The perfect digital marketing road trip
So you want to take a road trip? Are you one that just sort of wings it? Do you just decide on a whim to go somewhere, then pack a bag, fuel up the car and hit the road? That can work, and you’re bound to stumble on some unplanned adventures.
Or do you plan your trip meticulously? Do you get the newest edition of Lonely Planet, schedule and book your stops on Tripit.com or some other site, create a budget, and read up on every travel blog you can find? That works too, and you’re bound to hit everything you want to see and not go over budget.
Or maybe you’re somewhere in-between. After all, road trips are supposed to be a little bit free-wheeling, but you don’t want to get caught high and dry.
The marketer’s conundrum
After working with business leaders for more than 15 years, I have observed a few things. They are:
- Passionate about their businesses
- Extremely knowledgeable about their product or service
- Eager to reach and convert their target market
- Frequently working off of assumptions about said target market
These points represent the marketers conundrum. Business leaders have spent a lot of time developing their product and their business to get it where it is already. Many of them have been successful to that point because they were able to attract and convert the low-hanging fruit. But things become more difficult when it comes to casting the net wider. In their eagerness to grow, many owners are reluctant to invest more time and effort into research.
“We’ve done that.” they’ll say. “We know our target audience.”
My response is that the research never ends.
If we’re going on a digital marketing road trip together, we need to plan. And that’s where research comes into play. But you’re anxious to hit the road, so here is a simple but powerful research plan that can get us out on the road.
You have three invaluable sources to turn to: your own website, your clients, and your competitors. Let’s look at how we can use these.
Your Website + Google Analytics = Powerful Insights
If you don’t have Google Analytics on your site, stop reading right now and get that done. It’s free and there is a wealth of data you can learn from. Go ahead, I’ll be waiting…
Ok, so now that you have Google Analytics setup, don’t get overwhelmed by all the features. You have plenty of time to become a master at Google Analytics, and you can learn from all of the great tutorials that they offer, for free.
Let’s focus on two things: how your visitors found you and the content that is converting.
- Acquisition > Campaigns > Organic Keywords: This will show you the keywords visitors used when they came to your site. This is valuable information as it helps you know what people are thinking when the answer is you.
- Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages: This will show you the most popular content on your site. Review those pages and analyze what makes them popular.
Another paid tool that is extremely powerful is Alexa, which I’ll get into more when it comes to competitive intelligence. Alexa, owned by Amazon, pulls a wealth of data from Amazon. With it, you can pull top keywords, both paid and search, that you and your competitors use, as well as traffic sources, amount spent. It’s a powerful tool. Try it for free for seven days and learn a few things about your site and your competition.
Your Clients Know a Thing or Two About You
Your best clients like you for a reason. They believe in your products and services, and pay you to provide them. And you want to attract more just like them.
When is the last time you asked them why they like you? Most of the time, they’ll gladly answer your questions, but you have to take time to ask, and it’s actually quite easy.
- Identify 10 or 15 of your top clients. Ask them if they’ll take 30 minutes to chat. You want to ask them a series of questions.
- Come up with a set of questions. Ultimately, you want to know more about them (demographics) and why they came to you (their pain or motivation for using your products and services) and the benefit your product or service provides to them. Here are a few questions I like to ask:
- “What’s your single biggest business problem right now?”
- “How does our product or service help to address these issues?”
- “Tell me about the “shopping around” process you went through.”
- “What were you doing 2 minute before and 2 minutes after using our product?”
- “What would you do if our product didn’t exist?”
- Take them to coffee and record the conversation. If you can’t do that, there are apps like “Tape a Call” that allow you to do it on your cell phone.
- Transcribe the recording into text. Here’s a tip: Use a service like Rev.com to transcribe your interview. They do a great job for an affordable price – $1/minute. If you’ve ever transcribed audio before, you’ll happily pay 30 bucks to avoid transcribing a 30-minute interview!
You will be amazed at what you hear. They will tell you what makes them purchase from you, where they hang out online, what their interests are. You can use the insights in myriad ways. Their words help as you develop messaging and topics for new marketing content. It will help you develop your buyer personas. And you’ll have a much clearer idea of where they consume their media and what they consume. Just take the time to ask, then sit back and listen.
It’s OK To Borrow From the Competition
Whether you’re just getting started or an established player in the field, don’t underestimate what you can learn from your competition. They are your competition for a reason. They must be doing something right, so there’s nothing wrong with learning from them. So go ahead and borrow the good and steer clear of the bad. Pretty simple, eh?
Before I go any further, please don’t tell yourself that you don’t have competition. Let me tell you: you may be unique, but there is nothing completely new under the sun. Even if you’ve come up with a space-age technology that bonds two boards together through cold fusion, you’re still competing with the hammer and nail, and they are beating the crap out of you on market awareness, distribution channels and customer adoption. Or you might be the only divorce lawyer in the tri-county area. That’s great, but just because you’re the boss of the divorce court doesn’t mean people still don’t want other legal advice. You might also want to peak at what the divorce lawyer two counties over is doing to bring in the unhappy spouses. So go out there and find your competition is.
But you’re a smart business mind, and you’ve probably already identified your competition. You’ve probably already done the SWOT analysis. That’s excellent, but I want to peel back a few layers, and really take a look underneath. But you have to be a little sneaky. I hope you’re ok with that.
- Review their website. How does the site look? What are they saying about their product or service? Focus on terminology that they use. This may be good or bad, as some industries fall into the trap of using terms no one else uses. Compare the language they use with the language you heard from your client interviews.
- Consider their “call to action” or CTA. What are they asking visitors to do in order to take the next step in purchasing their product or service? Go ahead, take them up on the CTA – request a free demo, or subscribe to the newsletter. That’s called competitive intelligence.
- Review their marketing materials. Let them give you a demo of the product. Pay careful attention to how they talk about the pain that it addresses, and the benefits it provides. Ask for additional materials that will help you learn more about their “unique value proposition” or UVP.
- Use some sneaky online tools that will give you web analytics data. Here are three that I like.
- Follow.net – This one is great because for a while, it’s free. And it gives you a high-level view of data from multiple sources, all in one place. Find out the monthly traffic and traffic sources, top keywords, text and display ads and more. You have to upgrade to get all of the data, but the free version is a good start.
- Alexa – I mentioned this one before. It is a competitive intelligence tool that provides web analytics of your company and your competitors. You can view their top paid and organic keywords, top traffic sources, demographics of their website visitors and more. Powerful stuff.
- iSpionage – I purchased a lifetime plan, and it’s great. iSpionage helps you identify your AdWords competitors. What’s better, it reveals their approximate monthly budget and entire PPC strategy. It helps you identify and learn from the best in your industry.
Now go and plan your digital marketing road trip
I’ve just shared some very effective tools for researching and planning your digital marketing strategy. The good news is, it’s simple, but it will take time. Once you’ve taken this important first step, you’ll know more about your clients, your target audience, the content that will attract a wider audience and channels to reach them. I’d call that the start of a good digital marketing road map. Now go get started.