way to waste those coveted marketing dollars.

Once a user begins reading a piece of content, you should be able to know how long it is before they exit—but also whether they make it into the body of the text, and the last thing they read before purchasing. Those are the insights that shape the customer journey, fuel product development, and ultimately leave an impact on the bottom line. Forrester calls those types of organizations insights-driven businesses, which are reported to be growing eight times faster than the global GDP.

Even knowing how things should (or could) be, only 22% of companies report being happy with their conversion rates. One of the driving factors behind that underwhelming statistic is the continued proliferation of generalized content, written without consideration of the user’s needs. Such bland, broad-approach offerings are where marketers lose out on the opportunity to win over the hearts and minds of prospective customers.

A lack of prescriptive, personalized content that solves specific problems is a persistent void in the world of content marketing today.

Data Always Wins. Make Sure You’re on the Winning Side.

Data doesn’t lie, and so the analysis and dissemination of data are heavy but critical responsibilities to own.

Marketers have long been searching for the perfect attribution model that connects the dots between their work and organizational outcomes in a meaningful way. Data, albeit important, is only partly the solution.

Though a perfect model may not actually exist, experience has taught me a thing or two about data-driven content that serves both the customer and the business. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Create device-agnostic content: Your content should be easily consumable across all channels and devices. If 70% of users are consuming your content on mobile, don’t create PDFs, which perform horribly on mobile and will garner a quick exit from your user.

    Key takeaway:

    Consider the user’s environment before you decide the content’s format.

  • Develop personalized content: If I’m an IT professional reading an article about how to implement a martech tool, I likely don’t need to read the parts related to marketing. Think: Is there a way to adjust the content piece to better serve the user based on their role? See whether there’s a way for you to collect information about your users before they arrive at your content—and adjust what they see accordingly.

    Key takeaway:

    Proactively anticipate how you can serve the user relevant content downstream.

  • A/B-test specific content elements in real-time: A/B-test certain paragraphs, titles, and subtitles in real-time—while the content is being presented to the user. Doing so can help you identify specific data points within your content to measure and modify accordingly.

    Key takeaway:

    Pinpoint where you convert or churn a user within a piece of content; use that data to write high-conversion content.

  • Declare your value exchange: Give the user a chance to (quickly) understand the value your content is providing. Anticipate skimming. Give users something simple to read through, such as five brief bullet points that will help them get the gist of the content—and encourage them to invest in reading the whole piece.

    Key takeaway:

    Make it easy for readers to access the information they need quickly and efficiently.

  • Invest in a team that can support you technically: Tracking all of the above is hard work. The design, development, implementation, and post-tracking are all net new work streams that need to be accounted for. Make sure your team buys in and sees the value the efforts will provide to the customer and the company as a whole.

    Key takeaway:

    Ensure you have an adept technical team in place to implement the tracking and the systems required to measure specific KPIs.

Content, Reimagined

Producing static, one-dimensional content is no longer a viable strategy for content marketers with robust KPIs. In a world where there’s nearly 4 million Google searches conducted every minute, your company’s content needs to be outstanding, versatile, and data-driven. The more information you have about who your customer is, what they’re looking for, and why they’re visiting your content piece, the better off you’ll be.

As you use responsive content to help you acquire those data points, your content will be easier to refine and will reinforce a positive cycle of trust and information-sharing with your consumers. Just like that, you’ll know you’ve hit the jackpot.

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How to Use Influencer & Emotional Marketing in Content

How to Use Influencer & Emotional Marketing in Content

As marketers in the Age of Digital, we are moving at the speed of digital without the chance to assess patterns and think deeply about our work. Meanwhile, consumers’ devices are constantly bombarded with marketing clutter and meaningless ads that don’t take the time to understand consumers’ needs or preferences.

As it always has, our success as marketers stems from using emotional marketing to focus on consumers’ needs and preferences in order to capitalize in our markets. However, although emotional marketing is a powerful approach, it cannot stand alone; it needs to be integrated within marketing channels and tactics.

