Author: Shamir Duverseau
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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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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

How Mature is Your Digital Experience?

According to MIT Sloan Management Review, “digital maturity goes beyond technology … it’s about how businesses are adapting in a digital environment.” Organizations must strive to make digital core to their business—in all areas of their business—in order to succeed. As a marketing leader you have a key question to answer: Are you fundamentally adapting your customer experience to compete effectively in the digital era?

Answering this charge requires an understanding of what digital maturity looks like vis a vis the experience you are providing to customers—from awareness to conversion and beyond—as well as the ability to measure where your organization falls on the spectrum of digital development. The closer you can get to a real-time, 1:1 experience with each person, the more mature your digital experience. Why? Because the more personal the experience, the more likely someone is to take action in the short term and build lifetime value for your organization in the long term. 

To illustrate the importance of the 1:1 experience, consider this example. Smart Panda Labs worked with a real estate development company offering luxury apartment rentals in metropolitan areas including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. As with many organizations, the homepage was one of most frequented pages on their website and featured general messages about the company and their newest properties. As we helped this brand mature their digital experiences, homepage content became more personalized. Direct visits to the site prompted location-specific content. Visitors coming to the site by way of a paid search campaign would see content related to their search query. Their behavior on the site further informed home page content, as they searched specific neighborhoods or property types. As this personalization increased, so did engagement and conversions.

Just as no child grows up overnight, no organization can become digitally mature overnight, either. The arc of digital experience growth can be summarized in four stages: Early, Developing, Maturing, and Leading.

The Early Stage

If your organization is in the early stage of digital maturation, the digital experience you are providing to consumers is not fully formed. Maybe you are still just talking about how to personalize the journey, but you have yet to put those wheels in motion. 

To progress to the next stage, you’ll need to focus on clarifying your vision, goals, and strategy and communicating that vision across the organization. What are the fundamental ways you will build awareness for your brand in the digital space? How will you get prospects to consider your products or services? What can help them make a decision and choose your brand over the competition? How can you keep them as customers? And finally, how can you transform them from loyal customers into adoring fans?

As you answer these questions, focus on how you’re building your foundation—the elements necessary to execute, measure, and learn from basic tactics. The emphasis here should be on learning, which is a critical thread that must be pulled through each stage of your organization’s growth and maturity.

The Developing Stage

In the developing stage, your organization is focused on framework—the parameters and processes that must be in place to engage in slightly more advanced digital tactics. Not only will these more robust tactics begin to drive better results, they will also begin to provide more meaningful data, and data is the gas that will fuel the personalization to which every brand aspires.

While the basics afford you the ability to gather data, a framework enables you to  gather meaningful customer data on which you can act.  

It is this kind of data that positions you to explore personalizing the experiences you are creating, if not to individuals at least to groups (audience segments).  

The Maturing Stage    

Jeff Bezos once said of Amazon: “Our success is a function of how many experiments we do per year, per month, per week, per day.” In today’s digital world, more and more companies are turning to experiments to discover how best to create or improve online experiences. A maturing stage organization is concerned about having an organizational culture that promotes experimentation, and one where learning is part of every digital tactic. 

Personalized experiences are driven by the needs and desires of your  prospects and customers. Experimentation is essential to uncovering what those needs and wants are. 

The mindset that fosters experimentation is one of trusting the process. It’s about the journey, not the destination. People’s circumstances and, therefore, preferences change constantly. Add to that the effects of the marketplace, and you quickly come to recognize that personalization is never fixed. Knowing an individual’s (or a segment’s) needs and desires requires constant testing, which can only be supported by a thriving organizational culture of experimentation. (Learn more about the importance of such a culture and how to achieve it in the Harvard Business Review article “Building a Culture of Experimentation”.)

 The Leading Stage

When you have arrived at the leading stage, you’re focused on your team. You have invested in your organization, and your team has used that investment to build you a strong foundation, a solid framework, and a pervasive culture. Now it’s time to make sure you are investing in their learning and growth.  

Remember, while data may fuel the digital experience, it is people who fuel your organization. The right team will not only enable your strategy to thrive, they will have the mindset and the skills to evolve and iterate that strategy in an ever changing world. Those iterations will necessitate changes to your foundation and framework to provide the proper support. It is your team that will lead and manage those changes. Furthermore, it is people who bring life to and maintain culture, so it will take the right people to live the culture you have built as a maturing organization.

Ultimately, the right people will bring you the greatest return on your investment.

What’s Next?

Every organization is different, varying by size, industry, and market. However, the tactics that lead to a mature digital experience are fundamentally the same. How well you execute on these tactics, across all digital experiences, is what will win you loyal customers and increase their lifetime value.

Knowing where you are in this trajectory requires asking yourself some direct questions about the digital experiences you are (and aren’t) currently providing. Understanding your baseline is essential to your growth. Ready to find out? Take this quiz.

Once you decide you’re ready to evolve your digital experiences to the next stage, you’ll need a roadmap to get there. Understanding these next steps will be the subject of a future article. 

