I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve sat in where it’s immediately obvious that the only thing the client cares about is leads, conversions, or sales. Hey, I get that. They want to improve their business. We want to help them build a better business. We’re on the same page there.
But focusing on conversions – and conversions alone – isn’t helping a business get any better for a few reasons. First, focusing on the number of conversions ignores a lot of the work that goes into setting the stage for those conversions, drawing people to the brand. Like integrated marketing. Using all the channels together to keep your strategy in sync and make sure the right people are becoming aware of you. These efforts aren’t as easy to express as conversions, but they are worthwhile. Without these efforts, conversion rate suffers… a lot.
Second, the conversion-only focus means you (or more likely your staff, under pressure to perform for conversions alone) neglect your higher level goals (you know, the ones that move you toward a better business and not just a better income). Again, those higher level goals might not come wrapped up in one simple number, which can be presented to superiors. However, they are just as important to moving your business forward.
If we had only focused on how many conversions (in this case, how many clients we signed) we received from our Truly Monumental Guide to Building Online Communities and neglected to look at our integrated marketing efforts and all they accomplished along the way, we would have felt like we failed.
If we only looked at new client conversions alone, we would be missing the more important, bigger picture of everything we achieved. When we took the time to analyze our efforts, we realized we accomplished so much more than signing on new clients. And we saw our success in a whole lot of different places. Read on for our very own study on measuring integrated marketing efforts.
The What, Why, & How of Our Community Building Guide
Over 10 months ago, we released our Community Building Guide. We affectionately nicknamed this 147-page guide Arthur. The guide itself is an ode to why and how to build communities online.
Arthur sprang up out of our need to talk about the benefits of online community building to anyone who would listen. No, really, we are passionate about building communities (it worked so well for us) and we wanted to share this love with the world (it can work well for others, too).
In addition to our desire to share our community-building knowledge with the world, we had goals for the company. As a brand, we wanted to continue to earn and enhance our reputation for thought leadership in our community and the industry it serves. As a benchmark for that, we set the goal of 8,000 downloads of the guide by the end of 2014. We also set a business goal of increasing leads. We had no idea that launching this guide would do so much more than that.
Here’s the first twist in measuring the results of a single piece of content when you’re Mack Web. We’re strong proponents of integrated marketing so nothing exists in a vacuum. We know our goals are better met if we put all available outreach channels to their best use.
Now to go back to Arthur specifically: take a look at all of our community building guide efforts in visual form first so you can be truly and properly overwhelmed. Then, we’ll get into the bits & pieces.
Here’s everything we did before the guide was even released:
- We created a signup page for people if they wanted to get the guide right when it came out. We used Launchrock to collect the email addresses and we highly recommend it.
- We organized a Google+ Hangout with some excellent community building panelists in our industry two weeks prior to the guide’s launch.
- We made five videos to promote the guide before it came out and to build some momentum. The videos provided lots of good tidbits about building community. We structured them as bite-sized teasers to the guide to inform and inspire people thinking about building online communities.
- We sent out six pre-launch emails that shared value with our community and were related to our other efforts.
- We wrote seven blog posts related to the guide and efforts surrounding it.
- On social media, we made sure everyone and their brother knew that we had a guide coming out. And then we told everyone again.
And here’s what we did (mostly on the day of the release):
- We released news about the guide on the blog, on our site, and via email to those who had signed up ahead of time and those already on our email list.
- We contacted friends and peers in the industry to help spread the word about the release.
- We promoted the guide on social media and to our community.
- We celebrated and worked together that morning (our war room was filled to the brim with fruit, breakfast burritos, other delights, and snacks). This was a very important part of our launch.
We didn’t leave it at that – here’s what we’ve done since the guide was released:
- We asked for feedback about the guide via email and on social media.
- Mack did a webinar based on the guide .
- Mack spoke at WistiaFest and State of Search about the video series we did for Arthur.
- Mack also wrote on Moz about 5 strategic steps to big content, stemming from our experience with the community building guide.
- We promoted these spawn of Arthur via email, on the blog, and on social media.
- And we’ve got a secret project in the works related to Arthur. No, you can’t bribe us for more information with gummy bears. We’ve got morals, people.
Now that you’ve got a bit of background about the tactics we used, you’ve probably reached two conclusions. First, we must have gotten a million new customers. Second, figuring out how many of those millions was a direct result of the guide would be pretty much impossible. Well, you’re right about the second one (coming up soon). As for the first conclusion… yeah, not so much.
The Results of Arthur Alone
We can count the number of conversions of new clients we received off of our guide on one finger. Approximately 3 months after Arthur launched, we signed a client because they had read our guide.
You read that right. One. Single. Client. Un cliente. Ein Client. Great result for all that work, right?
But here’s where I’m going to blow your mind. That’s only an embarrassing result if all we cared about was the conversion rate of clients. Lucky for us (and our egos), we had a ton of other results from this guide that we’re proud of.
The guide received 373 total inbound links since it launched in October 2013. Influential sites like Moz, Inbound, Conductor, and Wistia all linked to the guide, substantially increasing its reach. Most of those links were thanks to friendships we had made in the industry waaaaaayyyyyyy before the guide was even a twinkle in the Mack Web team’s collective eye. That’s the kind of groundwork that’s hard to measure and hard to do, but gives indisputable value.
And then, because the guide was full of so much good stuff, it earned even more links all by itself. That’s value we can’t even begin to attach a number to.
