Which KPIs to Measure, and When

January 14, 2016

Maybe you’re the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), the Chief Sales Officer (CSO), or the one doing it all (sing: C-I-E-I-O). In any case, you are deeply involved with setting strategy, goals and KPIs that will help you make your number. Which measurements matter most, and why? Are you swimming in data and metrics, and confused by the options? You are not alone. Here’s why, and how to solve it.

Today, almost all of a buyer’s journey happens online before they speak with your company.  Often you aren’t even aware, although that can be fixed too (separate forthcoming post; follow this blog).

This means Marketing and Sales have to jointly engage potential buyers over a longer period of time, using multiple touchpoints, to reliably focus on helping the most needy customers and likely buyers.

Geting Organized

Knowing what to measure, and when to measure it, for each Tactic (video, whitepaper, etc.) and each Buyer Journey stage (people ask different questions as they proceed through to a decision), helps you optimize your relationship building efforts and improve sales and service.

The dizzying array of measurements and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) often hinders progress, so we have reviewed the results of a number of client engagements to bring you an easy single-page reference table that you can use with any CRM system to guide your setup of meaningful measurements, accurately gauge progress, and know where your next sale is coming from.  Your own circumstances may be unique, but this is a start.

A Handy Funnel / KPI Planner Tool

Marketing Funnel KPI clip PreviewClick the spreadsheet snippet here to preview a .pdf of this free organizer tool that guides you through the most important KPIs to set for each Funnel stage, each Goal, and each Tactic you use to make customers and happiness happen. Sales and Marketing people across a number of client projects have tried this tool and liked it.

Get the Actual Working Tool – it’s free

The native file is much easier to work with than the Preview.  It is an ordinary Excel spreadsheet, and I have pre-set it with split windows so you can scroll right to reveal over 30 KPIs that apply for each Stage, Goal and Tactic, without losing sight of the main row and column headers. Check the last box on the list on this online order form to order your free copy.

Get the KPI planner tool - free

Over to You

Try it! I welcome your reactions, comments and suggestions. This KPI Chart will be added to our Resources page shortly, after it has been “out to play” among you for a little while and we have gathered your feedback. Of course, you will be notified of those updates, if you have downloaded the file.

As always, we couldn’t do what we do in this blog without your input, and from the valuable experience we gain working with clients and the many CRM, sales force automation and “social hive” tools we implement for them, too numerous to mention here.  Thanks!

Cheers, ~Ed


Why Blogging Works: Influence and Reciprocity

January 8, 2016

Once more, with feeling.  Blogging is just about the best way to influence buyers and build loyalty.  Here’s why.

Why blogging works - highfive for reciprocityIn re-reading the book “Webs of Influence” by Nathalie Nahai lately, just to refresh on some principles of User Experience, I am once again appreciating the depth to which she lays out the basic human principles behind online influence. Side note: I really like that Ms. Nahai highlights a “Make This Work for You” segment in each book section (multiples in each chapter) where she outlines a real world use case, bringing her writings beyond the realm of theory and science and into the world of practical use for you and me.

Triggering Social Obligations

In her book, Ms. Nahai quotes social psychologist Robert Cialdini’s statement “There is an obligation to give, an obligation to receive, and an obligation to repay” in human society,  explaining that the easiest way to initiate reciprocity is to begin by offering a gift.  At any dance party, are you waiting for someone else to make that first move?   Be that first mover.  Your gift can of course be a blog article, where you offer free advice to your audience.  Importantly, Ms. Nahai mentions that the gift you offer must actually be something of value. Upshot: skip the listicle theme and the pleas to “like” your content, and just offer authoritative, helpful content.

Gift Ideas that Build Reciprocity

If you’re not yet an active blogger, other gift ideas might include a free Skype session or Webinar, a free eBook or PDF, a special Subscriber benefit such as access to exclusive premium-value content, or a concession or compromise such as a discount on published prices in exchange for deeper insight or other value.

Online Presence Establishes Credibility

By now you probably know that diligent people check out your online presence (LinkedIn, website, social media accounts) before they decide to offer you the gig. By offering a free Resources page on this blog, as well as making blog articles searchable by topic, we establish credibility and facilitate the reference check process, building confidence in the client that s/he has made a wise selection in selecting us.