With the emergence of influencer marketing as an important trend, part of our job as marketers in 2019 is to pair emotional marketing with influencer marketing so that we can better target and reach our desired audiences.

Let’s review how you can integrate emotional and influencer marketing into your content marketing program this year and beyond.


What is emotional marketing?

Emotional marketing is an method that’s driven by your target audiences’ feelings and values. It involves connecting with your audience through a captivating story that aligns with their beliefs. Those connections are critical, considering that emotional responses influence intention to buy much more than the ad’s content itself, research shows.

But what does emotional marketing entail?

It starts with defining values that your brand was established upon and using those principles to make connections with your customers.

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How to Use Empathy Mapping in Marketing

How to Use Empathy Mapping in Marketing

Have you noticed that the best books and movies are so totally immersive you feel as if you’ve actually entered the world they depict? Which is why I’d argue that the people most skilled in content aren’t necessarily the best writers; rather, they’re the ones who are able to empathize with characters so well that their creations seem real.

When writing for marketing, you need to connect with your audience. But first you have to understand who they are and what they care about. That’s where empathy mapping comes in.

What Is an Empathy Map?

An empathy map is a tool that brings to light to your most likely customers. It teaches you how to connect with the people who will consume your content, products, or services.


Typically divided into quadrants of say, think, do, and feel, the empathy map is intended to get into the head—and heart—of the customer. It helps you to visualize that what someone says doesn’t always align with what they do. That’s why it’s also important to understand what they think and feel.

For example, someone might say they love the service you provide, yet still shun your products. Could it be that the cost is too high, and in their social circles that may not be something they’re willing to say? Or maybe they feel passionately about your products but think the purchase isn’t practical.

Unfortunately, those conflicting “boxes” in the empathy map are the norm: Human life is rife with examples of cognitive dissonance that make little sense if you think purchase decisions follow the 19th century buyer funnel of attention-interest-desire-action. They don’t.

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How to perfectly balance affiliate marketing and SEO Search Engine Watch

How to perfectly balance affiliate marketing and SEO

How to perfectly balance affiliate marketing and SEO

In all my years as an SEO consultant, I can’t begin to count the number of times I saw clients who were struggling to make both SEO and affiliate marketing work for them.

When their site rankings dropped, they immediately started blaming it on the affiliate links. Yet what they really needed to do was review their search marketing efforts and make them align with their affiliate marketing efforts.

Both SEO and affiliate marketing have the same goal of driving relevant, high-quality traffic to a site so that those visits eventually turn into sales. So there’s absolutely no reason for them to compete against each other. Instead, they should work together in perfect balance so that the site generates more revenue. SEO done right can prove to be the biggest boon for your affiliate marketing efforts.

It’s crucial that you take a strategic approach to align these two efforts.

Four ways to balance your affiliate marketing and SEO efforts

1. Find a niche that’s profitable for you

One of the reasons why affiliate marketing may clash with SEO is because you’re trying to sell too many different things from different product categories. So it’s extremely challenging to align your SEO efforts with your affiliate marketing because it’s all over the place.

This means that you’ll have a harder time driving a targeted audience to your website. While your search rankings may be high for a certain product keyword, you may be struggling to attract visitors and customers for other products.

Instead of trying to promote everything and anything, pick one or two profitable niches to focus on. This is where it gets tricky. While you may naturally want to focus on niches in which you have a high level of interest and knowledge, they may not always be profitable. So I suggest you conduct some research about the profitability of potential niches.

To conduct research, you can check resources that list the most profitable affiliate programs. You can also use platforms like ClickBank to conduct this research. While you can use other affiliate platforms for your research, this is a great place to start. First, click on the “Affiliate Marketplace” button at the top of the ClickBank homepage.

