Reach: Generating Awareness and Attracting Visitors

Overview

In this chapter, we cover the strategic bases associated with the reach stage. We start by covering the main objectives of the Reach stage and some KPIs associated with goals for consumers. We then move our attention to discussing paid media activities. To do so, we first emphasize the necessity to build landing pages whenever we are creating marketing campaigns and describe what landing pages are. When then turn our attention to the online ecosystem, discussing elements such as types of paid media activities, such as banner advertising, search advertising, affiliate marketing, and influencer marketing, and expand on payment models and types of targeting that the new online ecosystem allows.

Learning Objectives

Understand the reach stage, landing pages, different paid media activities, and key terms associated with payment models and targeting approaches.

Reach

Reach is the first stage in the RACE framework. It entails the publication and promotion of content in order to draw visitors to our website. The two main objectives at this stage are to (1) build awareness (about your website, brand, products, and/or services) and to bring visitors in. We do so by using both inbound and outbound marketing activities (although we will concentrate on the latter in this chapter), and through paid, owned, and earned media touchpoints.

The kind of goals we can have in mind for people at this stage are to: come to our website from a SERP, stay on our website once there, or click on our ads. Internally, we can have objectives like creating high-ranking pages and ads with a good ad score (briefly, an ad quality score can lead to lower prices for your ads and better placements on SERPs).

Accordingly, examples of KPIs important at this stage are: number of unique visitors, bounce rate, clickthrough for ads, page authority, page rank, ad quality score.

In the rest of this chapter, we cover outbound marketing activities. Since you should Never Start A Marketing Campaign Without a Dedicated Landing Page (NSAMCWADLP), we start our review of paid marketing activities by digging deeper into landing pages.

Landing Pages

A landing page is a campaign-specific page distinct from your main website that has one goal and one link (ideally, a call-to-action).

  • It is campaign-specific because it is associated with a specific campaign. Ideally, you might also want to create specific landing pages for specific ads. This allows you to better optimize conversion rates by practicing some strategies we will cover during the Convert stage.
  • It is distinct from your main website in the sense that you cannot access it from any page from your main website. It is still hosted on your domain (e.g., www.yourdomain.com/landing-page-campaign-A)
  • It has one goal: Visitors should only be able to achieve one and one thing only. We will see shortly that landing pages can either have as an objective to acquire leads or to redirect visitors to some specific section of your website.
  • It has one link: There is only one link that consumers can click on that page.

Types of Landing Pages:

Two main types of landing pages exist:

  • Clickthrough landing page:
    • The goal of this landing page is to have visitors visit a specific section of your website
    • It is generally a sales pitch to warm up visitors to what is coming up
  • Lead generation landing page:
    • Your objective here is to generate leads, and the goal for people on this landing page is to give you their personal information (e.g., email address).
    • It is thus typically a form-based page.
    • Sometimes, an email address is offered in exchange for some piece of content or a free service, like a white paper, a webinar, a free consultation, a discount, a contest, a free trial, or the opportunity to order a product before others.

Examples of a clickthrough landing page

Figure 5.1 Examples of a Clickthrough Landing Page – Fit for Life
Figure 5.2 Examples of a Clickthrough Landing Page – Spotify

Examples of a lead generation landing page

Figure 5.3 Examples of a Lead Generation Landing Page – Fit for Life
Figure 5.4 Examples of a Lead Generation Landing Page – Uber

Why Use Landing Pages?

Ad campaigns can aim at building awareness, but they are typically associated with making consumers achieving specific goals, such as trying out software for free, registering for an account, sending an email to a company, or downloading a free piece of content.

When running ads that have such goals, sending visitors to a website is counter-productive: a website is not meant to convert, i.e., to make consumers achieve a specific goal. If consumers are directed to a website, they will be faced with hundreds of potential actions (associated with the links available on a website), one of which is the action they should be performing. It becomes easy for consumers to get lost.

Inc comparison, landing pages are focused on help consumers achieve only one goal. They facilitate conversion. They do so by allowing to tailor the page to the exact goal that users should accomplish. This can be achieved, for example, by offering a clearer message to consumers (vs. bringing consumers to a website), by minimizing the potential actions they can perform on the page, and by matching the visuals of an ad with that the landing page. We will delve in depth into some of these benefits of landing pages when discussing conversion optimization in chapter 10.

Take, for example, the following ad for Shopify:

Figure 5.5 Shopify Ad

The goal for consumers associated with this ad is to try Shopify for free and create an online store today. How can we maximize the chances that consumers will do so?

When creating this ad, the question that a digital marketer faces is: where do I bring visitors? Ideally, you want to bring visitors to a place that will ensure that they will achieve the goal of trying Shopify.

A first option could be the homepage of Shopify. This is what it looks like:

Figure 5.6 Shopify Homepage

Although this page has a box at the very top that incites people to try out Shopify for free, visitors are also offered a wide array of competing actions. They can click any of the links at the top of the page (start, sell, market, manage, pricing, learn); they can scroll down to learn more about Shopify, and at the very bottom, they can also access information such as ‘about’ Shopify and Terms and Conditions. In short, they can do a lot more than simply trying Shopify for free.

Over time, digital marketers have learned that one of the easiest ways to ensure that visitors will do what you want them to do is to limit the possibilities to only the one action visitors should be achieving, in this case, signing up to try Shopify for free. The chart below exemplifies this by linking the conversion rate with the number of links on a page:

Figure 5.7 AR Conversion

For this reason, Shopify is not redirecting consumers to their homepage. Rather, they created a dedicated landing page where the only thing possible for visitors to do, after they clicked the ad, is to start their free trial. This is what the landing page looks like:

Figure 5.8 Shopify Landing Page

By focusing visitors’ attention to the task at hand (i.e., trying Shopify for free), we can maximize the conversion rate, i.e., the number of visitors who will achieve the goal we want them to achieve. A metric created to better understand the relationship between the number of possible actions on a website and the number of goals for consumers is the attention ratio. The figure below visually explains how a website has a much high attention ratio (i.e., many more possible actions vs. what consumers should be doing) and why a landing page is ideal for pushing visitors to perform the action we want them to perform. Landing pages should have an attention ratio of 1:1, meaning 1 possible action to 1 goal.

