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It’s a painful reality of today’s world. And you may see it even more than I do. Year-over-year, as a marketer, you continuously face a grim reality of how to achieve more with less. We all watch the lines between marketing and sales continue to blur, and companies focus on allocating marketing dollars to tactics that will directly contribute to revenue goals.

Spend five minutes searching and you’ll encounter dozens of blogs talking about the latest lead-generating techniques using PPC (pay-per-click) ads, the hottest new social media marketing trend, the latest in content marketing, or new marketing automation to attract new customers.

Know your “end” goals before tackling the “means”

What if I said that the biggest marketing challenge companies face is not knowing which latest and greatest tactic will drive the most leads, but first developing an effective strategy to reach them? Taking thoughtful steps to clearly identify your end goals and map the best route to get there is required before you can expect your means to deliver for you.

In the realm of direct response, an effective strategy (or lack thereof) is most often the difference between a mediocre fiscal quarter and a game-changing one. Without a sound strategy, your finest efforts with the hippest, coolest marketing tactics will likely perform marginally. Strategy provides the plan for achieving a goal. It considers which tactics to use … and highlights the optimal approach.

So to minimize the risk of wasting time, money, effort, and opportunity … before embarking on your next digital direct response campaign, ask yourself these five questions:

1. What are your campaign goals—specifically?
It is fair to assume that your campaign’s ultimate goal is to “drive revenue.” But you should always strive to set concrete, quantitative goals to help you zero-in on what success looks like as much as possible. Too often we follow nebulous goals such as “I want to increase my leads.” Smart marketers should always ask for a specific number to increase leads. Your marketing budget may sound like a healthy number, but if it is stretched too much, your goals may not be attainable. This simple step will allow you to set (or reset) expectations ahead of time and avoid heartache down the road.

Signs 2. Who is your target audience—really?
After articulating your campaign goals, next think about who you need to reach. “Head of household under age 55” isn’t a clear enough picture to execute against. Developing personas – even if they encapsulate only a few targeting parameters – can help:

I know my typical buyers are men(1) aged 30-45(2) who live in the suburbs(3), own their own home(4), and earn $100k or more per year(5). That’s five data points you can use to reach your audience.

Considerations for demographic, geographic, and psychographic factors will typically yield more qualified results than simply age and gender alone. The better you understand your target audience, the more easily you’ll be able to find and (ultimately) convert them.

3. What motivates them to buy or respond—beyond price?
Once you’ve identified your audience’s goals and the situations that drive the desired action (as well as obstacles to action), you can start to develop strategy and messaging. At DMW Direct, we craft specific messages that will resonate with your targets and drive them to respond.

Multiple targets may require different versions of copy based on what will drive them to act, so we do not typically settle on a one-size-fits-all approach. This means ignoring copy that is heavy in industry jargon, unless it is specifically what the target user would search for. Keep content simple and focus on utilizing the least amount of copy that clearly highlights your message and call to action.

(If you are paying attention, you’ve likely noticed that the first three “questions to ask” were not exclusive to digital direct marketing.)

4. What are the appropriate digital tactics to convert them?
In conjunction with knowing your target audience and their behaviors, you should leverage a combination of online tactics that will allow you to reach your targets and entice them to respond. Before you decide on the best tactics, consider factors such as:

  • Past experience – Review previous customer behaviors as an indicator of whether your program will succeed. Evaluate channels, creative, messaging, offers, price points, timing, and more to know which tactics to repeat and which to abandon.
  • Device preference – On which devices does your audience consume data? Targeting Millennials would likely call for a “mobile first” strategy while targeting Boomers calls for a blended approach using desktop and mobile.
  • Multiple digital touch points – Depending on the complexity of your sale or action, you’ll likely deploy more than one digital tactic (e.g., email, PPC, SEM, and display to name a few) in order to convert. If you know more information about the user such as their email address, then consider leveraging a CRM strategy to send triggered email messages (e.g., “Bob, we noticed that you never completed your enrollment form. Can we help you?”).
  • Methods of conversion – Make it clear and easy for your targets to do what you want them to do once they get to your site. Don’t make them work hard to fulfill the goal – lead them exactly where they need to be. Make the action obvious and easy to fulfill.

quote5. How can you optimize your digital direct marketing campaign?
Circling back to your measurable campaign goals, identify which data points are the most important to determine success and track them throughout the initiative. Which tactics are providing the highest number of conversions for the lowest cost? Remember, it’s not just about generating traffic, but converting your traffic! Don’t neglect results or insights you can leverage from offline campaign initiatives that influence your online strategy and tactics.

Optimization is an ongoing process. Do not wait until the end of a campaign to measure success. Look for specific key performance indicators (KPIs) and pivot where necessary. Are individuals not performing the desired action? If you identify any obstacles or roadblocks, determine how to remove them as quickly as possible to get back on course.

Additionally, look for trends that will showcase the audience segments that are converting with the greatest regularity. Can you enhance the campaign by only targeting that specific segment? Leverage multiple data sources if necessary.

Bottom line, analytics can tell you “who, what, where and when,” but they won’t directly tell you “why.” Try to learn the reason for your campaign’s performance. If the results to date are good, then attempt to exploit them. If they’re bad, then you must pivot.

Your campaign is finished. What should you do next?
What should you do after your targets take the desired action? When and how should you begin to focus on retaining the people you’ve converted?

I’ll address customer retention and related issues in another post. Until then, learn more about how DMW Direct can help you with your next digital direct response campaign.