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

Smart Panda Labs Recognized Nationally as One of the Best Workplaces for Commuters in 2020

Orlando, FL – February 13, 2020Smart Panda Labs, a digital consultancy that leverages data and creative intelligence to drive customer lifetime value, today announced its been named one of the 2020 Best Workplaces for Commuters for offering employees exceptional commuter benefits.

Smart Panda Labs is among a select group of workplaces in the United States that have achieved the Best Workplaces for Commuters National Standard of Excellence by providing an array of commuter benefits, resulting in at least 14 percent of their employee base not driving alone to work within a 12-month period. With a workforce that’s 100% virtual, Smart Panda Labs offers employees several telecommuting benefits options, including:

  • Computers and peripherals
  • Monthly budgets to support team members as needed
  • Innovative technologies that advance collaboration such as on-demand conference calls, video conferencing, screen sharing and virtual whiteboarding

“Smart Panda Labs is one of the top employers in the nation offering high level commuter benefits to their employees,” said Julie Bond, Program Manager, Best Workplaces for Commuters. “Smart Panda Labs made the list because they put people first and support employees with technologies and resources that enable telework and compressed work weeks. Smart Panda Labs gives its employees the support they need to excel in a virtual workplace business model.”

“We take immense pride in receiving our 2020 Best Workplaces for Commuters national designation,” said Shamir Duverseau, co-founder and managing director of Smart Panda Labs. “Our support of remote and virtual workers reflects our commitment to our people and has helped us recruit top talent, experience lower turnover, and foster a highly collaborative environment. Financially, we have reduced overhead costs and reduced payroll tax contributions. I have found that the Best Workplaces for Commuters program is good for our company and good for our people.”

The Best Workplaces for Commuters program offers designated organizations access to a range of support services to assess and promote non-driving commuting of employees, including organizational assessment and implementation tool-kits, web-based tools and webinars, staff training, and information exchange.

“The companies on this list understand the importance and impact commuter benefits have on their employees and the value they bring to the environment,” said Bond. “Excellent commuter benefit programs reward these companies not just with a national designation, but buoys workplace productivity, customer loyalty and brand recognition in an increasingly competitive marketplace.”

About Smart Panda Labs 

Smart Panda Labs is a digital consulting firm that drives customer lifetime value by optimizing every digital experience along the customer journey in a variety of considered purchase industries such as higher ed, travel and hospitality, healthcare, real estate, retail, and technology. MWBE-owned and founded in 2010 by digital strategy experts from Fortune 1000 companies, Smart Panda Labs is focused on the strength of data-driven and creative intelligence to increase their clients’ new customer acquisition and improve customer retention.  Visit Smart Panda Labs. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter 

About Best Workplaces for Commuters (http://www.bestworkplaces.org/ 

Best Workplaces for Commuters is the national authority on recognizing and assisting workplaces that provide exceptional commuter benefits to employees. More than a recognition program, the Best Workplaces for Commuters program provides support needed to create and sustain an employer-provided commuter benefit program, including online assessment tools, advisory services, case studies, tool-kits, web-based tools, webinars and training. Best Workplaces for Commuters represents over 350 workplaces with Best Workplaces for Commuters designation representing over 2,000,000 employees. The Best Workplaces for Commuters program is managed by the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR)  at the University of South Florida with support from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). 

About Center for Urban Transportation Research (https://www.cutr.usf.edu/) 

The Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida, established in 1988, is an internationally recognized resource for policymakers, transportation professionals and the public. CUTR provides high quality, objective expertise in the form of insightful research, in-depth policy analysis, comprehensive training and education and effective technical assistance that translates directly into benefits for CUTR’s project sponsors.  CUTR’s faculty of 49 full-time researchers and 75 students, combines academic knowledge and extensive “real world” experience in developing innovative, implementable solutions for all modes of transportation.  The multidisciplinary research faculty includes experts in economics, planning, engineering, public policy and geography.  CUTR logs nearly $20 million per year in expenditures through contracts and grants to support its research, education, training and technical assistance missions. In 2019, CUTR was competitively selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation as the university to oversee the National Institute of Congestion Reduction. 

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

Smart Panda Labs Announces Certification as a Salesforce Consulting Partner

Orlando, FL – January 28, 2020  — Smart Panda Labs, a digital consultancy that leverages data and creative intelligence to drive customer lifetime value, today announced its certification as a Salesforce Consulting Partner.  As a Salesforce Consulting Partner, Smart Panda Labs enriches its service offerings to support clients with existing Salesforce applications or to lead successful implementations of world-class, cloud-based solutions.

”We partner with technology leaders who will enable us to further optimize the customer journey and building customer relationships is an integral part of that journey,” said Shamir Duverseau, co-founder and managing director of Smart Panda Labs.  “Salesforce offers a premier set of solutions that bring together processes, technology and people to improve customer acquisition and increase customer retention – all on a single integrated platform. As a Salesforce partner, we can now capitalize on the power of the Salesforce ecosystem to help our clients generate more prospects and increase revenue through a personalized customer experience.”