Figure 5.9 Landing Page – Attention Ratio

Building a Landing Page

A landing page has 5 basic elements:

  1. A Unique Selling Proposition (USP): A ‘unique’ benefit offered by the product or the service. I put unique in between quotation marks because companies usually present a benefit, without it being unique.
    1. The USP is typically communicated throughout a headline and a sub-headline that explains the value and purpose of the product or service
    2. It is sometimes reinforced in a mid-page statement
    3. And in a closing argument at the bottom of the page.
  2. A hero shot: a visual associated with the product or service
  3. A benefit statement that explains how the product or brand helps consumers
    1. Typically done using bullet points or small paragraphs
  4. Social proofing, such as testimonials, awards, client list, or media logos
  5. And one link, typically a call-to-action

Let’s see these five elements in a recent Shopify landing page.

Figure 5.10 Basic Elements of a Landing Page – Shopify Example

Paid Media Activities

Digital marketers typically advertise online through advertising networks (such as Google Adsense) and advertising exchanges (such as Google AdX) (differences between these two are summarized succinctly here, but outside of the scope of this course). Although these two approaches to providing advertising space to advertisers differ, from an advertiser perspective, both provide an entry-point where advertising space can be purchased. Networks, for example, aggregate ad space across websites and sells this inventory to advertisers.

Nowadays, much of advertising space is sold through programmatic buying, i.e., the automated purchasing of digital advertising space. When marketers purchase space through the Facebook Ads or Google Ads platform, for example, they are making use of programmatic buying. These platforms have been transformed in recent years through the use of algorithms and predictive analyses to help advertising identify the optimal placement of ads to reach specific objectives. Facebook Ads, for example, give advertisers options, such as reach, awareness, or lead generation campaigns. Choosing a specific objective will influence where ads will be placed (i.e., who will see the ads) to maximize the effectiveness of the ad campaign.

We now turn our attention to different ways that exist to reach customers. More precisely, we will briefly cover banner advertising, search advertising, social media advertising, affiliate marketing, and influencer marketing.

Banner Advertising

Banner ads are images or animations that advertise brands, products, and services on websites. They can be likened to the types of ads one would find in newspapers and magazines. Many types of banner ads exist, such as:

  • Standard banners: standard sizes (measured in pixels) for static, animated, and rich media banner adverts
  • Interstitial banners: shown between pages on a website or, more often, between screens on an app.
  • Pop-up ads: pop up, or under, the web page being viewed. They open in a new, smaller window.
  • Floating adverts: appears in a layer over the content, but is not in a separate window.
  • Wallpaper adverts: changes the background of the web page being viewed. Maybe clickable.
  • Map adverts: placed on an online map, such as Google Maps, usually based on keywords.
  • Native content ads: the online version of Advertorials. This is where the advertiser produces content that is in line with the editorial style of the site, but is sponsored or in some way product endorsed by the brand

Banner ad

Figure 5.11 Banner Ad

Interstitial

Figure 5.12 Interstitial

Pop-up

Figure 5.13 Pop-Up Ad

Floating ad

Figure 5.14 Floating Ad

Wallpaper

Figure 5.15 Wallpaper

Map

Figure 5.16 Map

Native

Figure 5.17 Native

Search Advertising

In comparison to search engine optimization, search advertising entails gaining traffic on SERPs by bidding on keywords. Search advertising is also referred to as ‘pay-per-click’ (PPC) advertising because of the mode of payment: advertisers typically pay search engines per click their ad receives.

Search ads are sold and delivered on the basis of keywords: Advertisers decide on sets of keywords they would like their ad to show up for, and when users search for these terms, their ad might show up. Keywords are sold through an auction process. As a result, industries with very high customer lifetime value, such as insurance or mortgage firms, can pay upward of $50 per click.

To better understand how to bid for keywords, let’s watch the following video that explains how the Google Search ad auction works:

Using search ads entail combining three main elements: the keywords you want your ad to show for, your ad (i.e., a headline or two, a URL, and description), and a landing page. In short, you buy keywords that will be used by a search engine to display your ad when people search for those keywords. Your ad needs to be relevant to the search and attractive to the consumer. When your ad is clicked, you direct consumers to your landing page.

To write effective search ads, it is ideal to follow similar guidelines as to when writing effective page titles and meta descriptions. This is the only element that users will see on SERPs, and it is therefore important to make it as attractive as possible. First, the ad should ideally target a clear need or goal that consumers have, dependent on where they are in their journey. Is the consumer looking for information? Comparison tools? To purchase something? How can your ad help the consumer achieve their goal? Second, the ad should have a clear call-to-action.

Searches follow a long-tail distribution. This has implications when doing search ads: most consumers might be using generic, high volume keywords, while others might be using hyper-precise, low volume keywords. Although bidding on high volume keywords might seem like a good strategy, it comes with drawbacks: first, it is likely that these keywords will be more expensive. Second, it is less likely that these keywords will bring quality traffic. By quality traffic, I refer to visitors who can eventually become your customer. This is particularly important for search advertising because each visitor is associated with a specific cost. Devising effective search advertising campaigns thus entail balancing volume and quality: Bringing in enough visitors that can buy your product or service, but making sure that visitors who would not buy it won’t click on your ad.

