Blog

February 6, 2011

Staying ahead in the marketing game through research and experimentation

Rob at "Software by Rob" wrote very recently: "Your traffic sources have a half-life".
In other words, your much coveted traffic sources often come in rapid
spikes that go as quickly as they come, as surely as the decaying of
natural radioactive elements that give rise to the term "half-life".
This is very true - Rob demonstrated the fleeting nature of these
traffic sources through an in-depth study of his own website's traffic
sources.
 

Marketing Cycle
Marketing Circle - from www.nald.ca

To
every expansion stage marketing manager: the truth is that all
temporary boosts in traffic will go away eventually, be it a TechCrunch
mention, a chance mention in the Wall Street Journal's technology
section, or a feature article in Inc.com. The same holds true in my
experience with analyzing a prospect's marketing performance as part of
our due diligence, or with assisting portfolio company managers in
identifying marketing channels and attractive traffic sources.

However,
this is often forgotten in most online marketing channels reviews
processes. Many times, an inexperienced manager will become enamored
with past viral successes and try in vain to replicate those
instances. In other cases, a marketing team will focus solely on their
competitor's marketing sources and try to replicate their outstanding
performance while not realizing that their success was achieved by a
more comprehensive marketing strategy, of which the traffic boosts were
just the superficial outcomes.

Indeed, we encourage our companies
to implement a regular process for reviewing and re-prioritizing their
marketing channels. Furthermore, they have to be constantly on the
market for new marketing channels and marketing opportunities. In order
to evaluate new marketing channels or mediums, they will need to
experiment with them in rapid iterations so they can arrive at a
conclusion quickly.

A marketing mix for a predominantly online
software company should be reviewed and adjusted very regularly. For
example, keyword groups, which are effectively traffic sources for
search engine marketing, should be adjusted at least on a weekly basis.
Paid advertising should be reviewed monthly or more often if possible.
In the new, wonderful world of influence marketing, companies should
always be looking for new influencers, and re-examine its existing list
of influencers and their engagement with them.

Rob also sensibly
pointed out that the key to sustainable success is to turn this short
term, high volume traffic into stable, long term sources such as the
traffic gained from an email list or RSS subscription, or even those who
turn into users. Interestingly, based on this information, I would
argue that one should not rely on short term spikes for business growth,
but one should definitely view them as input into building and
expanding the perception of the "brand". I would submit that having your
brand in people's consciousness is almost as good as acquiring their
names for your email list. Of course, it is still better if you can
eventually convert these brand conscious prospects into subscribed
readers, but at least ephemeral traffic can lead to something more
substantial.

Seems like, then, a marketer's life is a constant
uphill battle against diminishing returns and fleeting prospect's
attention. However, there is a lot of resources out there to help the
aspiring online marketers through the continuing process of research and
experimentation on all types of marketing channels.

Experts like those Conversion Rates Experts at conversion-rate-experts.com, Marketing Experiments, marketing analytics luminaries such as Avinash Kaushik who wrote Web Analytics 2.0, David Cancel at Performable and Hiten Shah at KISSMetrics,
are always sharing great ideas, insights and practical advice on this
process. We are big fans of those experts here at OpenView, and we try
to apply the same paradigm to our work and to our own resource site, www.openviewlabs.com.
We have a weekly review of our key marketing statistics to inform our
adjustments in our ongoing content marketing, influence marketing and
brand building activities.

We still have a lot to learn and would
love to hear from your own experience in managing, experimenting and
adjusting your marketing mix as well.

Tien Anh Nguyen is an Associate with OpenView Venture Partners in Boston.  You can find this post, as well as additional content on OpenView's blog located here. You can also follow Tien on Twitter (@tienanh) by clicking here.