Story optimisation

Those in sales or marketing will know about how we should always ‘sell’ the benefits of a product or service - and not simply promote the features alone. In a previous Insights article '5Ss of Internet Marketing' we talk about “selling the sizzle”... to quote “It’s the ‘sizzle’ that sells the sausage - not just the sausage alone!” Storytelling and story optimisation are just that. It’s about creating and then honing your content to make it compelling to the reader, providing them with context, conviction and a reason to keep reading.

Here are some examples... We’re told that the sweet brand M&Ms aren’t just M&Ms... They’re the milk chocolate that melts in your mouth, and not in your hand. Tesco meantime promote their price competitiveness and customer service ideals by advocating “Every little helps”. British Airways, so they tell us, are the “World’s favourite airline”, Carlsberg is “Probably the best lager in the world” and KFC’s fast food is “Finger lickin’ good”. All of these have developed their brands around a storyline to sell the dream or benefit that underpins their products’ unique selling points.

This paradigm can also be applied to your web content and as such it can be optimised in much the same way. This is something that the charity Parkinson’s UK did to great effect in a recent dual online and offline poster campaign where 26 “image-makers” were used to portray the many symptoms of the disease. It helped to shift attitudes towards the disease and got people to understand and empathise.

Finally, on the topic of story optimisation, don’t forget social media! Nowadays, probably one of the most powerful storytelling tools in the digital marketers armoury.

Strategy optimisation

It really should go without saying that any marketing strategy – digital or otherwise – should always be underpinned by a robust strategy and plan. Too often we see marketing departments simply doing things for doing things sake! “We always place an ad in this publication”, or “We should attend this event because we have done for the last 10 years”. No, no, no, no, no! Let’s get this straight. Every strategic goal should be supported by a plan or set of guidelines that show how it or they will be achieved. Yes, it may be right that we attend that event or place that ad in that publication or on that website, but only when we recognise it as a means to get us to where we want to be in the overall scheme of the plan and goal.

A digital strategy should also be fluid in its approach and have the ability to adapt and evolve as required. Goals, resources, ideas, attitudes, people, politics, economics, environments, social attitudes, legislation and technologies can, and often will all change with time. Consequently, your strategies need to be robust and yet have the flexibility to mould themselves to any given change.

When building your overall digital strategy you may consider digital initiatives for your website, or activities such as blogs, e-marketing, pay-per-click, search engine optimisation, videos or podcasts. But the key should continually be to optimise them and gear everything towards your ultimate goal. So, for example, if your goal is to increase your charity’s donations or membership base by X% over a given period of time, then your plan could include a pay-per-click campaign using Google Grants. Over time, this could evolve to include or even scale back to just a strategic banner ad and/or email campaign. Only you will know what’s best going forwards. Be open to change if and when required and optimise your strategies to maximise their return.

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

These days Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a given for any website. Yet many still choose to side-step, ignore or put it off for another day. With so many organisations, especially not-for-profits and other websites all competing for Google, Bing or Yahoo’s finest real estate, SEO is simply not something that can be gotten around to eventually.

For a start, SEO is a continually moving target. Google, for example, is constantly updating and evolving its algorithms so that as technology, users and their usage habits change, their searches deliver the most relevant and appropriate results possible. So don’t think for a minute that addressing your website’s SEO will be a one-off exercise. If you want to be found, then your site’s SEO is key.

Consider that nowadays most web activity starts with a search engine - statistics of between 75% and 85% have been quoted by a number of reliable sources. Think about it... how often do you actually type in a URL into your browser’s address bar? The address bar is now more often your browser’s default search engine. You then click on the most appropriate search engine result.

Yes, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads are potentially a short-term workaround to get noticed on page 1 of a search phrase, but they cost money. If you’re serious about having a successful online strategy, then search engine optimisation has to be at the very top of your to-do list.

But also remember, SEO is a means to an end. If your website, products or customer service are poor, then no amount of SEO will help you!

Spend optimisation

In the world of Internet marketing, spend optimisation covers a multitude of money spending sins. For digital marketers this primarily purports to being able to get the most from your online advertising spend, though it can also include the costs associated with things like online subscriptions, email list sponsorships and affiliate marketing expenditure.

To optimise what you spend on your digital marketing, you must first be able to measure your digital activity. That way you can then identify what is working for you, and more importantly, what’s not, and then adjust your spending accordingly.

Techniques such as A/B Testing for activities like pay-per-click and email marketing provide good testing platforms on which to gather performance intelligence. The delivery of your online initiatives can then be optimised and the return on your investment reconciled and justified.

Site optimisation

Site optimisation is another one of those moving target exercises, where you really need to stay on top of it or, better still, be one step ahead.

When people arrive at your website, are you giving them what they want or need? Is your site’s architecture usable? Can they access and easily use your website on the move – be that on a mobile phone or tablet device? If you’re a charity or membership, is your ‘Join’ and/or ‘Donate’ button and other ‘calls to action’ easy to find? If so, do your follow-through processes flow as your users would want or expect them to?

Once again, measurement is the key. You’ll never know what works and what doesn’t unless you monitor it using your website’s analytics. How many people clicked that ‘Donate’ button? Did they even get there at all, and if not where did they bail out? Are there common site usage trends? Where are people coming onto your site? Are there pages on your site that are seeing success from unexpected places? on and so forth.

If knowledge is power, then your measurements are the fuel!

Since 1996, NetXtra has helped hundreds of membership and not-for-profit organisations develop and drive their digital strategies. To find out how we can help you call us on 01787 319393 or get in touch via our Contact page.