To do so, firms typically combine high-volume and low-volume keywords to tailor their search ad to visitors who can potentially be customers. This help lead generation efforts down-the-line while ensuring more cost-effective search ad campaigns.

Figure 5.18 Longtail Keywords and Conversion Rate

From: https://www.semrush.com/kb/685-what-are-long-tailed-keywords

After deciding on keywords, it is possible to choose how keywords will be matched to specific searches. Four main types of matches exist: broad match, phrase match, exact match, and negative match.

Broad match shows your ad for any search that contains the keyword(s) you are bidding on, and any other keyword in any order, as well as variations on your keywords such as misspellings, synonyms, singular and plural forms, stemming (e.g., flooring -> floor), related search and other variations.

For example, let’s assume you are bidding on the keyword ‘kitten’ using a broad match, any search that contains kitten would show your ad, such as ‘kittens,’ ‘kitten photos,’ or ‘adopt a kitten.’

Associated with broad match are broad match modifiers, which allows giving more control to matches by including some other necessary keyword. For example, if you want your ad to be shown only for search that concomitantly has adopt AND kitten, you can specify as such. In this case, your ad could show for searches such as: ‘adopt a kitten,’ ‘how to adopt a kitten,’ or ‘best kitten to adopt.’

Phrase match shows your ad only for searches that include the exact phrase, or close variations of that exact phrase, with additional words before or after. For example, let’s assume you are bidding on the key phrase ‘how to adopt a kitten,’ your ad could show for searches such as ‘how to adopt a kitten now’ or ‘best ways how to adopt a kitten.’

Exact match only shows your ad for searches that use the exact phrase, or close variations, and no other words. For example, let’s assume ‘adopt a kitten:’ Your ad will show for the search ‘adopt a kitten’ and potential misspellings (e.g., ‘adopt a kiten’).

Negative match prevents your ad to be shown when certain keywords are included, such as keywords that “might cater to customers searching for a different product. For example, let’s say you’re an optometrist who sells eyeglasses. In this case, you may want to add negative keywords for search terms like “wine glasses” and “drinking glasses.”

A few metrics that are important to evaluate your success when doing search advertising include:

  • Clickthrough rate (CTR) = Clicks/Impressions
    • the percentage of impressions that turn into clicks
  • Conversion Rate = Conversions/Clicks
    • the percentage of clicks that turn into conversions
  • Cost per click: CPC = Spend/Clicks
    • the amount of money you’re spending on each click
  • Cost per acquisition: CPA = Spend/Conversions
    • the amount of money you’re spending on each conversion

Social Media Advertising

Social media has become central to most consumers’ lives. In some countries, social media networks have become synonymous with the Internet, to the point where “many use the Internet without realizing it” (Pew 2019). Social media has also fueled consumer content co-creation efforts (or ‘user-generated content’), and we can now publish our own content and share the content of others. Many social media businesses rely on the work of consumers (e.g., without us posting content and images, there would be no reason to use Instagram or Facebook).

There exist many platforms to advertise on social media, with new ones accumulating millions of users in ever-shortening periods of time. Tik Tok is a prime example. In order to favor a strategic outlook, a review of all existing social media platforms is outside of the scope of this chapter, but the following link will give precise instructions as to how to post an ad on each of the major ones:

The variety of social platforms has an important implication when using them to advertise: the importance of understanding the social and visual norms in order to create impactful campaigns. Social norms refer to what is considered acceptable behavior on a social platform. Online, understanding social customs, the shared actions, and behaviors that are standards for a platform is also important. Marketers that understand these have been able to create successful campaigns around them, such as Guess #inmydenim that used the ‘transformation’ trend, #JLoTikTokChallenge that used the challenge customs, and Doritos #CoolRanchDance that leveraged Tik Tok dances and the capabilities of the platform of using songs.

This approach of capitalizing on norms and customs is found throughout social media platforms. Old Spice, for example, tailored advertising efforts to eachi. It offers many good examples. The brand created one of the first iconic ad campaigns by emphasizing two-way interactions and video sharing capabilities on YouTube, with a response campaign associated with their ad “The Man your Man could Smell Like.” They translated the Twitch Plays Pokemon phenomenon, where thousands of users direct videogamers to perform certain actions to create a campaign where Twitch users could control the actions of a man for three days for the Nature Adventure campaign. And they used the idea of gif wars on imgur and the platform’s upvote capability to create the Smellmitment campaign.

These campaigns all followed the same precepts: They engaged with the norms and customs of the platform they used. They created ads that aimed at generating a conversation with users (rather than ad solely talking about the product). And they leveraged the technological specificities of each platform (e.g., songs for Tik Tok, turning comments into controller inputs for Twitch, using upvotes on imgur).

Social Media and RACE

Social media has also become one of the main pillars for advertising, and it can support most of the objectives of the different stages of the RACE framework, i.e., using social media for advertising can help with increasing awareness, bringing visitors, creating leads, converting leads to customers, foster loyalty, and engage customers in co-creation activities. This is well exemplified with the social media ad objectives that most platforms ask you to choose from when starting an advertising campaign. Take, for example, Facebook ad objectives:

ch5_19_facebook_objectives
Figure 5.19 Facebook Ad Objectives

Facebook has divided its ad objectives into three categories that almost perfectly align with the RACE framework: Awareness is associated with Reach, Consideration with Act, and Conversion with Convert. Let’s see each objective in more detail:

Brand awareness “increases overall awareness for your brand by showing ads to people who are more likely to pay attention to them.”

Reach “shows ads to the maximum number of people in your audience while staying within your budget.”

What is the difference? While both align with Reach objectives:

Brand awareness is designed to help advertisers find the audiences most likely to recall their ads. The goal is to increase brand recall, and this ties to Facebook “Estimated ad recall lift.”

