Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

How Target Increased Their Stock Price by 50% with a Digital Transformation Strategy

Today, Target is both a household name and a trusted destination for millions of American shoppers.

But, back in 2013, a serious, widespread data breach compromised the personal and payment information of upwards of 110 million Target customers. The breach resulted in a 40% drop in profits for that year. 

This nightmare scenario proved pivotal, as it inspired Target to invest in their digital future. With the start of the pandemic in 2020, they shifted gears once again, reinvesting in curb-side pickup and same day delivery projects they kicked off in 2017. 

Let this serve as a reminder to any retailer, large or small, that there’s always room to pivot and make a comeback. But critically, why wait for a disaster when you can proactively stay ahead of one? That’s why it’s so important to begin developing a framework for a modern digital customer experience (DCX) before something bad, like Target’s data breach, happens to you.

In this article, I’ll share examples of Target’s digital strategy—from centering the customer experience to personalized messaging and pandemic pivoting—that are bound to inspire any customer-centric marketing team looking to level up their DCX.

Top Tip: A successful digital transformation needs a starting point so that teams are aligned on actionable strategies and desired outcomes. Learn how to create a digital transformation roadmap 🐼

Table of contents

Pivoting with the pandemic

Last year, due to the pandemic, a record 12,200 stores closed, according to commercial real estate firm CoStar Group. Those who survived and thrived strategically and quickly pivoted to serve a consumer not keen on leaving their home. 

In other words, they went through a digital transformation. A digital transformation allows brands to serve customers personalized, intuitive, and seamless digital experiences. Even when not on their computer (for example, when a customer is picking up an online order at a physical Target store), the customer’s omnichannel experience is easy and efficient.

Target’s digital transformation in particular allowed them to serve their customers sensitively, efficiently, and strategically. 

Here’s an example of how Target tailored its digital experience to seamlessly fit the circumstances many retailers were struggling to navigate at the start of the pandemic:

screenshot target digital transformation banner

This friendly and inviting banner shows customers that it’s still as easy as ever for them to shop (and follow pandemic guidelines) at Target. Once they find their item(s), they can choose between three methods for receiving their order: Pickup, Delivery, or Drive Up. 

To leverage Drive Up, or the ability to place an order, drive to Target, and have your items delivered to your car, customers need to download the Target app. Target was incredibly clever when making this decision, as it allows them to boost app downloads, collect customer data, and thus provide highly personalized and relevant experiences and offers. 

Of course, it’s not enough just to encourage customers to download your app; you need to give them a reason why. By downloading the app, users gain access to app-only features, such as the ability to apply your savings to your purchases when you pay through the app, and, of course, the option to order with Drive Up, use real-time check-in, and sit back and wait for your items to come to you.

screenshot banner to encourage customers to download the target app

Critical to Target’s (and any) digital transformation is understanding the customer journey at every stage. It’s also crucial to be able to adapt to changes in the customer journey as new circumstances arise. 

With the pandemic, more customers were hesitant to shop in-store. Target needed to immediately adapt and include options that enabled customers to shop easily and efficiently without entering a physical storefront. 

Of course, these changes would be impossible to implement overnight. Because of Target’s 2013 data breach and subsequent dedication to its omnichannel experience and software development, much of the infrastructure was in place to make it simple for shoppers to buy online or pick up in person. Nevertheless, their commendable emphasis on the customer journey allowed them to quickly react when that journey drastically changed. 

Top Tip: The modern customer’s attention is split in so many directions, so to deliver the best results, you need to optimize each touchpoint of the digital experience. Learn how to create an exceptional digital experience in 2021 🐼

What has driven Target’s success so far?

As mentioned, Target’s success began before its pandemic pivot. It’s important to note that, especially after the data breach, Target could no longer afford to wait to digitally transform, despite the investment needed. 

But let Target serve as a cautionary tale—not everyone would survive a catastrophic event like Target’s data breach, let alone thrive after one. For this reason, we encourage businesses to think of digital transformation as foundational to a successful future, rather than a “nice to have.”

Target needed to move forward in maturing digitally by developing a framework for a modern digital customer experience. Many brands can relate to feeling limited by an existing infrastructure, not to mention the sticker shock executives may feel when they understand the time and money necessary to rebuild it. But if Target shows us anything, it’s that these investments can, and likely will, pay dividends in your future success. 

Let’s take a look at just what has driven Target’s success to date. 

Top Tip: Investing in your digital infrastructure requires approval from all of your stakeholders. Learn how to get boardroom buy-in for your digital maturity initiatives 🐼

Investing in employees 

Target brought its IT work back in-house after recognizing that outsourced IT projects were costing them a fortune, often ran late, and were of poor quality. 

Additionally, Target provides higher wages and better training than competitors. They raised their starting wages three times in three years, expanded family-focused benefits, invested heavily in training and career-building programs and offer agile scheduling to fit individual needs.

The long-term vision here is to be a sought-after employer, and therefore have more demand for positions so they can select and hire the best talent. This in turn has a direct impact on customers, as happier employees are often highly motivated to provide a positive customer experience.

Supply chain optimization and operations

To offset the cost of higher employee wages and better training, Target increased efficiencies throughout their supply chain. By supporting the warehouse team with robotics and artificial intelligence used to sort millions of products by store and aisle, Forbes reports that this enabled stores to avoid “out-of-stock” situations. 

With machines focused on sorting, humans have time to do what they’re best at—creating connections with customers and providing an outstanding experience. 

Another operational strategy Target has executed well is small store formats. You may have shopped in a City Target, which is often smaller and stocks only items deemed essential to urban life. 

Similarly, in 2018, Target opened 10 “Life on Campus” small-format stores near college campuses. According to Target, their team tailors each store to the needs of its surrounding community

Scott Timpani, store team leader at Target’s University Center, University of California Irvine location, explains one example:

“During the school year, about 10,000 students each day cross a pedestrian bridge that starts on campus and ends a few steps from our back entrance. Knowing these guests are often heading to class or simply in a hurry, we have four self-checkout kiosks next to the doors so they can quickly complete purchases and be on their way. And for guests who have more time to spend, we’ve created a cozy seating area near Starbucks complete with outlets for charging their devices.”

Once again, Target shows the importance of deeply understanding the customer journey. And it’s a smart tactic—by embracing young adults away from home for the first time and giving them the items they need, when and how they need them, they’re working to create life-long loyal customers. 

Vendor collaboration and strategic partnerships

Target has done an amazing job of introducing its customers to new products thanks to partnering with direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands. Many of these smaller brands, such as dog wellness startup Jinx, come with loyal followings. Jinx’s loyal customers get to shop their favorite items with ease at Target, and both brands get to grow awareness by expanding into new markets. 

In addition to working with thoughtful and strategic vendors, Target focuses on customer feedback both in the design process and in selecting brands to work with. Through focus groups and creative apps, the design team can build products and initiatives that delight customers while fueling growth and revenue. 

Another strategic partnership that has fueled growth at Target is Shipt, which the retailer acquired in 2017 for $550 million. The purchase of this online same-day delivery platform accounted for 80% of Target’s digital growth in Q4 2019. Because of Target’s newly optimized IT team, the integration of the technology was efficient and able to show results and sales growth right away. 

Location(s)

With 1,900 stores nationwide, there is a Target store within 10 miles of the vast majority of the US population. This investment in physical stores gives Target a competitive advantage over retailers focusing either solely on a digital strategy or that don’t have many brick and mortar locations.

As with previously mentioned City Target and Life on Campus stores, not only is nearly every American located near a Target, but many are conveniently located to stores relevant to their needs. 

screenshot target small format stores near college campuses map

Target makes it easy to be a loyal customer

Through rewards, easy navigation of top discounts, and special offers, Target’s digital channels make it easy to become a loyal customer. 

How it works: Target Circle and RedCard Exclusives 

Just like Target unlocks curbside pickup when you download the app, customers must first sign up for a Target.com account before they’re able to join Target Circle. The loyalty program features 1% earnings, exclusive deals, community support, and a birthday gift for members. 

screenshot target app target circle benefits module user interface

The circle membership feels almost gamified, with chances to earn at nearly every touchpoint. Members can earn points by scanning their mobile number in store, shopping with their Target.com account, linking their RedCard, or scanning a Target receipt. 

In addition to Target Circle, Target has its own credit card, with its own set of benefits (of course, you get the most benefits when you have both). 

Your RedCard provides you with a 5% discount every time you shop at Target (including in-store Starbucks locations), free shipping, even more exclusive offers, and an additional 30 days for returns. 

How it shows up

This sizable, proudly displayed focus on customer loyalty, as well as gifts and rewards, would be enticing for just about any shopper who regularly shops at Target (or who doesn’t…yet!). 

screenshot everyday redcard benefits landing page

On all of its digital channels (including its e-commerce site, email, and social media), Target makes it easy both to identify what there is for loyal customers to gain, as well as join in and reap the benefits. 

Additionally, you may notice that all of Target’s messaging caters to the customer. This may sound obvious, but as marketers, we know it’s always more important to tout the benefits over the features. Target doesn’t just tell us why we should become loyal customers, it shows us time and again how becoming a loyal Target shopper will benefit our lives. 

On the RedCard landing page, they feature two common pain points that customers face: feeling overwhelmed by how much they spend on groceries per year, and being hit with tons of expenses for a newborn:

screenshot redcard landing page customer pain points

By stating exactly how much money you can save in those two scenarios with their RedCard, customers feel like their experiences are taken into account. They feel understood, relieved, and ready to save.

What’s next for America’s favorite big box retailer?

Target has a lot of momentum, and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. I mentioned earlier how robots have enabled faster picking and packing, keeping shelves stocked and employees focused on the customer. But that’s not the only way robotics and machine learning (ML) will impact the brand’s bottom line in the future.

Using predictive analytics, Target is able to forecast demand and in-store traffic. As Target CIO Mike McNamara explained to diginomica, “We’ve always had reasonable statistical models in the past, but ML just allows us to become increasingly sophisticated. I don’t know an exact number, but probably about 20% of our replenishment products are through some new ML models that we’ve created.”

In addition to artificial intelligence, customers may soon be receiving their Target orders even faster. Chief Operating Officer John Mulligan recently announced that new distribution centers will be constructed on each US coast in 2022. 

Key takeaways

Target has made an impressive amount of progress in the eight years since its security breach. Not only did it overcome every retailer’s worst nightmare, but Target used it as a catalyst for digital transformation and omnichannel success that not even a global pandemic could shake. 

In maintaining a customer first approach to its entire omnichannel experience, Target has excelled at gaining and retaining customer loyalty. I’m excited to see what’s next for the retailer, and I believe there’s much for our customers to learn from Target’s past success, as well as what the future holds. 

Whether your company is looking to improve digital sales or automation, building a roadmap, updating your business model, or striving for optimization or differentiation in a different way, there’s something Target can teach just about every retail business.

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
cdp vs dmp header
Shamir Duverseau

CDP vs DMP: What’s Best for Customer-Driven Marketers?

Whether you’re looking to optimize your customer experience, strategize on how to spend your digital advertising budget, or centralize your customer data, you’ve probably come across two types of data systems in your research: a customer data platform (CDP) and a data management platform (DMP).

Investing in a new system demands a lot of your team’s resources, so we recommend starting the process by getting clear about what types of data you want, where data sets may already live within your digital marketing systems, and what you plan to accomplish with new or centralized data once you have it. 

With your organization’s objectives in mind, it will be easier to understand why and when you would choose a CDP or DMP. 

In this article, we break down the key differences and similarities between CDPs and DMPs. We also share our thoughts on when a marketing team might want to invest based on their priorities, goals, and overall needs. 

Table of contents

What is the difference between a DMP and a CDP?

Ultimately, whether you choose a CDP or DMP will depend on your organizational structure, existing tools and resources, and overall marketing goals. But before we dive into the specifics of what both a CDP and DMP have to offer, let’s take a look at some of the key differences between these two types of data platforms. 

DMPs are great for agencies working with multiple clients who each have different markets (such as a creative ad agency). While a CDP can help companies with a single customer base understand their own customer-centric data.

DMPs store anonymous data, while CDPs unify your first-party data

DMPs pull information from many sources (usually third-party data from online and offline) to provide anonymous data on market segments who may not already be your customers. CDPs pull information from all of your touchpoints, creating user profiles and unifying your customer intelligence

So, while DMPs can help you make sense of the data you already have, they won’t necessarily provide you with data completely unique to your organization’s audience. 

For example, a DMP might be helpful if your brand wants to start targeting women with household income over $100k living in the Midwest (a segment not currently in your existing customer base). A DMP can give you insights into this market so you can better understand their needs and pain points.

A CDP might be helpful if you want to know how well your existing customers are responding to your marketing efforts, such as how well they’re converting on a landing page. With a CDP, you can find out which of your current segments are engaging and which are bouncing off the page.

DMPs do not store personally identifiable information

DMPs do not store personally identifiable information (PII), including identifiers like names and email addresses, while CDPs do. DMPs work mainly with data sources like cookie IDs and IP addresses and then store  the learning anonymously. DMP data is usually available to other organizations that use the DMP, so it won’t help you understand your own customers on a granular level.

Data storage and retention differs in a CDP vs DMP

DMP data is retained for relatively short periods compared to a CDP. This is because a DMP is primarily used for ad targeting and needs the most relevant and up-to-date information. If a media agency is creating a video to target parents with newborns, they want to use the most recent data, not data from five years ago.

A CDP has a more prolonged and individualized approach to tracking and storing data. The more data a company has on their customers, the better they can understand their base.

Commonalities between a CDP and DMP

CDPs and DMPs can both be hugely effective in centralizing the data you need to reach more customers. Each has its specific use cases, but both capture insightful information that can be used to drive strategic marketing decisions.

CDPs and DMPs both analyze the data they collect and generate reports to make that data more digestible. Each system is designed to pull from different sources, but both will help you make sense of the information available.

Both CDPs and DMPs can help drive leads. Which tool you use in this case will depend on if you’re looking for leads in a new market or if you want more leads from your existing market. But both systems can help you gain insights to execute tailored campaigns. 

CDP: The window into customer behavior

A CDP is a tool that synthesizes your customer information from across multiple channels, so you can ultimately create a better digital experience for your leads and customers. It’s not the same as a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, which is mainly designed for customer-facing roles so salespeople can develop relationships.

A CDP may be better for your organization if you’re looking to ramp up a marketing strategy like personalization or retargeting. This is because a CDP tracks personal customer insights like email address, name, phone number, and location, whereas a DMP stores only anonymous data.

A CDP can effectively centralize user data from various sources like your website, email, and social media. Because a CDP keeps track of both demographic and behavioral data, you can see patterns more quickly than in a DMP, where accuracy of the data improves over time. 

So, with a CDP in place, you can get to know your customer faster and better understand their engagement and behavior. 

