As digital marketers, we often become neurotically focused on how we market our products and services.
We tend to overlook what we’re marketing, how the consumer or prospective client perceives our brand and the overall experience we provide them. According to researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, it takes just two tenths of a second for a website visitor to form a first impression of your company.
And what about after that initial fraction of a second? How seamlessly does your conversion funnel guide someone through the sales process? How professional is your sales team? How truly valuable is your product in the eyes of your target audience?
In other words, how honest is the perception you are creating?
These are important questions to answer, and it would take nothing short of a miracle to develop, launch, and maintain a successful digital advertising campaign without assiduously attending to every detail of your digital experience.
Before I take on a new client, I review their campaigns to determine whether or not we can help them in a significant way. But too often, a prospective client will ask me if I can get their cost per conversion down to, say, $19. This questions usually comes before I develop a more substantive understanding of their unique online presence and how the different stages in their funnel interact with one another. The question is surely manifest from a genuine and sincere place, but at the same time it belies a fundamental lack of appreciation for the symbiotic nature and nuance of an online marketing campaign.
At this point, you’re probably thinking two things. One, if you never hear the words, “the symbiotic nature” again, it would be too soon. Amen to that. Secondly, if my ad campaigns are both statistically sound and catered directly to the people who I know really, really want and need my products or services, how important could the rest of it be?
Now, picture this:
It’s 9:15 a.m and the twins have been bouncing off the walls like energizer bunnies since dawn.
Four cups of coffee, three bowls of cereal, one ripped homework, two minor falls, one blessedly uneventful bus drop-off and 90 minutes later you finally have the house to yourself.
You begin to sort through the junk mail, shuffling mindlessly through magazines destined for the trash when a full-page ad in the local paper catches your eye.
It’s a picture of an attractive woman sitting on the ground with her arms wrapped around her knees. On her feet is the most deliciously thick pair of hand woven knee socks you’ve ever seen. You can tell they’re wool – the real kind that won’t fade or unravel after too many laundry cycles, and they’ve got these beautiful wooden buttons running up the seams until they casually fold over below the knee.
You’re pulled further into the scene.
The model appears to be sitting in some sort of rustic barn. Lazy swarms of dust motes are caught frozen in the giant shafts of afternoon sunlight streaming in through the cracks in the walls. Behind her, naked bulbs are strung to the rafters on crisscrossing electrical wire, and somehow, the unseemly juxtaposition of carnival lighting inside a barn doesn’t feel out of place.
You can tell it’s autumn in the picture (from those socks of course), but deep down you know it’s not just any autumn day. It’s one of those early autumn days when the air is cool and crisp – just cool enough for a light sweater and a pair of warm socks, but not too cool to be cold. It’s one of those early autumn days when the late afternoon sun betokens warm nights and mugs of homemade hot cocoa – the kind topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg.
You can’t remember the last time a silly picture made you feel this way, and barely as an afterthought you notice it’s an ad for that new boutique that opened up last spring down on Route 25.
“25% Off All Women’s Accessories,” is printed tastefully towards the bottom of the page.
I practically pass that store on the way to the office, you think as you tear the ad from the magazine and tuck it into your purse, and sure enough, thirty minutes later you’re shoving a couple of quarters into the meter down on Route 25.
You approach the store with an unusual sense of excitement, and it’s then that something cold splashes on the nape of your neck and drips down your back. You look up to see the second-floor AC unit is leaking from the bottom.
“Oh, gross,” you say to no one in particular, and already your good mood is a little dampened.
You notice the storefront window looks dark and gloomy, and through the dirty glass the only sign of life, or lack thereof, is a handful of forlorn and naked mannequins. One of them is missing an arm.
You think you must have passed the boutique, but the gold lettering on the front door assures you that this is, in fact, the place you’re looking for.
You step inside, hoping the unwelcoming façade was nothing more than that, but the interior makes the window display look like Bergdorf Goodman on Christmas Eve.
First is the smell. It’s pungent and offensive; an ugly combination of rotten fish and sweat.