Reach maximizes the number of unique people who will see your ad while capping the frequency of impressions (e.g., one a day).

Consideration objectives overlap all three stages. For example:

Traffic addresses a Reach objective as it aims at growing “the number of people who are visiting your site, app or Messenger conversation,” but it is also associated with Act because it aims at “increasing the likelihood they’ll take a valuable action when they get there.”

Engagement can be seen as both an Act, and an Engage activity: it wants to “get more people to follow your page or engage with your posts through comments, shares and likes. You can also choose to optimize for more event responses or offer claims.”

App installs can be seen as both an Act or a Convert activity (depending on the strategic goal of having people install your app; if the app is free and purchases happen within, it’s a lead generation activity; if it is a paid app, it’s a convert activity).

Lead generation includes a menu where users can directly enter their personal information. It is an Act activity that aims at creating leads.

Lastly, Conversion ads align with the convert stage by helping advertising convert users into customers.

In addition to using Facebook ad delivery algorithm differently, where Awareness objectives will target ads to people more likely to respond to Awareness generation and Conversion objectives to people more likely to convert, some objective also offer specific types of ads, such as a catalog (catalog sales), a form (lead generation), or a redirection to app installs (app installs).

The last important strategic piece to cover associated with social media is their targeting capabilities, or how they allow you to display ads to specific groups of people. All platforms will allow you to target your ads based on key customer variables, such as demographics, location, and interests, and each also has some specific targeting capabilities. For example:

LinkedIn allows using LinkedIn audience segments to programmatically reach professional audiences based on their company size, seniority, professions, and other key professional variables.

Most platforms allow for behavioral targeting, where ads are delivered based on purchase behaviors or intents, or people who have a specific kind of connection to your page, app, group, or event. For example, advertisers could target any users that have engaged with their content across the Facebook family of apps and services.

Facebook introduced the highly useful Lookalike audience option in 2013, which was followed by other major advertisers such as Google. Lookalike audiences use platforms’ algorithms to create groups on social networks that resemble other groups. This is a new and unique way to target that was never before possible and can help companies unearth some group of consumers who would be highly-qualified but have not yet been identified by the company. A lookalike audience could be based on a previously highly engaged audience (i.e., finding another group of consumers who share some commonalities that will also make them highly engaged) or an existing segment of customers.

The typical payment structures for social media advertising are:

  • CPM: Cost per thousand: pay every time 1000 users view your ad
  • CPC: Cost per click: pay when a user clicks on your ad
  • CPA: Cost per action/Cost per acquisition: pays only when an advert delivers an acquisition after the user clicks on the advert. Definitions of acquisitions vary depending on the site and campaign. It may be a user filling in a form, downloading a file or buying a product.

Influencer and Affiliate Marketing

Influencer marketing—a form of social media marketing that capitalizes on people or organizations with large followings who exert some sort of influence over others because of their expertise or charisma—has become both a marketing and a societal phenomenon. There were more than 3.7 million ads by influencers on the platform in 2018, and some estimate that the market will reach 10B$ business by 2020 (Wired 2019). 90% of Instagram campaigns in 2018 used micro-influencers—influencers that have somewhere between 1000 and 100 000 followers (HubSpot 2019). Micro-influencers represent about 25% of the Instagram user base, or about 250 million people (Mention.com 2018). If micro-influencers charge a few hundred dollars per post, top ones can charge upwards of $50 000.

Although influencers can be used throughout all RACE stages, they historically have been used as an awareness generation channel. Even today, most of the main objectives reported by brands for the use of influencers relate to the Reach stage, such as improving brand awareness, share of voice, reaching new audiences, and managing reputation (Fipp 2017). Over the last few years, a trend has been the movement of marketing budget away from top influencers to micro-ones who, it is believed, have a stronger connection with their followers and can generate stronger engagement (Wired 2017).

Ideally, when planning for an influencer campaign, firms should aim at choosing influencers that correspond to the size of their business. It is easier for smaller firms to create relationships with micro-influencers, and these individuals might support the firms’ goals if a trusting relationship can be established. To facilitate the internal management of influencer campaigns, it can be useful to create influencer personas, i.e., personas that represent the kind of influencer the firm should aim at recruiting for their campaigns. Firms should aim to find influencers that align with their brand identity, can resonate with the brand’s customers, and can help the firm achieve their objectives (i.e., perhaps different influencers can help achieve different objectives, whether it is reaching a wide number of consumers, generating leads, or converting leads to customers). Firms should also support influencers’ efforts by providing marketing materials. Some influencers might want to work with firms to align the firm’s interests and objectives with theirs. For example, many influencers report only taking on clients that represent their values or which products they already like. When choosing influencers, ask yourself:

  • Who is following them? Are these my targets?
  • Are they real?
  • Do they release quality content?
    • That can be matched with your product?
  • Have they worked with your category? With a competitor?
  • Do they promote products often? How do their followers react?
  • What platforms?
  • Can you use their content?
  • How long does the content stay online?

Two main routes exist to recruit influencers: use influencer agencies, networks, or platforms, which centralize interactions between a firm and many influencers, or contact influencers directly. If reaching out directly, make sure to send personalized messages that clearly show that you understand who the influencer is and why you see a fit between your brand and the influencer’s brand. Influencers have different goals: some might want to push products they strongly believe in, some might want to be a positive influence on their followers, and some might be in for the money (Kozinets et al. 2010). This should play a role in how you ‘sell’ your campaign to an influencer.

