The 5 Questions you need to ask your Digital Marketer
I regularly talk about the 5 questions I believe any CEO or business owner needs to know in order to manage their digital teams effectively. Although working one to one, we go further than this, I thought it would be helpful to create this blog post to introduce you to them.
How does our digital marketing align to the overall business objectives and sales process?
There are a few steps that you need to be aware of before you can sensibly ask this question. Spoiler alert, that is part of the reason it is so powerful. In order to ask this question ‘How does our digital marketing align to the overall business objectives and sales process?’, first you must be very clear about what your business objectives are. You can’t expect anyone in your team to deliver against an objective that is unknown. If you don’t know where you are going and end up at the right place, I would suggest this was pot luck at best.
Of course, you may have a very clear vision of where your business is heading. You may have written down objectives for the coming year and beyond. Have you communicated them to your digital marketing team? And then have they communicated them back to you. In their own words? Essentially, do you have evidence or just a feeling that they truly understand what you need from them? Only once you get to this level can you ask the question.
But what about the answer? You don’t need to fully understand all the intricacies of digital marketing to understand whether what you are being told makes sense. There are some basic understandings that will help, but it is the role of your digital marketer to explain how the selected digital marketing strategies and activities align to your business objectives. Once they explain the outcomes of each, you will see if the outcomes are aligned with the outcomes you need. If your digital marketer says that they will optimise your website and instead of receiving 10 enquiries, you will receive 15, you don’t need to know how to optimise a website, just that you are expecting 5 additional enquiries and how that aligns to your business strategy.
The main thing that has just changed by asking this question is that you have become far clearer on what you need. You have more confidence that your digital marketers understand that need and they have had a mindset shift to being focused on what you need rather than what digital marketing offers. This 180-degree change of view is critical to your success.
What activities are you doing to drive awareness and what to generate sales?
Whilst most marketers assume these are the same, you have now forced a reset in the thinking of your digital marketers to now separate the activities and know which ones what purpose and therefore what measurements can be applied.
Once again, the knowledge you need here is small. Social media and display adverts are used to interrupt a person’s viewing much like TV Ads, Radio Ads, Magazine Ads etc. it is possible to build awareness with these and sales, whereas search marketing and changes to your website (conversion optimising) are always about sales. If someone is already looking for what you do, you are typically at the buying stage already, even if that is at the earlier research stage, the person has identified their need or want.
The secret to getting better answers from this question is to follow the journey of each activity. So, if your digital marketer suggests they are going to use a Facebook Ad campaign, ask who will see the Ad, what will they do with the Ad, what do they do from there etc. start at the beginning and follow the journey all the way through. You don’t need to be a digital marketer to understand whether what you are being told is plausible. Digital marketing is ultimately just marketing.
Awareness and sales both have their place but remember question one. Both need to be fulfilling a requirement of your business objectives. What you will find from asking this question and walking through the reply as suggested is that many of the awareness ideas will be replaced by sales related activities.
What processes do we follow, and which KPIs do we monitor to achieve continuous improvement?
For digital marketing to be successful in the long term, it needs to be following a process and not just Ad Hoc. Your digital marketers should lead you on what that process is. Your main requirement here is the outcome, not the process. Asking the question implies that you expect them to follow a process and it forces them to create a process for your digital marketing. This often feeds into KPIs.
With KPI’s again you need to focus on the ones that matter to your business objectives. If you go any deeper than that, make sure they are one level below and have a valid reason to be there. Only KPI’s that have an immediate effect on the things that matter to your objectives should be included.
For example, if you know that you need 20 enquiries per month, this will be a KPI. You should know the break even and target cost per enquiry. That is another KPI. But to break this down into the cost per enquiry by source is a level down. Target your digital marketers with cost per enquiry and they should then use their Performance Indicators to move budget around to optimise this. The 5 questions are not designed to allow you to micro manage, they are there to put you back in control of what you should be in control of and that is the outcomes and how they relate to your business objectives.
How does our cost of customer acquisition match up to our lifetime value and desired profitability?
This question is in some ways related to KPIs, but it is also different. By asking this specific question it also puts some onus back on you to know what your lifetime value is and to be communicating that to your digital marketers.
For years I have come across people that don’t like to share this information believing that either it will push the prices up from their digital marketing company or that they will just make the results fit to the numbers. Both concerns are based on a lack of trust between the person and their digital marketers. If you don’t trust the people you work with change them. If you are untrustworthy yourself and therefore have an issue trusting anyone else because after all, everyone is like you, then realise that they are not! You must have trust for this to work. Providing false or inaccurate information is a very quick way to get worse results, not better.
Another common concern people have with calculating lifetime value is what we call outriggers. The clients that sit at either end of the norm. so those that spend unusually little or unusually high amounts with you. When I work this calculation out, I am looking at the 80% in the middle. This 80% is more typical and although can vary wildly, so can your next sale. You must use averages here to set targets. Don’t worry, it will work itself out.
Another consideration may be the time it takes you to generate that level of value. If your lifetime is 10 years, then the gap between acquisition cost and lifetime value may be positive, but you need to factor in how much of the value will be realised within a short enough period. Again, don’t be overly enthusiastic here. Lowering the budget for acquisition always sounds good, but it can have a negative effect if your digital marketers now choose a limited range of options to acquire those leads. You may be sacrificing your number of sales for the cost of them.
Then finally, Question 5
What activities do we carry out to improve our online reputation, and how are we seen by the outside world?
It is quite fitting that this one is at the end as it is often an oversight in many organisations. People rarely see the potential damage on sales results that neglecting your online reputation has. I’m not even sure people look for themselves unless someone utters the words ‘have you seen what that disgruntled customer has written on your Google page’. It is at that point that the business wakes up to the fact that anyone can post anything about them online.
Your digital marketer can and should be proactive in building up a very strong and positive online reputation that can withstand any unfortunate comments. They should also be monitoring any comments and replying correctly to them. This means positive or negative.
What you need to know is the headlines and maybe any negative comments that could do with your intervention. Mainly though, you can just set another KPI based on something like your Star Rating average across various monitored platforms. This is something you can target your digital marketing team with but remember. If your delivery doesn’t live up to your sales pitch, even the best digital marketer will struggle to improve or even maintain a 5-star rating.
Here is a recap of the questions;
- How does our digital marketing align to the overall business objectives and sales process?
- What activities are you doing to drive awareness and what to generate sales?
- What processes do we follow, and which KPIs do we monitor to achieve continuous improvement?
- How does our cost of customer acquisition match up to our lifetime value and desired profitability?
- What activities do we carry out to improve our online reputation, and how are we seen by the outside world?
When you consider them, they are all simple and maybe even obvious. But then often the most effective solutions are the most obvious. So obvious that we miss them. Of course, the implementation of them is key. Anyone can know the questions. It is the consistent application of them that yields results.
Quite often a CEO or business owner is too busy to implement this level of rigour. They need someone who can manage a digital marketing team and has a solid background in digital marketing themselves.
If you feel this is appropriate for you, then I offer a one to one service where we work together to create the right KPIs and provide the right level of detail to your digital marketing people. Then, I work with them on your behalf, asking the 5 questions, drilling down on the answers and then reporting back directly to you with the precise information you need.
My unique mix of being a CEO and digital marketer since 1997, coupled with my unique experience of personally funding and building a dot com and learning from its ultimate demise, make me uniquely qualified to act as the perfect facilitator for your digital marketing. In my experience, the good digital marketers welcome this approach and the poor ones, see it as a challenge. Either way, the result of knowing that is positive enough.
If you would like to work with me on this diagnostic process, just enter your name, number and email below and I will be in touch.