Many small businesses think of web analytics as search engine optimization, but that perspective is a partial view. Analytics encourages the organization of a digital presence for a business or an organization. These days such planning is important. It means providing speedy management of marketing content, be it online or off, such that a business can ultimately manage costs.
Some small businesses analyze results from a campaign effort – after a website is launched, a video is uploaded in YouTube, or a Facebook page is launched. This is an understandable step – many businesses see analytics in an application and treat the analysis as an audit. But the real work happens during the preliminary planning of a digital presence. This can consume some time, particularly now with so many options for a small business to choose. A business should review two aspects first before tweet or a site visit is measured.
1. What is the purpose of the website in the business model? Does it serve as an augment for offline marketing? Is it for sales through e-Commerce? Is it a way to deliver customer support through online chats and community hosting? Answering these questions will set the tone for what content should be on the site – images, downloads, and which pages should retain visitors for longer than a moment. Even trust badges can be influential (see my Business Agility post Building Trust Through Transparency). It will also lead to how a site and its subdomains are set. The end result is the arrangement of how a site should be tagged.
2. What marketing is planned? Thanks to QR codes and URL tagging, for example, small businesses can create marketing plans to anticipate how customers discover the company site, and ultimately the business itself. Experian, eMarketer, and other research firms have indicators that people tend to review products and services online prior to making a purchase. The ideas is establishing an reasonable assumption of how your business is exposed to leads and customers. An assumption may change overtime, but that is reasonable given that marketing materials can become outdated over time.
Once these two steps are addressed, a small business can begin to make reasonable adjustments to a marketing plan with few headaches and reduced expense. There are still some technical verifications needed, depending on the complexity of the site and tagging required – many large enterprises have a team on analytic experts to manage the effort. But for small businesses developing a plan and monitoring as it moves ahead makes any analytics information valuable.
This link to a Business Week article in October 2006(Wow, that feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it?) states how small business advertising has changed to require more “analytics” in determining the right marketing channel in which to advertise. Yet according to the author Neal Polachek (then Senior Vice President, The Kelsey Group: He is now CEO):
“In recent telephone surveys conducted by The Kelsey Group with small-business owners (with one to 99 employees), however, we found that less than half of small-business owners actually take the time to measure the performance of their advertising.”
Now this may sound at first like a “So what?” statement. You may think to yourself, “Hey, since most of my competitors are not measuring their data, why should I?” This is far from the truth! Businesses succeed when they measure appropriately, then act on the information. That action can lead to more efficient internal processes and insights to additional services and products that can delight customers. As suggested in the article, analytics is not just about numbers. The analytics applied can be simply taking stock in the customers and vendors to determine how to best leverage the resources available.
Facebook conducted a great Facebook Ads presentation at the recent Search Engine Strategies New York expo in March. I sat in the audience as Sarah Smith, head of Online Operations in Facebook’s new Austin office, spoke about how small businesses and marketers should use Facebook ads. Great timing on Facebook’s part to offer a review to SES goers, given the recent statistics that online users are spending more time on Facebook than Google, and the massive buzz of the Betty White Hosting Saturday Night Live fanpage.
One of the best takeaways was regarding how keywords in Facebook ad content should be selected. Keywords should be deployed such that they connect to lifestyle activity, events, or how a product is used. These obtain the best response results in Facebook. This differs from search engine keyword tactics, where specific words or broad match incorporating a specific word is used. In fact Facebook calls keyword phrases “likes and interests”, similar to the FHTML that is a variation of HTML.
For example, the words “wine” or “red wine” may be used by a winery, but in a Facebook ad, phrases such “fine dining” will help the ad appear to relevant Facebook audience. According to Smith, businesses can use Facebook to find customers before they use the search engines to seek your business, product, or services.
This implies a few aspects that businesses and marketers should keep in mind:
- Beyond a different keyword strategy, Facebook users are searching differently than those who are using search engines. This means campaign content must be formulated for Facebook with a different search in mind than that for a search engine.
- Businesses that confuse web analytics for simply keyword performance will have to end. If a Facebook campaign is used alongside a PPC (Adwords, Adcenter, etc.), those business will miss opportunities to optimize their marketing and gain customers because all the channels will be treated the same.