The main payment structure for influencers is pay per post, which varies depending on the domain or the influencer. In 2017, according to influence.co, payments were as follow:

  • Average is 271$ per post
    • Less than 1000 followers: 83$ per post
    • More than 100 000 followers: 763$ per post
    • The Influence Agency posts hire costs
      • 2000$ to 10 000$ for more than 100 000 followers
    • Blog collaborations
      • 10,000 monthly impressions: 175$
      • 100,000 to 500,000 monthly impressions: 500$
      • 500,000+ monthly impressions: 1000$ to 5000$

Other payment structure can be pay per lead, pay per engagement (when a user perform an action associated with a post, such as a click, a comment, or a share), or pay per view.

Although there exists many types of websites and people who do so, such as comparison shopping websites, coupon websites, email lists, or reward websites (Authority Hacker 2020), influencers like Zoella often create a revenue stream by participating in affiliate programs, an ‘agreement in which a business pays another business or influencer (“the affiliate”) a commission for sending … sales their way” (Hubspot). Affiliate marketing differs from influencer marketing in that it is overwhelmingly focused on the Convert stage: since pay is typically associated with making sales, affiliates aim at converting people to sales (there are, though, affiliate programs that pay-per-lead [and hence participate in the Act stage] and others that pay-per-visit [and hence participate in the Reach stage]).

Affiliate marketing works as follows: An advertiser, a company that sells a product or a service, offers to pay a third-party (e.g., a blogger or a coupon website) to help them promote and sell products and services. The affiliate conducts online activities in order to sell products or services. For example, in the following example, Zoella presents her “10 scary reads” for Halloween.” Each book is associated with the affiliate program Reward Style. Let’s say a reader reads this blog post, likes a book, click on the link of that book, and purchase it: Zoella will then receive a small percentage of the sale for helping make this sale happen.

ch5_20_zoella_affiliate
Figure 5.20 Affiliate Marketing Example

You can typically easily identify whether a link is part of an affiliate program or not. For example, for Zoella, the link looks like this: https://rstyle.me/+U7XZh4aYDVf0s7elU5SykA. We can thus see that it is associated with the Reward Style program. Affiliate programs will create different types of link, which typically include the publisher (affiliate) website ID (or PID), the ad id (AID), and the shopper (or visitor) ID (or SID). This allows for tracking sales across publishers, ads, shoppers, and reward affiliates accordingly.

The two main payment structures that exist for affiliates are:

Overview

In this chapter, we discuss some key vocabulary associated with digital marketing, covering concepts such as inbound and outbound marketing, and paid, owned, and earned media activities. We then turn our attention to the framework we are going to cover for the rest of the semester, the RACE framework. We briefly cover the four stages of the framework before turning out attention to how to link persona, journey, and strategy. We conclude the chapter by understanding how the RACE framework can support competitive analysis.

Learning Objectives

Understand key terms associated with online strategy, the objectives of the four stages of the RACE framework, how it links to personas and journeys, and how to use it to support competitive analysis.

Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Inbound and outbound marketing represent two grand approaches to connect with consumers. Inbound marketing aims at bringing visitors ‘in,’ drawing them to your company via, typically, content marketing, social media, and well-optimized websites. In this first approach, consumers find you because you represent them. I

Outbound marketing is what we typically think about when we think of advertising: the promotion of products or services through advertising and promotions. In this case, a message goes ‘out’ from your company and stops consumers in whatever they were doing (e.g., a consumer is ‘stopped’ by an ad when scrolling on Instagram or reading their Facebook feed; they are ‘stopped’ by an ad at the start of a YouTube video; they are ‘stopped’ by an ad which cuts a newspaper article or a blog post in two).

Inbound marketing is associated with a few other concepts, such as

  • Permission marketing, where advertising is welcomed because permission to be advertised to has been given prior, and advertising is anticipated (e.g., email marketing)
  • Two-way communication, meaning that there can be an interaction between consumers and the brand (e.g., consumers can comment on social media posts and on blog articles)
  • It is sought, meaning that consumers find you
  • It has been one of the fastest-growing strategies to do marketing online for the last decade
  • It is seen as cheaper to perform since companies do not need to invest in ads (although there are costs associated with content creation)
  • Aimed at customer acquisition

Outbound marketing is associated with concepts such as,

  • Interruption marketing, where marketing efforts such as ads interrupt what a consumer is doing
  • One-way communication, because consumers cannot talk to ads
  • Imposed, because consumers do not agree to be advertised to
  • Decreasing, although this is debated
  • Expensive, because fees are associated with putting ads online
  • And aimed at awareness creation, as it has typically been the case with traditional advertising

Examples of inbound marketing include: blog posts, infographic, ebooks, white papers, social media posts, tutorials, and the likes

Examples of outbound marketing include advertising of any sort, which we are going to cover in more detail in the next chapter.

Paid, Owned, and Earned Media

We differentiate between three types of media online: paid, owned, and earned.

Paid media are media activities you pay for. These media activities are typically performed on a third party channel (i.e., not your own website), and is paid by your company to conduct the activity. Your company controls the content, but the third party control where this content is shown. Examples include search ads, display ads, paid influencers, paid content promotion, social media ads, product placements, and the likes.

Owned media activities are media activities that are hosted on channels that you own, i.e., on your own platforms. They include your web properties (e.g., blog posts on your website) and social media channels.

Earned media activities are media impressions that you earn because your content is shared. Here, consumers (and sometimes professionals) become the channel. Shared posts on social media, reviews, and other consumer-generated content, such as content created on wikis, ratings, social recommendations, or forum discussions, are examples of earned media activities. The coverage of your company by journalists is also earned media activities.

Very importantly, albeit these are conceptually distinct types of media activities, ideally, you want to create campaigns that will integrate these together. For example, you can create content on your website and social media channels that you will also push by advertising on social media websites and other websites using banner ads, and you are making these efforts in the hopes that your content will be widely shared by others. This is the typical strategy underlying viral marketing campaigns.