Your eyes are still adjusting from the bright sunlight outside, and all you can make out is a single naked bulb strung from electrical wire above the front counter. It’s the same type of bulb from the ad but to a completely opposite effect. In here, it’s downright creepy.
Barely able to stand the stench, you ring the bell on the front desk until some lazy looking kid saunters out from behind the back curtain.
“Help you,” he says, his eyes to the floor.
“Uh, yea? That would be nice.”
You take the ad out of your purse (you’re still in a state of semi-repulsion), and unfold it on the table. At this point, you’re ready to hightail out of there just as fast as you came in.
“I’m looking for these socks. The ad says they’re 25% off?”
“Uhuh. Down that aisle over there. Bottom left.”
The socks you find crumpled and lonely in the bin at the end of the aisle resemble the socks pictured in the ad about as much as the Queen of England resembles Jay-Z. Which is to say, not very much at all.
The socks feel thin and cheap in your hands, and what promised to be 100% wool turns out to be some imitation polyester. The wooden (plastic) buttons are fastened by thread that’s beginning to unravel and judging by the length, these are more like ankle socks than knee socks.
A little mouse comes scuttling out from the bottom of the bin, which is enough to set you off by a factor of ten. You shriek and run pell-mell for the front door.
Taking it Digital
Now, I know that was all completely over dramatized, and I thank you for indulging me in my hyperbole. But I think there’s a conceptual truth worthy of our attention.
An AdWords campaign (or any ad campaign for that matter) is just one cog in a marketing mechanism. I don’t think this is a new or unpopular concept, but I do think it’s an idea that tends to get overlooked and undervalued.
Your ad campaign must run efficiently in every way for your marketing initiative to ultimately be successful. But your PPC campaigns also need its landing pages, websites, sales teams and conversion funnels to operate at full capacity.
It’s not that your PPC campaigns could perform better if all the components of your digital presence were refined. It’s more than that. Only when you have a fully refined digital presence could your PPC campaigns truly perform at all.
Your website loads slowly after an ad click (a perfectly designed and statistically tested ad), which is like the leaky air conditioner turning your customers off before they even get inside.
Your shoddy site structure and confusing navigability is like the stench you inhale when the front door first swings shut behind you.
Your lack of clear product information is like the disinterested sales clerk, and your pixelated product images are like — well, you get the idea.
And we haven’t even analogized your conversion funnel, your support staff or your shopping cart (if you’re an e-commerce business).
Most digital marketers are scientists and most web designers are aesthetes. Talk to the guy running your AdWords multivariate tests about the padding and color saturation of your landing page, and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.
I don’t mean to downplay the importance of an optimized and professionally managed PPC campaign. On the contrary, I’ve spent the last few years managing hundreds of unique PPC accounts, ranging in ad spend from $100 a month to millions of dollars a year. Our agency focuses primarily on optimizing larger PPC campaigns, but we’ve also helped many of our clients create a more cohesive marketing unit that works in tandem with all its counterparts.
The digital marketing landscape has become too fiercely competitive to accept anything but an acute awareness of each aspect of our marketing campaigns.
From identifying a target audience, to understanding their unique behavioral footprint, to developing an ad campaign, to choosing a landing page, to developing a conversion funnel and sales cycle – each stage is another touch point with another human being, and developing each marketing element should be treated with a genuine consideration for its vital role in the global success of the entire campaign.
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of interesting things about each marketing stage from more testing and trial and error than I care to remember.
I’d love to use this forum to create a series of posts on each stage in the buyer journey, detailing some of the more salient tests, tools, and methods we implement in our agency on a daily basis.
If you could let me know which topics interest you most, it will help me get the ball rolling here (and overcome my anxiety).
And besides, I’d really appreciate it.
In all seriousness, thanks so much for taking the time to read this (unless you skipped here, in which case I take it back), and I look forward to launching to hearing what you have to say.
And no, I really don’t think I can get your CPA down to $19.
Featured image credit:Modified version of Sunset Girl-unsplash.com
Image credit: Modified version of Vadim Sherbakov-unsplash.com