For example, a CDP can help you see that certain segments see a lot of customer engagement every time they receive a marketing email offering a discount. However, they never engage with marketing campaigns that include scarcity messaging (e.g., “only 5 items left in this style”). You can use this information to target this segment with more effective discount-based messaging.

Building a loyalty program with CDP data

While both CDP and DMP systems can be helpful in targeting new customers, CDPs tend to be more useful when building loyalty and retention. 

Modern marketers know that today’s customer expects tailored messaging and relevant ads. When we watch Netflix, suggestions appear based on a user’s personal viewing history—not just what others in our demographic may like. This level of personalization matters to today’s consumer, and is critical to building brand loyalty. 

Since CDPs store personal data, and DMPs don’t, it’s much easier to personalize and cater to individuals using this tool. You can personalize your marketing and advertising using a variety of methods in conjunction with your CDP data. 

Here’s an example of what that might look like in practice:

cdp tool usage example dsw website personalized for rewards members
Source: Shopify

In this example, we see that DSW personalized its website for rewards members. When this customer, “Danielle”, visits the website, she’s greeted by name and reminded of her exact position within the rewards program. It encourages her to shop by showing her how close she is to rewards. You can see how this level of personalization wouldn’t be possible without DSW’s data system knowing exactly who each customer is and how they shop. 

Of course, this group of loyal customers’ data becomes important to analyze. You’ll likely find information from them that will help you more effectively advertise and market to others.

DMP: Collecting audience data from multiple sources

A DMP collects and manages large amounts of information from third-party sources (data collected from various external sources) and sometimes second-party sources (first-party data sold to another company). 

It uses this information most commonly to create lookalike audiences for ad campaigns based on existing customer data.

So, if yours is a relatively new organization, a DMP can be extremely helpful in building your top-of-funnel audience and retargeting functionality. By inputting anonymized identifying characteristics for your ideal customer, a DMP can build lookalike target audiences to begin advertising to.

This might look like wanting to target women in their thirties who live in Manhattan. Of course, within that audience segment, there are tons of different backgrounds, motivations, desires, interests, and financial situations—all of which will impact whether or not someone within this segment is interested in your product. 

Ideally, a DMP can fit into your larger marketing technology stack, so that you can get more granular insights into your ideal customer profile and customer journey. 

One business may want a CDP for more personalized, loyalty-driven strategies that come into play lower down the funnel, while a DMP can help you get in front of more relevant potential customers. 

Which should you invest in?

You should begin to get a sense for whether a CDP or DMP is more relevant for your business. There is no right or wrong answer, just differences in capabilities that may make one tool better for your immediate needs. 

If you’re focused solely on growth—especially at the top of the funnel—a DMP might better fit your current needs. A DMP might also be a better fit if you’re trying to strategize ad spend or media buying. 

If customer loyalty or being more strategic with personalization is at the top of your marketing team’s list, you may want to look into a CDP. Remember that these tools can coexist and complement each other, so you may even find that you need both down the line. 

With third-party cookies being phased out, is a DMP worth it?

DMPs have been struggling to keep up with regulation. Both Google and Apple have made moves to abolish unauthorized harvesting of customer data. This makes it difficult for DMPs to collect the kind of data that marketers use to target their ads. But DMPs are also seeing marketers pull away from data collected in this way. More marketers want their data to be “responsibly sourced”.

However, all is not lost. Google is creating its own cookie alternative in an effort to compromise between consumer privacy and paid ads. And DMPs are beginning to shift against the disruption, too. Some, like Adform, are putting measures in place to use first-party cookies (a more accurate and helpful cookie) and are building data partnerships with publishers to gain access.

In answer to the question, is a DMP still worth it? If you’ve determined that DMP is the right solution for your business, then it depends. You’ll need to choose your DMP carefully and do a bit of research to see how their data is collected. The key will be to make sure your customers are always the focus. Put your brand in the best possible position for customers to trust you and want to do business with you.

Before you invest

Before investing in and implementing an entirely new system, it’s also important to understand the data you already have, where it lives, and how it affects your customer journey. When you can unify this existing data to the best of your ability, you can then more effectively demonstrate any gaps that exist to relevant stakeholders, and get buy-in from the rest of your marketing team. 

Showing where gaps exist and how aggregating data specific to either a CDP or DMP will help supplement your existing data, will help you and your team get clear on what you need, and get stakeholders on board

Key takeaways

Today’s consumer expects to see personalized, relevant information, whether they’re opening their email inbox, going to your website, exploring within your mobile app, or seeing an ad on social media. 

With help from tools like CDPs and DMPs, it’s possible to positively impact your entire marketing funnel with useful data to create relevant messaging at the right time, in the right place. The tool you ultimately choose to implement will be dependent on your immediate and longer-term marketing and business goals.

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

How to Get Boardroom Buy-In For Your Digital Maturity Initiatives

In today’s digital-first buying world, customer expectations have never been higher. As a result, companies are increasing their investments into digital transformation in an effort to improve their digital maturity. 

The global digital transformation market is forecast to grow from $469.8 billion in 2020 to $1,009.8 billion by 2025. Depending on where you are in the digital landscape, improving your digital maturity can be costly and resource-demanding. 

As a marketing leader, you may find yourself in a position to persuade stakeholders to invest in digital maturity. While it’s not a small or simple task, it has the power to transform your business. 

Here, we’ll discuss how best to approach stakeholders with a plan and strategy to improve your organization’s digital maturity. 

Table of contents

Collecting data to make an argument

It’s critical to begin this process by understanding your organization’s own digital maturity. Knowing how well you’re leveraging digital tools to optimize your customer experience is essential to laying the foundation of your argument. 

If you haven’t already done so, the first step toward crafting your pitch is centralizing your marketing data. Leveraging data to its fullest (which is necessary for personalization, a key component of advanced digital maturity) first relies on having easy access to that data. 

Top Tip: Learn how to gather and use data effectively in our guide to business intelligence for marketing 🐼

Once you have all your data in the same place, it’s time to dive in and unearth the most relevant insights that paint the picture of your organization’s digital maturity status.

For example, let’s say you deem your business to be in the developing stage of digital maturity, and you’re asking for resources to strategize moving to the maturing stage. In the developing stage, your organization is focused on a framework—everything that must be in place to personalize and tailor to users’ specific needs.

In the maturing stage, experimentation is crucial. Data from when, where, and how your marketing team has already made strides toward a more personalized user experience—and succeeded—would be hugely helpful in this instance.

You can also share examples of how competitors have optimized their digital customer experience; stakeholders will want to know where your business stacks up against the data you’re presenting to them. Let’s explore how to do this.

Compile a competitive analysis to show them how they might fall behind

Once you’ve helped reveal the general landscape and opportunities available to your own organization, it’s time to show examples of who is excelling because of their strong digital maturity. 

Remember to not only show stakeholders examples of what competitors are doing but why it’s working for those competitors. Validation can come in many forms: positive reviews, funding, vanity metrics, and more. 

You may not have access to their exact metrics, but you—or someone on your team—likely stays on top of monitoring the competition. Ask questions about your competitor’s recent movements, such as:

  • Have they launched any digital initiatives recently?
  • How are they personalizing their customer experience?
  • How are they building awareness for their brand in the digital space?

You can also gather qualitative data—things like reviews or social media comments—to show how they improved their customer experience by investing in their digital marketing strategy. Show how this data has changed because of their digital maturity by providing before and after evidence.

Share success stories to get them excited

There’s a balance to strike between demonstrating your organization’s room for digital growth and getting stakeholders excited to invest in the initiative. Finding success stories from brands who have implemented what you plan to do can help. 

Here are two examples from brands that were successful after digital maturation. 

Source: Business Insider

Fast-casual restaurant chain Chipotle upgraded its mobile app to allow customers to more easily customize their orders, keep track of their loyalty program rewards, and collect gamification items (such as badges). 

Chipotle’s VP of Digital Marketing credits the mobile app and loyalty program for their $2 billion in digital sales in the first nine months of 2021.

As another example, Smart Panda Labs worked with Wyndham Vacation Rentals to improve conversions so they can achieve their annual revenue goals. We experimented with CTAs in A/B testing to find out what made their customers click. The result was an incremental $3.9 million increase in revenue per year. 

As we’ll explain later, neither of these changes would have been rolled out overnight. There was likely a lot of building, testing, and learning involved, all of which can be done through marketing tactics we use every day, just on a larger scale. 

Once these businesses learned the lessons and implemented changes, what they launched critically improved both their revenues and the customer experience. 

Improving your digital maturity strategy won’t just affect vanity metrics—it can transform your bottom line and customer satisfaction and retention. Share success stories to show how it’s done just that for other brands. 

Run pilot projects to demonstrate the impact it can make

No CEO or stakeholder will hand over hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars based on a hunch. 

While you may be proposing a complete tech stack overhaul, modernizing your marketing legacy systems, hiring an entirely new team, or building a new product altogether, try breaking down your big idea(s) into more digestible chunks. 

Ask yourself (and, importantly, your team of subject matter experts) questions like:

  • Where do we already have data that proves a concept, even if on a smaller scale?
  • What team members or tools do we already have in place that could take one of our ideas to the next level? 
  • Which of our bite-sized ideas can have the most significant immediate impact based on the company’s most pressing strategic goals?

When it comes to creating pilot project MVPs for quick learnings, at Smart Panda Labs, we always advise Lean thinking (a build, measure, learn feedback loop). 

First, build. Pick a pilot project to leverage as an experiment and create and launch it.

Next, measure. Gather feedback and data from both customers and internal sources.

Lastly, learn. Analyze the data and generate insights that you then use to make adjustments to build the next iteration. And so, the loop begins again. 

Each cycle iteration tells you to keep moving forward in the same direction (persevere) or to change course because something isn’t working as expected (pivot). Using the Lean model allows you to stay flexible while continually improving as you gradually increase your investment. 

In the Chipotle example, this may have looked like first rolling out the updated mobile app in select markets. If they’d launched the new app on the same day across the nation, there would be no room to learn from what worked and what didn’t. 

Their extreme success is likely because they built, measured, learned, and eventually persevered with a fully optimized implementation. 

Testing and optimization

One of the best ways marketers can make an impact quickly is by testing and optimizing content. At Smart Panda Labs, this is something we often do for clients. We aim to find out what their customers want and ensure it’s easy to take actions online to get it. 

For example, we worked with Related Companies on transforming their digital marketing strategy. We used a content personalization tool called Optimizely to see early results, then tested changes to ensure recommended optimizations lead to measurable improvements. 

By testing and adjusting assets like images, CTAs, and landing page copy, we increased lead conversion by 26%. 

Similarly, in working with Viceroy Hotels and Resorts, we once again saw how simple A/B testing can have a massive impact on ROI. 

For this experiment, we tested five CTA buttons that acted as a “submit” button and linked to the hotel group’s booking engine. Our goal was to optimize conversions by tweaking the button copy. In the end, there was a clear winner, and by changing the CTA to this version, we increased room reservations by $30,000 per month. 

Seemingly simple tests can have a considerable impact on revenue and larger business goals, as well as on helping you get buy-in faster. 

Presenting findings and data to the boardroom

Depending on your personality type (and the people in the boardroom), what comes next will either be the easy or the hard part. In our opinion, you’ve already done the hard work in gathering data and crafting a compelling argument. 

Now, it’s time to use all the data you’ve collected to make a sound argument, answer potentially tough questions, and get buy-in. Here are some tips for making the most of your stakeholder meeting. 

Remember that CEOs aren’t marketers

It can be easy to forget just how far we’ve come in our careers when you work with other marketers on a daily basis. So, make sure to lead with background information and high-level concepts—and have the data to support what you’re saying. 

This first meeting will likely be about setting the scene and making the argument rather than presenting a fully-fleshed out plan. Of course, be prepared with tactical ideas and execution strategies should anyone wish to dive deeper. 

Speaking to the high-level concepts, show how digital maturation will positively impact your organization’s future roadmap. Whether from a product perspective, company culture, expansion into new markets, or, of course, revenue. There are so many ways to show how exciting your company’s trajectory will be once you’ve reached a higher level of digital maturation. 

Top Tip: Learn how to forge the path ahead in our guide to building a digital transformation roadmap 🐼

Tie your goals back to the business

While you may also present your plan to the customer success team as a means to improve customer happiness or to your marketing team as an exciting up-leveling strategy, the boardroom audience cares about the bottom line. 

Be clear about how your objectives align with business goals and priorities. Think through how your digital maturity goals match what the C-suite cares about most, then share how it will improve those metrics (like net profit margins and sustained growth). 

In addition to potentially making your business a lot of money, digital maturity allows businesses to pivot faster to meet growing customer demands and market disruption. This can look like faster product improvement, or being able to react to society’s changing expectations of businesses when it comes to social and environmental matters. 

Aside from the bottom line, what matters to your organization right now? What are your goals aside from revenue? 

Maybe you have a huge green initiative or have made serious commitments around another social movement. Maybe your goals are internal, like providing better parental leave or increasing your workforce diversity. 

Whatever the specifics, show how the ability to pivot and move quickly will help free up internal resources to achieve these business goals, too.

Be ready to adapt 

While you know the ins and outs of marketing and why digital maturity is so important, not everyone in the boardroom may get excited about these ideas as quickly. We’ve already discussed the importance of data to support your ideas, but even the facts won’t always be enough to convince your audience.

The best marketers are flexible, so be prepared to get X and not Y. You may have to choose a few (rather than all) of the great tests you want to try if the budget is smaller than what you’ve asked for. 

Key takeaways

Digital maturity allows brands to pivot quickly, personalize often, and provide a superior user experience across all channels. Of course, accelerating the speed at which your company matures can be demanding on both finances and resources. 

Leading with data and showing how you can test and learn before implementing enormous changes is your best bet for gaining boardroom buy-in. Remember to map your digital maturity goals to broader business objectives to show the C-suite how hard a digital maturity strategy will work for them.

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

How to Create an Exceptional Digital Experience in 2021

The modern customer’s attention is split in so many directions. They’re going through various digital channels, such as social media, customer support, and email to find solutions to their challenges. 

What does that mean for brands and marketers? To deliver the best results, you need to optimize each touchpoint of the digital experience so that you can push prospects down the funnel and turn them into loyal, paying customers. 

Launching a seamless digital experience requires a solid game plan. It’s only by combining research, personalization, and an omnichannel approach that you can engage and attract the most customers as possible.

In this article, we’re going to show you how to create an exceptional digital customer experience in 2021.

Table of contents

What is the customer digital experience?

The customer digital experience refers to all of your target audience’s online interactions with your brand. It can include your social pages, your company website, or live chatbots. 

How you optimize the digital customer experience will set the impression of your brand in customers’ minds. Is your digital experience helpful for your target audience and solving their challenges? Or is it confusing and full of friction?