- Marketers will have to understand the influences and preferences customers more deeply to generate the “likes and interests” for the Facebook ads.
Ok, it’s your turn…how do you see advertising in Facebook being different than in Google or Bing Yahoo?
Ever fill your gas tank in New Jersey (ok, a bad question for a Garden State car owner)? As a native Hoosier, I for one get amazed every time I fill a tank passing through New Jersey on the way to New York. New Jersey, along with Oregon, does not permit self service at fuel stations. This throws off my typical routine at times, as I have fueled my car in many states of driving. Full service in general has declined in America, so the idea of letting someone pump my gas, but not wipe my windshield or offer anything else while I am sitting in my car is an enigma. This is “full service-ish” at best.
The variation of a shopper experience can lead to that same sort of “ish” I experience with Garden State fill ups. It can alter the expectation between a consumer and service provider to create the experience. What are my “duties” as a consumer? What responsibility does the business provide? With exposure to difference experiences, the answer each consumer and business owner comes to varies.
We are in a new age of consumer interaction, thanks to the growth of e-commerce and the increased capability of websites to deliver consumer information. A Technorati post by Doug Stephens talks about how the consumer’s need for low price eliminated customer service in many cases. He references a survey in which respondents scored 1000 businesses at 48 points out of 100, a low score. I also agree with the article’s claim that there is a trade off between price and customer service, as well as a low score brings opportunity to improve the customer service experience. From the blog post:
For most consumers it’s become a matter of making trades and concessions based on the type of product, the brand, or the store we choose to shop at. Just as we don’t expect the lowest price for a laptop at the Apple Store, we can’t in good conscience demand brilliant service at Sears, whose stores have become a virtual sea of sale banners. And if in fact we really can’t live with that trade-off, then I’m afraid we’ll need to rethink our definition of value as consumers and as a society.
However, getting consumers to agree to a collective consciousness of the consumer service trade offs is an endless pursuit. Moreover a quick glance of customer service questions in Linked In and other sites indicate the idea that in business it may be more profitable to eliminate annoying customers — what is the yardstick to measure an annoying customer vs. an need to improve service?
A potential idea is to get businesses to state what the buying experience will generally be like. Apple has done a great job of this, setting the expectation through consistent behavior of product introduction and trained store experts, and further monitoring its results to create an experience rewarded by enthusiastic, loyal customers (Monitoring results is where analytics can support a business, small or large). For another successful example, read about Zappos and its customer service experience, mentioned in this Zimanablog post.
How has customer service changed for you, as a consumer or business, in the age of e-commerce.
No matter how wonderful social media is among the marketing faithful, the content can sometimes become the foot that enters the mouth. Toyota tasted foot sandwich when a Saatchi & Saatchi- produced Yaris commercial was seen by Australian Facebook and You Tube viewers as too demeaning to women. Facebook negative reaction — Hmmmm, sounds familiar to the Honda fiasco with Facebook (Read the Zimanablog article When Facebook Is Not A Marketer’s Friend).
It is reasonable that Toyota (and Honda) would run into a troubling miscue, even when compared with Ford’s notable success with the Fiesta Movement. Automakers can be very susceptible to social media mishaps because of the nature of the product — a car or truck — has many features that can provide benefits and sway a consumer to one vehicle vs. another. Trying to cram too many points into a short commercial, short radio ad, or an even shorter tweet can make message recall difficult. Or in this case bring shock by trying to be too clever to convey everything and sounding offensive in the process. The ad does bring pause: how could someone not see the problem with this? At the minimum the ad comes across as a left-over watered down Saturday Night Live ad.
There is an excellent mUmBRELLA analysis on Toyota’s media mistake. The mUmBRELLA article raised great points about giving wide latitude to an agency inexperienced with PR — social media essentially is PR with exponential impact, for good campaigns or bad. Companies have to really be a steward of the message, not just be clever and insulting. What works on Saturday Night Live or Monty Python really doesn’t in the real world.
The ad was pulled from You Tube and Facebook, but many copies have sprouted up.
What do you think is important to know when using social media?