All of this may sound obvious, but bear in mind that closing the loop of reciprocity begins and ends with you.  It begins with acknowledging when a prospect or customer has visited your blog, downloaded free content or some such action.  It continues when you thank them personally (not just auto-reply) and continue the dialogue toward helping them solve their challenge, whether or not they buy.  If they buy, good; if they don’t, they still may become a referral source, a colleague, and perhaps even a friend.

Case in Point: Closing the Sale

We recently were hired by a financial services firm to help with a combined website content refresh, social channel buildout, and CRM transformation project. Closing the sale was easier because they acknowledged they had received substantial value just from our blog articles and from a handful of conversations where we discussed the practical application of our knowledge to their set of challenges. In essence, the Discovery phase of the engagement, for which we typically charge a fee, had already been substantially accomplished through that preliminary dialogue and resource exchange.  When we pointed out this concession, the Prospect agreed about the value they had already received, as well as their comfort with the progress of that dialogue and their assurance that we present a wise choice. Reference check done. Confidence assured. Deal done. Bam.

Accelerating Sales through Reciprocity

In preparing for the coming year, our team reviewed our own CRM reports, looking at the Sources of client revenue, analyzing the specific events that helped advance dealflow to successful sales.  We found a high correspondence between deal closure and the Reciprocity loop that involved prospects accessing our online content, combined with our follow-through in highlighting value already delivered before asking for the sale.  In situations where the reciprocity relationship was rather more tenuous, the client interactions seemed marked by more tentative, hard negotiations.  In deals where the Reciprocity was high, we also saw a greater incidence of multi-year client relationships.  This is the year we build on making Reciprocity a standard, repeatable process.

Over to You

As fellow humans, how can we build better reciprocity into relationships to help one another discover and solve challenges?  Can we improve on the habit of acknowledging others’ contributions to our relationships?  As sales professionals, can you use your online presence to establish credibility, begin the Reciprocity loop, and close it with your own follow-through? Love to hear your comments and stories.

Cheers, ~Ed


Big Data in Marketing: 3 Prep Steps

October 11, 2012

In preparing case studies for my talk titled “Be a Big Data Voodoo Daddy” at Boston’s October 2012 FutureM conference, I noticed that almost half of our 40+ client projects over the recent years had to first devolve from “Implementation” projects to “Readiness” projects – equally valuable, and absolutely necessary.  How’s yours going?

Is your marketing automation, CRM, analytics, email marketing or other automation project going to deliver your desired payback?  Here are my top 3 warning signs that it may take longer to pay off than you think.

Stated differently, here are 3 must-do’s to ensure near-term ROI.

1.  The Right Stuff (Value based Goals).

Let’s first assume that you’ve already connected with the concept of Marketing as Moneyball.   Still, you may find that you are not gathering useful, relevant data to help you accomplish your stated strategic goal and implement the right CRM or analytics solution.  This may stem from having broad, imprecise goals.  For example:

  • “Grow revenue” is a great goal, but the paths are varied and nuanced.
  • “Increase Partner Channel Revenue” is, well, getting warm.
  • “Double Partner Channel Service Contract Revenue” is more like it.  Now you have a specific channel, identified players, and a specific product/service element attached to a numeric goal.  Specific, measurable goals and then measuring the right things are both essential elements if you are to to yield any meaningful analysis to motivate and support change.  No matter how efficiently you automate the wrong data, you risk stretching out the time horizon for any meaningful payback or, worse, running in multiple or wrong directions and wasting effort.  Strategy comes first.

2.) The Stuff, Right (Data Analysis and Process Maps).

Typically, your data is not homogeneous and some necessary processes don’t exist yet.  Data often exists in a variety of formats ranging from locked spreadhseets and various departmental databases to unstructured documents, such as paragraph text and visuals.  Processes that don’t yet exist can’t be mapped to a system; you can’t automate a vacuum.

Significant effort is involved in standardizing and preparing data for upload into your new automated solution, as well as  selecting the right tools to enable you to access and mine insights from unstructured  information.  At Fan Foundry, we are familiar with an array of powerful tools, and can develop custom, reusable upload frameworks to help clients address current and future needs for unstructured data.

This is where the scope of a project almost always expands, as additional valuable information repositories become included, because we often discover additional insights using all available data that just would not be possible otherwise.  You never know where the breakthrough “aha” discoveries may lie.  If you don’t have the luxury to expand your analysis, though, then rigorously insist on only analyzing the most salient data.

3) The Players (People).