Take, for example, the widely successful ad for Doritos during the 2020 Superbowl. Doritos created this ad that they hosted on their website and social media channels (e.g., YouTube). The ad was pushed as a paid media activity during the Superbowl at the tune of several million. It was also associated with a Tik Tok hashtag campaign, #coolranchdance, fueling earned media impressions. It is this intersection of paid, owned, and earned media activities that lead to the creation of successful online marketing campaigns!

Objectives, Goals, and KPIs

Objectives, goals, and KPIs are the next set of concepts. Objectives represent what you want to achieve for your company. Ideally, objectives should be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bounded

Goals are an action that you want users to take. We use the vocabulary of goal to designate user’s actions since this is typically how goals are positioned in web analytics (e.g., Google Analytics). Distinguishing between objectives (what you want to achieve) and goals (what you want your users to achieve) just makes things clearer.

KPIskey performance indicators—are metrics used to evaluate the performance of your company based on a particular objective or activity. KPIs typically have targets—specific values that your company is aiming to achieve within a time period.

These concepts work together to help you plan campaigns, as exemplified in the figure below: Objectives can be used to identify goals for users to achieve, which can be measured using KPIs.

Figure 4.1 Objective / Goal / KPI

For example, an objective for your company might be to increase product awareness. In order to achieve this objective, you might set up goals for your users, such as subscribing to email updates and engaging in some key features you believe will help raise product awareness. It is then possible to identify KPIs to measure your success for these user goals, such as ‘number of contact forms submitted’ or ‘use of the key feature of the virtual mirror.’ The figure below exemplifies this.

Figure 4.2 KPIs Examples

Strategy and Tactics

Strategic and tactics are the last key terms we need to move to better understand the RACE framework. Strategy represents the path you intend to take to achieve a specific objective. This aligns with Jain’s (1993) understanding of strategy as “the pattern of major objectives, purposes and goals, and essential policies and plans for achieving those goals, stated in such a way as to define what business the company is in or is to be in.”

In this course, we are going to emphasize how, to implement a strategy and achieve specific objectives, a company deploys tactics—tools used to meet objectives. Examples of tools we will discuss include banner advertising campaigns, search ad campaigns, or the use of content marketing on social media.

Let’s combine the vocabulary we just introduced in an example:

Objective:

  • Increase sales through our eCommerce platform by 10% within the next six months.

Tactics:

  • Search advertising / PPC campaign using specific keywords, with a budget, time frame, …
  • Social media campaign using the Facebook brand page, with marketing material

KPIs per tactic:

  • Search advertising – clickthrough rate, bounce rate
  • Social media campaign – clickthrough rate, share ratio/amplification rate

Targets per tactic:

  • Search advertising – CTR of XX%, bounce rate of XX%
  • Social media campaign – CTR of XX%, share ratio of XX%

We can now turn our attention to the RACE framework.

RACE Framework

Chaffey’s RACE framework is a conversion-based framework. Conversion marketing is a strategic approach that explicitly aims at increasing customers. The framework we study is part of a greater set of strategic approaches, such as Hubspot original ‘attract-convert-close-delight’, which transformed into their “flywheel business model,” or the grandfather of conversion marketing approaches, the ‘pirate metrics’ AARRR model (acquisition-activation-retention-referral-revenue).

Figure 4.3 AARRR

These different frameworks propose stages with different names, but the central idea of this strategic approach is the same. To convert, you need to move people through four stages:

  • Visitors (people come to your website)
  • Lead (visitors are converted into a qualified potential customer i.e., somebody who is interested in your product and is also somebody you are interested in selling to)
  • Customer
  • Repeat customer

Visitors: Briefly, you create campaigns to attract people to your website.

Leads: Once they are on your website, you want to (1) find ways to see if they are interested in you, (2) find out if you are interested in them, i.e., whether they can be a customer of yours (because not all visitors are people who can buy your product or service, and, if they fit these two categories, and, if there is a mutual interest, (3) find a way to continue the conversation with them (usually, collecting their email address or making sure they follow you on social media).

Leads: Once you have identified a mutual interest, you move to accompany people in their journey so that you can convert them from a lead to a customer of yours.

Repeat customers: After their purchase, you capitalize on their (hopefully) positive experience with your company so that they can co-create on your behalf (e.g., write reviewers) and continue their journey as a customer of yours.

The RACE framework presents four stages that help us plan for and coordinate different marketing activities to achieve these objectives:

R stands for REACH:

During the Reach stage, your company has two objectives:

  • Build awareness about your brand, products, and services through offline and online media activities and
  • Drive traffic using inbound and outbound marketing activities and paid earned and owned media touchpoints.

At this stage, you will mostly concentrate on addressing people’s problems.

A stands for interACT:

During the Act stage, your company has two objectives:

  • Generate positive interactions on your owned media
  • Create leads, i.e., identify potential customers and make sure they can be your customer (we will call this ‘qualifying’ leads, later on in the semester)

At this stage, we are going to emphasize how we should focus on addressing consumers’ problems as well as helping them evaluate their options.

C stands for CONVERT:

During the Convert stage, your company has one objective:

  • Converting leads into sale

At this stage, we are going to emphasize how we should focus on talking about why your brand, product, or service is the best option for consumers. We will also touch on how to optimize our owned media order to maximize conversions, a process that is called ‘conversion rate optimization.’

E stands for ENGAGE:

During the Engage stage, your company has two objectives:

  • Build customer advocacy
  • Foster repeat visits and sales

At this stage, the idea is to build long-term engagement by continuously contributing to consumers’ lives by creating value. We also want to identify engaged customers in order to foster their participation and engage them in co-creation activities to participate in our campaigns and support our marketing efforts.

