Marketing automation has contributed greatly to our ability to analyze key performance indicators from our inbound marketing efforts and draw rational conclusions. Most marketers look at the big picture—what are the totals for this month, and what are the trends over the past several months? We tend to admire the spikes in the data and attribute them to their known causes, such as discrete marketing campaigns or content releases that rapidly draw interest. But since they are spikes (i.e. statistical outliers), we tend to pay more attention to the trends and focus our attention there. Maybe it's time to pay attention to the spikes.
Viewing and Analyzing the Spikes
First, let's consider why there are spikes in the data at all. In our case, nearly all of the spikes can be attributed to the publication and promotion of a new cheat sheet, white paper, ebook or webinar—in other words, specially produced content designed to attract new visitors and/or nurture existing leads. We promote these publications via our normal social media channels, blogs and an e-mail to our opted-in followers. Sometimes we use PPC, but that's not the norm.
You can see just how dramatic these spikes are if you view your website traffic (and leads) over several months showing each day's data (see below). This view is inherently noisy and difficult to interpret in terms of trends. That's the point—we're focusing on the daily highs and lows to understand their meaning. Notice how the dramatic spikes in the data (blue-green line) are often a factor of 2x or more above the trend line for the month rolling averages (orange line). Also notice that the spikes rarely last more than 1-2 days. Closer inspection shows that during the average 1-2 day spike, more than 10% of that month's traffic and leads are generated. Another way to look at it, if you had 4-5 spikes in a month instead of just 1, you could effectively double your website traffic and leads—at least that's the theory. There are complications, however.
Considering the Trends
I've deliberately drawn two trend lines in the data to illustrate a couple of points. The orange trend line represents the average traffic (and it's similar in our lead data). This is what we can expect on any given day/week/month based on our normal levels of effort—at least 2 blogs a day, everybody in the company posts several times in social media, and 1-2 pieces of advanced content per quarter. Notice that the trend has increased nicely over time as we have consistently published helpful, interesting content and built up a loyal following.
The blue-green line represents what we "could" be doing, at least in theory. When we publish something special, these spikes represent our potential audience. We know we can reach this many people, because we do it every time we publish a new download or webinar. Again, if we published this content more frequently, without sacrificing quality or relevance, we should be able to increase both trendlines over time. Why both? In my view, the spikes drive the average up. The more people we reach in those spikes, the greater our overall brand awareness, and the more people come to our website to explore. This is an important way to increase your reach and subscriptions. There is also a residual effect with repeat visits, visitors downloading other content, etc.
The Flaw in My Theory
Well, there are actually two flaws:
- It's difficult to increase the production of great content. In most cases you will have to hire new content creators or outsource to boost production. You can ask your existing staff to do more, but chances are your requests will be ignored in view of other priorities.
- You may reach saturation in your target audience. How much is too much? When will your readers and potential readers get tired of your emails and social updates promoting your content? When will they get burnt-out on the content itself? How many downloads on marketing automation can the people stand?
It's all a matter of degrees. Clearly the spikes in your marketing metrics are telling you that's there's untapped capacity out there. You can drive more traffic and leads—you've already proved it! The question is, "How can you reap more of that potential without overloading the system?" A simple experiment would be to double your production. Instead of one publication per quarter, make it two. Instead of one per month, create two per month. Hopefully that won't overtax your content creators. You can always temporarily reallocate resources away from other kinds of marketing to fill the gaps. Now, keep a close eye on conversion rates as well as traffic and leads. If those start to drop over a few months, you may be reaching saturation. Finally, this strategy will only work if your content is consistently excellent, relevant and original. Mix it up. Be creative and innovative. Now watch the Benjamins roll in.
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