Spheres of Influence (Marketing Edition)

In business, like in life, there is a multitude of things you can control, and much more that you can’t. Various disciplines and areas of study (politics, sociology, economics, corporate governance and even astrodynamics) use the term spheres of influence, but today we’ll focus on marketing. For those that haven’t been introduced to the concept, it’s pretty simple;

  1. Stand in the middle of the room
  2. Flail your arms around wildly

This is your sphere of influence. In this case, the influence you are capable of exerting is likely physical harm. How can you extend that sphere and influence a larger section of your home, apartment or neighborhood? Maybe try yelling hysterically? Now you’ve extended your sphere, but the nature of how you influence those beyond the reach of your noodle-limbs has changed.

In marketing, especially e-commerce, you are an island. I once heard my partner-in-crime/Founder of Hawke Media (Erik) say that starting an online business is like building a store in the middle of the desert. There are no roads to your business, no foot-traffic, nada. It’s absolutely true. Your existing influence and ability to create larger spheres quickly are critical for growth. You’ll want to extend your reach regarding channels that send traffic, customers that understand and value your business, press that acknowledges and promotes your efforts, and advisors or staff that share in your vision for the organization.

At Hawke Media, we are marketers (pretty darn good ones IMHO), but like everybody else, we can only control what is within our sphere. In some cases, this sphere is limited by a client’s budget, and in others, it is limited by restrictions of the specific ad/marketing channel. In both cases, the website itself is the ultimate conversion tool for e-commerce. A few things to keep in mind:

CLICKS ≠ CLICKS ≠ CLICKS

Simply put, there are pros and cons of each channel just like the analogy of you in the room flailing your arms earlier or yelling hysterically. With some, you can get many low-value impressions and even clicks that don’t convert while on other platforms you can get more expensive clicks that convert at a better rate. Then again, a bunch of clicks (visitors) that don’t convert can be cookied and retargeted. Retargeting has a pretty high conversion rate relative to display (for example). Each of those visitors should also be prompted to enter an e-mail address as well, and you have the opportunity to nurture a customer through triggered and action-driven marketing campaigns. In summary, CPM, CPC, and CPA only tell part of the story. Equally important, your marketing team can only drive results across the entire mix if they have been given access to the entire effort.

WE CAN’T MAKE THEM BUY

Nobody can. What we (marketers) can do is create compelling offers that align with your brand’s messaging and drive traffic to the site. If the “mousetrap” hasn’t been built well, it doesn’t matter how much cheese is in there. What makes a site convert poorly?

  • Out of stock inventory (especially if you are advertising that exact product specifically!)
  • Bait and switch
  • Lack of social proof
  • Poor or unclear call-to-action (CTA)
  • Bad navigation, sort, search or product listing pages
  • Too much text, not enough pretty pictures (especially lifestyle images)
  • No incentive to buy or differentiated value
  • Many, many other things…

The point here is that if you are getting heaps of traffic at, or below industry average costs, but not seeing sales growth, the site may be the reason (or part of it).

BUDGET = REACH

Sorry folks, this is just the way it works. If you are looking to go to market with a few hundred bucks and a dream, that is absolutely awesome and you should be commended…but…know that your reach is going to reflect that. You don’t necessarily need to take a second mortgage to attract new business, but you should know that your learning curve will be steeper with more budget as well. Say for example that you have a fairly good idea of who your target market is (most think they do). When you actually go to advertise, a wise move is to test that hypothesis against actual data. Some make the mistake of a self-fulfilling prophecy where they only advertise to folks they think are the target market and when sales roll in—voila! They are all from the target market!

If you test 20 different demographic segments at $10/day, you are spending $200/day, and it will take a bit of time at that clip to get statistically significant data sets about those groups. If you spend $2,000/day, you will learn faster and can optimize for the best audience.

FORGET ROI FOR THE FIRST 3 MONTHS

Okay, maybe don’t completely forget return on investment (ROI)—just relax about it. In the early days of a marketing campaign, everything you measure will be more expensive in month one than in month four. Because of the learning mentioned above, user-flow challenges and the growth of an e-mail marketing list, your marketing ROI will improve with time and experience. Marketing spend should absolutely be measured, but remember the spheres—once it’s spent, you no longer have control over that money, the creative assets, or the call-to-action. Improve your site, capture e-mail better, create better-triggered responses, and tune-up your retargeting. All of these can help improve sales and continue to drive ROI.

FINALLY…remember that your marketing reach will vary day-by-day and will never stop evolving. Marketing should be the highest priority of your enterprise next to selling and delivering. Budgets, attention, and staff resources should reflect this. Be creative, come up with new ways to extend your reach, and have some fun.

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