Snapshot of ClickBank

You’ll see a page that gives you the option to search for products. On your left, you can see the various affiliate product categories available. Click on any of the categories that pique your interest.

Snapshot of affiliate program categories available on ClickBank

On the search results page, you’ll see some of the affiliate marketing programs available on the platform. The page also displays various details about the program including the average earning per sale.

Then filter the search results by “Gravity,” which is a metric that measures how well a product sells in that niche.

snapshot of the search results page and filters

You should ideally look for products with a Gravity score of 50 or higher. Compare the top Gravity scores of each category to see which is the most profitable. You can additionally compare the average earnings per sale for products in different categories.

2. Revise your keyword strategy

Since you’re already familiar with search marketing, I don’t need to tell you about the importance of keyword planning. That being said, I would recommend that you revise your existing keyword strategy after you’ve decided on a niche to focus on and the products you want to sell.

The same keyword selection rules apply even in this process. You would want to work with keywords that have a significant search volume yet aren’t too competitive. And you will need to focus on long-tail keywords for more accuracy. While you should still use the Google Keyword Planner, I suggest you try out other tools as well for fresh keyword ideas.

Among the free tools, Google Trends is an excellent option. It gives you a clear look at the changes in interest for your chosen search term. You can filter the result by category, time frame, and region. It also gives you a breakdown of how the interest changes according to the sub-region.

Snapshot of tracking users' changing interest in a particular search

The best part about this tool is that if you scroll down, you can also see some of the related queries. This will give you insights into some of the other terms related to your original search term with rising popularity. So you can get some quick ideas for trending and relevant keywords to target.

Snapshot of related queries in Google Trends

AnswerThePublic is another great tool for discovering long-tail keyword ideas. This tool gives you insights into some of the popular search queries related to your search term. So you’ll be able to come up with ideas for keywords to target as well as topic ideas for fresh content.

Getting long-tail keywords and topic ideas on AnswerThePublic

3. Optimize your website content

High-quality content is the essence of a successful SEO strategy. It also serves the purpose of educating and converting visitors for affiliate websites. So it’s only natural that you will need to optimize the content on your website. You can either create fresh content or update your existing content, or you can do both.

Use your shortlisted keywords to come up with content ideas. These keywords have a high search volume, so you know that people are searching for content related to them. So when you create content optimized with those keywords, you’ll gain some visibility in their search results. And since you’re providing them with the content they need, you will be driving them to your site.

You can also update your existing content with new and relevant keywords. Perhaps to add more value, you can even include new information such as tips, stats, updates, and more. Whatever you decide to do, make sure the content is useful for your visitors. It shouldn’t be too promotional but instead, it needs to be informative.

4. Build links to boost site authority and attract high-quality traffic

You already know that building high-quality backlinks can improve the authority of your site and therefore, your search rankings. So try to align your link-building efforts with your affiliate marketing by earning backlinks from sites that are relevant to the products you’re promoting.

Of course, you can generate more social signals by trying to drive more content shares. But those efforts aren’t always enough. Especially if you want to drive more revenue.

I suggest you try out guest posting, as it can help you tap into the established audience of a relevant, authoritative site. This helps you drive high-quality traffic to your site. It also boosts your page and domain authority since you’re getting a link back from a high authority site.

Although Matt Cutts said in 2014 that guest posting for SEO is dead, that’s not true if you plan your approach. The problem is when you try to submit guest posts just for the sake of getting backlinks. Most reputable sites don’t allow that anymore.

To get guest posting right, you need to make sure that you’re creating content that has value. So it needs to be relevant to the audience of your target site, and it should be helpful to them somehow. Your guest posts should be of exceptional quality in terms of writing, readability, and information.

Not only does this improve your chances of getting accepted, but it also helps you gain authority in the niche. Plus, you will get to reach an engaged and relevant audience and later direct them to your site depending on how compelling your post is.