The talent shortage is legendary.  If you are inadequately staffed or trained to assume the role of data manager, analyst and strategist, or transformational leader, let alone carry on administratively after implementation, you shouldn’t start the project.  The time to assign roles is up front.  Get any necessary talent aligned first so they can be involved in the project.  Some of your team can adapt; sometimes you need to extend your team to include a capable partner.  The single most effective way to stretch out the payoff time horizon is to not involve its eventual owners and primary users, or not have the stomach to lead a transformation effort.  Be prepared to change, or else don’t start.

The full list of must-do’s is extensive, but if you tend to these three first, most of the rest will fall in line, and you’ll enjoy a successful implementation.

Toward a “Measurement Culture”

You’ll know you are succeeding when you have established a “culture of measurement” in which the right things get measured, the data supports meaningful analysis, all meaningful data is reflected in a single, integrated, centrally accessible “record of truth”, and you are using the insights you have gained to achieve transformations like improve margins, speed to market, pricing accuracy, supply chain efficiency, sales growth, and other incremental and transformational improvements.

Finally, it must be stressed that human judgment is not taking a back seat to data.   Interpreting analytics in light of pragmatic experience and using that knowledge to take calculated risks is a hallmark of success.


Marketing Automation: Masters of the User-verse

October 6, 2011

The customer is King, but Users are your Universe – your “User-verse”.   How do you stay at their center?

According to Forrester Research, by mid-decade over half of all purchasing will be done online.   For post-digital people (think: Millenials & their iGen progeny), who represent the incoming wave of buyers, influencers and decision makers, this has already come to pass.  Millenials are comfortable with technology; iGens are uncomfortable without it.  Today’s post-digital citizens deftly filter and apply information to move smartly through life.   Socializing and transacting online is ordinary and commonplace.  Today’s cadre of decision makers, too, use mobile and social filters to navigate decisions and find relevance in the bit-torrent of change.  Collectively, we are your expanding User-verse.  For us, B2C and B2B are becoming less different.  Now it’s U2E (Users to Everybody), and therein lies a challenge: filtering and relevance.

The challenge is especially acute for Marketing leaders, who are now being held accountable for ROI while also striving to maintain respect and relevance with audiences.   Some organizations do a great job at meeting the needs of our always-on audience. I call them Fan Foundries.  We recognize them by their digital presence in our lives: everything real-word is mirrored and ehanced online, where it can be detected and consumed by customers, suppliers, employees etc.  In turn, our digital travels are observed by these smart Fan Foundries to determine how best to help us through our decision journey and, where appropriate, engage and buy.  You know you’re dealing with a Fan Foundry when your next interaction feels like a continuation or enhancement of the prior one, rather than another blind date.

How are you doing?

How is your organization doing?  Are you at the center of your Userverse?  You probably know that answer, but try this experiment.  Visit Amazon, iTunes, or some other online account you admire.  Compare that online experience to that of your own business.  If you don’t measure up, be assured somebody is going to steal your business soon.  How soon?  How about…while you’re reading this?  If you’re still doing mainly interruptive, outbound marketing, yet your audience is filtering out your messages (via spamblock, TiVo, Unsubscribe, delete key, etc.), what are you doing to help yourself get found and stay relevant?

Fortunately, you no longer need a massive budget to master your User-verse.  What, then, do you need?   What does a balanced, humming Fan Foundry look like?  Layer by layer, it might resemble this:

A Marketing and Sales Governance Model

click to enlarge

  1. Front end – Web interfaces (desktop, mobile, kiosk, email, social media, etc.).   The online experience these days is spotty at best, but many good examples exist and they’re in plain view.  Good poets borrow, so why not learn from the best, then adapt and refine it based on what you learn from your User-verse as they navigate your content, make choices, and send you signals about what they buy and why.
  2. Content layer – main website content, product/service literature, user-generated content (reviews, comments, etc.), custom apps, partner portals, blogs, e-newsletters, online forums, social media, customer care & service channels, etc.   Rich content, re-formatted for channels and micro-audiences, is a golden opportunity to anticipate and delight users, keep you appropriately centered, and signal you on when and how to engage.  Just like your web navigation, your content navigation can be tested and refined based on user behavior.
  3. Information management layer – CRM, marketing automation, analytics, modeling, planning, supply chain, financial datastores, etc. Here, with an array of connected technologies, you can dashboard, orchestrate and analyze the flow of people, information and material to discover competitive advantage and facilitate progress.  Don’t let the geek factor frighten you from implementing some basic, essential tools.  Dig in and ask for help. Or not.  And be toast.  (Suggestion: call us)
  4. Records/data layer – In an age where more and more data is publicly available and public-generated, your ability to harness data to learn and adapt more quickly could spell success or failure.  Master this layer, and you can spend more time selling, transacting business and nurturing future customers while cutting out time-wasters.  By cultivating your own data sources and applying your own relevance filters you can speed learning and adaptation, and improve your ability to reliably forecast a profitable future.

