marketing questions to ask

I'm back with more tips on creating sales and meaningful outcomes using digital marketing, starting tomorrow. 

Here's a technique that is creating better results for trail-blazing companies. Follow me...

"What companies are experiencing the best ROI and how are they doing it?"

"How many times do I update or post my blog, Facebook or Twitter account for maximum results?" 

"How many people do I need to manage my social media initiative?"

"How many hours a day do I allocate them? How much budget goes to each for the best results?" 

"Do we need a LinkedIn Group and how do we know when?"

These are not the questions

Although popular these are not the "better questions" I suggested you ask of yourself in my last piece. I'll get to the recommended questions in a moment. For now I'm asking you to kindly stop looking for the case study that has the cure to your pain. 

Now this may burst a few bubbles out there but I'm not alone in suggesting this. Says Amber Naslund...

"There’s more than enough information out there to guide you toward the big picture constants. The rest you’re going to have to find out for yourself by actually doing something, and putting it all in context of your own situation.

This is no different than anything else, ever. You still have to build your own sales strategy, HR plan, CRM approach irrespective of what’s been done before, no matter how long those concepts have been around. If you’re spending all your time building your cloned safety net based on other people’s situations, you’re already behind the game, and not focused on what your business needs."

I could not have said it any better or more succinctly myself. These tactical questions are not the ones to be asking. We need better questions to create better outcomes.

More popular questions...

Data-mining and direct response expert Kevin Hillstrom recently tweeted up his network on the subject. Kevin asked questions that guys like us hear frequently. These are a bit different in that they're strategic, yet they're still off-the-mark. 

I suspect we hear them because marketers have been conditioned to believe that they're the right questions to be asking. (by consultants and vendors pushing marketing control "dashboards")

If I discontinue all social media efforts, my website sales will decrease(increase) by "x"?

If I stop all offline marketing, my website sales will decrease by "x"?

If I double my e-mail contact frequency, sales generated by paid search will increase by "x"?

If I double my paid search spend, sales generated by my e-mail campaigns will increase by "x"?

I replied that these questions are irrelevant because they, again, seek universal constants that do not hold enough meaning.

Do the answers exist?  They might, but although these questions are strategic (which I normally applaud) the potential answers hold almost no meaning without proper context and without being applied to your business environment. 

It's important to note that 'in proper context' also means 'with multiple marketing channels involved.', and that's complex math. 

The above questions seem to be asking for ways to tinker with a dashboard. They don't fit the context of reality either. You can't just "dial-up more sales" based on some kind of "standardized online marketing rule of thumb." 

I suggested to Kevin that learning via rigorous experiments is a more viable, productive alternative, and he seems to agree. 

I'm honored because he's one of the smartest digital minds I know. But the key word here being rigorous; planned, reasoned and part of a larger system of behavioral prompts that encourage an end result, i.e. a sale or lead.

Context is king

Remarkable success is not accomplished through borrowing from others. With social media marketing, as an example, building Facebook pages or setting up LinkedIn accounts and then applying a borrowed formula is not how success happens. Heck, you know that. Nor is success accomplished by 'engaging' across social tools in a way that 'supports the brand' via a grand experiment. 

Remarkable success is accomplished by planning, testing (measuring) and adapting, and with an end goal in mind.

Most importantly, this process must be done within the context of your own business. As much as you would like to believe that borrowing methods or practices is the answer I urge you to resist. 

This is not to say that seeking out insights that you can apply to your situation is discouraged. I'm simply noticing that success stories have less to do with companies finding a specific, 'proven short-cut' and cutting-and-pasting it into their business. 

As Ms. Naslund says, there's more than enough information out there to guide you toward the big picture constants, and Econsultancy's blog is certainly one of them.

A better set of questions

Whether it’s Amazon, Newegg, eBay or the companies that are quietly thriving behind the scenes, behaviour has become THE success metric for today’s break-away businesses. 

Today’s most successful digital models prompt continual customer “transactions” (monetary or otherwise). These models almost guarantee customer purchase and repeat purchase. They create and capture demand, just like drinking water.

Here are a few strategic questions that, if answered, will move you in the right direction, toward such digital marketing models.

