Are You Simply Treating Symptoms? For better digital marketing results ensure that you are addressing the root cause [Template].

Today we are awash in digital data. Something that will only rise as we saw a 70% increase in Internet sales and an 11% increase in digital marketing spending in 2020, which is expected to grow another 17% in 2021. This can be both a blessing and a curse. After years of working in the marketing industry, researching and teaching, there is a strategic mistake that I continue to see. It is the tendency for marketers to treat surface-level symptoms when there are often deeper level problems causing an issue. Michael Porter said, “Strategic thinking rarely occurs spontaneously.” Realtime 24/7 marketing data dashboards have not helped with this propensity for expedient remedies.

A benefit of digital marketing is that nearly everything is measurable. Google Analytics tracks over 200 metrics. Facebook Analytics adds another 100 and that doesn’t include your email, social media monitoring, CRM and POS software. A typical marketer can collect hundreds if not thousands of data points across digital and general marketing systems. Yet studies indicate 21% of marketing spending is still wasted resulting in inaccurate targeting (35%) and lost customers (30%). Added metrics does not equal added results.

With all this data it is easier than ever to spot a problem metric which marketers want to resolve as quickly as possible. Yet, the first problem noticed, such as a drop in website traffic, often doesn’t have a quick fix digital solution. It is merely a symptom masking a larger problem. This calls for some guidelines for marketing managers inundated with digital data. I suggest pausing for a root cause analysis that considers both digital and general marketing factors. Even though your symptom suggests a digital marketing issue, the root cause may be a general marketing problem that needs to be solved first.

With over 50% of advertising spending today going to digital marketing, it is useful to organize individual symptoms and problems into digital and general marketing. They usually require separate solutions and separate experts or teams. Below is a visual representation of a root cause analysis process for digital marketers. It is a modified Ishikawa, or fishbone cause-and-effect diagram, that outlines a process of asking a series of questions modeled after the Five Whys iterative interrogative technique. Like a physician, marketers can assess a set of symptoms to arrive at a diagnosis.

How to perform a digital marketing root cause analysis

Identify related symptoms

To start this process you or someone on your team notices the first symptom. Maybe a dip in website traffic is what caught your attention, but what else may be declining? You may find other symptoms that can help identify the cause. Perhaps your email open rate is down in digital marketing metrics and in your general marketing data you notice new customer signups are starting to slip. Most of what you find will be signs or symptoms of problems. Make a list and sort into digital marketing symptoms and general marketing symptoms.

Identify contributing causes

Start asking “why” questions for each symptom. Why is website traffic going down? Why is the email open rate declining? Why is the number of new customers slipping? Contributing causes can be internal and external. External problems could include digital marketing causes such as Google changing their search algorithm or general marketing causes such as a new competitor, competitor strategy, or availability of substitutes. Internal problems could be digital marketing specific such as a change in your content strategy or general marketing such as customer service issues.

Identify the root cause

Keep asking “why” questions descending through a correlated list of digital and general problem causes. The root cause process “Five Whys” indicates that five “why” questions can get you to the root cause, but it may only take three or it could take more. Eventually, your contributing digital and general marketing problem causes will lead to one root cause. The root cause could be a digital marketing problem such as a significant Google algorithm change or a general marketing problem such as new competition in the form of a substitute product or service.

Plan actions for each problem

Create an action plan to address each digital marketing and general marketing problem starting at the root cause. If the root cause is a general marketing problem of substitutes drawing away protentional customers, a new product positioning should be developed to address this target audience’s needs. Then contributing digital marketing problems should be addressed with a new keyword, SEO and SEM strategy. New content should be created with the new product positioning. If repositioning isn’t enough, a new product or new services may need to be added.

Without pausing to find the root cause you could waste time and money on a product message and digital strategy that is not relevant to the customers that competitors are stealing away. You could end up investing in general best practices of optimizing content with infographics, videos, and increasing digital spending to no avail.

Today Porter’s five forces of competition can emerge quickly and are constantly changing. Adding a new product or service isn’t easy or a quick fix. However, discovering this larger problem sooner gives you more time to work on a solution. In that way, your digital marketing metrics can serve as an early warning system. Early detection enables your business to pivot promptly saving wasted resources on misguided action plans.

Sometimes a drop in website traffic is just a technical website issue or it could be a symptom of a larger problem. A root cause analysis may not be a simple solution but it can reorient your marketing actions away from short-term survival to long-term success.