What stands in the way of progress?  The usual responses are resources, people, skills, time, money, and appetite for change.   Okay, but wouldn’t you like to delight customers and win new ones?   Wouldn’t you like to substantially and sustainably grow revenue? Wouldn’t you like to still be in business and growing – or, if losing, at least know why you’re losing so you can adapt and improve?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, and you just need resources and expertise to make it happen, contact us.

 ~

Get started today! Visit our Resources page to download free planning tools.


Mobile Email Formatting Tips

May 26, 2011

[ 2017 update: Can you believe it?  Most email marketers don’t bother to read the manual, and the results fail.  Here is a one page crash course on the highlights of any email marketing practice.  ~Ed ]

Over half of all internet Searches are now performed on smartphones.  Smartphones represent 1/2 of all mobile phones, and tablet sales overtook laptop and PC sales years ago.  Almost everyone with an email account reads it one-handed, on the go, for at least part of each day, and some days the only device available is the mobile phone or tablet.  For many decision makers, mobile email is the weapon of choice for staying in touch.  Remember, however, that many smartphone users do not automatically download images, and a subset of users still prefer to receive only text, not enhanced formatting.  The moral: design your email messages to suit all mobile readers if you want good results.   Here are a few considerations.  As usual, I’ve included some resource links at the end of this post.

1.  Header fields (Sender and Subject)

email on smartphone

On the small screen, it’s even more crucial to clearly identify yourself and your relationship/organization in the Sender and Subject field.    Many email preview screens only display header info.  Readers visually scan the first few lines of a message before deciding which messages are worth their time.  It’s the electronic equivalent of sorting your postal mail while standing at the wastebasket.  Ever done that?  Thought so.   Effective Sender and Subject information will vastly improve your open rate.

The Sender field should ideally have a human’s name in it and/or your business name, if you are a business.     Example:  “Jane Doe | XYZ Corp.”   The Subject field gets a succinct headline (<40 characters, ideally) front-loaded to convey the main benefits to the reader.  If you have more than one subject, consider sending a separate message for each, unless you can weave multiple subjects into a single theme to fit that brief 40-character Subject line.  According to Epsilon, who have tested millions of emails for the world’s largest companies, the top factor in improving email open rates is a short, sweet, “front-loaded” subject line – one that has been a/b tested.  Mary Meeker of KPCB states that audiences prefer content that makes them feel Connected, Excited, Curious, Interested and Productive.  Do as many of those as possible in your Sender and Subject lines.

What does “front-loaded” mean?

It means your subject line or sentence leads with an impact statement that clearly states the benefit to your dear reader, whose internal radio is perpetually tuned to WIFM (What’s In it For Me).  Here’s how to / not to:

  • NOT DO: “We are excited to announce that our….”  You just wasted 40 characters and risked being unopened, deleted or spam filtered.
  • DO: “<Member perk> from <your or your bizname>: (describe your member Perk here in 1 or 2 words)”.  Like a news editor, you want an eye-catching headline. This is your one shot at getting and keeping attention.  Work it.  Pro tip: avoid punctuation [!].

Avoid gimmicks.  Example: the “re:” gimmick spoof.  The “re:” tag indicates a forwarded message – NOT one originated by you.   Gaming the audience’s inbox in this way is actually a frequent scammer / phishing tactic.  You don’t want that reputation.  ‘nuf said.

2. Top of message body: Text, not Graphics

If you follow these following 3 rules, you’ll stay out of the weeds:  (1) don’t make me think; (2) don’t make me wait; (3) don’t make me work.   We’re not lazy, we’re busy.  Save time by not placing graphics in the upper left corner of your message body.   Use that valuable piece of real estate for an impactful text message.  Shrink that image height down to no more than the equivalent of 5 lines of text, so it’s easy to scroll past and keep the reading momentum high. Get to the point quickly.  Help your readers to begin benefiting right away.

