As 2020 comes to an end, I wanted to write a quick article on five digital marketing techniques which I feel can be improved for 2021 and beyond.
Digital Marketing Challenges
With over 8,000 digital marketing tools to choose from, finding the right combination of software is no simple feat. Moreover each tool needs to be fine-tuned in order to foster a solid user experience, optimize ad dollars, and serve the right content to your audiences at the right time.
I’ve built sales, marketing, and advertising technology stacks for some well-known brands. Yet much more frequently, I’m on the business-end of these tech stacks. That is to say: I’m a customer traversing a marketing funnel. When researching tools for my consulting clients, I get a front-row seat to observe just how well-orchestrated the user journey for a particular offering is.
Over time, I’ve enumerated these top five pain points I personally experience while digitally shopping for business-class technology.
1. Generic Paid Search Ads Linking Directly to Sign Up Page
Once a customer like myself becomes aware of an offering, a Google search is often the next step in learning more about the solution. More often than not, the first search result is a paid advertisement for the product in question. Here’s a simple example: a Google search for “Hubspot:”
The pic above shows a side-by-side comparison of the top search result (paid advertising) landing page on the left, and the organic home page on the right. On the paid advertising landing page, navigation is removed per “best practice” and I’m funneled into a strong call to action: signing up for a demo.
The problem is, I’m not ready for a demo just yet. Therefore I have to tweak the URL to get back to the homepage where navigation is restored. Then I must hunt for the path to product documentation (Software > Marketing Hub > Product Description/Pricing Overview / Features). For me, this is the digital equivalent of entering a car lot and getting rushed into a test drive before knowing anything about the vehicles for sale.
The problem here is that we’re leap-frogging over several important stages of the user journey. I’m in awareness mode, and the seller is rushing to decision mode. A sample user journey is shown below for reference:
While not the end of the world, the user experience isn’t great, and I probably wasted a buck or two of Hubspot’s ad budget as an organic search result would have served me just fine.
Generic, brand-based keyword searches (“Hubspot,” “Salesforce,” or “Sprinklr”) should probably hit the homepage rather than a sign-up landing page. More specific searches (“Hubspot vs Salesforce” or “Hubspot trial”) may be better suited to sign-up funnels.
2. Zombie Chatbots
We’ve all heard that unique sound when landing on a product page; that lip-smacking “pop” tone originating from tools such as Drift, Intercom, Pendo, and Hubspot. These solutions go by many names: web chat, chatbots, and conversational marketing tools.
The idea is to (somewhat forcefully) grab the user’s attention with an intent to chat with a human and/or bot. But often times, the call to action is disengaged. So what’s the point?
To make matters worse, users in the awareness phase of the user journey will often open multiple tabs on the same website. (A tab for pricing, a tab for product documentation, etc.) The chatbots dynamically alter the title of the tab(s), causing an obnoxious “blinking lights” phenomenon across browser tabs as shown below:
It’s a scientific fact that our human brains are hardwired to focus on movement. While beneficial for an activity like driving, it’s simply distracting when trying to consume information.
Fine-tune your chatbots by muting disruptive notifications when support staff aren’t available. It’s fine to leave on a subtle “drop us a note” CTA at the bottom of the screen, but that should be user-initiated. Do not interrupt someone reading your content if there’s no immediate response action.
3. Egregious Numbers of Third Party Trackers
Visit any popular website nowadays, and the view from under the hood of your web browser will look something like this:
This looks more like a deep-space image of a remote stellar constellation than a clean website. Also, why is my browser simultaneously talking to Facebook, Outbrain, and literally dozens of other websites?
Of course, those are rhetorical questions. Digital marketers are tracking your movement across the web by using third party sites like the ones mentioned above. But just in case you didn’t get the memo: third party trackers are dying.
Beyond the issues of privacy and sluggish webpage load times is that of marketing efficacy. Apple Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and Mozilla Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) are now aggressively blocking cookies from third-party advertisers, cookies from unvisited websites, and in some cases, third-party cookies altogether. So, what happens when your website tracking is lit up like a Christmas tree but the web browser (or ad blocker) yanks out the power cord entirely?
When supported, maximize first-party tags on the front-end web & mobile properties. Then use server-to-server tools like Tealium, Ensighten, Segment, Adobe Analytics, etc to shuffle (GDPR-compliant) operational data to your various data processors.
4. Disconnected Email Campaigns
This is a slightly more complex beast, but as seen in the wild, looks something like this:
- Customer visits a website, likely in the consideration or decision phases of the user journey.
- Customer provides her email address in order to receive pricing, talk to a sales rep, or kick off a trial.
- Optionally – customer adds something to her shopping cart and then (god forbid) leaves the website without completing the purchase.
And so begins the pre-purchase drip campaign emails with subjects like: “Oops, did you forget something?” or “Here’s a coupon to get you over the finish line!”
Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this approach. But here’s where things go off the rails: when the customer goes back to the website and actually completes the purchase. At this point, the back-end CDP should communicate with the email campaign engine(s) to kill any and all cart abandonment campaigns. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Here’s what often happens instead: the user completes a purchase, then gets a (confusing) set of follow-up emails urging her to convert, even though she’s already a customer. Annoyed by the emails, the paying customer clicks “unsubscribe” and is forever opted-out of all marketing campaigns; thus removing a great opportunity for future cross-sell / up-sell email campaigns.
A classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing, this type of disjointed marketing data removes prime, highly-qualified leads from all future sales opportunities.
The solution here is twofold. First, every marketing email campaign should be mapped out into a holistic picture so that a horizontal team (like marketing operations) can govern customer communications and prevent gaps and overlaps. Second, product events like trials and paid activations need to send signals (ideally via CDP and/or data router) to the ESP distribution lists. This is easier said than done, but with the right data model, is entirely possible.
5. Content Typos
Last, but certainly not least, are content typos. Yes, it may seem like an insignificantly small faux pas to have a misspelled word here or a grammatical error there. But here’s what potential buyers like myself are thinking when perusing a product website: “if they’re sloppy with their content copy, they’re probably sloppy with building and supporting their product as well.”
Don’t get me wrong, perfect content is hard to produce and I’m sure even my own blog has more than a few typographical blemishes to speak of. Nonetheless, there’s a subconscious connection between marketing content and product quality… or lack thereof.