Top tip: If you’re wondering how to overcome the barriers and prepare your business to deliver a world-class digital customer experience, we’ve put together some advice in our article on how to accelerate the digital transformation process 💡 

The importance of a customer-centric, positive digital experience

How you optimize your digital customer interactions can make or break the success of your brand. Here’s why:

It boosts your customer retention

A common mistake that brands make is focusing solely on acquiring the most customers for their product or service. Unfortunately, many brands put so much effort into customer acquisition that they forget one crucial element to growing a business: keeping their existing customers happy. 

An effective digital experience strategy leads customers to come back hungry for more. As a result, it boosts your retention rate, customer lifetime value (CLV), and how loyal customers are to your brand (customer affinity). 

It increases revenue

What does a higher customer retention rate lead to? It leads to more conversions and growth for your company’s bottom line. An aging but widely-cited Bain & Company study revealed that even a 5% increase in retention could boost company revenue by 25–95%

Those effects appear to be consistent among today’s consumers. A more recent empirical study based on this paper found that a focus on customer retention over 12-18 months boosted revenue by 80%.

Customers will even opt for a premium-priced product if it delivers a better experience than the lower-priced competition. According to research by PWC, customers are willing to pay up to 16% more for a product that delivers a great experience. They’re also 63% more willing to give up their personal data (such as contact details) to a company that offers a positive experience.

It creates brand advocacy

Your brand’s advocacy and digital experience both go hand in hand. If customers have an exceptional experience with your business, they’ll be more likely to spread the word and tell their friends about it.

After all, who’s better to promote the quality of your product or service than your own customers? With the power of social proof (referrals, case studies, testimonials, etc.), you can welcome exponential deals. 

How to set up your digital experience strategy in 15 steps

So what does a compelling digital experience strategy look like? All experiences are not created equal. Returning to the PWC research mentioned above, customers value some experiences over others. Customers reported that they were more likely to pay more for efficiency, convenience, and knowledgeable service over brands offering charitability, automation, and global presence.

Here are the steps to ensure that you’re delivering the digital experience that increases brand loyalty and drives revenue for your brand:

Prepare your strategy prerequisites

There are a couple of things you must prepare first before you can launch your digital experience campaign. These strategy prerequisites include:

1. Define or revisit your company’s core purpose and business goals

Your core purpose  and business goals will be your starting line to set your digital experience campaign on the right foot. By revisiting both of these aspects, you’ll better understand which direction to take for your strategy. 

Your core purpose is the statement that reveals why your company does what it does. A famous example of a core purpose is Nike, whose brand statement is: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” 

When it comes to your business goals, think about what you’re trying to achieve this month, quarter, or year. For example, you may be trying to boost awareness around one of your new products. Or your current goal may be to get more customers to upgrade their memberships. 

Your digital experience strategy will be founded on your purpose and how you’re currently striving to achieve it. 

2. Refine your digital brand positioning

Brand positioning identifies how your brand is different from others and the image you want to project. It will help the messaging of your digital experience strategy and how you’ll communicate your products’ value to ideal prospects.

A big part of this will be researching your competitors and the market. You’ll need to have a solid understanding of their digital marketing strategy, what customers are saying about their products, and how your product or service holds up against them. 

From there, you’ll be able to identify weaknesses and showcase the value of your product to target customers through differentiation in your messaging. 

3. Have a clear discovery strategy

A discovery strategy allows you to identify product-market fit and plan out your budget. It ensures that even before you launch your digital experience strategy, there’s a need in the market for your product or service. 

Understand customer behavior online

You must get a clear idea of your customer’s needs to create a digital experience that matches their expectations. That way, you can create a more relevant, personalized digital strategy that will engage and retain the most customers as possible. Here’s how you can achieve this:

4. Create a buyer persona through a digital lens

To identify your ideal customer, create a list of their attributes such as age, job role, gender, goals, and the challenges they’re facing. It puts you in their shoes and helps you identify ways that your product can help them and achieve what they want. 

Make sure to also capture information that dives into how they behave online, how they seek information, where they spend their time, and so on. By understanding customer behavior, for example, you can identify which channels you should focus on to reach out to them.  

5. Collect data on your customers

Along with creating buyer personas, start collecting data around your customers. Here are some of the different ways that you can learn more about your audience:

  • User surveys. You can target your audience with surveys they can fill out to understand customer needs and expectations. To drive more customer engagement, consider offering customers perks for filling out the survey, such as providing access to exclusive gated content.
  • Conduct customer interviews. Collecting data on your customers can be as simple as talking to them directly. You can enable a team to reach out to your customers and start a conversation about their current experience and what they would like to see in the future. 
  • Monitor social media. Social media platforms can be goldmines when it comes to collecting customer data. Monitor your social pages regularly to get a sense of your customer’s opinions on your brand. 
  • Analyze website traffic. Your website traffic provides solid clues on your audience. It gives you insight into where your customers are coming from and which user segments spend the most time on your website. 

By combining all of these different tactics together, you’ll gain a clear picture of who your ideal customer is and how your product fits their needs. 

6. Encourage customers to drop feedback

Understanding the customer’s needs is as simple as asking them to drop their feedback on what they expect from the digital experience. On top of collecting their thoughts, it shows customers that you value them and want the best for them. 

To do this, reach out to them via email or use your social media platforms to collect their thoughts. There are also various tools you can use (which we’ll dive into later) that automate the process of asking customers for their feedback. 

7. Create a map of your customer journey

Based on the data you collected on your target audience, create a customer journey map consisting of all the typical customer’s digital touchpoints. You can then identify ways to optimize each stage by outlining each touchpoint as the customer goes through the funnel. 

For example, let’s say that your target customer’s first touchpoint is through a google search on their mobile phones. To optimize for this stage, you’ll have to make sure that all of your pages are mobile responsive, so they look good on all devices. 

Optimize the funnel

Once you understand your target customer, it’s time to get to action. Here’s how you can get the most out of your funnel and convert the most customers:

8. Adopt an omnichannel strategy

According to a study, 73% of customers use multiple channels during their journey. To maximize your reach, make sure to target customers on all the channels they’re using to discover solutions to their problems. It ensures that you can reach customers wherever they are and regardless of the device they’re using. 

9. Optimize your website for conversion

One of your digital experience strategy goals should be to drive conversions, such as lead generation, purchases, click-throughs, etc. Once you have settled your focus on a specific conversion, you can make adjustments to your webpages to optimize for this behavior. For example, if you’re trying to gain as many leads as possible, you can add forms to high traffic pages, include CTAs and gate high-value content (like ebooks). 

You should also make sure that the speed of your website is fast because the first five seconds of page-load time has the most significant impact on conversions. If your page is slow to load, you may be missing conversions before they’ve even seen your content.

10. Adopt clear storytelling

Leveraging storytelling in the customer experience allows you to build an emotional connection with your prospect and boost engagement. According to research by Capgemini, 70% of customers that feel emotionally attached to a brand spend twice or more money than less attached customers.

Your brand’s storytelling can come in many forms, such as social media campaigns telling your brand story, videos showing how customers overcame their hurdles with your products, and clever website design and copywriting.  

11. Deliver quality content marketing campaigns

Ensure you deliver content that speaks to the needs of your target audience and that you’re promoting it effectively. On top of ranking higher in search results, it helps build the trust of your target users, generate more qualified leads, and boost conversions. 

12. Create personalized offers

Customers are more likely to purchase when you include personalization as part of the digital experience strategy. It does so by adapting to your customer’s specific needs so you can reach out with the most relevant offers and optimize your digital experience strategy for conversion.

For example, let’s say a customer already purchased one of your products in the past. One way to optimize the digital experience and boost conversions is to retarget them with complementary products to their previous purchase.

Provide the customer with quality support (and identify support gaps)

If a potential customer has any issues or challenges during the digital experience, you must provide them with the support they need to push through the funnel. It reduces friction and ensures that they eventually convert into a paying customer. 

Here’s how to do that:

14. Provide self-service solutions

Including self-service solutions, such as a knowledge base, allows users to answer their questions without reaching out for support. Forrester found in their research that 53% of online adults in the US may abandon their online purchase if they can’t quickly find a solution to their question. They also found that phone calls are best left to one of the later stages in the evolution of problem escalation.

15. Integrate chat for optimum customer service

A chat feature on your website allows you to respond to user requests 24/7. Preloading a chatbot with FAQs can get your customers a solution while live reps are offline. It can also direct inquiries that require human intervention to agents when they return. 

Using automated chat and live chat ensures that customer experience includes minimal disruptions.

How to determine the success of your digital experience strategy

You’ll want to measure the results of your digital transformation strategy to ensure it’s effective. Here are some common metrics to measure to understand if your digital experience strategy meets your customers’ needs. 

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Your Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures how likely customers are to recommend your brand to others based on a score from 0–10. It’s a very straightforward metric that determines how well your product or service is good at generating brand advocacy. 

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

Your Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is a percentage metric that measures how happy customers are with your product or service. When analyzed along with your NPS, it can give you a reliable picture of your brand loyalty. 

When your CSAT is high, it means that you’re developing a healthy customer relationship with your prospects. However, if your CSAT is low, it could mean that there are issues about your product or service that you should look into and fix. 

Customer Effort Score (CES)

The Customer Effector Score (CES) measures the level of customers’ efforts to resolve their issues. It helps you understand various essential things about your customer support. 

First of all, it measures whether things are working correctly and identifies sticking points in your strategy. That way, you can enhance the experience by filling in any gaps. 

Also, it allows you to understand how your customers are engaging at each touchpoint of their buying journey. You’ll see why specific strategies lead to more conversions and whether or not you’re targeting the right segment of customers. 

Churn rate

Your churn rate is the percentage of customers that you’re losing across a timeline. It’s a vital metric to understand the health of your brand. 

While losing customers is part and parcel of running a business, a churn rate that’s too high is a sign that something is wrong with your user experience. For example, it could be due to not targeting the right customer, poor onboarding, or not providing customers with the support they need. 

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

Your Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is the amount of revenue that you bring in with each customer relationship. The better you’re able to manage the relationship between your brand and your customers, the more money you can bring. 

The biggest benefit of measuring CLV is that it helps you identify which segment of your customers are the most valuable to your company. You can then use this data to improve your future digital experience campaigns and attract more qualified customers. 

With these numbers, you can measure if your strategy is working as intended or what is broken. You’ll also be able to determine whether your digital experience is helping you work toward those business goals we spoke about earlier, so you’ll know if your business is growing forward.

The best tools you can use for your digital experience

Technology can make managing the digital experience much easier and efficient. Here are some of the best tools we recommend to optimize your digital experience while saving yourself time and money from manual work.

User onboarding

User onboarding is essential to the digital experience because it creates the customer’s first impression of your brand. It’s your job during this stage to educate them on the value of your product so they don’t churn in the early stages of using your product. Some possible  tools you can use for onboarding include:

Customer support 

Customer service software centralizes all of your tickets in one place. As a result, it allows you to better manage and track each customer request in the digital experience while saving plenty of time for your support agents. We recommend:

User feedback 

While collecting customer feedback is vital to learn more about your audience, doing it manually will cost a lot of time. So instead, it’s better to use tools that do all the hard work of getting data from customers thanks to automation functionality. Here are the tools we recommend:

Website analytics

Website analytics tools provide you with solid insights into each aspect of your website’s performance. With these platforms, you’ll get access to data such as who’s viewing your website, how long the average visitor spends on pages, and your conversion rate. We recommend:

Testing/Personalization

Launching the right digital experience strategy requires a lot of testing to identify what tactics work the best with your audience. The following tools help you test different aspects of your digital experience strategy in real-time, such as your website design and product, to analyze the reaction of your customers. We recommend:

Predictive technology

Predicting your customer’s behavior helps you identify which steps to take to push down the funnel in advance. These tools can help you better understand the customer journey to deliver more personalized offers thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning. We recommend:

With all we’ve just shared, digital adoption is about so much more than subscribing to an impressive tech stack. It’s about leveraging these tools alongside an effective digital experience strategy, so you can maximize their use and achieve specific goals. 

Key takeaways

Whether you’re a SaaS provider, ecommerce brand, or a mobile app owner, there are a lot of components that go into building a successful digital experience strategy. 

First, you need to research your audience and the various touchpoints they go through in their journey. With this information, you can start identifying ways to optimize each stage of the customer funnel with personalization and omnichannel experience tactics.

Then, you’ll have to measure your success. It includes considering metrics such as your NPS, CSAT, churn rate, and average customer lifetime value. 

Lastly, don’t neglect the power of technology. There are various tools you can use that help reduce your manual work to focus more on strategy.

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Martech Stack Guide Header Image
Shamir Duverseau

How to Build A Martech Stack in 2021: The Complete Guide

Your marketing technology stack (martech stack) is a group of technologies used to prepare, conduct, and track your marketing activity. 

Combining various tools allows you to organize and streamline your marketing strategy and create more purposeful campaigns and user journeys. 

In fact, according to the 2019 Netskope Cloud Report, the average enterprise uses 120 marketing cloud services. 

But with so many on offer, building a collection of effective marketing technologies in 2021 is not as easy as it seems.

To navigate the process, it’s important to understand exactly how your stack benefits your business, and how to ensure you leverage your marketing tools to their fullest potential. 

Table of contents

The unique environment we find ourselves in during 2021, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, brings with it a particular set of trends. 

For marketers, these afford both benefits and challenges. Let’s explore four key trends in more detail: 

Post-pandemic digital dependence

The impact of the pandemic increased reliance on digital tools both for businesses and consumers alike. For marketing teams, this presented a new challenge—the need to reach audiences in a socially distanced world. 

Suddenly, teams had to find ways to operate and remain efficient from their bedrooms, kitchens, or kids’ playrooms. 

Businesses already operating modern technology bundles experienced smoother transitions. Others found themselves abruptly faced with the need to digitally transform. 

Top Tip: We may be biased, but as digital transformation was already on the rise (and has been given a 10-year speed boost thanks to COVID-19), prioritizing and investing in the digital experience now will benefit your business in both the short and long run. Read more about how and why in our guide on how to accelerate the digital transformation process

The rise of no-code tech

It is due to this newfound digital dependence that we’ve also seen a rise in no-code tech. 

By removing the need for coding skills to effectively utilize martech tools, a powerful digital stack is now accessible to even the least tech-savvy marketer. 

For example, you can use tools like Zapier to ‘open up’ APIs which allows almost all marketing tools to integrate and speak to one another. 

This means that with the adoption of just one platform, you can organize and consolidate all your channels. 

Improved influencer marketing platforms

The influencer marketing industry is set to hit $13.8 billion this year. However, this popular marketing channel remains in its technical infancy. 

Because of this, we’re seeing an increase in improved influencer marketing platforms and agencies. For example, in 2019 there were an additional 240 alone. 

This is reducing the difficulty for in-house marketers to find influencers, but since that remains the most significant challenge, we can only expect offerings to grow even further. 

Therefore, incorporating an influencer marketing platform into your martech landscape is crucial to help you take advantage of this channel. 

A focus on personalization

The benefit of the online space being flooded with customers is that marketers have a wealth of data to help inform initiatives and strategies. 

