A two year writing hiatus is best broken by this note – “Tactics will make you soar, but will not keep you air-born.”
Trough-out my career, I have noted, is that tactical work can be contrasted from strategic one in the following way:
Imagine a wheelbarrow, one person inside it, another outside – ready to push it downhill. That push, the construction of the wheelbarrow, the decision to take the leap these will all get you down the hill and moving forward. However, strategy would actually be plotting the path as you hurtle downwards and realizing, mid way, you don’t have a steering wheel.
The truth of the matter is that if you’re not willing to push, there will be no movement. However, without a plan the movement will be short lived as you crash into a ditch.
Build It, Then Tear It Down
The way I have been working to reconcile both of these realizations as of late is via the use of standard operating procedures (SOPs). The purpose is to decide on a:
- Workflow – high level
- Document tasks, owners, allotted time
- Roll it up, simplify the workflow and tasks – editorial work
- Quantify (use a reporting system)
Once you have a SOP (established flow, clear task ownership and timelines) and a way to quantify the steps and bottlenecks (CRM, Task Management, etc.) you have mapped your tactical tasks.
These quantified tactical lists are now applied into the strategic plan to see if projections are on point or not and how far off we are to reaching the fulfillment of the strategic plan.
Are We There Yet?
After the SOPs are live and performance on them is quantified, it’s time to see what’s wrong. If numbers are off by 20% the path to iterate with the SOPs is clear.
Iterating is done by altering a SOP or product feature, while keeping a control (a/b testing) to see if we are moving forward. To do so, you must plan an experiment which validates or invalidates an assumption you have made, and so:
- Write assumption
- Define experiment (tweaked SOP, or feature)
- Measure results against baseline
- Rinse and repeat
If you do not see growth via this method keep in mind that there might is a product to market fit issue.
Listening To The Market
In order to understand your experiments fully, qualitative research must be used. Asking a customer who is experiencing the control or new experiment what they were expecting is useful. Using the “five whys” method, in which you ask “what were you expecting to see here” once and with each ensuing question ask “why?” will reveal a lot about the value you drive to customers.
What Do I Use?
- Task Mapping – Trello.com
- SOP Creation – Process.st
- Strategic Plan – LeanMonitor.com
- Market insight – Intercom.io
- Interviews – UserTesting.com
So many companies have become allergic to using AdWords. The reason? With the ability to track exactly what ads and keywords one uses in their campaigns via tools like SEMRush maintaining an advantage over time is highly difficult. A winning approach is to use AdWords as a competitive intelligence research tool.
By the time one stops a campaign with adwords they would have accrrued a lot of useful data. On the content network, using conversion tracking, you will have found websites that generate sales. With the search network, you would have found keywords that provide revenues.
Because Google Adwords are a competitive marketplace, every time you bid on a placement or keyword you are limited. You are limited to the rules of the game that the AdWords supply and demand market creates. This market place merely replaces two other marketplaces that are significantly less competitive. Those are: search engine optimization and media buying.
By using AdWords as a research tool and not as a channel, one can fine out what keywords are worth hunting and what ad placements one should acquire with niche websites by going for a direct media buy.
The only way you can really optimize an online business is work against a single metric. That metric should be the one your business is judged by, whether it is leads, downloads, sales, etc.
I had a very interesting discussion this week with an online retailer. This retailer was concerned about the intrinsic tension between performance based marketing and branding.
Generally, performance based marketers cringe at the mention of the word “brand”. They care about hard conversions, returns on investment and cold cash.
The brand fanatic has a vision; they see where the company is headed. They see that in order to capture the vision they can’t wallow in mud too much. They cannot sacrifice their brand for one off sales. They want to build a relationship, nurture a community and build brand equity.
The Likeoholic by Assaf Hanuka: Being a like fan junkie will kill your business
So how does one reconcile the brand with the science of online marketing? Well, I thought it over and decided to call it: “the branding coefficient” or “brandco”. This coefficient is something for the brand owner to decide on. It should be a percent. This percent is how much of pure performance marketing they are willing to sacrifice for the brand. So while the performance based marketer will naturally aim for positive ROI, their results should be judged by an ROI coefficient. This might represent 10% of their ROI, so if a campaign is 95% ROI (so a 5% loss) when adding the brandco the campaign now swings into a positive ROI of 105% (whether or not to keep that campaign is another question entirely).
Additional metrics that must be considered with the brandco are: email signups (relationship building), time on site (indicators of engagement), bounce rate (relevance) and social sharing (enthusiasm, endorsement). Each one of these metrics can comprise the brandco. This helps avoid the undoing of an online business: pure intuition based decision making.