The figure below presents how these objectives evolve over time with each of the stages:

Figure 4.4 Race Goals

From Persona and Journey to Strategy

As we discussed during the last two chapters, the goals, needs, motivations, and challenges of consumers give the raw material from which to create content for each persona. Journeys tell you what your content should be about (problem, solutions, and your product), and how it addresses different stages of the journey. From week three below:

Figure 4.5 Journey and Searches

Let’s take the example of making content and associated search ads, i.e., creating a blog post and then deciding to advertise this blog post on Google SERPs. As we discussed last week, your goal when optimizing your webpages is to identify consumers will be used to perform searches online. The idea behind making search ads is similar. As we briefly covered, we saw a few ways to help us to do:

  • Who they are/what they need (Persona)
  • How they go about solving their needs (Journey)
  • What do they search in order to do so (Journey, ZMOT, types)
  • Benchmark against competition

Once you’ve identified keywords that your consumers are using throughout their journey, you can start creating content or ads based on these keywords so that you show up on a search engine when a consumer does this search.

Persona helps identify general keywords based on their needs, motivations, challenges. Journey helps identify specific keywords based on how users go about answering needs, motivations, challenges throughout their journey

  • For example, if a consumer has pain in their lower back, they might go on google to find how to address this pain. This presents an opportunity to create awareness around a back pain-related product you are selling (e.g., a pair of sneakers)
  • For example, if a consumer wants to compare sneakers to understand which one offers the best support to address back pain, this provides you with an opportunity to compare your product to those of your competitors
Table 4.1 Journey – From Awareness to Post-Purchase

From a Journey Map to a Conversion Path

A journey map is a visual representation of the journey of consumers, which brings a rather abstract way of understanding how consumers purchase products (e.g., awareness, consideration, purchase, and loyalty) to something concrete, with specific actions and touchpoints, that a brand can use to create a marketing strategy.

A conversion path is how a brand is thinking of enacting this strategy. It ties together multiple tactical activities (e.g., search ad and content marketing). It can be defined as a description of the steps that a company wants consumers to take so that they achieve a desired goal. In the digital vocabulary, a conversion occurs when a consumer achieved a goal you wanted them to achieve. Goals are widely varied: it can be visiting a page, clicking on a link, sending you their email address, buying a product, spending more than a specific amount of time on our of your pages, viewing a certain number of pages during a session, using a key feature, and the list goes on. To create a conversion path, companies pre-plan a set of steps that they want consumers to take in order to achieve that goal. The shortest conversion path that is typically presented in digital marketing is ad to content to landing page (see below):

Figure 4.6 Conversion Path

The planning of the steps consumers are going to take to achieve what you want them to achieve is central to create digital marketing campaigns. We do not simply create content and ads in the hopes that consumers are going to visit our website or click on our ads, without any idea of what will happen next. Rather, the best-strategized campaigns always answer the question ‘What comes next?’ For example, if you’re creating an ad to appear at the top of a SERP, what comes next? What are you expecting people to do? Where are you leading them? What should they be doing once they get on this page? Why? Answering these questions is how you can create highly-converting campaigns because you have a clear idea of the goal consumers should achieve, and you can therefore create pages and ads that will lead them to achieve these goals.

Depending on who you ask, it takes between 5 and 13 touchpoints (or interactions with your brand) to generate a qualified, sales-ready lead (Salesforce 2015; Online Marketing Institute 2013). We will come back to the notion of qualified lead (i.e., a lead that you believe can be your customer) and sales-ready (i.e., a lead that is at the purchase stage) later during the semester. For this chapter, what is important to understand is that, without planning ahead in advance what these 5 to 13 touchpoints will be, it will be quite difficult to create sales. The task of a digital marketer is thus understanding how to bring people through a set of smaller goals, like visiting a blog post, spending 3 minutes reading the post, giving the company an email address, opening the first email (and so on), that will lead them to achieve certain milestones towards making a purchase. Otherwise, a company will be flying in the dark, with no clear strategy as to how to make sales, apart from putting ads online and creating content.

For your term project, your goal is to create a clear conversion path composed of three inbound and three outbound marketing activities. They can be part of the same path (see figure 1) or part of different paths (see figure 2), but you need to think ahead of a set of tactics and associated marketing activities that are clearly linked to make people ‘walk’ through the path you’ll have created for them. Ideally, your path should indicate what you are doing (i.e., your tactic) and what you expect consumers to do (i.e., a goal).

Figure 4.7 Conversion Path – 1st Example
Figure 4.8 Conversion Path – 2nd Example

RACE for Competitive Analysis

The RACE framework is highly useful in creating a strategy for digital marketing campaigns. It helps answers questions such as:

  • Reach: How do I bring visitors to my website?
  • Act: How do I create a positive user experience? How do I transform visitors into leads?
  • Convert: How do I convert leads into customers?
  • Engage: Once I have customers, how do I ensure repeat purchases? How can I leverage my customers to participate in my marketing campaigns?

The strategic value of the RACE framework also makes it a great tool to guide competitive analysis. You can turn these questions around to better understand the digital marketing strategy of your competitors:

  • Reach: How is my competition bringing visitors to their site?
  • Act: Once on their web properties, how do they create positive interactions? How do they transform visitors into leads?
  • Convert: How do they convert leads into customers?
  • Engage: How do they ensure repeat purchases? How do they foster word-of-mouth and other co-creation activities?
Figure 4.9 Race

Reach

Understanding how your competitors bring in visitors can be of great use to craft your own strategy to attract people to your web properties. Questions to ask include:

  • How frequently are they running promotions? What benefits do those promotions provide to their customers and potential shoppers, as well as their business?
  • Are they running contests online? What kind?
  • How are they using their social media channels? How do they drive people from their social media channels to their website?
  • What information is included in their marketing banners and callouts

Act

Similarly, an analysis of your competition should include a better understanding of the user experience on their website. For this stage, you can answer questions such as:

  • How are they creating positive interactions on their properties and transforming visitors into leads?
  • Where are their calls to action throughout the browsing experience? What are the calls to action about?
  • Do they have a blog? How frequently do they post? What type of information do they tackle?
  • What is the role of content on their website? How does their content differ?