This helps you to produce more relevant and effective campaigns, which is a positive. 

On the flip side, increased personalization comes with heightened consumer expectations. As customers now expect to see unique and personalized content, you’ll be at a competitive disadvantage if you don’t follow suit. 

Truly relevant campaigns are not only based on audience data, but also a well-curated and optimized digital customer experience. 

The right marketing automation tools in your stack should help you to achieve personalization effortlessly. 

They also make it easy to automate personalization, such as using features like merge tags to address email marketing recipients by their names, or segmentation based on interests and preferences. 

The benefits of adopting a martech stack

An effective collection of digital marketing tools afford your business opportunities to:

Create data-driven and cost-effective campaigns

Technologies within your marketing technology landscape help you deliver data-driven and cost-effective campaigns.

This is important because it helps you achieve that highly desired personalized focus. After all, you need customer data to understand exactly how to customize your communications. 

In turn, your marketing processes are more cost-effective since you’re able to budget more intelligently. You can achieve this by directing spend towards initiatives with proven potential. 

For example, you can use analytics tools like Google Analytics to see which campaigns are driving traffic to your website. Based on this visualization, if it turns out that your main source of referral traffic is different than expected, you can redirect a corresponding percentage of your platform spend based on these key insights.  

Improve efficiency and experience through automation

Marketing automation is a key element of many technologies that make up your stack. It helps you operate more efficiently and constantly tailor your user experiences.

Consider this example of how your martech can automate your multi-platform management:

  • Incoming messages from social media can be automatically assigned within your digital marketing team without the need to find, delegate, and respond to messages on each profile. 
  • To do this, simply use tags to tell your dashboard what keywords or types of contacts should be directed to particular team members. 
  • Beyond this, you can even automate the follow-up itself by collecting frequently used terms to trigger simple responses. 

Automation also improves the customer experience by helping to provide personalized touchpoints. As such, you can automate tailored content by providing bespoke experiences based on the interests of specific audience segments. 

For example, if you choose an email technology that allows you to deliver specific content to users based on their actions you can:

  • Trigger emails to users that have abandoned their online shopping cart. 
  • In the email, you can remind them of their intent to purchase and provide an easy link back to the action. 
  • You can even include further incentives to buy such as a free shipping offer.

With automation, you remove the need to send many emails manually as your funnel is constantly working to move your customers along their personalized journeys. 

Show up where your customers are

Brick and mortar consumerism is dwindling. Moreover, even for businesses with tangible locations, the customer journey now often begins online. 

In fact, 45% of social media users access platforms mainly to research products. 

Therefore, whether your purchase point is online or in-store, social management tools help you target, reach, and inform your prospective customers about your offerings.

With the right tools in your martech stack, you have better insight and access to your ideal customers and can connect the dots between screen and door. 

How to build a martech stack

Building a successful marketing stack means designing an effective decision-making process and selecting the right tools for your business goals. 

Let’s explore the five steps needed to evaluate, adopt, and implement new marketing technologies.

Step 1: Internal decision-making

Get clear on the people and processes in your decision-making early on. 

This helps you develop a clear roadmap and ensures that all involved are adequately informed—resulting in stronger buy-in. 

To achieve this: 

  • Allocate team members to draw up evaluation criteria for each tool
  • Assign those that will use tools most regularly to provide feedback
  • Confirm who will decide on a shortlist of tools and how they will be ranked
  • Provide key information on benefits, pitfalls, and pricing to the final decision maker

Once you know how decisions will be made, keep track of the details you need to gather to support the process. 

The information you present at the boardroom level should include: 

  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • Goal alignment 
  • Growth potential 
  • Staff impact

Step 2: Defining your core tools

With 8,000 tools to choose from in the marketing landscape, defining your core needs will help you to structure your options. 

This helps to stave overwhelm which could lead to signing on platforms you won’t actually use (or will go underleveraged). 

Instead, understanding your core technologies means you can easily see how each one fuels the achievement of your goals.

Separate your core marketing tech tools into three categories: 

  • Reach – how you find and contact your audiences 
  • Engage – how you relate to your audiences
  • Convert – how you turn your audiences into customers 

Let’s explore the types of tools that fit into each segment.

Tools for reach

Without the right tools, reaching your audiences is much more difficult, if not impossible. Look to include: 

  • Analytics platforms that allow you to interrogate data to find where and how to reach audiences
  • Audience targeting that empowers you to act on your analytics results to improve lead generation and customer retention
  • SEO and keyword tools to help you understand exactly what your audiences are looking for 
  • Paid search provides the opportunity to stand out from your competition and experiment with messaging through A/B testing

Tools that engage

After reaching your audiences, you must engage them in a meaningful way by providing information and incentives. 

Your stack helps you do this through the following tools: 

  • Social media dashboards help you streamline multiple social platforms in one content management system where you can create, schedule, and review
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) where you can store information on a platform like Salesforce about your customer journeys and progress people through your funnel 
  • Online customer service can automate and personalize your responses through chatbots and instance reply functions
  • Email client to build automated email touchpoints with your audiences to engage them with your brand
  • Survey tools to create an interactive user experience and learn more about your audiences

Tools for conversion 

Now it’s time to convert audiences into customers. That last push across the line isn’t always easy. 

The following tools help you simplify and target the process for better results:

  • Experimentation platforms like ABTasty and SiteSpect allow you to test various user journeys, analyze the results, and consistently optimize the user experience based on your findings 
  • Messaging/live chat makes it possible to be available 24/7 (and in real-time) to help customers make a decision with key information and speedy guidance
  • Review tools to gather positive reviews from your customers and help encourage new leads
  • E-commerce management to keep track of and process your customer sales data in one place 
  • Personalization to customize the user experience through personalized order confirmations and tracking options

Step 3: Designing your stack workflow

As well as understanding those involved at the decision-making level, before you onboard or roll out new tools, you need to design your workflow. 

This helps you to avoid confusion, increases the chances of buy-in from your team, and gives you the best chance of success with your implementation and ongoing use. 

To do this, ask yourself the following questions concerning your team: 

  • Who needs to use each tool in your stack currently?
  • Are they the right people? 
  • Are there others whose roles the tool improves?
  • Who should take ownership of tools, or tasks within them?
  • Do you need to bring in external support?

Outlining these considerations helps you build a sustainable workflow for your tool. 

Top Tip: To learn more about how to identify what your martech tech stack is for, who will use it, how to use it, how it integrates with your existing systems, and how you will properly manage it on an ongoing basis, read our guide on how to build processes around new marketing platforms

Step 4: Selecting the right technologies

Choosing the right technologies for your stack can be difficult because competition is rife. 

To make your evaluation process easier, determine your must-have and nice-to-have features. 

Find these by considering: 

  • What actions you could automate 
  • What KPIs you’re delivering against 
  • Who and where your audiences are 

Once you’ve prioritized what you need in your stack, you should also weigh up the pros and cons of going with one connected series of technologies, or diversifying between providers. 

One cause for comparison is integration. Tools from a single vendor are much more likely to have integration built-in as standard. 

However, this may mean that you miss out on capabilities not included in your pre-built stack. 

Choosing tools from a variety of providers, on the other hand, allows you to select based on very specific and possibly niche requirements. 

Even if you go with a connected series, it’s unlikely that your stack won’t need external data points, such as from your CRM, to supplement it. 

But you will be dealing with disconnected customer service, as opposed to the convenience of one support hub. 

Understanding your priorities when it comes to tool performance will help you decide which approach is right for your business needs.

Step 5: Future-proofing with effective re-evaluation

Although the tools on offer are evolving every year, endeavor to build a martech stack that is future-proof (or at least as solid as one can reasonably be nowadays). After all, with so many new tools, updates, algorithms, and trends popping out of the woodwork in the blink of an eye, we can only be so prepared.

The steps we have outlined previously will help you get most of the way there. Then, it is a case of implementing meaningful re-evaluation at key stages. 

To do this, map out points of assessment. For example, these could be quarterly, annually, or following major marketing campaign periods. 

In your re-evaluation, refer to your goal roadmaps and assess the performance of your tools according to: 

  • Do your tools overlap on functions? 
  • Are you underusing any tools that you could optimize? 
  • Do your staff need top-up training and do they like using the tools?
  • Can you still automate where you need to?
  • Are any integrations broken or missing? 
  • Are there any data gaps in your reporting and analysis?

 
These questions help to show any improvements or course corrections for your stack, including where you might consider changing a tool. 

Top Tip: To learn more about how to build marketing operations processes that allow you to maximize digital utilization in the short and long term, read our guide on why digital adoption is more than just digital tools.

Challenges to overcome when implementing a new martech stack

Prepare for potential challenges after building your ideal martech stack by outlining a strategy for long-term success. 

To do this, keep integration and scale in mind. Managing the implementation process, and maintaining your stack will help you achieve both.  

Setting yourself up for success with effective implementation

Two of the biggest challenges in implementation are integration and training. 

It’s important not only for each of your tools to communicate with each other but also for your staff to feel confident using them. 

For successful integration make sure you: 

  • Outline which tools need to integrate with what 
  • Who can make that integration happen 
  • What order integrations need to happen in 

With your martech stack up and running it’s now important to support your team to positively adopt the new tools through adequate training. 

To do this, utilize webinars, handbooks, walkthroughs, and service desk tickets to: 

  • Familiarize everyone with the workflow plan 
  • Train everyone on daily and potential tasks and issues 
  • Indicate how to access further support 
  • Gather feedback from your team on an ongoing basis

Maintaining your martech stack

As your stack settles into your routine, it’s important to maintain your tools to keep them up-to-date both in technological terms and in line with your business goals. 

Doing so means that your stack runs smoothly and supports your business growth at scale.

To achieve this, make sure you know when tools need routine upgrades and assign authorization to someone in your team to manage this process. 

In addition, have a system in place for introducing integrations into your stack, such as if you need to add or change something or make alterations to how information feeds into it (like from your email client). 

Regular maintenance reduces the likelihood that your business will outgrow your stack. 

Avoiding data overload

Initially, building a stack might feel complicated not only because there are so many options to choose from, but also because those you do take on all have their own data source. 

This is overwhelming because not only is there a lot to look at but there is a lack of consistency in how the data is organized. 

Therefore, it is much more difficult for you to efficiently categorize and compare your information to inform meaningful decisions.

However, a well-curated stack can help you to avoid data overload by organizing relevant information for you. 

Make sure that you’re not onboarding tools unnecessarily. For example, consider if you have multiple tools that can perform the same function and if one can replace several others. 

When you’re confident in your tool choice, include a tag manager. This helps to distribute tags on your website from one place, minimizing the need to code each time.  

As a result, you trigger and collate key data from a central hub, thus reducing data overwhelm. 

Key takeaways

Optimization of your martech stack results in data-driven marketing efforts that help you target your goals more efficiently. 

A wide range of tools and technologies are available to marketers in 2021. By defining the purpose of your core tools into those that reach, engage, and convert audiences, you set the building blocks in place. 

From there, creating strategies to re-evaluate the success of your stack as your business grows helps to future-proof your systems.

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

How to Expand Real Estate Lead Generation Through Digital Transformation

In 2019, 90% of real estate firms had websites, proving that digital real estate industry experiences were already on the rise pre-pandemic. That said, the COVID-19 economy has highlighted the importance of empowering potential clients with flexible access in the modern home hunt.

As a result, simply having a real estate website and basic web presence is no longer enough. Rather, real estate firms must ensure that their corners of the internet are actively generating qualified leads and converting them into buyers at scale. 

While property listings are key, there’s so much more to be achieved in lead generation with the right sales and marketing activity, as well as a strong digital experience.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of the digital experience for driving lead conversions. We’ll also outline a five-step strategy for optimizing real estate lead generation in 2021. 

Table of contents 

How a well-optimized digital experience contributes to effective real estate lead generation

Optimizing your marketing processes to elicit more property conversions won’t happen overnight. By nature, high-cost transactions claim longer lead times. 

The best real estate leads come from a well-optimized digital experience built to nurture each lead at every stage of the consideration journey. In other words, you must provide both buyer leads and seller leads with everything they need, exactly when they need it, in order to help them make the right purchase decision.

Ultimately, meaningful conversions that engender trust and spark relationship-building are the end goal. 

Thus, a properly curated customer journey that removes barriers to decision-making, preempts objections, and provides a seamless experience is the vehicle that will help you comfortably move prospects from consideration to close.

A successful digital experience expands your lead generation capabilities by affording your team opportunities for: 

  • Automation
  • Focused reach
  • Detailed audience targeting
  • Heightened visibility

Let’s explore each in more detail.

Use automation to prioritize human power 

Your time is valuable and thus should be spent on the highest value activities in your sales funnel. 

At its simplest, you can use automation to take care of lower-value lead management actions, which usually live at the initial stages of the journey. 

These actions often include inputting lead information (i.e. name and contact details like phone number and email) into your customer relationship management system (CRM), assigning leads to the appropriate real estate professionals or marketing team members, sending follow-up emails, and so on.

Tap into online platforms to reach customers at scale 

Optimizing the experience by utilizing digital channels also helps you increase your reach. The beauty of online spaces has always been the potential for wide-reaching connection.

But visibility can only get you so far. You need to meet your customers exactly where they are, at the right moment, in the right stage of their buying journey.

Capture qualified leads with specific targeting

Just like expanding reach itself, digital marketing tools allow you to get specific with how you are targeting your leads and prospects. 

This means: 

  • Filtering out low-quality leads and irrelevant audiences 
  • Targeting real estate buyers and sellers in the regions your business operates in
  • Filtering age groups to capture people that have varying and/or specific property requirements, such as first-time buyers or retirees 
  • Using keyword research to show up for exactly what your customers are searching for, and even target by interests and affluence

Target conversion actions by visualizing leads in your funnel

Heightened funnel visibility is a crucial part of staying focused and organized. It also makes it much easier to prioritize leads by value (i.e. qualified, unqualified, high-budget, low-budget). 

Here’s where an effective CRM system that aligns with your needs and goals comes into play.

A CRM gives your team clear indicators of how to provide added value at key stages of the funnel. This way, not only are you retaining and nurturing leads, but you also have a complete understanding of any barriers to purchase (and access to sales and digital marketing enablement tools to combat said barriers or common objections).

Because of this, you’re able to tweak and optimize the customer journey over time, your internal processes, activities, and workflows over time to meet changing trends and growing customer demands. 

5 steps to leveraging your digital experience for optimal lead generation

We’ve covered the high-level aspects of how a well-optimized digital experience contributes to effective real estate lead generation. 

Now, let’s dive deeper into exactly how to find your target audience, use a CRM to optimize lead generation efforts, generate high-quality referrals, capture leads with strategic marketing efforts, and measure and optimize your lead gen strategy. 

Step 1: Find the right audiences

In order to really stand out in the marketplace, you need to capture clients in underutilized niches. 

