What Optimization Leaders Are Doing (And You Should Be Doing, Too)
How do the top minds in digital marketing operate? Contributor Kevin Lindsay discusses the mindsets and habits that lead individual marketers -- and their organizations -- to success.
I spend my days surrounded by some of the boldest, most innovative thinkers in the digital marketing universe — and it’s pretty incredible.
They’re taking risks, experimenting, testing, and through it all, changing the way we think about optimization. These elite doers know testing and optimization are critical pieces of their digital monetization strategy, and they’re pushing the envelope as far, as fast and as hard as they can to maximize it.
These thinkers have given me a unique perspective on what really separates optimization leaders from the rest of the pack. From where I sit, it’s clear what they’re doing that most organizations aren’t — and it’s equally clear how fellow marketers can benefit from these elite best practices and learned behaviors.
Digging in, it seems to all boil down to five areas of understanding and action:
1. Using Data Religiously
Above all, optimization leaders are using data to understand who their audience is — and from there, to deliver spot-on experiences.
Yes, there’s the discipline and commitment that comes with building out a robust data platform. And yes, there are the marketing best practices, processes and systems that need to fall into place to make it all actionable, and ultimately, help you go from insights to action, to impact, then back again.
But for our purposes, it boils down to this first step: committing to being a data-driven marketer, then using data religiously in your testing, optimization and personalization initiatives.
To emulate the optimization leaders, start by putting your existing behavioral and contextual data to work. Leverage these valuable metrics to build out comprehensive audience segments — segments that deliver greater relevance than last year, last month or even last week.
That’s another key distinction between optimization leaders and the rest of the bunch: optimization leaders know that their audience is constantly evolving and expanding, and yesterday’s most profitable segment might look totally different from today’s. Stay on top of these real-time shifts by constantly pulling in new profiles, then drilling down on existing data to find the most valuable segments… even if they aren’t what you expected.
Sounds straightforward enough, right? Yet surprisingly, according to Adobe’s latest Digital Marketing Survey, nearly half of companies do not have formal plans in place to grow or enhance their data-driven marketing initiatives.
2. Making The Most Of Mobile Experiences
It feels like we’re in the same place in our mobile evolution as we were with web eight or so years ago. It’s like digital déjà vu.
The good news? Since we’ve been here before, there’s no reason to let labels and silos trip us up. Mobile accounts for 50 to 70 percent of all consumer interactions with leading brands, and app session launches alone are up 51 percent year over year. We can’t wait any longer to dig in and optimize those critical consumer touch points — which, it seems, are growing by the minute.
According to Adobe Digital Index’s 2015 Mobile Benchmark Report, just 34 percent of surveyed companies have a defined mobile strategy. Those 34 percent are poised to dominate the market starting right now. (Adobe is my employer.)
Now think about your own business. Are you part of that 34 percent? Or the two in three without a defined strategy?
It’s understandable why this platform has tripped up more than a few marketers. Mobile comes with its own set of unique challenges, from the small screen to the lack of app engagement. All too often, brands try to move from the big house (laptops and desktops) to the apartment (the smartphone or tablet). You simply can’t take everything from the big property and pop it into the small one. You’ve got to adapt and optimize your space.
And that’s exactly what best-in-class optimization organizations are doing. They’re deeply invested in hypothesizing, testing and optimizing, all with relevance delivery top of mind. They know the experience, context and device all matter and all play a role in whether consumers will engage and convert.
And more importantly, they’re pushing their organizations to go beyond mobile engagement and really start monetizing these powerful experiences.
3. Automation To Mitigate Risks And Maximize Wins
Marketers know they have to take risks to be successful, yet few would call themselves risk-takers. So what’s holding marketers up?
It seems to come down to a massive fear of failure paired with self-doubt and an inability to tie ROI to every movement — and it’s become borderline paralyzing. But optimization leaders aren’t letting any of this hold them back. Instead, they’re tapping into a powerful sidekick to push their efforts ahead: automation.
A good example of automation in marketing optimization? Machine learning. This tactic leverages unique algorithms to decide on the optimal content to connect to each site visitor.
An organization may choose, for example, to integrate an algorithm that optimizes against customer lifetime value metrics, enabling the machine to do the heavy analytics lifting. Done well, automation (in this scenario) could even eliminate the need for an in-house data scientist.
Another perk to embracing and integrating automation is that it mitigates much of the risk associated with testing content or campaigns. It’s impossible for a marketer to make the kinds of real-time decisions a machine can.
Automation has the power to spot trends on the fly and equally importantly, can act on them, funneling traffic one way or the other to maximize live traffic.
I see optimization leaders integrating automation all of the time — and, as a result, they’re effectively scaling their marketing efforts and realizing quicker wins. What marketer out there doesn’t what that?
4. Optimizing Every Step Of The Journey
At Adobe, we always fall back on consistent, cohesive experiences as a cornerstone to every solution and service we deliver. Sure, it’s a “back to basics” approach, but no matter the circumstances, it always seems to drum up serious results.
But while the industry talks about consistency, optimization leaders take it a step further. They’re not only cognizant of delivering consistent, cohesive experiences, they’re also razor-focused on what works at each point of interaction, plus what it would take to cultivate micro-successes every step of the way.
Where you and your organization sit on the optimization spectrum is key to what your next steps should be here. Start by thinking about the way you approach testing and optimization.
Are you focused on creating an experience that’s triggered the moment a user lands on your site? Is that brand entry point — the home page, for example — the first and only piece of the journey that’s optimized?
Focus on best practices of the optimization elite. In their quest to determine the success of their personalization efforts, they know they need to carry the experience through a consumer’s entire journey — and that means multi-page, multi-touch point testing woven through every page, email and social engagement.
5. Optimization Leaders Dive In Head First — And They Love It
Last — but certainly not least — there’s the importance of marketers’ own experiences. Very simply, you’ve got to be passionate about what you do to really savor the moments and indulge in every minute of testing, experimenting and evolution.
Optimization leaders are always at the head of the class, hand in the air and ready for more, more, more. They’re diving into anything and everything, ready for whatever optimization adventures arise. And always backing these elite leaders are their organizations, constantly feeding them the visually interesting and data-oriented tools they need to succeed.
I like to think of it this way: optimization leaders are the ones putting a high value on user experiences and, in turn, they deserve to have good ones, too. Whether it’s discovering interesting new segments, testing offers, optimizing personalized content, or even observing results in compelling visual, easily shareable report snippets, the best of the best optimization pros relish their work — and great UX just makes them want to do more of it.
But They Do Sleep…
All of this said, it’s not that optimization-centric marketers never sleep — quite the opposite. As brands integrate more and more of these tactics and best practices into their own work, digital marketers can better impact all channels 24/7, optimizing customer experiences and marketing impact without the heavy lifting that can cripple other companies.
Now more than ever, I see these five areas as being the foundation of established, ongoing success — and they’re clearly playing out in a big way within the most successful optimization-driven organizations I encounter.
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