Bottom line

SEO and affiliate marketing can work in perfect alignment if you strategically balance your efforts. These tips should help you get started with aligning the two aspects of your business. You will need some practice and experimentation before you can perfectly balance them. You can further explore more options and evolve your strategy as you get better at the essentials.

Shane Barker is a Digital Strategist, Brand and Influencer Consultant. He can be found on Twitter .

Related reading

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Google Dataset Search How you can use it for SEO
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Hello peak martech: 2019 Marketing Technology Landscape growth slows for first time

Hello peak martech: 2019 Marketing Technology Landscape growth slows for first time

SAN JOSE, CA — The number of companies encompassed in the famous Marketing Technology Landscape did not grow by double digits for the first time in eight years, with the 2019 Marketing Technology Landscape including 7,040 companies, an increase of just three percent from 2018.

Lead author and MarTech Conference chair Scott Brinker, unveiled the 2019 Martech Landscape during a keynote address at the conference in San Jose Thursday.

“The immediate reaction would be, This is it, we’ve reached peak martech,” said Brinker in an interview earlier this week. “But what it comes down to isn’t so much peak martech. It’s peak martech landscape.”

Brinker came to that conclusion after he began looking for martech in international markets and other sectors and found that the landscape misses a lot that’s happening in regional martech and the thousands of smaller solutions and apps available in various ecosystems of martech giants such as Salesforce, Oracle and HubSpot. “WordPress has an ecosystem of 54,000 plugins!” noted Brinker.

“We’ve hit the limits of what can be tracked down and included in one graphic,” he said, noting that the in proliferation of small point solutions and ecosystems is part of where he sees marketing technology heading.

Chiefly, in the new age of martech, Brinker sees the big ecosystems evolving into open platforms that are complemented by integrated, third-party apps; services firms offering more in the way of automated solutions; and the ability to create no- or low code solutions means marketers can create and customize point solutions to meet their specific needs. And all of these factors are propelled by the cloud.

Why you should care. “In some ways, forget about martech 5,000. Welcome to martech 50,000,” said Brinker, pointing to the hundreds of plug-and-play apps that are essentially mini martech products. “There are regional, vertical, ecosystems, services and citizen martech segments.”

The handful of behemoths — Adobe, Salesforce, etc. — that have made big acquisitions in recent years are also contributing to the explosion of what could be called micro-martech within their ecosystems. Not to mention the proliferation of services integrating with one another — consider Adobe’s recent partnerships with LinkedIn, Drift, Roku and ServiceNow.

More insights from the MarTech Conference

This story first appeared on MarTech Today. For more on marketing technology, click here.


About The Author

Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all of our publications. Ginny writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, she has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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How to Update Old Content for Marketing

Why Content Marketing Fails, and How to Fix It

It’s no secret: Companies publish tons of content every year. Some of it attracts readers, some of it even goes viral, but, unfortunately, most of it falls flat.

Over time, it’s easy to end up with a large logjam of mediocre content. At my company, we call it the “content graveyard.”

You may think it’s not a huge concern; unfortunately, though, all that mediocre content is doing actual harm.

With all that dead content out there, it’s very possible you have multiple articles on the same topic essentially competing with each other for search rankings. Also, stale blog content can confuse your readers because it’s likely not aligned with the current direction of your industry, and maybe even your own company.


Ultimately, stale content breaks trust with your audience, hurts your reputation, and doesn’t position your company as the go-to resource in your industry.

The good news: you can do something about underperforming blog content.

You can take simple steps to update your blog content and get more ROI from existing efforts without having to publish anything new.

Three Steps to Refresh Your Content

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Leveraging data driven marketing to gain a competitive advantage like retailer SpearmintLOVE

Leveraging data driven marketing to gain a competitive advantage like retailer SpearmintLOVE

Before SpearmintLOVE became a powerhouse brand offering children’s clothing and accessories, it was a blog with a devoted social media following. Founder Shari Lott launched the SpearmintLOVE brand in 2013, capitalizing on the audience she’d amassed (much in the same way Glossier founder Emily Weiss used her blog audience at Into the Gloss as a launching pad for a line of beauty products.)