As well as thinking about particular locations, available budgets, and explicit interests in real estate or home improvement, consider investigating:

  • Newly-weds
  • Recent divorce settlements
  • Court-ordered sales
  • Company relocations 
  • Expats
  • First-time buyers
  • Retirees 

You should aim to have a number of audience segmentations to which you can tailor lead generation approaches. 

For example: 

  • Your strategy to attract first-time buyers with a budget of $500,000 will be targeted differently than your strategy for partnering with businesses offering relocation assistance to their employees 

Why targeting the right audiences is important

Targeting the right audiences not only sets you up to be specific (and personal) with your communications, it can set you apart from others in your field. 

A targeted strategy allows you to: 

  • Maximize your marketing spend
  • Increase conversions at speed
  • Attain more meaningful results
  • Find competitive gaps in the market
  • Create authentic loyalty
  • Personalize the experience

Here is an example of how this process could look in 5 steps: 

  1. You target millennials earning $60,000+ per year who are in a relationship while excluding single millennials and those working part-time.
  2. Because this group is eager to enlist your real estate services, you can shorten the journey to conversion because you don’t need to spend time nurturing them through the pipeline.
  3. Therefore, a higher proportion of the click-throughs you receive on your content or paid ads will be relevant and qualified traffic.
  4. By inspecting your audience and filtering out those unlikely to convert, you have an opportunity to focus on niche gaps that may be overlooked by your competitors (thus, gain a competitive advantage).
  5. As a result, the loyalty you create with your customers is authentic because all along the journey they were offered a relevant service they were genuinely interested in (in other words, you met them in the right place, at the right time, and spoke directly to their needs). In turn, they become meaningful advocates for your real estate business and provide quality referrals. 

How to find the right audiences

The ‘how’ in finding the right audiences is largely down to your digital experience transformation.

The best place to start is with your existing client data because that tells you basic information about who your most valuable customers are (like where they’re from, their income, their marital status), what their needs and goals are, and their purchase intent.  

The challenge now is to find more people like them. 

To do that, interrogate where your existing client base came from, how long it took them to convert, and their customer experience journey (both in terms of digital and real life experiences). 

Then, approach potential new leads in similar situations that share similar expectations for their user journey. 

To find missing data regarding your existing clients, run surveys to fill in the gaps. You can also use surveys to test your hypothesis about prospective clients by asking them about their preferences and pain points—but tread lightly if you take this path. Prospective clients often struggle to answer what they would hypothetically do in a situation, whereas existing clients can easily explain why they did or did not make a decision. 

Once you know who you’re looking for and where, utilize audience targeting to make sure you’re only talking to leads with real potential. 

For example, you might learn that 60% of leads coming into your website come from Instagram, and your Instagram audience data shows that most of these people are aged between 28 and 45 and live on the East Coast. Therefore, you can run targeted Instagram ads about new-build homes for sale in New York state. 

Expand this type of research and targeting to your online search engine campaigns as well. To do this, undertake keyword research to understand the search terms visitors to both your website and your competitors’ sites are using. Make them specific to each campaign. 

For example, ‘one bedroom city apartment’ likely performs for young professionals, whereas ‘ground level house with garden’ might be more appealing to someone who has recently retired. 

Step 2: Use a CRM to optimize lead generation

Take your lead generation strategy to the next level by introducing a CRM. Choose a CRM that integrates with your other digital tools, such as social media, mailing lists, web forms, and website. This allows you to organize all of your different lead generation activities in one place. 

A CRM also turns data points into useful insights by shedding light on which activities result in conversions. You’re also able to see where every lead is on their journey and make appropriate and personalized decisions for each. 

It’s important to set up actions that are uniquely important to your business. A click on your advert is good but if the objective is to get a user to download a valuation report, you need to know how often that specific action takes place (so that you can measure outcomes against goals).

That said, do track all of the actions that take place, as you may need to readjust your strategy if your advertising campaign is producing unintended results, for example.  

Try a quality CRM system like Salesforce and incorporate key actions into your dashboard including: 

  • Organize, to display all your leads in one place with data on where and how they arrived
  • Respond, to automate certain responses by way of a web-based chatbot or emails with downloadable resources following contact capture 
  • Track, to show where each lead is on their journey and which actions they took to get there
  • Funnel, to remind team members to contact leads at key points in their journey
  • Automate, to take on as many actions as possible

In short, the right CRM is going to guide how your team interacts with your leads and how your marketing department scales lead generation. 

For example:

  • Your sales team knows that every day they need to contact anyone who is in the CRM that filled out a booking request from a Facebook property listing. Based on their input, your marketing staff understands that these leads are valuable and reinvests in the platform.

Step 3: Capture leads with real estate marketing

With your CRM in place, it’s time to introduce leads into your funnel with real estate marketing. 

The key activities for marketing broadly cover:

  • Driving traffic 
  • Converting traffic

Within each, there are certain tools that need to be optimized. 

Driving targeted traffic

The first step is to attract and drive online leads to the next stage of your customer journey. The key online tools that help you achieve this are social media and search marketing.

Social media

Use both organic and paid social media content to target and incentivize targeted audiences to visit your website. 

As a result of the work you’ve done on identifying the right audiences, you’ll now know which social media platforms they live on. Focus your energy and budget on these platforms, as this is where your leads are already primed to see your content. 

Create actionable CTAs to move traffic from social media to your website, where ideally they will enter your lead generation funnel as qualified leads. 

Make sure to be specific and use active language focused on benefits and solutions to their pain points. For example, “Get a home with privacy for under 1 million dollars”.

Remember that all social media platforms are not made equal. There are various rules and algorithm preferences in place for each. It’s important to be aware of these in order to get the best results from your social media strategy. 

For example:

  • The Facebook algorithm prioritizes paid activity; boosting your organic reach only when you invest financially in the platform in the form of Facebook ads
  • LinkedIn, on the other hand, will punish you for driving traffic off-site and therefore, will diminish the reach of shared links
  • Instagram meanwhile favors content that people ‘save’ in terms of engagement and this should inform what you post there

Therefore, to expand on the Facebook algorithm, you’ll want to build regular paid advertising into your strategy alongside your organic content. This might look like creating paid monthly brand awareness ads to get people to your profile, while simultaneously sharing organic daily property listings.

Search marketing

Organic SEO and paid search advertising (usually through Google) helps real estate companies attract audiences who are actively looking for their services. 

Implement relevant keywords, well-optimized meta descriptions, and page titles on your web pages to improve your organic SEO. The information you provide here helps your content appear in organic search results, indicating to the user that your page has an answer to their query.

Start by auditing your existing on-page SEO. Look at the keywords you have in place, the structure and length of your meta descriptions, and what your current ranking positions are. 

It’s also important to assess the performance and usability of your website in terms of: 

  • Links
  • Sitemaps
  • CSS

Beyond organic SEO, you can generate more opportunities by paying to capture traffic at the search stage. 

With paid search, you can be much more specific than with organic. Instead of targeting just a couple of keywords and one location with on-site SEO, you can have as many campaigns as you like, each targeting a different demographic. 

For example, you could have Google Ads campaigns targeting: 

  • Each suburb or city you operate in 
  • Each budget you have listings in 
  • First home buyers 
  • Long-term renters
  • Short-term renters 
  • Renters with pets 

Within these campaigns, you must choose the appropriate search terms by utilizing keyword research tools to understand what potential customers are looking for (rather than making assumptions).

For example, instead of ‘long term rental san francisco’, use a keyword research tool (such as Google Keyword Planner) to find and incorporate common search terms:

Search volume data from Google Keyword Planner

The goal of paid search is to increase performance while driving down costs. 

Therefore, choose keywords that average high monthly searches and low to medium competition. Then, develop a bid strategy and optimize your ad copy to grab attention and influence action.

Once your search advertising is up and running smoothly, add in remarketing campaigns to reconnect with people who have visited your site and not yet taken action. 

For example: 

  • Target people who visited your valuation page by reminding them to take an advantage of a free consultation offer  

Converting traffic into leads

Having successfully driven prospects to your website, shift the focus to converting this traffic into leads. 

To do this, focus on these three tools: 

  • Landing pages
  • Automation
  • Web forms

Landing pages

Landing pages are the mid-point of your conversion funnel. A well-developed landing page should progress your leads towards a final action. 

Here is your opportunity to both present more information and gather more data from your leads. 

Your landing page should be aligned with the content or advertisement that your prospective buyer interacted with (in order to then arrive at your landing page). The goal is to provide a consistent and seamless experience to keep them on your page and ease them into taking the next action. 

For real estate lead generation, consider a landing page that captures email addresses. To do this, use things like: 

  • A subscription to property listings in a particular budget 
  • A download request for a valuation appraisal by suburb 
  • A callback request for more information about a certain property

All these options give you an opportunity to add further value while keeping your leads moving through the funnel. 

You can also use landing pages to move leads straight to conversion with a booking form to view a house, or a scheduling tool to organize a valuation of their property.

For example, this landing page for William Fastow, Sotheby’s International Realty displays a clear offer: see the listing before anyone else. Real estate is competitive and getting in early is of obvious benefit for a prospect. 

Screenshot of a real estate landing page

Lead capture web forms 

As we’ve touched on, use lead capture web forms to gather more information from prospects once they arrive on your landing page. 

To do this, build web forms into the digital experience in order to populate your CRM with contacts for more touchpoints. 

As well as gaining valuable data about your lead sources, you can also use these forms to exclude and filter unqualified leads. Deliberately set up your web forms to attain exactly the kind of information that will benefit your conversion success by adding mandatory tick-boxes such as:

  • Budget bands ($300,000 – $400,000 and so on)
  • City preferences (Texas, Chicago, Seattle, etc.)
  • Intent to sell periods (in the next six months or later) 
  • Property type interests (house, apartment, condo, etc.)

This way, you increase the value of your CRM data, exclude irrelevant leads, and prioritize follow-up communications. 

Note: Balance is required here, as filling out forms takes time and effort. As a result, the more you ask up front, the fewer forms will be completed. To get around this, you can make the form multi-step and get contact info up front. Or, use a simple form up front (e.g. only ask for the most critical fields like contact info) and then conduct a follow up with an email and CTA asking them to provide their preferences as a way to continue the conversation.

Chatbots and automation

There’s no ignoring the fact that the world no longer runs on strict time frames. As a society, we’re increasingly throwing 9-5’s out the window, carrying our emails in our pocket, and sometimes our best ideas come at 3 am. 

Of course, no one expects your team to work 24/7, but they do expect your business to. By automating your lead generation web forms you can chat to and organize prospects in your sleep.

Automated chatbots can act as a prospect’s first port of call to answer simple queries, and also allow you to gather more information to help develop them into a lead.

You can also use automation to deliver lead magnets such as PDF resources or video content once a lead has entered their contact information for capture by your CRM. 

Used effectively, this can help you to:

  • Answer simple questions 24/7, ensuring you don’t lose valuable leads during off-hours 
  • Move prospects along the funnel by providing key resources with limited delay
  • Attain greater insight into who your target audience is by capturing data about their needs and intent

As well as being available 24/7, chatbots improve the quality of your customer service by allowing you to respond immediately to simple requests. 

It’s not just slow website response times that damage lead generation, slow contact replies are detrimental, too. 

Step 4: Generate referrals through customer retention

Customer retention in the real estate market is unique. Since most property buyers won’t be in a position to purchase again in the near future, customer loyalty translates into referrals and new leads via word-of-mouth recommendations. 

However, while real estate retention practices are focused on generating new leads, there are circumstances where you can also influence repeat buying or selling behavior. 

For example, developing partnerships with companies that have a high intake of relocated employees, or working with landlords and property developers who look to regularly update their portfolios. 

Email lists and content

Your contact lists will be built within your CRM. These can be segmented into various email lists such as: 

  • Buyers
  • Sellers
  • Homeowners
  • Property developers 
  • Landlords 

These segments can be filtered even further by adding notes on recency, suburb, and budget. 

Use these lists to nurture existing leads who haven’t taken action, revisit those that may be in a position to act again, and encourage referrals. The goal of this outreach is to remain top of mind and expand your sphere of influence.

For example, you can email open house visitors at planned intervals to ask them if they have further questions, provide floor plans, and remind them of auction dates. 

Also, make sure that your email content adds unique value to encourage a high engagement rate. 

Customer loyalty leads to high-quality referrals

The best advertising is a happy customer as people trust the recommendations of their friends and family. 

In fact, according to the National Association of REALTORS® 2020 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report, the primary method in which buyers found their real estate agent was through referrals. 

Importantly, this varies by generation. The younger the buyer, the more likely they are to enlist a referral from a friend, relative, or neighbor. Conversely, older buyers favor a real estate agent that has a great reputation more than younger buyers do. 

You can use generational insights like these to segment your target audience and skew your copy to match their needs and desires. 

Ultimately, you can and should utilize your existing customers to generate new leads. Use both email and social media to: 

  • Ask customers to write online reviews of your service after closing a sale (to generate social proof)
  • Incentivize them to refer friends and family, such as with a home retail voucher to furnish their new home
  • Create a simple one-pager or electronic flyer that they can easily share with others

In essence, if you make it easy for people to refer their network to your business, you’ll be more likely to gain qualified leads through referrals. 

Step 5: Measure and improve with data and analytics

The final step is to use data and analytics to optimize and refine your processes. To ensure a consistent, seamless digital experience, you must monitor the analytics for all the tools that we’ve discussed. 

Used intelligently, analytics allow you to: 

  • See how audiences are interacting with your content and conduct optimization campaigns as engagement begins to fall off 
  • Spot gaps and opportunities in your existing processes and workflows and make necessary changes
  • Bake the practice of continual improvement into your company culture

There are a range of tools available to help you do this: 

  • Google Analytics provides insights into how leads are using your website and where they’re arriving from
  • Your CRM analytics can give detailed data into the customer journey and key conversion rates 
  • Your social media statistics make it easy to monitor the performance of traffic-driving campaigns 

When looking at your analytics, take care to notice: 

  • If your real customers align with your target audience research (and if not, where the gaps are) 
  • The impressions and CTR for your content and ads 
  • How many steps your customers take before a conversion
  • Where leads and prospects are dropping off the funnel
  • Which platforms work best for your business

Key takeaways 

A well-optimized lead generation strategy, driven by a digital experience that centers the customer journey, is the best way to capture qualified real estate leads and close valuable deals.

This means:

  • Understanding and segmenting your audiences so that you can focus on groups that are most likely to convert
  • Organizing leads and automating tasks with a dedicated CRM to reduce friction and open up lines of communication
  • Driving traffic to your website and landing pages through strategic paid and organic campaigns
  • Nurturing relationships to generate high-quality referrals 
  • Consistently monitoring and improving activities with the help of data and analytics

With a well-oiled system in place, these strategies work on a cyclical basis to produce year-on-year leads.

