March 29, 2013
Startup marketing often involves an “all of the above” or “by any means necessary” approach, and rightfully so. To meet short-term goals, the strategy, or means, becomes far less important than the outcome.
Logically, the starting point for most startups is to drive traffic to the website (i.e., fill the top of the sales/conversion funnel). You don’t need to be a technical marketer to know that Google Analytics makes measuring traffic extremely easy. Similarly, measuring what’s happening at the end of the process (number of users/customers) is also pretty straightforward. With these two inputs – traffic and conversions – you now have a top-to-bottom conversion ratio.
This ratio is nice to have, but it’s far less valuable than you might be tempted to believe, particularly as you’re just starting up. Ultimately, there are a number of variables that can skew this ratio in either direction. Isolating and focusing in on these variables is the important next step.
DISCLAIMER: You may be launching on a new domain, with no inbound links, press, or PageRank score – and, if so, you’ll truly be starting from zero. If this sounds like you, fear not, as measuring and improving upon the impact of your marketing is still just as doable with a blank slate as it is for a more developed business – maybe even easier.
Here’s how to look beyond the traffic and sales figures to maximize your marketing effectiveness.
- Clearly define your goal(s): Obviousness aside, early-stage marketing needs to be goal-oriented and laser-focused. Otherwise, you run the risk of being susceptible and overreacting to the volatility involved in getting traction. In addition to looking at conversion-based outcomes, make goals around simply identifying and developing valuable marketing metrics.
- Work from the bottom-up: Use industry standards as assumptions for working backwards to assess how you might achieve your goals. For example, if you have a goal of 100 paying customers, look at ratios such as “paid users to free users” and “free users to web traffic” to gain an idea of how much traffic you’d need to drive to the site to hit your number (or, how much better you’d need to be at converting less traffic).
- Focus on quality traffic: Not all traffic is created equal. What percentage of your overall traffic comprises that of your target market? Clearly, you must be able to answer this question before you can begin to verifiably improve upon it. Knowing your market and how to segment it is also vital to improving the quality of your traffic.
- Track everything with campaign tags: Again, Google makes this extremely easy to do. The important thing is to use identifying campaign tags for each and every marketing initiative and/or post. Properly using the resulting data can, among other things, help you identify the best social network for you to post to as well as the best time of day to do it.
- Use “How did you find us?”: Whether you collect this information upfront with an account creation form or after the fact with a market research survey, it’s highly valuable to be able to verify source conversion percentages. Ignore the fact that it’s “not cool” and use it – you won’t be disappointed, although you may very well be surprised at what you learn.
- Practice marketing discernment: Knowing what to focus on and when to focus on it is a priceless skill, particularly in a startup environment. For marketing, it’s easy to be swayed on a daily or weekly basis by the mass of data that we collect. Not over- or under-reacting is critical to avoiding feeling like you’re chasing your own tail.
If you do all of these things, or even some of these things, you’ll not only improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, but you’ll also ensure that your “all of the above” approach includes an element of foundational sustainability as you scale your company and your marketing over time.
Guest author Eddie Earnest is a big-thinking entrepreneur focused on staying ahead of the marketing curve and using that knowledge to help build awesome companies. Follow him on Twitter: @eddie_earnest.
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