1) Ask yourself: "Can we tie the tactical outcomes inside search, 'social', email and display ads (ie. impressions, Friends, opens, etc.) to behavior-driven metrics?" 

Consider examining each strategy for measurability, based on actual outcomes. (subscribers, sales, leads converted, etc.)  Even better, asking this question encourages you to make sure your strategies are all working in unison to push customers down the sales funnel.

2) Ask each of your campaign managers, “Can X campaign be tracked back to an eventual customer ACTION?”  If not consider eliminating it, or else inserting a tracking mechanism. 

3) If yes, “Is it part of a larger system/process that prompts customers and pushes them toward purchase?” If so, you’re ahead of the game. If not, identify ways to organize the campaign and prompt customers to take purposeful actions using other campaigns. 

Again, assuming you're on board with creating demand and not just buzzing or influencing why not set this goal: Identify where you’re “talking at” customers and stop. Literally re-tool to “talk with” and prompt actions,  or don’t talk at all.

4) Ask yourself, "how can we make each digital strategy listen, analyze and respond to customers in harmony with the whole? How can we truly integrate beyond 'doing it at the same time?'"

5) On the subject of creating process improvements, "If we discover a group of tactics that do not listen, analyze and respond how can we change things up and make them more interactive and useful to the marketing team?"

6) Ask yourself, "Where you can we quickly, easily listen to customer feedback on our products (ie. customer reviews) and discover situations where adding a digital component super-charges the experience for customers AND and creates a selling opportunity for us?" 

Review your customer acquisition and retention tactics for opportunities to create "closed loops" where digital marketing takes the lead in creating value. 

I recently had a retailer explain to me how this bell went off in his head based on a his personal experience giving to The Red Cross Haiti relief effort. 

The Red Cross used mobile SMS in a way that created value to him, personally. He realized that The Red Cross actually could have encouraged him to take more actions and he likely would have taken it based on the value he just derrived via the SMS text message. The entire experience led to his realising how he could use mobile SMS to effectively drive store sales.

Silver bullets don't work

Nearly everyone I run into these days is looking for precise, proven standards to apply to their situation. They seek a silver bullet that will create web marketing success. 

But the problem is this approach rarely leads to successful uses of digital media. In fact, it often blocks it. This is NOT where to start when trying to extract more value from emerging digital marketing tools. 

Successful companies are planning and designing digital media to produce the tangible business outcomes they truly need, or they're doing nothing at all. Of course, the social media gurus love to target them as being backward or laggards. They don't "get it." 

But the aimless, gratuitous use of social media is largely un-targeted and rooted in the belief and the hope that 'more buzz means more sales.'  

These blind assumptions are not at the heart of winning strategies. Behavior-based demand creation is. Demand creation and sales trumps buzz and persuasion. Outcomes matter.

A parting question:

Is the goal of your social media campaign to win awards, create buzz about it in trades, or to win hearts, minds, actions and wallets of customers?

What do you think?

Jeff Molander

Published 28 April, 2010 by Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is a professional speaker, publisher and accomplished entrepreneur having co-founded what is today the Google Affiliate Network. He can be reached at He is a regular contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (3)

Vincent Amari

Vincent Amari, Online Consultancy at Business Foresights Ltd

This is one of the best articles I've read in a long while. Well done Jeff.

about 8 years ago

Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander, CEO at Molander & Associates Inc.

Thanks, Vincent. To be candid, I would enjoy knowing what you felt was valuable and what was not... or could be improved on... or that you'd like to hear more about. This will help me to understand where (and how) to focus in the future. Many thanks for considering additional comments -- that you may have time and energy to offer.

about 8 years ago



This is a great post. You are right on the mark. I wrote something about this on my blog this past week. I basically said I was annoyed by small biz owners constantly making statements like "Don't advertise on Adwords. I spent $1000 on there and got no sales" and 20 others chiming in "me too" and this causing listeners to think "Adwords sucks." The success of various channels companies use to grow is extremely individualized. It's great to hear about what worked for other companies, especially in your vertical, but you can't take their advice or experience as gospel. Your company is a totally unique entity.

about 8 years ago

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