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

How to Accelerate The Digital Transformation Process

Before the pandemic, 8 out of 10 organizations were pursuing large-scale digital transformation efforts. Yet, fewer than one-third reported success and were up against a 45% chance of delivering less profit than expected.

Now that COVID-19 has brought about 10 years’ worth of change in 14 months, the pressure on businesses to digitally transform has skyrocketed. In fact, 88% of customers expect companies to accelerate their digital initiatives.

So, how can you hasten your digital transformation process to meet the moment and ensure you meet or exceed expectations?

By focusing on a digital experience strategy above all. 

In this article, we unpack why an exceptional digital experience is crucial to success. We also explore the opportunities that digital transformation affords your business, the barriers to progress, and the solutions to overcome them. 

Table of contents

Why it’s important to go beyond a digital presence and prioritize the digital experience 

83% of millennials and 85% of business buyers now say the experience is just as important as the products or services a business provides. 

To keep up with demand, trends, and expectations, it’s critical to improve your digital experience before you fall behind the curve and lose out to digitally savvy competitors. 

As exceptional experiences win the day, it’s crucial to grasp what the digital experience truly entails. This will help you to:

  • Define business-wide goals and tie them to measurable outcomes
  • Ensure you are investing in the right tools (or leveraging existing ones in the best way)
  • Effectively improve the customer experience at every digital touchpoint 
  • Empower organization-wide adoption to meet and exceed performance expectations 
  • Stay up to speed with dynamic customer demands
  • Embrace agility and take appropriate risks to remain competitive

Is there a difference between the digital experience and the digital customer experience?

The digital experience encompasses the entire digital ecosystem. This includes both the customer experience (which is external-facing) and the employee experience (which is internal-facing).

The digital customer experience, on the other hand, is anything that directly touches the customer, from advertising to web properties to communications, and the measurement of all those touchpoints.

Thus, the digital customer experience is a piece of the digital experience at large. 

When building a digital transformation process, you need to develop fundamental strategies and practices that empower your business to accomplish a purpose at every point in the customer journey.

This goes beyond simply adopting powerful new digital tools. You need c-suite buy-in and employee adoption to leverage your tools to reach their potential and ultimately produce the best results. 

In effect, to create an exceptional digital customer experience, you need to build a seamless external and internal digital experience from the top down. 

The opportunities that digital transformation affords your business

There are dozens of benefits to digital experience transformation. From providing personalized customer journeys that foster loyalty and retention to leveraging data to make smarter business decisions.  

Here are five benefits that stand out from the crowd:

1. Leverage data to find growth opportunities and uncover and address pain points 

Knowledge is power, and data packs a ton of it. Without data, it’s difficult to quantitatively and qualitatively understand:

  • What’s working as intended, what’s broken, and where the sticking points are 
  • What may break if a process changes 
  • If there are any gaps that need to be filled that could enhance an experience
  • How your customers feel about every touchpoint in the buying journey
  • If you’re reaching your customers in the right way, at the right time, with the right information and messaging
  • How and why certain systems are driving retention or churn 

With each day, the power and opportunity that you can leverage from data increases. 

For example, done right, leveraging machine learning capabilities can help you analyze and action your customer’s needs, pain points, and desires in real-time. You can also use it to automate communications and tasks, learn from intelligent recommendations, and more.   

But this means little without a detailed digital roadmap. Otherwise, you’re taking in data at record speed but don’t have benchmarks or goals to measure it against. Worse, you don’t have a long-term customer data storage strategy and lose crucial information over time. 

Related companies, a privately-owned real estate firm, had a similar problem. They launched a website, ran paid ad campaigns, and invested in Salesforce Marketing Cloud—but their digital strategies were faulty. 

In essence, they adopted the right digital tools but hadn’t uncovered how to use them to their fullest potential. And if you don’t know what to look for, data is as invaluable as foreign money with no place to spend it. 

We ran an audit to properly analyze performance and uncovered several weaknesses in The Related Companies’ digital user experience. After enforcing our recommendations, they saw:

  • A 164% increase in conversions from organic search
  • A 575% increase in CTR on their paid search campaign
  • A 26% increase in lead conversion
  • A 15% increase in email engagement

To learn more about how we used data and analytics to help Related Companies make smarter digital decisions read the full case study

2. Create a more seamless ecosystem to drive your business forward

When systems work well together, they’re bound to provide a more seamless experience. This logic must be applied to digital experiences, too.

This is why it’s critical to consider organization-wide goals when shopping for digital solutions. If you buy one shiny new tool after another, but they don’t integrate with one another, you won’t achieve peak performance. In fact, you may end up creating more work for yourself.

Take MIT Sloan Executive Education (MITSEE) as an example. They recently completely moved to the Salesforce ecosystem to drive their business forward; from operations, marketing, and intelligence perspectives. And they did this all while harnessing the capabilities of robust technologies to fuel their digital experiences.

Prioritize adopting technologies that have multiple capabilities, are agile, and able to grow with your business. This will save you time and money in the long run, and importantly, create a seamless ecosystem that incentives adoption. 

3. Build a more personalized and consistent customer journey

As we mentioned at the outset, customers give significant weight to the experience. Today’s buying journey emphasizes unique, segmented, and targeted journeys.

This is key, as 66% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs. And 52% of customers expect offers to be personalized 100% of the time.

Given that personalization demand is trending upwards, companies that don’t tailor their offerings to unique needs will fall behind. 

To create a one-of-a-kind experience, you need to speak directly to your audience with targeted messaging.

We did just that for UF Health Cancer Center when they asked for our help to increase awareness for a specific procedure. Because they didn’t know how to reach their target audience to bring awareness to this unique offering, they weren’t seeing many new patient sign-ups.

Through our personalized and targeted approach to lead acquisition, we saw 1,500 clicks and 217 conversions (forms completed) in the first three weeks. And over an eight-month period, we generated: 

  • 816,073 ad impressions
  • $14.17 CPA
  • 26,045 total clicks
  • $1.31 cost per click

Not only was this great for their ROI, but they were able to finally reach and engage the people who truly needed this treatment. 

To learn more about how we carried out this multi-channel approach to lead acquisition, read the full UF Health Cancer Center case study.

4. Increase ROI on digital investments

Inefficiency is the fastest way to burn investments. The good news is, done right, investing in digital transformation can generate valuable rewards, such as:

  • Lower operating costs
  • More sales through digital channels
  • Stronger customer relationships
  • Better-quality offerings
  • Increased customer engagement, loyalty, and retention
  • A competitive advantage
  • A plethora of data that enables you to make smarter decisions

A notable case in point is our case study with Related’s Los Angeles property. After implementing a more efficient PPC strategy, during the first full month, they saw:

  • An 803% increase in CTR
  • A 32% decrease in CPC

That’s fast. And it proves that with a well-executed strategy, you can see an increase in ROI almost immediately.

Year over year, they saw:

  • A 26% decrease in ad spend
  • A 24% decrease in CPC
  • A 66% decrease in CPA
  • A 101% increase in the average CTR
  • A 154% increase in conversions

5. Stay flexible, agile, and prepared for change

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, arguably the most important benefit is the ability to adapt to unpredictable change. 

Digital experience transformation affords you the opportunity to make organizational and experiential changes at speed. But again, just because societal demand calls for rapid innovation doesn’t mean you should rush the process.

Curbside pickup, telecommunications, telehealth, virtual events, and more digital experiences like these helped to ease the burden of the recent global health crisis. 

As the prioritizations of convenience and value are here to stay, it’s even more critical to demonstrate the same level of agility as we enter a new normal. 

Importantly, once you do begin your digital transformation process, you must consistently keep pace with customer expectations and market trends. Momentary agility will only lead to short-term gains.  

Top Tip: To learn more about how to curate a digital transformation strategy to build processes that align with organization-wide goals, read our guide on a stress-free process for adopting new digital tools.

The barriers to successful digital transformation

The best way to realize success is to get ahead of potential barriers. This way, you’ll be ready to deal with any challenges that come your way and save time and money otherwise spent putting out fires.

Here are some of the main barriers to successful digital transformation, with solutions in short order in the following section.   

Being able to deal with the perpetual change involved in digital transformation 

The digital economy is shifting at a breakneck pace. We’d be lying if we said keeping up with these changes was easy.

In fact, this means that you’ll need to revisit your strategies, processes, tools, procedures, and experiences quite often.

According to McKinsey, the top economic performers set, execute, and adjust their digital strategies at a faster pace than the competition. Specifically, they assess their digital ecosystem on a weekly and quarterly basis, depending on the specific use case. 

Conversely, weaker performers evaluated their digital systems and performance annually. If you don’t keep up with analysis, evaluation, optimization, and iteration, you’ll quickly fall behind. 

The serious concerns over data security and regulations 

The main types of digital security threats include:

  • Cybersecurity risk (cyber attacks such as extortion)
  • Compliance risk (not complying with regulatory requirements)
  • Automation risk (compatibility issues)
  • Workforce risk (unmotivated employees that improperly manage tools)
  • Third-party risk (vulnerabilities related to outsourcing sensitive information)
  • Data privacy risk (the inability to protect private information)
  • Resilience risk (negative events compounding due to incorrectly implementing new technology)

Failing to consider all of the above could put your entire company at risk, alienate customers, damage your reputation, and eat into your profits.

Employee insecurity as roles and requirements change 

Without a motivated team ready to dive into change, your digital investments will suffer.

That said, change is hard, and it’s difficult to incentivize employees to embrace it—especially if they’re comfortable with the current systems. 

This is why it’s so important to get leadership buy-in. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to foster resentment due to a lack of accountability and effort at the highest level.  

If you improperly set expectations, move too quickly, skip comprehensive training, launch changes without guidelines, reallocate employees without much thought, and don’t lead by example, you will likely struggle.  

Social disconnect as brands rely on technology 

An interesting result of digital adoption is ensuing social disconnect. As brands and people rely more on technology than ever before, we’ve sacrificed some key human needs: connecting in person.

Of course, this has been difficult during the pandemic. But especially as lockdowns end, people are yearning for a return to face-to-face experiences.

This can throw a spanner in the works, as just as you embrace a digital experience transformation, your customers may seek a digital disconnect. 

Cost

Getting digital adoption right may be an expensive upfront investment. If your business has tried and failed in the past, leadership may be wary of setting aside a big budget for round two.

Even if this is your first attempt at digital transformation and you follow the best practices, you may lose money. Any number of things could go wrong, like investing in the wrong tools, under leveraging platforms, using tools incorrectly, getting the customer experience wrong, and so on.

It’s a risk that we feel is worth it, but there’s no shortcut to success. 

Lack of leadership and technical expertise 

If you don’t have leadership with technical expertise, it may be difficult to get it right. That said, a digital experience consultancy can fill that gap, at least temporarily.

But in the long run, the most successful companies benefit from hiring digital talent, such as a chief digital officer (CDO) or chief analytics officer (CAO). 

Investing in talent costs money, takes time, and may require leadership restructuring. 

How to optimize your current digital offering and overcome common pitfalls

Everything we just outlined has a solution. Here’s how to get it right: 

Adopt a customer-focused mindset and approach

If you make tech decisions based on what you think will make you digitally savvy, rather than your customer’s needs, you’ll be left behind when trends shift. 

As you begin your digital transformation journey, make sure your decisions are based on the customer experience above all. To do this, it’s key to switch your mindset from product-focused to customer-focused. 

Once you’ve built these foundational digital processes, it will be much easier to ensure that your subsequent digital decisions follow a similar path. The subsequent solutions explain how to do just that.

Align organization-wide goals with digital marketing decisions

Choosing to center the customer experience is a good start, but it won’t get you far without organization-wide-goal alignment.

This is where leadership buy-in comes into play. Digital initiatives must come from the top-down so that everybody is embracing change, on the same page, and excited to invest in the right tools to drive the organization forward. 

Before you begin, it’s critical to lay out clear priorities that are tied to measurable outcomes. Of course, getting boardroom buy-in and agreeing on business-wide goals isn’t easy.

The best way to tackle this hurdle is to collect supporting data that paints a picture of the opportunities your business will reap from a digital experience transformation. This includes data on your current industry, trends, customer needs, competitor analysis, etc. 

Then, use those findings to:

  • Identify key opportunities. For example, increase website traffic through targeted paid ad campaigns, with an ultimate opportunity to increase conversions and decrease CPC and CAC.  
  • Explain how inaction will lead to pain points or negative outcomes. For example, a competitor retail business may target your audience and successfully engage them with a great digital experience at every stage of the funnel (awareness, consideration, decision, retention, and advocacy), leaving you at a severe competitive disadvantage. 
  • Showcase the benefits in specific detail. Such as, by investing in digital experience transformation processes that enhance the customer experience at every single touchpoint, you can generate X% of new leads and X% increased conversion rates in X timeframe. In the meantime, these efforts will increase CLTV and boost ROI.  

When you present data in this fashion, it helps you to tell a compelling story that’s hard to ignore. Plus, it makes it far easier to adopt the right marketing technology because you’ve built a strategic digital roadmap that fits with foundational goals. 

Top Tip: To learn more about how to effectively evaluate and adopt your tech stack and get leadership buy-in along the way, read our guide on how to modernize your marketing legacy systems

Focus on employee adoption to empower your team

Happy employees are more productive and do more quality work. Because employees are the heartbeat of your organization, their buy-in is key if you want your digital systems to run as intended.

To get your employees excited about these changes, you need to create a dynamic business environment that (again) is led from the top-down, centers accountability, and takes their ideas into account. 

Digital transformations are more likely to be exceptionally effective when:

  • You delineate clear roles and responsibilities and put somebody in charge of each transformation initiative
  • You hold people accountable for meeting the goals they’ve been tasked to achieve
  • You balance expectations appropriately and define responsibilities by individuals, groups, and the organization at large (in order to not unfairly place the probability of success on one person or team over the other) 

This makes sense, as clear processes, procedures, and shared responsibilities are table stakes for most business endeavors. Digital experience transformation should be no different.

Prioritize integration for a seamless experience

Whether it’s leveraging an existing tool in a different way, or strategically choosing a new one, your tech should integrate so that everything works together. This point goes to the importance of a seamless digital ecosystem.

This will help to streamline adoption and use, make data collection and analysis easier, and lead to better employee and customer journeys alike. 

A digital experience roadmap is your best asset here. Similar to a business plan, a roadmap will help you to:

  • Uncover areas of strength and opportunity 
  • Help you to clearly define your goals
  • Give you an organized overview of your timeline
  • Help you stay accountable to your predefined goals 
  • Ensure you don’t skip a step 
  • Present your ideas eloquently and persuasively

But before you can build a comprehensive roadmap, you need to understand how mature your digital experience is at present. A digital experience maturity quiz is a great jumping-off point. 

