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Three truths and a lie PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joe Carroll   

ImageI would like to continue last month's discussion on the growing sophistication of online marketing. As you might recall, it was the result of attending a recent seminar at High Point University featuring several top notch internet marketers shared their insights on growing importance of this relatively new phenomenon to our business. Christine Pierpoint, vice president of emerging media at IMRE (http://www.imre.com/), spoke on measuring the effectiveness of online marketing by measuring ROI (return on investment) through analytics.

This sounded quite intimidating to a non-techie like myself but I was quickly drawn to her presentation when she opened by asking the audience if they really knew whether they are reaching their target consumers with their current advertising and marketing strategies. She then said, "I'm going to tell you three truths and a lie." She had my attention.

Truth #1: To determine ROI, you must first define "R". What are you trying to accomplish with your web site? There are three questions every marketer should ask himself:

  • Why do we have a web site?
  • How do we know if it is successful? What does "success" look like?
  • How much money should we spend and how many resources do we need? How many people do I need to hire?

First, you must establish your goals or as Christine calls them: KPIs or key performance indicators. Examples of KPIs include:

  • Increase lead generation;
  • Increase traffic to your store (or your customer's store);
  • Promote a trial use of your product.

You should establish metrics to determine whether you're on the right track by consulting your senior management, your sales team, your front-line staff or even your customer. However, she cautions you should never ask your customer what she wants to see on your web site. You'll usually get a blank stare.

You'll also want determine what obstacles to success are holding your team back as well as what they see as their most important tasks. The real question is does the web site support their needs as well as those of their customer.

For example, to measure leads give the web site its own e-mail address and telephone. To measure increases in traffic, offer incentives on the web site that must be redeemed in the store.

To measure promotions, introduce product trials online using specials or rebates.

Christine reminded her audience - indeed, something we should remember - that the internet is everywhere, so there's no excuse for not reaching your target audience. Some of the biggest opportunities available to everyone in the furniture industry these days can be found through mobile channels.

Truth #2. What content is your audience (that is, your customer) looking for? How do they like to be engaged? For example, in the not-too-distant future milk cartons will come with an embedded chip. Your refrigerator will read the expiration date and let you know when to no longer drink the milk. The exercise machines at your Fitness Center will track your workouts and give you constant advice and guidance.

You can pick up a lot of ideas just by listening to the conversations your customer service people have with your customers. You will learn what your customer wants (as opposed to what you want to give them).

Truth #3. Content is money, so make some. David Oglivy, the famous New York advertising executive, said, "I do not regard advertising as entertainment or as an art form but as a medium of information." If you follow that one piece of advice you will begin to see what it takes to get the customer to have an affinity for your brand.

Your web site will never be interesting to your customers if you and your competitors are all saying the same thing. The goal is to use content to show off your expertise.

Content Marketing is the name of the game. First, your site must have a unique point of view (easier said than done). This is done by creating content that is of value to your audience. Once you have found content that is both interesting and relevant you must decide which of the many social media channels you should use to distribute it. Blog sites are a great way to demonstrate your leadership as an innovator with original thoughts and ideas. In addition to Facebook and You Tube, which are excellent for distributing content in the social media spaces, Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/) is growing quite rapidly as a valuable tool for the home furnishings industry because it gets your customer involved with your product.

The Lie

The lie is that evaluating ROI is a one-time effort. You can't determine the return on your investment on just one asset or one event. It has to be done on an ongoing basis. Then, it can be completely measurable.

The truth is that digital should be at the heart of all your communications. Now is the time to put a program in place to continuously monitor your digital assets. Then, measure the ROI on individual assets as well as your overall program. Once you analyze the results you will be able to make informed marketing decisions.

Another advertising executive said: "If you don't like what's being said change the conversation."

With all the resources of digital media we have at our disposal we can control what is being said about us and find the right channel to reach the right person at the right time. The web is not a project, it is a program. It must be ongoing and you must be able to measure its effectiveness.

Joe Carroll, former publisher of Furniture/Today, is an international marketing consultant. He can be reached at .

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