Since then, we’ve seen brands across many different verticals taking a similar approach in pairing content with an e-commerce component, and that content and commerce trend is continuing to grow.

But in the unique case of SpearmintLOVE, the marketing genius didn’t stop there.

When Shari’s husband John came on board and brought along his expertise in finance, optimization and improved return on investment (ROI) quickly became a top priority for the business. John knew he wanted to put their customer data to work, so he started using a cohort analysis leveraging the brand’s advertising data to study customer behaviors, trends, and patterns over a set period of time.

What is a cohort analysis?

Cohort analysis is a subset of behavioral analytics that takes the data from a given data set (e.g. an e-commerce platform, web application, or online game) and rather than looking at all users as one unit, it breaks them into related groups for analysis. These related groups, or cohorts, usually share common characteristics or experiences within a defined time-span.

Cohort analysis allows a company to “see patterns clearly across the life-cycle of a customer (or user), rather than slicing across all customers blindly without accounting for the natural cycle that a customer undergoes.” By seeing these patterns of time, a company can adapt and tailor its service to those specific cohorts.

Read more here.

With this rich customer data, SpearmintLOVE was able to deliver better, more relevant marketing materials to their audience because they had a clearer idea of what different customer groups needed and when.

The approach paid off in a big way: They saw a 47% decrease in cost per purchase, lowered cost per conversion down to $.11, and started earning an average 34% return on their Instagram ad spending over a 60-day period. Their data-driven approach was so effective that Instagram even went on to feature it as a remarkable success story on the company website.

Data driven marketing success SpearmintLOVE-min
Image source.

So what does this tell us?

In short: Rich customer data is what lives at the heart of any optimized and highly-functioning marketing strategy.

In this post, we’ll look at how you too can build a data driven marketing approach and ensure you’re leveraging testing and experimentation for an effective and fully-optimized strategy.

Building a data driven marketing approach

When it comes to building a data driven marketing approach, the first step should be planning and documentation. The surprising thing is: Many marketers skip this part completely.

Research shows that less than 50% of marketers have a documented marketing strategy—which means that even fewer have benchmarks or reporting metrics in place that help gauge their efforts. As a result, marketers often end up making decisions based on assumptions, estimations, and guesswork, rather than data and hard numbers. This leads to underperformance, poor ROI, and wasted resources in the marketing department.

Documented marketing strategy stats
Image source.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Thanks to advances in technology that make it easier to collect, visualize, and leverage data, you can create a data driven marketing approach and make decisions based on real customer data. Pairing customer data with experimentation, you can generate actionable customer insights that lead to optimized conversion rates, more relevant, effective marketing materials, and an increased bottom line.

Customer data fuels experimentation
Customer data generates insights, and experimentation helps you validate those insights. It is an ongoing process.

It works, too. Insights-driven organizations are seeing this approach pay off. E-commerce retailer and manufacturer weBoost, for example, saw a 100% lift in year-over-year conversion rate by optimizing their site through experimentation. What’s more: this process also produced a 41.4% increase in completed orders for homepage visitors.

Your marketing team can do this too, but it takes a willingness to experiment and break from the ‘this is how we’ve always done things’ mentality that so often stunts growth and limits opportunities for businesses.

Next, let’s talk more about experimentation and look at a few key elements of a strategy that takes a data-driven approach.

Key elements of a data driven marketing strategy

Not all data driven marketing strategies are created equal. In our experience, the most effective approaches tie in a few signature elements.

1. A process that promotes the Zen Marketing Mindset

Yin and yang of marketing
The Zen Marketing Mindset embraces both the creative and scientific sides of marketing.

Order of operations can be tricky when you’re working to make your customer data actionable. However, with experimentation, you can feed data into hypotheses and actually validate whether or not your ideas work.

