Data-Driven Marketing Is Thriving, Creating A New Science Around Producing Results From Inbound Marketing
At Square 2 Marketing, one of our core values is “practice what we preach.” We are constantly testing different ways to execute inbound marketing with the goal being demand generation for our own business. When you notice changes in our execution, you can be sure it’s part of an experiment we’re running.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been testing a few science-oriented blog articles on inbound marketing. The goal is to improve rankings, drive views and convert readers into leads. We had one on search and one on engagement metrics, and in full transparency, the views and conversion rates on these articles have been almost double our “regular” articles.
When experiments exceed expectations, we lean into the results and double down, just like we do for our clients. Today, we’re launching “The Science Of Inbound Marketing” series for all our fans, followers and friends.
Here’s what you need to know about the science of inbound to produce a scalable, predictable and repeatable lead generation machine for your business.
Scientists Always Have A Theory Or Hypothesis They’re Testing
Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla all had ideas, theories and hypotheses that they were focused on proving, such as the theory of relativity, the light bulb and the alternating current system. These guys used science to figure out their specific challenges.
Inbound marketing is no different. Today, you have access to data on every single aspect of your marketing program. If you don’t have access to this information, then you need to make an investment in time and potentially money to get access to this information. Google Analytics is a great place to start and it’s completely free. It’s going to take time to weed through the data, but it delivers the metrics and the access for many aspects of your marketing.
Looking for more access and an easier way to analyze the data? Consider investing in a marketing automation system like HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot or Eloqua. These systems provide you a ton of data that’s easy to access, easy to analyze and easy to act on. Once you start to view your marketing quantitatively, you’ll start to establish the theories and hypotheses around what’s working. Next, you’ll be able to prove your assumptions and show hard data to support your approach, making marketing a science.
Everything Is Quantitative
Marketing has been quantitative for a long time; this isn’t new. What’s new is the real-time access to the data. In the past, you did advertising, direct mail or attended a trade show and you could see if sales increased, but could you attribute that increase to any of these marketing events? Not really.
Today, everything we do for clients is 100% quantifiable. Every email you send, every website page you publish, every content offer you create, every nurturing campaign you blast and every guest blog article you publish comes with specific measurable goals and the actual performance data that follows.
You don’t have to wait months to see if something produced results. Instead, you can know the next day. This is incredibly empowering. Need more website visitors this month? Run two additional social media promotions, get an extra guest blog published and look at on-site optimization improvements. In a day or two, review the results.
Need more leads? Update a highly-visited blog with a new CTA button. Publish a new e-book on your highly-visited website page. Share a high-value content offer on the right social media site and in the right persona-focused groups. Watch the results and adjust your execution accordingly. In days, not weeks or months, you’ll know how it worked. Everything is quantitative.
You Need A Testing Methodology
Wanting to be a marketing scientist and actually being one are two different things. It takes practice to get good at finding the insights buried in the data, figuring out how to act on those insights and then creating an action plan that turns insights into improved program performance.
One of the best ways to fast-forward this is to create a testing methodology. This way, you follow your process over and over again, allowing you to adjust it over time and make it better and better. Here’s how we approach testing.
Analyze: Regular review of the data and results produces opportunities to peel back the onion, but you need a step-by-step process for looking at data for hidden insights.
Review: It’s one thing to go through this on your own, but it’s another to have a team of people brainstorming and strategizing on the performance data. Two or three brains are better than one.
Respond: What do you need to do to take advantage of the insights? What tests do you need to run? Which experiments are going to produce the biggest impact or lift to the numbers for the least amount of effort? Who needs to be involved?
Action: Execute the plan, tests and experiment. Report the results, in real time if necessary, and at agreed-to intervals if real time doesn’t make sense.
This process is a rinse-and-repeat process. It never stops; it cycles at whatever pace you think it needs to cycle. At Square 2 Marketing, we run two-week sprints, and this becomes part of each sprint planning process.
You Need A Knowledge Base
It’s going to be harder in the beginning to know what to look for, what tests to run and what to expect. Even using the methodology might be tricky. It’s going to be easier if you have a knowledge base to back you up — a resource or team that helps point you in the right direction. For instance, look at this and look at it this way, or take this slice of the data because it shows you this.
When we look at overall website visitor data, we look at all the incoming sources and we look at it over a 13-month period. Why? This view of the data uncovers the trends in the most obvious way and it allows us to compare this month vs. last month and this month vs. the same month last year in the same view. You might not know to try this if you’re new to the science of marketing.
A Lot Of Little Improvements Produce Big Results
With expectations, it’s important to keep them reasonable. It’s going to take time to see results from using the testing methodology, an Agile approach to marketing and data to drive decision-making. You’re placing a lot of little bets instead of one giant bet. When you add up the impact that small adjustments can have over time, it usually translates into a major lift.
For example, we helped one of our clients improve their site-wide conversion rate from 3% to almost 9% over the course of 10 months. At the same time, we improved their website visitor traffic by 50%. The combined effort took them from 50 leads a month to over 200 leads a month. Those are some major inbound improvements.
Failed Tests Tell An Important Story
Before we wrap up, let’s be clear that every experiment is productive in moving the program forward. Thomas Edison made over 1,000 unsuccessful attempts to create the light bulb. After each attempt, he learned what not to do again and was committed to figuring it out. You need that same attitude.
When experiments fail, it’s still a win because you learned something. Knowing what not to do is perhaps even more important than knowing what to do.
Making the transition from art to science doesn’t have to be scary and it doesn’t mean everything you’re doing is now subject to review with some obscure metric. It does mean that for the first time in the history of marketing, you clearly see what’s working better than expected, what’s working as expected and what might not be working as well as expected. It does mean that you get real-time feedback on your marketing and it does mean that you’re now able to use data to produce better business results for your company.
This is the first step toward creating a lead generation machine for your company. It means you’ll be able to predict the number of leads the sales team should expect this month, next month and every month for the remainder of the year. This is a major milestone in the evolution of marketing. You owe it to your company and to your own professional development to explore the science of inbound marketing and start deploying it at your company.
Before you know it, you’ll be a marketing superstar and join the ranks of marketing scientists everywhere.
Square 2 Marketing – Innovating Marketing And Sales To Match Today’s Buyer Behavior!