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.

Why You Need A Social Media Measurement Plan And How To Create One.

After years of increases, social media spending declined in 2019.

The CMO Survey saw a drop in social media spending to 11% of marketing budgets from a high of 14% in 2018. Why? The authors suggest, “… despite massive financial investments, social media is rated as contributing only moderate value to company performance (3.3 on a scale where 7=very highly and 1=not at all).”

If you’re not confident in social media’s return on investment (ROI), it will only get harder to secure funding for social media budgets. How can you improve this confidence? Ensure you have a strong measurement plan in place to better prove social media’s impact on the bottom line.Start with business objectives not social tactics.

In creating a social media strategy it is easy to start with social media tactics. You ask questions like, “How can we improve our Facebook page?” So you develop strategies to improve engagement on Facebook and you increase likes, shares and comments. Yet having a better Facebook page is not a business objective. That is why it gets hard when management asks how Facebook Likes contribute to the bottom line.

Having a measurement plan ensures you start with your business objectives (what impacts the bottom line) first. From there you create strategies and tactics (current and new) to help get to those objectives. Then you determine how those outcomes will be measured through KPIs (metrics) tied to micro- and macro- conversions. Goals are long term changes you would like to see. Objectives make goals measurable on a shorter time frame. Strategies are the ways you will meet objectives. Tactics are what you will use to implement the strategies. Click To Tweet

How to define business objectives.

The objective of most business’s is to increase sales, but each organization’s situation is unique and requires a much more nuanced definition. Insight can come from a situation analysis or the reason you are creating a new strategy. There is often a problem or opportunity that has become the focus of marketing efforts creating the story of your plan. The CMO Survey reports marketer’s see social media as a tool to help accomplish the following business objectives:

  1. Brand awareness/brand building
  2. Introducing new products/services
  3. Acquiring new customers (conversion/sale)
  4. Brand promotions (contest/coupons)
  5. Retaining current customers
  6. Improving customer service
  7. Improving employee engagement
  8. Marketing research
  9. Identifying new customer groups
  10. Identifying new product/service opportunities
  11. Improving current products/services

Identify strategies to meet business objectives.

Most social media plans have multiple strategies or ways to improve brand efforts and help to meet business objectives. List all your strategies such as an influencer marketing campaign, a special promotion, an employee advocacy effort or branding social media ads.

Identify tactics used to support key strategies.

List the main tactics that support each strategy. For example, a business objective to increase sales to a new market may have a brand awareness strategy supported by a tactic of targeted Facebook ads, a tactic of influencer marketing on Instagram, and a tactic of employee advocacy on LinkedIn.

List measurable conversions by tactic and strategy.

List measurable actions users take to fulfill your business objectives. They can take the form of macro-conversions and micro-conversions. Macro-conversions are the key actions closest to business objectives such as an online sale through website data or an offline sale through CRM or POS data. Micro-conversions are the smaller actions that move a prospect closer such as visiting webpages, signing up for a newsletter, down loading an app, or following a social media page. They can be tracked using various tools such as Google Analytics Tracking ID and Facebook Pixel for ads or organic posts.

Connect macro-conversions to business objectives.

Link social media metric KPIs by tactic and strategy to macro- and micro-conversions. Creating a dashboard of the KPIs for macro-conversions by tactic and strategy can be a top line report of social media’s contribution to company performance. Creating this in your digital measurement platform such as Google Analytics, Hootsuite, HubSpot, Salesforce, or Facebook Ads Manager gives you real time access or the ability to schedule regular reports to share with management.

Measure micro-conversions to map the customer journey.

Identifying and measuring micro-conversions on the way to macro-conversion can map out customer journeys. Micro-conversions help you understand human behavior giving insight to optimize strategies and tactics. Analyze metrics by tactic KPI to determine how many people are completing the customer journey and where you are losing or retaining people. This does not mean you will map one journey for all or even most customers. Google click stream data of thousands of customers found no two journeys were alike – varying from 1-176 days and 65-600 touchpoints across categories, brands and products. The marketing funnel still applies, but consumers have more control and options in moving themselves from awareness and consideration to conversion, loyalty and advocacy. Today it is more like a marketing scatter plot. The best you can do is optimize the touchpoint clusters around funnel stages and use CRM data for personalized content.

Conduct experiments to optimize strategies and tactics.

Having a good measurement plan that includes both micro- and macro-conversions enables you to know which tactics and strategies are contributing the most to company performance. From there you can experiment with different tactics and strategies replacing low performing ones to optimize social media. The results of a social media audit can help identify which strategies and tactics to experiment with first. While no two customer journeys are alike your micro-conversion and macro-conversion data can identify clusters of touchpoints versus outliers. Focus optimization efforts where many of your customers engage in the funnel stages on their  unique journey. Also deliver custom messages through unique customer tracking such as Google Analytics User-ID. Ultimately you want lower your cost per result or conversion.

The benefits of social media measurement plan.

Going through this process can take considerable time and effort. But once you have the plan in place the benefits are numerous. A social media measurement plan:

  1. Collects the right data to answer company performance questions.
  2. Creates reports or dashboards to share with decision makers.
  3. Allows analysis of segments of your social media plan.
  4. Enables testing different solutions to improve social efforts.
  5. Helps lower your costs per result or conversion.

Do you have a social media measurement plan? What else could help improve marketer confidence in social media’s contribution to company performance? A good first step is to Perform A Social Media Audit and as social spending increases Ask These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Strategy.