Guide Downloads & Pre-Guide Signups
Before the guide was launched, we had 350 signups from people who wanted to receive word when the guide launched. Within 30 days of launch, we had 1,250 downloads. As of July 2014, we’d reached more than 5,500 guide downloads (just 9 months). We’re well on our way to reach 8,000 downloads by December 31st (I wouldn’t bet against us if I were you).
The number of downloads is a valuable metric for us. Each time a person downloads our guide and reads it, that’s one chance for us to convince someone of the value in building an online community. And once they’re convinced of that value, they often share the guide with their friends, which expands the reach of our brand. As a bonus, the social proof offered by their willingness to share the guide builds trust in our brand as people come to know us as the folks who know what they’re talking about in terms of building communities.
The Results of Arthur as an Integrated Marketing Campaign
Those results above are just the ones directly related to the guide. We look at the community building guide as just one part of our march towards inevitable integrated and digital marketing greatness. And in the time since launching Arthur, we’ve made great strides forward.
The Full Story on Conversions
Let me go back real quick to the conversion. The best part about signing on a client because of the guide was that the client fully understood who we were and the value we bring to the table. Our guide did all of the work and we are now basking in the glory of a client who is in sync with our community building passion.
In March 2013, right around when we started the earliest pre-launch promotion efforts for Arthur, we were averaging 3-5 leads/month. Arthur was launched in October 2013. As of July 2014, we’re averaging approximately 20-25 leads/month. Conservatively speaking, that’s a 300% increase in leads.
Our email list increased by 50% year over year (2012 vs. 2013). Once the community building guide was released, we started to see all kinds of organic email subscriptions.
Social Media & Community Building
Conversation, Amplification, & Applause
We’ve made solid growth on social media in our amplification, conversation, and follower count.
Sessions & Pageviews from Social Media Referral Traffic
I like looking at how Arthur affected social media referral traffic. We saw awesome growth in our referral traffic sessions (what Google Analytics now calls visits) and pageviews from Twitter.
The other social channels also performed really well.
Speaking & Blogging Gigs
New vs. Returning Visits
These metrics show us that not only are more people who’ve never heard of us coming to our site, but also that people who have heard about us are coming back for more.
Organic Search Traffic
We saw a 145% increase in organic search traffic in the 3 months after the guide launch (compared to the 3 months before the launch). And at the time of the launch, that meant more people were coming to our site than ever before. Woo hoo!
Session (or Visit) Duration & Total Sessions
Session duration increased 8% (comparing 9 months pre- and post-Arthur) and we had 55% more sessions after the guide was launched (same time period). So not only are we getting more traffic to our site, but now they’re staying longer, too.
The Mitigating Factors
Are you thoroughly and undeniably impressed? All of that was a huge boost to our presence on the web, the awareness of our brand, and the respect in which our knowledge is held. We also want to acknowledge that a) just because we only signed one client directly from Arthur doesn’t mean we didn’t sign other clients in the intervening months and b) we are insanely selective about our clients, which is why more of those leads haven’t turned into clients.
And yet, Arthur was not the impetus for all those results. Because as the guide launched and lived on, we did not sit idle.
We launched a new website that more effectively communicated what we actually did. We started to get more qualified leads for our business. We became more strategic about our blog posts.
And as is fitting in a company that believes in building communities, we made more connections on social media and offline. We experimented with our email marketing and email subscription efforts. Mack keeps getting more speaking and blogging opportunities. Our processes are becoming tighter and even more integrated. We’ve found more llama images than when we wrote the guide. Sure, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, but our team is in better shape than ever.
All of which is to say that, though Arthur undoubtedly played a huge role in the results of the year here at Mack Web, we don’t actually know how huge that role was (because of all the things). Which leads to one natural conclusion.
My Conclusion: Measuring the Effects of Truly Integrated Marketing is Hard
When you do a lot of things, it isn’t always clear what results can be attributed to what action. Arthur achieved a lot, but so did all our other integrated marketing efforts in the year. Because all these efforts played off each other as well, the data becomes even more entangled, harder to attribute, and skewed.
The important thing is that we’re reaching our goals, and not just with Arthur. With everything we do now, have done in the past, and will do in the future.
If I told you I had the solution right now on how to best measure integrated marketing efforts, you’d probably give me a million bucks. Sorry, I have no such thing.
However, here are a few things that I advise you to remember and remind your clients or superiors along the way:
1. Assign specific KPIS to your goals, meaning all goals, not just business goals.
Conversion rate will only get you so far (and mainly it just works to make marketing look like a total loser. Which it isn’t. Anyone tells you otherwise, you send them to us. We’ll straighten them out.)
Think through key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics thoroughly, and take baseline measurements before you start your efforts. It’ll make your life infinitely easier in the long run, but it still won’t make it a cakewalk (mmm, cake).
2. Look at the long-term data.
So what if your campaign only lasted 3 months? You should still look at year over year data because it gives you an excellent baseline to show how much progress you’re making. Sure, it’s difficult to directly attribute specific successes to specific campaigns, but long-term data makes the results of all your efforts wonderfully obvious.
3. Educate your clients/higher ups on the the importance of meaningful goals (beyond conversion rate).
Remind them you can’t increase conversions without increasing brand awareness, establishing an online and social media presence, and building community. Integrated marketing efforts are more than just stepping stones to more sales or leads. The broad-reaching and foundational goals they achieve – such as brand awareness and online community – are both vital to higher conversion rates for your digital marketing and valuable in their own right.
Questions, comments, suggestions, congratulations? We’ll accept all of those things (but especially the latter) in the comments below.