Walk A Mile In Your Customer’s Shoes. Add Experience and Empathy To Get The Most Out Of Your Customer Journey Map [Template].

At its most basic level a customer journey map is a tool that helps marketers understand how a customer goes from awareness of a need to purchase of their product or service. People don’t see a single ad, click and purchase. The path to purchase includes many touchpoints that influence their decisions to proceed toward your product, a competitor, or substitute product.

People look for different information in each stage of the buyer’s journey starting with awareness, consideration and purchase. Yet, the journey doesn’t end there. With the increased value and influence of loyal consumers retention and advocacy are important post-purchase stages. An InMoment survey found 61% of loyal customers will go out of their way to buy from a preferred brand, 60% buy more frequently, and 75% recommend the brand to friends and family.

Yet simply identifying the stepping stones or touchpoints on the path to purchase and on to advocacy is just the beginning of what a customer journey map can accomplish. A customer journey analysis can also map out customer’s experience and feelings at each stage to truly understand your customer’s perspective. When creating your next customer journey map include experience and empathy mapping to walk the journey in your customer’s shoes.

The customer journey map template below takes the traditional marketing funnel and adds post purchase stages. It also includes a customer-centric approach considering customer experience from an empathy context for better understanding of each touchpoint and stage.

Customer Experience Journey Map Template

Are you ready to take a walk with your customer? To complete your customer journey map follow these steps.

Establish what you’re trying to accomplish. Start in the middle of the journey by understanding what a purchase or conversion is and where it happens. Are you looking to increase eCommerce sales, drive traffic to a store, or generate leads for salespeople? Are you promoting virtual or physical event attendance? Or are you helping a nonprofit gain donations or volunteers? This may be about the journey, but you still need to know where you are headed.

Identify who you’re trying to reach. Define your target market for the product or service and the primary and secondary target audiences. Then create or reference your personas for each audience. Having personas will give you a good head start on the customer journey map. Personas are audience profiles of ideal customers that include demographics, interests, behavior, media use, needs, pain points and goals. Persona goals should make a connection to your purchase phase conversion. If there is a mismatch you may be targeting the wrong audience.

Research your customers. Conduct interviews, focus groups and surveys with customers. Verify findings with internal and external stakeholders including sales and customer service personnel, communications partners and social media managers. Combine these first hand insights with data collected from your CRM, website, email and social media analytics. Look for low engagement touchpoints that aren’t resonating and were you may be losing potential customers. In this research you may discover the need for separate customer journey maps for each persona.

Categorize touchpoints. Identify the main touchpoints customers are experiencing the brand in each stage of the customer journey. Note that a touchpoint can appear in multiple stages and multiple touchpoints can appear in one stage. Social media like Twitter may be used in awareness and advocacy. Include all forms of media. The customer journey contains paid, owned and earned media. Place touchpoints in the where and what row of the template under each appropriate stage.

Add the customer experience. Now answer the questions in the first two rows of the customer journey template. This will help you understand the actual experience of the customer and provide an empathetic perspective. Many mistakes in marketing communication happen when we don’t understand what it is truly like to be in our customer’s shoes. What do they think, feel, see, say and do in each stage? Look for pain points or frustrations and how you can turn them into gains.

Conduct a content audit. With a better understanding of the customer perspective and path conduct a content audit of all brand touchpoints on the customer journey. Go beyond a content inventory to include the customer experience. Are their gaps in what the customer is thinking, feeling, saying and doing with what the brand is publishing? There may be a mismatch in message or a missing touchpoint in paid and owned media. Poor post-purchase customer experience may be causing low or negative customer advocacy through earned media in the pre- and purchase stages.

Develop a digital strategy. From the insights of the journey map and content audit develop a plan for what digital marketing tactics and channels need to be updated and developed. If there are missing or mismatched messages and content work on customer acquisition. If significant customer experience issues have been revealed concentrate on customer retention. Then identify the person and persons for action. Multiple in house departments and external partners are responsible. Marketing, advertising, public relations and customer service all contribute to the customer journey. It is important to take a cross-discipline approach to move the customer forward in each stage.

Even if you felt like you had a good grasp of your customer journey 62% of marketers indicate that Covid-19 has caused significant changes exposing new gaps. Many of which will not return to pre-Covid days or continue to evolve as consumers get used to new digital journeys. Be sure you know what it is like to walk in your customer’s shoes. Evaluate your customer journey on a regular basis.