Actively assess digital risk to stay secure

We outlined many potential digital risks that are serious in nature.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to manage them and remain secure and compliant:

  1. Audit your organization’s critical assets to identify vulnerabilities. This includes anybody that influences your organization (i.e. stakeholders and customers), as well as the existing tools that you use (i.e. websites, databases, payment processing systems, etc.).
  2. Understand if you are following the proper compliance guidelines. To do this, you may need to bring in a security expert to ensure no stone goes unturned in your audit and that everything is above board.
  3. Proactively set up defenses against potential attacks. For example, if you adopt a new database management system that not every employee needs access to, limit entry to critical eyes only. Simultaneously, define the process to give employees ad hoc access need be (i.e. they request access, receive a PIN that works for X amount of time, and then expires). The more proactive you are with preventative measures, the less vulnerable you’ll be to an attack.
  4. Consistently monitor your systems to check for susceptibility. This may involve acquiring new talent, such as a chief security officer (CSO). Or, you can outsource this task to a trusted third party. Either way, do not go live and expect smooth sailing. You must actively monitor risk to avoid it.
  5. Raise workforce awareness. Policies are only effective if properly enforced. And the best way to enforce new policy is to bring awareness. To do this, be transparent with your employees about new practices and procedures, properly train them, and be available to answer questions. For example, if your team isn’t aware that logging onto a certain tool or platform from a non-authorized IP address could jeopardize security, they’ll likely make this mistake. Communicate often, verbally and in writing, to keep your team up to speed.
  6. Tie security to business goals. This ties into the employee adoption thread. If your team is motivated to prioritize security, they’ll likely give more weight to your security policies and procedures. If it’s a hassle that takes time and effort with no reward, they will be less motivated; thus less inspired to buy into digital adoption efforts. 
  7. Keep up with technology trends and stay agile. Technology shifts at lightning speed and this can, unfortunately, have security implications. For example, the Apple App Store often releases updates that could leave your live app open to vulnerability. In order to avoid this, you’ll need to monitor these releases and conduct security patches every single time. This is akin to updating your phone in order to patch a bug that hackers took advantage of. As long as you monitor your systems, trends, updates, and so on, you’ll be in the clear.

Continuously evaluate and optimize your digital tools

Along that same vein, digital transformation is not a one-and-done experience. Rather, it’s a continuous process that requires nurturing in order to thrive. 

This is why leadership buy-in, organization-wide goals, employee engagement, and the customer experience matter so much. If everybody is working together in a seamless ecosystem built on a strong foundation, it will be much easier to evaluate what’s working, what isn’t, and what needs to change.

If your digital experience transformation is piecemeal, half-hearted, and full of sticking points, you’ll lose money and your effort won’t meet expectations and goals.

The answer? Consistently evaluate and update your strategies and processes through data gathering, insights, and experimentation. This will help to drive iteration, learning, and growing—all tenets to a successful digital experience. 

Key takeaways

Deciding to embark on a digital experience transformation presents endless opportunities. At the same time, it’s full of challenges that you must understand and strategically overcome in order to realize success.

If you develop a clearly defined plan that centers the customer experience and journey and prioritizes a seamless digital ecosystem, you’ll be well on your way to untold benefits. 

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

A Landing Page Development Process for More Conversions

Across industries, landing page conversion rates average 2.35%, with the best landing pages converting 11% of their visitors into leads or customers.

The gap between average and exceptional landing pages boils down to strategy.

Marketers often create landing pages without a clear direction, purpose, or consideration for the customer journey. And if you don’t center the digital experience, you’re missing opportunities to meaningfully attract, engage, and move your audience through the funnel. 

From formulating and conceptualizing your landing page, through build, launch, and optimization, we’ll take you through the complete landing page development process in this step-by-step guide.

Table of Contents

How does a landing page fit into a broader marketing strategy?

As part of a broader marketing strategy, a landing page is a tool that convinces someone to take a particular action. 

It sits mid-sales funnel, with the top-of-funnel being advertisements, social media, search engine, and email links pointing to your landing page. The end-of-funnel is your marketing campaign goal.   

After arriving on your landing page, a potential customer has essentially walked through your business’s front door. Your salesperson, so to speak, greets your visitor and answers every question they have about your business. They relate to the customer and convince them that your solution is the answer to their problem or need.   

This is precisely a landing page’s role within a broader marketing strategy. Designed for a single purpose, a landing page works towards convincing a visitor to take a particular action (e.g. clicking on your CTA).

But to be effective, great landing pages need to be designed with a definitive and clear goal, which starts with ideation and conceptualization.

Conceptualizing your landing page

To develop a high-converting landing page, you first need to identify its purpose. Your landing page is a tool and, to be effective, you need to build it for a single function.  

Uncover your landing page’s function

To answer this question, consider your business type. This helps clarify your landing page’s function and purpose within your broader marketing strategy. For example: 

  • If your business is a service, you’ll likely want visitors to complete a contact or lead capture.
  • If you sell a product with a shorter purchasing cycle, you’ll likely be aiming at a direct purchase.
  • If you sell a product with a longer buyer cycle, you might prioritize email capture so you can engage leads in an email marketing strategy.

To truly nail down the landing page function and purpose, you must consider your high-level business goals alongside your specific marketing goals. 

Say a short-term business goal is to increase revenue by 45% in the first year in order to reach profitability. To achieve this, your marketing goals should be revenue-driven and sales-focused, such as converting 30% of clicks on paid campaigns into customers. 

These details are key because every facet of your marketing strategy must align with your organization-wide goals. Otherwise, it will be difficult to prove the value of your work, which makes budgeting for time and the right tools an uphill battle.

Once you know your end goals, you can nail down the specific landing page functions and define how they will contribute to your objectives. 

Identify who your landing page is for

The function that you choose will be largely influenced by your target audience. That’s because your customer needs to feel like your landing page was designed specifically for their eyes only.

 To do this, revisit your buyer personas to uncover: 

  • Your target audience’s buying journey. Your target audience will inform the language, imagery, and web design you use. Most importantly, your detailed personas should inform you how your audience finds new information and what motivates them to make a purchase.
  • How your customers will benefit from your business or offering. Your landing page needs to be customer-centric, which means highlighting the benefits they get from your business should be clear as day.

All along the customer journey, a customer is looking for reasons to buy (or walk away) from your product or service. 

The main questions visitors have when arriving on a landing page are:

  • Does this business understand my problem?
  • Can they solve my problem?
  • Can I trust them?

Your landing page needs to answer every single question and remove any trace of doubt (we’ll show examples of how to do this in a later section).

Choose a landing page type that aligns with your end-goals

By and large, there are four overarching types of landing pages: email capture, lead generation, direct purchase, and inform.

Like the various marketing channels at your disposal (e.g. paid ads or organic social media posts), landing page types work differently depending on your goals and needs.

Let’s explore each one in more detail and assess their strengths and weaknesses.

Email capture

Email capture landing pages aim to get the website visitor to submit their name and email. This is so businesses can grow and leverage email lists. Why are email lists important? With an ROI of $42 for every $1 spent on email marketing, email capture landing pages, such as this example from Designli, are profitable tools in a marketing strategy.  

The reason why email lists are so profitable is that, unlike social and search channels that are manipulated by algorithms that are out of your control, email is a direct line to your audience. Because of this, email marketing is one of the most effective ways to speak directly to potential and existing customers, whether on the whole or in segments.

Lead generation

Lead generation landing pages aim to capture as much personal information about the visitor as possible. With this information, you can get hyper-specific with your advertising and offers later on in the buyer cycle.

For example, if you capture information about a potential buyer’s age, likes or dislikes, and goals, you can send them personalized offers that align with specific products or services that you offer. A parent with a full-time job will likely have less time in their day than a young adult with a part-time job and no children. Therefore, their customer needs and journeys may differ, thus your offering needs to speak to their unique viewpoints (if possible). 

That said, getting people to hand over their personal information is trickier than getting an email and thus requires a different approach. A clickable quiz or a personalized test is a favored tactic, as you can see in the below example on Jeremy Ethier’s Built With Science landing page:

This ‘free evaluation tool’ works to collect all the information required to help the potential customer “achieve your specific physique goals”. Similar to the example above about different life experiences, this landing page hopes to capture different physical goals. 

Based on these answers, they can nurture the customer towards purchase by targeting them with specific information that aligns with their unique needs and experience.

Direct purchase

If your business has shorter buyer cycles, your landing page will likely be aimed at making a direct sale. Direct purchase landing pages build urgency and excitement around an offering, then convince the visitor to purchase based on a sale or limited opportunity.This landing page from Munchery is a perfect example of a direct purchase landing page:

Here’s what it does well:

  • Incorporates a stunning hero image that takes center stage. The meals look irresistible, and they make sure not to overlay any text over the main event (perfectly apportioned tacos).
  • The benefit is impossible to miss: “Fresh, healthy, delicious meals, delivered right to your door”.
  • They include a tempting discount which states that you get $20 off your first meal delivery. This incentivizes people to make a purchase or otherwise miss out on a great deal.
  • They include a Trustpilot score alongside several 5-star customer reviews which acts as social proof. This helps to build trust, answer FAQs, and get ahead of any barriers to purchase; all key parts of nudging a visitor to make a final purchase decision.

Inform

Inform landing pages aim to convey information as succinctly and effectively as possible. About us, pricing, and 404 pages are all inform landing page types.

Take this pricing page from Salesforce.com’s Sales Cloud product as an example. 

First, they break down their four pricing plans based on “Essentials”, “Professional”, “Enterprise”, and “Unlimited”.

Immediately, you understand that the plans get more customizable and robust as the price increases. They also highlight the “most popular” plan, which is another form of social proof because it shows which plan is chosen most often by other customers.

Scrolling down, we then see a detailed feature breakdown which clearly shows what you get with each plan and why the prices vary from one tier to another.

This does a great job of answering any questions the customer may have and also explains how the benefits vary depending on price.

At the end of the page, the customer can choose to explore even more features to compare which ones are included in which plan. They can also download comparison charts and view additional add ons in PDF format. 

Finally, at the end of the page, they offer up answers to FAQs and offer various ways (phone, email, chatbot) to get in touch with a sales representative to learn more. 

This pricing page is a masterclass in how to explain what features and benefits a customer will receive based on the price they pay for your product or service. It answers every possible question ahead of time and then offers several avenues to learn more.

Creating your landing page

Armed with your goals and chosen landing page function, it’s time to take a deeper dive into the essential landing page elements.

As you examine these functions, consider the design and language you will use for each. Your brand design elements should heavily influence your landing page design to ensure that your business is easily recognizable and consistent across all mediums. And as we touched on above, your target audience will heavily influence the language you use. 

Hero shot

The hero shot lives above the fold and is what your visitor first sees when they arrive on your landing page. It should contain branding and imagery that immediately resonates with your target market and thus captures your visitors’ attention.

This moment is key because people make decisions on whether to stay and scroll or click away in a split second.

Take Stitch Fix’s hero shot as an example. It shows a fashion-conscious male unboxing new clothing. This speaks directly to Stitch Fix’s target audience while also demonstrating the service they offer.

As you consider the hero shot for your landing page, make sure everything speaks directly to your customer. Further, ensure that the hero image and copy tie back to any ad imagery and copy that drove traffic to your landing page. 

If you are running multiple ad creatives or targeted email campaigns, you can alter the hero image and copy based on your intended audience. This helps to personalize your branding and messaging to suit the various customer segments that are driven by various motivations and benefits.

Also, consider load time. 40% of people will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load, and 47% expect a landing page to load in 2 seconds or less. 

To ensure your hero image loads quickly, make sure that it’s properly sized, optimize it for mobile so that it loads accurately on all device types, and compress your image to the smallest possible size (without sacrificing pixel quality). 

Value Proposition

The value proposition starts to answer the question “does this business understand my problem?”. It is a single sentence that surmises your business’s offering. It must capture your brand’s essence and clearly say to your target audience, “we do this for you”.

Ideally, the value proposition should be no more than seven words, and in most cases, the shorter, the better.

Consider this five-word value proposition from Infinite Moon’s landing page: “An infinitely better sleep experience”. 

Immediately, a customer knows what they will get and what the business is selling. Your value proposition needs to do the same.

Explainer

The explainer is an expansion of your value proposition. It demonstrates that you not only understand your visitor’s problem, but you can also solve it. 

This too should be succinct; no more than two or three short sentences that back up your offering and hones in on the benefits.

Our explainer at Smart Panda Labs specifies what we do and who we do it for.

  • Who: Organizations in the early stages of digital adoption
  • What: Consulting services to strategize the digital experience
  • Benefit: Direct and optimize your digital tactics

Quantitative and qualitative social proof

The hero shot, value proposition, and explainer all serve to answer the questions:

  • Does this business understand my problem, pain points, and goals? 
  • Can they solve my problem and deliver on my needs? 
  • Have they solved a similar problem for someone else?
  • If so, how, and can it be proven?

With quantitative and qualitative social proof, you can answer these questions and prove that your value proposition works.Quantitative social proof is numbers, statistics, and case studies, whereas qualitative social proof is testimonials and reviews. Using a combination of both is the most effective strategy, as Fender Play shows us: 

These examples demonstrate quantitatively the amount of engagement the platform receives from other customers. It also qualitatively backs up these statistics with a happy customer testimonial. Both sets of proof work to back up your value proposition and build trust. 

Call to Action (CTA)  

The final element of a high-converting landing page is a clear call to action. All the other elements on your landing page are geared towards encouraging your visitor to click on the CTA.

Your CTA will depend on your landing page’s function (which you determined during the conceptualization stage of the development process). Suppose, during conceptualization, you decided your landing page’s function was to gather email addresses. In this case, your CTA might look something like Chime’s “Get Started”.

If you’re aiming to collect qualified leads with your landing page, your CTA might look something like Vancouver Island University’s “Sign me up!”:

It’s unlikely that someone who is not interested in being a student would sign up for a credit towards the fall tuition. Thus, the leads captured from this giveaway will likely be highly qualified. 

Or, if your objective is a direct purchase, your CTA might be something more like Snooz’s “Shop SNOOZ”.

As you can see, every single element on an effective landing page works towards the CTA. 

If you include each of these elements in your landing page, you’ll be well on your way towards creating a landing page that converts above the average 2.35%. 

After creating your landing page, it comes time to launch it. But this is far from the end of your landing page development process.

Post-launch and optimizing your landing page

You should treat the first version of your landing page as a test launch. The real benefits come from consistent post-launch analysis and optimization.

This mindset prepares you to collect data, analyze it, and then optimize your landing page according to what is going well and what needs enhancement. 

Data gathering

The data metrics that you should collect for your landing page include:

  • Bounce-rate. The number of visitors landing on-page and leaving without clicking on a link. This metric is a good indicator of how effective your top-of-funnel is at attracting relevant traffic. The lower, the better.
  • Dwell-time. The amount of time a visitor spends on your landing page. This helps gauge how captivating your landing page is and whether your top-of-funnel is attracting the correct customer type. The longer, the better.   
  • Heat mapping. This metric tracks your users’ mouse movements over your landing page. It helps to show where their attention is being drawn.
  • Click-through rate. The number of visitors who click on an on-page link and where they go to. The higher, the better.
  • Conversions – What percent of visitors engage with your CTA. The number of conversions is the ultimate yardstick by which you measure your landing page’s success. The higher, the better.