Convert

Then, the next stage is to better understand how your competition converts their leads into customers. To understand this, it is important to take steps like customers would: register to your competitors’ newsletters, understand what happens once a cart is abandoned, analyze persuasion attempts within webpages. To assist you, questions you should be able to answer include:

  • How do they display their products and help communicate details?
  • How detailed are their product descriptions? What information do they include? What information is missing?
  • Where are their calls to action throughout the browsing experience? What are the calls to action about?
  • What happens in newsletters? Are there a clear, pre-planned path created to maximize sales? What is that path?
  • Do they have an abandoned cart saver feature? If so, at what point do they send the emails and what are the messages for these emails?
  • Is your competition retargeting visitors? Based on what variables?

Engage

To conclude your competitive analysis, become a customer of your competitors! Understand what happens once you buy a product. See whether there exist forums on your competitors’ brands, services, or products. How are consumers of your competitors interacting online? What are your competitors doing to foster such interactions? You can ask here:

  • What happens once you bought a product?
  • Do they have some sort of a club? Membership program? Online forum?
  • Do they request reviews? Are there consumer-generated content (CGC) campaigns?
  • Do they have consumer appreciation campaigns?
  • Does their content always talk to new consumers, or to existing ones as well?

Bringing Competitor Analysis Together

A great approach to try to better understand your competitors is to approach them as you would if you were a persona-related consumer going through the motions of their journey. This is a different logic to evaluate your competition when compared to other strategic frameworks, such as SWOT. SWOT, indeed, can be used to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your competition as it relates to their digital marketing resources. But never before were we able to analyze exactly how our competitors are operating. Because everything is archived online, and because you can readily have access to marketing efforts, such as ads and content, understanding your competitors’ strategic efforts has perhaps never been more accessible. To conclude, To gather as much (targeted) information as possible, be sure to:

  • Subscribe to their newsletter/blog
  • Follow them on social media
  • Purchase a product: packaging, buying experience, shipping time
  • Put an item in your cart and abandon the checkout process
  • Check their reviews
  • Hunt their ads
  • Follow their publicity
  • Understand their backlinks

Exercises

You are a fitness center creating a campaign for people who want to get back into shape

One of the personas you are targeting is Avery:

  • Avery is a person living in a major Canadian city center. They are their late 20ies-early 30ies and are in the top 20% in revenues in their city. With increased responsibilities at work and a newborn, exercising had been put aside. For a few years. Avery feels sluggish, lacks energy, and miss having a stronger connection with their body. With age, their body has also started to transform and they started to feel conscious about it. To remediate, they want to get back into exercising weekly. They don’t have much time, and they also don’t know much about working out or the market, for example, where to work out or how to work out.
Journey-exercise

Social media analysis using RACE

Using the RACE framework, analyze and compare the following three Instagram fitness center accounts:
  • @achievefitnessboston
  • @lifetime.life
  • @goodlifefitness
Can you group the posts into RACE stages? What are the objectives of these themes? What are the goals for consumers?

Think of the implications to generate awareness, attract visitors, create leads, convert leads into customers, and generate engagement.

Creating a (digital) journey map

Integrating paid, owned, and earned marketing activities for a campaign for your fitness center based on the journey map provided

For one or two stages:

  • Start with the concrete actions of consumers
  • Identify opportunities
  • Translate the opportunities into concrete marketing activities
  • Find how to make each activity a paid, owned, and earned media activity

 

  • PPS: Pay per Sale: Advertiser pays the publisher a percentage of the sale that was created by a customer referred by the publisher (revenue sharing model)
  • CPA: Cost per Acquisition/Cost per Action/Cost per Lead: pays only when an advert delivers an acquisition after the user clicks on the advert. Definitions of acquisitions vary depending on the site and campaign. It may be a user filling in a form, downloading a file or buying a product.

Exercises

Your are a fitness center creating a campaign for people who want to get back into shape

One of the personas you are targeting is Avery:

  • Avery is a person living in a major Canadian city center. They are their late 20ies-early 30ies and are in the top 20% in revenues in their city. With increased responsibilities at work and a newborn, exercising had been put aside. For a few years. Avery feels sluggish, lacks energy, and miss having a stronger connection with their body. With age, their body has also started to transform and they started to feel conscious about it. To remediate, they want to get back into exercising weekly. They don’t have much time, and they also don’t know much about working out or the market, for example, where to work out or how to work out.
Journey-exercise
Create a search ad (headline, description, and display URL, with a choice of keywords) for the awareness stage. Use long-tail keywords
  • Then, for this ad, sketch a landing page, using the five main elements we covered
  • You should first be thinking about:
    • What is the objective associated with awareness for consumers? How does this influence my search ad?
    • What stage of the RACE framework does awareness align with? What are the objectives for my firm at this stage? How does that influence my landing page design?
Using the ad you created in the first part of this exercise, think of two ways to transform this ad to fit the following social media platforms.
    • Instagram
    • Linkedin
  • Identify which type of payment approach (e.g., CPC, CPA) you should go for and provide a reason why
  • Find a couple of influencers on Instagram that could help you with this campaign. Explain how you’d find these influencers and why they are ideal for your campaign. Decide which payment model to adopt to create a campaign with them.

License

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Digital Marketing Strategy by Pierre-Yann Dolbec is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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