Paul Stafford, head of communications atChantry reveals how you can make the most of your marketing data
In the film Minority Report there is a scene where a series of personalised hologram adverts based on retinal scans assault Tom Cruise’s character as he walks down the street. While that’s still science fiction and less likely to become reality after Cambridge Analytica and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), there’s little disputing the impact the tech revolution has had on our lives. So how can you best take advantage of data-driven innovations in your franchise marketing?
Advertising and leads
The first way big data can boost your marketing efforts is in evaluating your leads. Data analysis and refinement should be driving where and how you market your franchise. The days of putting out adverts or adding online profiles on directory sites and waiting for the magic to happen are long gone. It’s of course very easy to track digital marketing lead numbers and work out the cost per lead for each channel you’re using but you need to go much deeper to wring every drop out of your marketing budget.
Each stage of your recruitment process, from enquiry through to signing on the dotted line and launch, should be tracked by source of enquiry and not just by numbers. Compare your overall lead numbers with the proportion of prospects engaging after contact, coming through to meetings, attending discovery days and ultimately becoming franchisees – how does your cost per lead look at each stage? Are the same channels at the top of each step? You may well find that a website providing higher initial enquiry numbers is not delivering people who you can even contact most of the time, so perhaps your time and money are better focused elsewhere, despite what the headline figures might say.
New channels should always be tested for a shorter period initially, around three months is usually ideal. If you’re confident you’ve got the right message for the audience, this length of time gives you sufficient information to make an informed decision on whether something’s working or not, without committing excessive resources up front.
On your prospect newsletters and any automated email responders you use, even the most basic systems will tell you about open rates and click-throughs on links. These have long been the standard metrics used to assess email performance.
However, this is a situation where being cautious about relying entirely on data is advised as open rates can easily be over or under-reported. They’re calculated through a tracking pixel, an invisible image included in your email and downloaded from the email service provider’s servers when the message is being read. If someone has their emails set to arrive in the plain text version or to not download images, then they will not be recorded as having opened your message. Similarly, some providers will record an open every time the email is scrolled through in an inbox, which is why you’ll sometimes be told one person has opened your email dozens of times.
For these reasons, it’s dangerous to base all your recruitment efforts only on those people reported as having opened your emails because you’re likely to be ignoring decent prospects. It’s better to think of this data as a comparison tool over time, rather than an absolute on who’s engaged and who isn’t.
Rather than just looking at the overall number of clicks, look at what’s being clicked and what isn’t. Chances are you’ve published a mixture of case studies, news articles and features in your newsletters. Most email software will show you how many times each link has been clicked. Go back and look through several months’ worth of these figures. Are there any common themes? Do features on your franchisees resonate while your new business developments are passed over? Are your innovations more popular than your financial features or vice versa?
Even if the onset of GDPR decimated your database, the historic engagement with your stories can be hugely useful in guiding your future content.
Analytics is the rabbit warren of marketing data into which one can fall and not resurface for some time. Like Wikipedia, you can easily just keep clicking links and not realise how much time has disappeared. Your analytics reveal a huge amount of useful information about what’s happening on your website, but you need to understand what the numbers mean and what they’re measuring.
On a headline level you’ll see the number of visitors, how many are unique and how long they’re spending on your pages. From there, you can dig as deep as you want to on how people arrive to and interact with your site. You don’t need to know everything but franchisors should be familiar with some of the key information. Where are your visitors coming from? Which pages do they land on and view? Where are the people hanging around on-site longer and who read more pages being referred from? Who is going through to completing a call to action or other goals you’ve set up?
Knowing your way around web analytics enables you to see which pages of your site are performing best in attracting and engaging visitors and which ones could do better. Regular reviews of this data will allow you to constantly evolve and improve your website’s content, engaging visitors more effectively and turning traffic into enquiries.
Numbers of followers and likes have long been considered vanity metrics for social media professionals because engagement is what really counts. It’s better to have 250 followers who get involved in your conversations and read your news than having 25,000 who do nothing but scroll right past. Yes, we all want to feel loved but franchise marketing success isn’t measured by having the largest audience – it’s about reaching the right audience.
Fortunately, every social media platform includes powerful analytics tools enabling you to see exactly how people interact with your content. As with your emails, this gives you marketing gold on what type of posts resonate the most with your audience. It’s not just about the main content either: the headline and imagery really matters, perhaps nowhere more so than on social, where the amount of noise you must cut through in seconds as someone scrolls through their feed is amplified to deafening levels.
Data is everything in pay-per-click campaigns. The true power of campaigns, whether through AdWords or social advertising, is unleashed through the refinements made after analysing what’s going on: you can see very clearly which part of the journey is and isn’t working.
If you’re getting lots of clicks but few are completing your call to action, then your ads are working but your landing page isn’t – try split testing an alternate. If you’re not getting clicks in the first place, your ads need changing. If you’re getting clicks and conversions, then split testing still allows for further refinements and increases in success rates.
In conclusion, big data clearly enables you to boost your marketing effort as long as you know what you’re looking at.