One of the best ways to collect these metrics is to install and configure an analytics tool such as Google Analytics on your landing page provider. An analytics tool constantly monitors your landing page and gathers the data necessary to calculate these metrics.

Data analysis

Once you’ve collected your initial round of data, you need to assess your metrics against industry standards to see how well your landing page performs.

Across-industry averages for these metrics are:

Once you have enough traffic see how your metrics measure up against industry standards. You can then get an idea of which elements you need to optimize.

Optimization

Optimization is probably the trickiest part of developing a high-converting landing page. It’s also the most valuable. 

Optimizing your landing page for conversions requires a strategic approach. You’ll need to first learn what isn’t working well (from analyzing data such as heat mapping), then test new features, formats, placements, copy, and so on in order to see what, if anything, performs better.

Split testing

Split testing is a form of A/B testing that pits two (or more) variations of your website against one another. The goal of split testing is to gain insight into customer behavior in order to increase conversion rates. You do this by optimizing your campaign’s individual features, one at a time. 

At Smart Panda Labs, we helped one of our clients, Viceroy Hotels and Resorts, conduct a split test of their own.

If you’re interested, you can read the entire case study. In essence, we created six different CTA buttons:

  • Reserve
  • Start Your Reservation
  • Make Your Reservation
  • Reserve Your Room
  • Book Your Room
  • Check Availability

After randomly presenting variants of the Viceroy reservations landing page with each of these buttons, ‘Check Availability’ had a far higher click-through rate and conversion rate, which, when implemented, increased room reservations by $30,000 per month.

Key takeaways

If you follow each step described in this guide, you’ll create a targeted standalone page designed for a single purpose that keeps the digital user experience top of mind.

As you begin developing a landing page for your business, keep the following in mind:

  • Start by identifying what you want your landing page to achieve and ensure it aligns with your overall business goals, as well as your marketing objectives
  • Only include essential elements on your landing page—nothing superfluous
  • View your first landing page as the initial step in a journey of constant optimization, data collection, and testing—constantly update it to improve your landing page’s performance

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

How to Modernize Your Marketing Legacy Systems: Evaluating & Adopting Your Tech Stack

Your marketing technology stack empowers your team to do great work. Generating impressive results not only becomes efficient, but enjoyable when the right tools are in place.

But for many organizations, their existing martech stack is more of a hindrance. Old-school technologies that have fallen behind get in the way, preventing great marketing talent from achieving great things.

In this article, we’ll help you make a case for modernizing your marketing legacy systems. You’ll learn about the benefits of modernization, how to sell your vision to the boardroom, the process for evaluating the right tools for your organization, and a strategy for digital adoption.

Modernizing legacy systems has become competitive table stakes

Adopting new tools and technologies for your marketing processes is about more than having shinier toys than your competition. Rather, it’s the bedrock of providing exceptional digital experiences for your customers.

This is what we mean by competitive table stakes. If your technology isn’t empowering you to delight your customer at every touch point, then it’s likely your competitors will do it for you. In fact, according to a study by PWC, 73% of consumers say a good experience is key in influencing their brand loyalties.

Because of this, modernizing the digital experience goes beyond marketing. It redefines the way your entire organization does business. Adopting the right tools help you:

  • Personalize messaging to your customers based on their interests (and how they’ve engaged with your brand)
  • Give customer success teams the power to respond to questions quickly
  • Allow salespeople to better serve their leads and prospects
  • Serve ads with messages that are relevant to the products that interest consumers
  • Deliver content that most interests specific audience segments

Furthermore, it can uncover new potential revenue streams—something many businesses were forced to discover due to the impact of COVID-19. For example, fast-thinking retail stores quickly adopted new infrastructure for curb-side pick-up, allowing customers to order online and collect their goods without having to step into the store. They worked within the parameters of a new market and reacted accordingly.

Marketing modernization is about catering the customer experience to the expectations of today. Consumers (and B2B executives alike) have high expectations of the brands they do business with. Not only does digital adoption of this scale improve efficiency across the organization, but it makes stakeholders and investors happy thanks to metrics that move up and to the right.

But the process can be clunky—depending on the complexity of your existing systems. If implemented carelessly, new technologies can wreak havoc on your day-to-day operations and actually damage customer relationships.

Integrating vs. replacing your legacy systems

To avoid any downtime in marketing activity (and customer communication), it’s worth taking stock of your existing systems and how they integrate with other platforms.

Depending on your needs, it may be worth taking a phased approach by integrating new technologies with your existing legacy systems, rather than replacing them altogether.

For example, most CRM vendors have realized that, in order to stay relevant in a competitive market, they must allow for integration into other sales, marketing, and customer service platforms.

Taking a phased approach means figuring out the lay of the land, which you can accomplish by following a careful process:

  1. Figure out which of your systems are most embedded into your day-to-day work. Your CRM is one example, but what about helpdesk software and marketing automation?
  2. Investigate their integration capabilities. Most platforms have a marketplace of integration partners you can peruse. If you’re already evaluating other martech vendors, it’s wise to see if your existing legacy systems integrate with them.
  3. Look into data export. How easy is it to export and migrate your existing data? Can it be done manually, or do you need existing vendors to do it on your behalf? The answers to these questions will determine how smooth or clunky the process could be.
  4. Maximize the output of what you’ve already got. Consider how to apply existing systems in new ways. 
  5. Decide whether you’ll replace or integrate your marketing legacy systems. Based on the answers to the steps above, make a data-driven decision fueled by research and a strategic digital roadmap. 

You may find that you’re not getting everything you can out of your existing systems. It’s worth figuring out what your existing platforms’ true capabilities are before evaluating new technologies and taking the leap.

On the other hand, be wary of obsolescence. Depending on how old your systems are, you may find that you’ve re-invested in a platform that’s no longer supported by the vendor.

The true-north decision maker is this: do what’s right for your customers. If existing systems can provide consumers with what they want, more power to you. But if not, it’s time to move on.

Getting boardroom buy-in for digital adoption

So, you’ve decided to modernize your digital experience and committed to taking the leap. Problem is, you’re not the only person who needs convincing.

Marketing legacy system modernization can be a mammoth process that requires plenty of resources, which means getting buy-in from c-suite executives and senior decision makers is crucial to making progress.

Getting stakeholders on board is an entire process in itself. Luckily, there are frameworks you can use to produce a compelling argument.

Collect supporting data

Opinions don’t move decisions at the boardroom level. Even if you know modernization is the right thing to do, you need to make a solid case backed by data.

Collecting the right data can help you achieve two things:

  1. Paint a picture of the current state of your industry
  2. Make an argument for business outcomes

For example, if you’re working in the real estate industry, it’s worth nothing that 79% of renters have cancelled viewings based on negative reviews on social media and review sites.

This, coupled with the fact that 60% of consumers say they’d switch to a brand that offers superior customer service, and you have a strong case for investing in new technologies that enhance the customer experience.

When pitching to investors, subscription platform Zuora used data to dial up the pain and show how changes in the Fortune 500 was causing many of them to go out of business:

They then used examples to outline the opportunity that this change presents (along with quantifiable numbers):

Your data can demonstrate risk, but it should also outline opportunities you’re about to present to them.

Conduct a brief competitive analysis

Data and facts illustrate the current state of the world you’re operating in. But decisions are still made at an emotional level in some capacity, regardless of seniority.

Showing what the competition is up to (and how they’re providing good customer experiences) truly illustrates exactly how far you’ve fallen behind. It also hits c-suite executives in the gut with FOMO.

Present competitive analysis by following this process:

  1. Select two or three of your biggest competitors. You want to take a quality-driven approach and paint a detailed picture when making your case.
  2. Walk through the buyer journey as a customer. Interact with their brand, starting from the first touchpoint (e.g. social media content, ads, etc.) all the way to making a purchase or enquiry.
  3. Take notes and capture screenshots. Collect materials that specifically outlines what they do so well.
  4. Present your findings as a customer narrative. Use your deck to show patterns in what each competitor does, as well as the specific elements that you’re missing from your customer experience.

Dive deeper into marketing collateral, messaging, and channels that show what your company is missing out on. Most importantly, use it as a way to demonstrate what you can do differently (and better).

Remember, providing a delightful customer experience is competitive table stakes. Your goal is to surpass expectations and blow customers away. Running alongside the competition is a lukewarm effort, and you’ll find yourself in the same position 18 months down the road.

Outline projected KPI improvements

You’ve made your case and demonstrated what your marketing technology should empower you to do. Now it’s time to show the boardroom what this can help the organization to achieve.

Start by collecting and benchmarking your marketing KPIs from the last 12 months. Look at acquisition metrics and conversion rates across every channel and touchpoint.

For example, let’s say you have 34 landing pages that serve different customer segments across all product lines. How does the average conversion rate compare to industry benchmarks? What are your highest and lowest performing landing pages, and how could you improve performance with the right technologies?

The same goes for email marketing. How well does your current platform allow you to segment customer segments and personalize messaging to their interests?

Once you’ve collected historical data, look for other studies that support potential increases in conversions. For example, according to this study from Experian, personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates than those that aren’t personalized.

While there are several factors at play, you can use this data to extrapolate the potential increase in email ROI. It’s only a leading indicator, but one that tells a powerful story.

Bringing all three of these elements into play—data, competitive analysis, and projections—will help you make a strong case to the boardroom. Show them what they’re missing out on, and how your plan for marketing maturity will help everyone across the organization get better results.

Evaluating the right tools against new and existing processes

Once you’ve made a case, you need to find the right tools for the job. As of 2020, there were over 8,000 martech vendors in the market—a 13.6% increase from the previous year.

The sheer number of options can make finding the right provider tricky. Here are a few approaches to finding best-in-class marketing technology for your modernization efforts:

1. Start with review sites like G2 and Capterra

G2 and Capterra have already done some of the hard work for you. These review sites act as a software database segmented by category, with ratings from users who use them on a daily basis.

Furthermore, they provide filters within each category, allowing you to find potential vendors based on your early requirements:

2. Put together a requirements document

To evaluate vendors, you need something to measure them against. This one is the simplest (but perhaps most time-consuming) part of the process: creating a requirements document.

Start with a simple statement that briefly outlines what you’re aiming to achieve with your new technologies. For example, if you’re looking to adopt new email marketing automation software, this statement might be:

“Our chosen email automation platform must be able to segment customers by interests and behavior, allowing us to send targeted messaging for every campaign and trigger emails based on their behavior.”

Short, simple, and to the point. This sets the tone and keeps you in check as you go through the evaluation process. From here, you must create a list of technical and onboarding requirements. This includes specific features, as well as initial support during the first few months of implementation.

If this is a replacement exercise (e.g. you’re looking for a new CRM to replace your current one), make sure that data migration is hassle-free. At the very least, your new vendor should be able to assist in doing this for you.

3. Set a clear budget

How much are you willing (and able) to spend on a monthly or annual basis? This step requires more input from the boardroom, as it’s likely you’ll need their financial support beyond the quarterly budgets you’ve been allocated.

It’s far easier to make a case when you demonstrate the potential returns. So, while having a budget in mind is key, make sure you also detail any potential increases in conversions or reductions in costs (from a technical and people power perspective).

4. Schedule demos and evaluate your options

With a list of potential tools and clear expectations, it’s time to find out what each vendor is all about. The evaluation process will depend on your needs, but typically the steps are as follows:

  1. Demo request. A guided walkthrough of the tool or platform. Decent sales reps will tailor demos to your needs, focusing on the features that you’ve outlined in your requirements document.
  2. Sales materials. Decks, ebooks, technical documentation, and other sales collateral should be shared with everyone involved in the process. 
  3. Trial. Get your hands on the tool and give it a test drive. Depending on the scale of the project, this will allow you to get a feel for what you can expect when rolling out across your entire organization.
  4. Negotiate. Go over timelines, and get commitment on onboarding activity and initial support.

These steps (or a variation of them) should give you everything you need to make a decision. Get the input of everyone involved in the process—especially individual contributors, as they’ll be interacting with the tools on a daily basis.

How to roll out a marketing modernization without disruption

Speaking of individual contributors, the next step is to implement and integrate your new platforms with minimum disruption to their work.

The best way to do this is with a phased approach. Instead of uprooting existing tools, start rolling out to different areas of the business.

Prioritize each phase based on the customer journey

You can start this process by first mapping the customer journey and the relevant touchpoints across every interaction. Don’t try to do everything at once.

Instead, figure out how to replace and roll out one channel at a time. For example, you could first migrate email workflows for customer retention activity, followed by cart abandonment emails, newsletters, etc.

Prioritize which areas of the digital experience need migrating first, creating timelines that every department and stakeholder must adhere to.

Collaborate with other departments

Speaking of other departments, it’s critical you get their input on the implementation plan. For example, if your events marketing team depends on your legacy system to execute on a campaign 30 days from now, you’ll need to work to their timescales in order to avoid disruption.

Encourage them to provide input on priorities and how features are implemented. They’ll be able to present ideas on how certain features can be deployed or changed, allowing them to contribute to building a stronger customer experience across the board.

Create detailed training & documentation

The added benefit of taking a phased approach is that it makes documentation easier to manage. As you migrate various parts of the customer experience to your new platform, you can document as you go along without overwhelm.

This can then be accompanied by internal training. You can do this as live workshops, or asynchronously thanks to tools like Loom.

It all comes down to clear processes. Documentation should provide easy-to-follow steps and an order of operations that ensures copy, creative, and marketing collateral is executed without error. This is especially critical when using new tools for the first time, as you’d be surprised how easy it is to accidentally send emails with missing variables.

Nobody likes being addressed as “{{first_name}}.”

Communicate changes to existing customers

Finally, be sure to clearly communicate any changes that directly affect your customers. For example, if you’re migrating to a new ecommerce platform, customers will need to re-enter their credit card information the next time they make a purchase.

Another, more complex example involves implementing a new healthcare CRM and patient management tool. Here, it’s critical you make patients aware of the process changes to avoid confusion.

Many modern tools allow for automated communications such as text message appointment confirmations or patient portals for providing results. Inform your new and existing patients of the new protocols, what they will need to do (e.g. create a username and password for a patient portal) along with any other expectations.

It’s important to get ahead of barriers to a seamless transition to avoid grievances and ensure a smooth transition.

Key takeaways

Depending on how far your organization has fallen behind, a digital maturity strategy might be the right call. However, don’t pull the trigger until you’ve taken stock of your existing platforms.

Can your legacy marketing systems integrate with other best-of-breed tools? Are there any features with untapped potential? If the answer is yes, an integration might be the best approach.

However, if your existing platforms are preventing you from delivering a mind-blowing customer experience, it’s time to move on. The decision should always come down to what’s best for your customer.

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