To do this, we recommend leveraging a process that marries data and creative thinking with validation. At WiderFunnel, we use the Infinity Optimization Process™, which is a structured approach to experimentation strategy and execution. This multi-step process helps add structure and logic to testing efforts and minimizes false assumptions. That means more accurate experiment outcomes and more validated marketing messages that translate into bottom-line impact.

WiderFunnel Infinity Optimization Process
The Infinity Optimization Process™

The approach is highly effective because it covers the two main sides of marketing: the intuitive, qualitative, exploratory side that imagines potential insights, as well as the quantitative, logical, data-driven, validating side that backs up outcomes with hard numbers. Paired together, they provide meaningful insights that boost marketing efficiency.

2. Exploration to power experimentation

Exploration in this context refers to information gathering and data collection. It is a major part of any successful marketing strategy, as it can help marketers find and develop the most impactful insights.

For exploration to be effective, it’s important to be sure you are considering both qualitative and quantitative data sources. Again, this is where the Infinity Optimization Process comes in handy.

IOP Explore components
The Infinity Optimization Process Explore phase.

The Explore phase focuses on gathering information through many different sources and then prioritizing this information for ideation. In this process, all information collection is centered around the LIFT Model®, which is a framework for understanding your customers’ barriers to conversion and potential opportunities.

In the case of SpearmintLOVE, the insights derived from their cohort analysis would be considered in Explore.

Workbook

How to turn your customer insights into revenue driving experiments

Categorize, organize, and put your customer data into action with this 28-page workbook. Dig into the Explore phase and learn how to translate your data and insights into experiment hypotheses.

How SpearmintLOVE leverages data driven marketing

We see an example of data driven marketing in action when we look at SpearmintLOVE’s use of cohort analysis, wherein quantitative data is paired with qualitative data to inform experiments.

By testing different products, messaging, and imagery based on the customer lifecycles they’d uncovered via cohort analysis, SpearmintLOVE was able to improve the effectiveness of their efforts and lower costs associated with marketing. By constantly testing and improving their marketing strategy based on real customer data, they’ve found success with customer-centric marketing that both resonates and produces meaningful results.

Bonus: this approach also helped them solve a major problem.

John noticed that within customer cohorts, there was a recurring drop-off in advertising ROI that he couldn’t explain. After studying the data, the answer occurred to him: Their audience’s needs were changing, but the marketing was staying the same.

“Data showed us that our customers were changing,” John Lott told BigCommerce. “We learned that our customers were evolving into different life stages. It took us six months to figure that out. Insights are funny that way.”

So what was the issue?

The young parents SpearmintLOVE initially attracted had newborn babies…but eventually those babies grew into toddlers. Which meant shoppers needed to be shown products for older children with different needs. But because SpearmintLOVE was still promoting products and messages for new/first-time parents, they were seeing dramatic drop off in marketing effectiveness as babies got older and the parents’ needs changed.

What we can take from this lesson: Illustrative data and a structured approach helps brands build stronger emotional connections with customers and get a deep understanding of what they both want and need.

Making data driven marketing work for you

When we look at brands like SpearmintLOVE who are seeing incredible success, we see common themes around what’s happening behind the scenes: Customer obsession and data-centric decision-making.

And it’s working. By leaning on data and giving customers what they want, SpearmintLOVE was able to grow its revenue by a whopping 1,100% in just one year.

The question is: What’s keeping you from doing the same?

In future editions of this series, we’ll continue to explore how different brands are executing customer-centric experiences via feedback collection, customer support insights, analytics, and experimentation.

If you’re curious about how to step up your company’s customer experience strategy and get on the level of brands making waves (and money), stay tuned and sign up to get future editions in your inbox.

Author

Kaleigh Moore

WiderFunnel Contributor

Benchmark your experimentation maturity with our new 7-minute maturity assessment and get proven strategies to develop an insight-driving growth machine.

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