Imagine this scenario: as an experienced digital marketer, you have multiple sources of acquisition: SEO, SEM, display advertising, print advertising, social media, and even offline events or tradeshows. All of those potential customers funnel into your website at various entry points and with varying moments in their decision life cycle. Your website, primed for these audiences, responds with the perfect message to each person, using data about that person, the campaign they responded to and their activity on your site to instantly deliver tailored content. Your site is perfectly tuned — thanks to A/B and multivariate testing — and linked to an engagement plan via marketing automation that gracefully leads the visitor through their purchase life cycle, ultimately delivering you a qualified lead or sales conversion. And on the backend, you have this amazing 360-degree view of that lead, includingevery interaction they have had with your brand. Sounds utopian, right? My guess is that you may have even been sold this vision before by one of the thousands of software vendors in the marketing technology landscape or an agency or SI that implements them.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great vision and it’s ultimately why we’re all in this business. Like all great visions, the challenge is getting from here to there. Most companies admit to being on the “immature” side of the Sitecore Customer Experience Maturity Model, somewhere around Initiate or Radiate. While there is more nuance to digital marketing maturity than found in the Sitecore model, it covers the basics. For marketers on the left side of the scale, the biggest challenge is knowing how to find the path to the right. It’s easy to stand still, in a state of paralysis.
So how do you get moving? Slowly. This is a marathon, not a sprint. And the speed with which you accelerate will depend on how quickly you and your organization can embrace new ways of thinking and new ways of doing. The formula is simple though: Crawl, Walk, Run.
No matter where you start the race, you want to be sure you have the right shoes on – they’re the foundation for your journey:
You need a mobile-optimized, content-rich website. You need a solid understanding of your audiences, their need states and their journeys through engagement with your site and brand. And you need to be on a current version of Sitecore with xDB enabled, configured and collecting data about your users’ interactions. Out of the box, Sitecore will provide you the basic analytics that you would typically find in a Google Analytics report. You’ll want to start by building on those base analytics: identifying goals and assigning values to them. In Sitecore’s terms, these goals and their values become your Engagement Value Scale. They show the relationship between a given activity on your website and the likelihood to convert. Example goals in a B2B environment might include:
- Visiting a product page
- Downloading a product brochure or whitepaper PDF
- Watching a product demonstration video
- Signing up for a webinar
- Requesting a demo or sample
- Requesting a quote or sales contact
Each of the above goals is assigned a point value in Sitecore. So a visit to a product page might have a value of 1, while requesting a quote might have a value of 6. Sitecore lets you track each visitor’s journey toward conversion over the full sales cycle, providing you with the starting point from which you can build your digital marketing engagement plans.
With your fundamentals in place, you’re ready to implement the next set of capabilities: campaign management and testing.
Campaign management is relevant for companies that do any type of email marketing, PPC, social media or display advertising. This capability allows you to track incoming traffic to your site from all of those sources, and measure the value of that traffic over time. Many analytics systems will provide the basic traffic reports by campaign, but fail to give you insight on how well those campaigns deliver on actually converting visitors. Sitecore’s campaign management capabilities track the value of a visitor throughout all touchpoints over multiple visits, giving you a clearer picture on the ROI on your advertising spend.
A/B & Multivariate testing
When you have a better understanding of engagement value, you can start optimizing your site for conversions. Sitecore offers both A|B and multivariate testing capabilities that enable you to test individual components (or sections) of a page, or entire pages. Sitecore can automatically choose test winners based on your specific criteria, based on the engagement values that you set in your crawl stage.
Every marketer’s goal is to deliver relevance, and personalized experiences are the “new normal” when it comes to being relevant to you target audiences. Sitecore enables both implicit and explicit personalization of digital experiences:
Explicit personalization changes your content and/or user experience based on information known about the visitor. Examples include the visitor’s location, their industry, the campaign they responded to, how many times they’ve visited, etc. You can create simple rules like, “if visitor responded to campaign ‘ABC’ then show this component. “Or you can create complex rules that combine many known facts, “if visitor is located in Texas and has visited the site at least 2 times and responded to campaign ‘ABC,’ then show this component.”
Implicit personalization changes the content or user experience based on information assumed or inferred about the visitor. For example: If a user just bought a vacuum cleaner on your website, you might assume that they also need vacuum cleaner bags, and you could display a special offer to them for bags. If a visitor is browsing a lot of content about caring for dogs, you might assume they are getting ready to adopt and show them dogs that are available in their area.
This type of personalization has the power to really reach visitors with content that is tailored to their interests, but it does require some legwork. I explore the details of personalization in my previous post “8 Steps to Start Your Personalization Journey”
Most critically, understand that reaching that digital marketing pinnacle is truly a journey. You don’t get there overnight, and the pace at which you progress will depend in large part on how quickly you master each step along the crawl-walk-run. Avoid the temptation to try and do everything at once. Start with the basics (analytics & engagement value scoring); add campaign management & A|B testing; then move on to content and experience personalization. On each step of the journey, set benchmarks and success criteria, so you can understand and report on your progress, and you can revise your plan if you’re not meeting your goals. True marketing ROI is not that far off – this is how you get there!