 

Salesforce Offerings

“We’re delighted to have Smart Panda Labs join the community of Salesforce Consulting Partners who are vital to enabling unparalleled customer success in every industry and every market around the world,” noted Tyler Prince, EVP of Industries & Partners at Salesforce.

The Smart Panda Labs team of data analytics and business intelligence experts use CRM to help their clients to build and manage customer relationships and all associated data and information as well as acquisition, content marketing, automation, and predictive intelligence.  Salesforce certification strengthens these capabilities with Salesforce-authorized services for:

  • Discovery assessment to evaluate an existing Salesforce Marketing Cloud implementation or gather requirements for a new one.
  • Strategic planning to ensure key business processes are addressed.
  • Implementation designed to integrate Salesforce with existing applications and accelerate the time to value.
  • Customized management solutions for continuous optimization of new customer acquisition and customer retention strategies and tactics.

“The ability to deliver these services to our clients is mutually beneficial,” said Duverseau. “These services drive client success and Salesforce certification is strategic to our growth in the coming months.”

About Smart Panda Labs 

Smart Panda Labs is a digital consulting firm that drives customer lifetime value by optimizing every digital experience along the customer journey in a variety of considered purchase industries such as higher ed, travel and hospitality, healthcare, real estate, retail, and technologyMWBE-owned and founded in 2010 by digital strategy experts from Fortune 1000 companies, Smart Panda Labs is focused on the strength of data-driven and creative intelligence to increase their clients’ new customer acquisition and improve customer retention Visit Smart Panda Labs. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Author: Shamir Duverseau
Shamir Duverseau

Humanize Data with Creative Intelligence

We hear a lot about data science these days, and well we should. It’s clear data is the new oil and the ability to gather accurate data can yield brands a great deal of power. That power can be used to fuel the Customer journey from awareness to purchase to loyalty and evangelism.

But something else has also become clear, or at least it should be. It’s not all science. It’s also an art. Science, in this context, can be defined as the systematic study of behavior through observation and experimentation. Then there’s art. Art is the expression and application of human creative skill.  And in that definition lies the key. Art is human.

Science, in a sense, removes the human part of the equation as it to move one closer to objectivity, and there’s no doubt that’s important. But it’s critical not to forget that no matter how much data we have, it’s data about people. People who are, more often than not,  subjective creatures with feelings and inclinations and needs that are hard, if not impossible, to quantify.

So, if you’re in the business of dealing with people – and if you’re in business then this means you – there is both an art and a science to this. And in that overlap, there needs to be a fine balance, a creative intelligence, that starts with the science of data but only uses it as a foundation to make things more human.

Now if this is key for any Customer experience, it becomes more key as the interaction and the decision becomes more human, as the purchase becomes more considered. Wikipedia defines a considered purchase as, “a complex buying decision with a high degree of financial and/or emotional risk and reward.”  Emotion, risk, reward. Talk about human concepts that are hard to define in aggregate, nevermind for the ever diverse individual.

Industry studies tell us that 90% of decisions are based on emotions. Personally, I think that is far closer to 100%.  We make decisions every day based on emotion and justify them later. All these decisions require some degree of creative intelligence, of both art and science. And they involve some risk, some potential for loss. However, while buying a book is one thing, buying your first home, deciding on a cancer treatment, choosing a career, booking your honeymoon…these are quite another.  And it’s not just because of financial cost. With these decisions, these considered purchases, the risks transcend financial cost. There is more emotional skin in the game, sometimes to a very serious or life-changing degree.

For example, take the considered purchase of buying a home. Data may tell you how many times a person visits a website, what keywords or ads got them there, what pages they viewed, where they live, and a multitude of other invaluable information.  The science may find patterns and correlations between specific keywords and specific content or how demographics align with the length of time between research and purchase. But now you are left with the why? Why do the data yield those results? And in leveraging the human element, you put yourself in the shoes of the first time homebuyer who is about to start a family or empty nesters looking for a place to retire.  It’s those considerations that drive you to use science to make artful decisions on what to test and how to test it that are far different than the ones driven by data alone. That’s creative intelligence at work.

Therefore, while business intelligence is critical and artificial intelligence is powerful, there’s an argument to be made that creative intelligence leads the way for optimizing the considered purchase. If you think about it, it’s the only way to be truly Customer-centric.  How so? Because it’s the only way that gives the Customer, the human, the weight they deserve in the equation.

Creative intelligence for the considered purchase. That’s what it’s about now, or at least what it should be.

Key Takeaways:

  • The power of data can be used to fuel the customer journey from awareness to purchase to loyalty and evangelism. But data isn’t the whole story.
  • No matter how much data we have about our customers, this data is about humans—people with feelings and inclinations and needs that are challenging, if not impossible, to quantify.
  • Extracting valuable customer intelligence requires creative intelligence, a process that applies meaning and understanding to existing data.
  • Creative intelligence is particularly relevant to analyzing considered purchases— complex buying decisions with a high degree of financial and/or emotional risk and reward.

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