Commentary - Much of today’s marketing is based on metrics that are not easily connected to revenue generation. But there are several forces at work that are directing digital marketing operations to rethink their roles in driving revenue for their organization. The current worldwide economic environment is one obvious driver. In fact, a recent survey of 300 executives at Fortune 500 companies clearly indicated that revenue growth is top-of-mind for CEOs. If revenue growth is on the mind of your CEO, it needs to be on the minds of the CMO and his digital marketing team.
Overall, marketing is being tasked with becoming a revenue generation arm. Marketing is no longer just about awareness and brand; marketing has to prove itself as an important part of the engine that generates revenue.
If revenue generation is the goal, from a digital marketing perspective the question becomes, “How do you generate revenue from your digital marketing channels, and create a business outcome that directly affects the top line of your company?”
That business outcome might be something as simple as a sale, if you sell products through your website. A business outcome might be a page view if you are an advertiser. A business outcome might be an application or admission if you are an educational institution. It might be a donation or a member if you are nonprofit.
Educational institutions think about admissions and enrollments; retailers think about sales; advertisers think about page views; most organizations think about loyalty, awareness, reputation and advocacy. However you think about your business, if you connect four steps -- content, context, experience and optimization -- your site will deliver more business outcomes, which will ultimately deliver more revenue.
Making the connection between content and revenue is done by building on those four concepts. By following those steps you will deliver more business outcomes, which ultimately impacts your top line and makes your digital marketing efforts -- and you -- a revenue generation superstar for your organization.
Step 1: Content
Content is the core building block of how to deliver business outcomes on a website or a mobile device or any channel -- landing pages, and microsites created by your marketing organizations. News articles, if you are a publisher. Product pages, if you are a retailer. Content comes in many forms, and being able to manage content is an important mission for any digital marketing organization.
Web Content Management provides a platform that helps digital marketers empower content authors to more effectively publish content to each digital channel. The benefit of having a Web Content Management engine at the core of your digital marketing strategy is that you are able to empower your organization to be able to be more agile in how they publish content out to multichannel environments, like websites, mobile devices, and social networks.
Step 2: Context
After content comes context, a really important element that most organizations don’t think about when they think about their digital marketing strategy. Context is basically an understanding of the circumstances that surround why a customer is interested in doing business with you.
Context is that understanding of who your audience is, what motivates them, what compels them to take action on your site, and how they get to your site. If content is king, then context is its queen, and you have to think about both ruling together for a full digital marketing experience.
Context comes in many different forms. When someone comes to a website or to your Facebook page, via desktop or mobile device, you are able to gain a lot of context about that visitor by seeing what products they are interested in, by their click paths, their visit patterns, perhaps how often they come to your site; previous purchases they may have made on your site, marketing campaigns they may have responded to.
You can also learn a lot about your visitors by looking at the environment, which includes things like their location. Wouldn’t it be great as a digital marketer if you are able to understand where someone is located and then use that location to be able to affect the experience you deliver to them?
You can also look at the source -- how that visitor got to your site. The strongest indicator of visitor intent is the search keyword. When someone goes to Google or to Bing they are stating specifically what they are interested in finding.
If somebody comes to your site and asks for a low-cost product, you probably should message around price. If someone comes to your site and searches for high-end product, you might message on value and features. A lot can be learned by being smart about understanding how someone came to your website.
Another big predictor of context is your customer database, a wealth of information about your customers. And finally, one of the most important ways to process context is through the social graph. This can be considered a little bit creepy by the consumer and needs to be used judiciously, but certainly to marketers it’s a very powerful tool in making your site more relevant to your audiences.
Step 3: The multichannel customer experience
When you combine content and context, you can start delivering experiences to your visitors across all of the channels that they use to connect with you. When we think about experience we have to think about the multichannel world we live in. Just a few years ago a digital marketer could be fairly assured that the customer experience began and ended on the website. Today, the customer journey weaves in and out of all of multiple channels. You have to assume that your customer might start on Twitter, through a mobile device, and then might land on one of your campaign pages.
Being able to take your content, understand the visitor context, and turn it into an experience that can be consumed across any device or channel is really important. We have to worry about how we synchronize messaging across all channels in order to make sure there is a consistent multichannel customer experience.
Step 4: Optimization and “Moneyball”
The final step after content, context and experience is optimization. Once you have delivered an experience to a mobile device or a website or a marketing campaign, optimization is the process of delivering more results from that particular channel.
Optimization comes in multiple formats. Optimization usually comes in the format of search engine optimization, where we try to get higher organic search results through better keywords, having more frequent content, and having better shared and visible content.
The concept of optimization when we are thinking about connecting content to revenue is very much like the premise of the book and movie, “Moneyball.” There will always be a competitor who has a bigger budget than we have; the way to combat this issue is to use data to deliver better results. Marketing organizations need to shift away from gut instinct and what worked in the past and move to more of a data-driven mentality, where it’s the data that ultimately determines what you deliver.
When I think about optimization techniques, one of the first things I think about is personalization. The vast majority of companies that personalize their website -- only 11 percent -- are not using any context for that personalization.
I recently traveled to London and went to Google to start my search for reasonable airfare. Two sponsored links appeared above my search results: I going to call the airlines “Fly Me A” and Fly Me B.” The two airlines, both competing for my business, offered vastly different experiences.
I’ll start with “Fly Me A.” I clicked on the airline’s link, and I was taken to its home page, which had zero personalization. The home page contained the standard “Departing From/Arriving At” form, which was blank. There were a series of promotions on the page, none of which had any connection to me or to my planned trip to London.
I went back to Google and clicked on the link to the “Fly Me B” page. When I arrived at this site, the page form already reflected London as my destination -- a very simple thing to do. “Fly Me B” knew from my Google search that I had asked for a flight to London and delivered.
Even better, Boston was pre-selected as my Origination Destination. “Fly Me B” knew that I was coming from Boston. So the airline basically made it very easy for me by saying, “you are going to London and you are flying from Boston and here’s the information. Please purchase a ticket right now.” And you know what? I did.
All “Fly Me B” had done was look at my search query, yet the airline gave me far more meaningful results, the kind of results you too can deliver when you think about combining content, context, experience and optimization.
With the business emphasis on generating revenue more pronounced than ever, marketing must shift to becoming being viewed as a profit center rather than a cost center. To become a revenue-centric digital marketer, you have got to have a strong platform for managing content and you have to understand context to be able to understand your visitors and customers.
You need to connect experiences across your digital channels consistently so that your customers who weave their way in and out of websites and mobiles devices and social networks all hear a consistent message from you. You have to think about your processes for ongoing optimization to deliver more business outcomes.
Ultimately, it’s the ability to deliver business outcomes that will help you deliver more revenue through your digital channels.
Tom Wentworth is chief marketing officer of Ektron Inc., a provider of Web Content Management and marketing optimization solutions.