Speaking of Graphics:  Users of devices set to text-only who have clicked your juicy headline don’t want to find a blank white box with a little red X in the upper left corner.  Interrupting  busy people’s “flow” or confusing them with guesswork will result in fewer opens, clicks and conversions, and more deletes and unsubscribes.  Best practice:  lead with text, minimize use of graphics, and shrink graphics to button size, thumbnail size, or narrow banner.   If your graphic is so large that no text is visible on-screen or – worse – your Call to Action is not visible in the first screen or two, move it up, and shrink it.  If your graphic is illegible when shrunk to small-screen size, design a new one that works.

3. Navigation and Conversion

Limit navigation complexity.  Use a left-aligned, single column format, not a multi-column newsletter format that awkwardly requires a one-handed user to fumble and shake the phone to switch from Portrait to Landscape view.  Opt for using screen-width-percentage tags rather than absolute pixel width, so your messages format on the fly to fit a myriad of device screens.  Height:  If possible, limit it to just minimal scrolling (max: one additional screen’s worth of content below the visible screen of content).

4. Data Capture

If you include a data capture form, avoid multiple required fields.  Just capture the bare minimum information to advance to the next level in your relationship with the reader.  Do you really need their mailing address if you already have their email address?  If the answer is still yes, then start by asking for just zip code for doing location-based business.  QR codes are great for this purpose; NFC (near-field communication) is just starting to show up in devices and points of sale.

5.  Call to Action (CTA) links

Support your main topic or offer with both buttons and text links.   Some people prefer to click buttons; others will click text links.  Satisfy both camps.  Be sure your link supports the Subject line of the message.   Clearly state any time-limited offers or timeliness of the message to inject urgency and help people prioritize and enjoy the benefits.  Make your action button large enough so it can be reached by the outstretched thumb of those one-handed gadget-slingers.

6. Buttons and Links: Size matters (Placement, too)

Spacing of buttons and links deserves consideration.  Buttons work great on smaller mobile touch screens because they can be larger than text and reduce fat-finger misfires.  Consider separating each text and button link by at least a line of text or equivalent blank space, to help fat fingers navigate effectively and avoid those annoying misfires that send us to an errant download.  Avoid that common error by not placing links in adjacent lines.  Misfires are annoying.  Rule of finger: skip a line of text / space between links and buttons.

Equally important:  send your recipients to mobile-optimized landing pages.   Mobile-optimized means everything mentioned in this article.  Optimizing your website for mobile may mean providing alternate navigation, especially if your main website menu is of the horizontal drop-down type – another frequent cause of fat-finger misfires.  Your mobile-friendly website menu should be of the “hamburger” variety (search:  “hamburger mobile menu”).

7. Alt text tags

Many email users set their devices to “images off” to improve download speeds.  If you decide to include a graphic image, note that every graphic element can be easily given a compelling, descriptive “Alt text”  label that will still appear in a text-only message in place of the graphic, to let readers know what they’ll receive if they decide to download a graphic version or select the “display images” option.   Moreover, HTML 5 will let those alt tag fields function as live links – without downloading the graphic element – which is great for busy people who don’t want to pay or wait for graphic images to load onscreen.  Use the <Alt text> tag to help people quickly decide when and what to click. Bonus: it improves SEO!

8. Visual text/graphics balance – the 80/20 rule rides again

At least 80% of your message should be text with text links, and no more than 20% clickable graphics.  This helps make certain your full message gets across quickly even if it’s the text-only or “images off” version, and it ensures fast, successful downloads for people who want the full visual message.  Even 4G mobile download speeds are generally slower than desktop device speeds.  A good acid test is to first compose your email as a text-only version, to be sure that your entire message and action links are visually appealing, tell the complete story, and generate a response.  Once you have tested the text-only  version, consider adding a graphic element or two that visually reinforce the main message and call to action.

9. Social Media Buttons:  Share or Snare?

If you have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other complementary accounts that might help readers get to know you better, include those link buttons.    If you opt for social “sharing” buttons, place them prominently alongside content your audience might wish to share.   Caution: while it’s magnanimous to provide social “share’ buttons so viewers can share your email with others, experience has shown that email readers generally would rather get more info themselves to facilitate a decision before they decide to share it.  With this in mind, it is actually more effective to have your social media buttons link to additional information to facilitate buying decisions.   Whichever route you choose, label it clearly. Your own circumstances may vary; it is best to A/B test the social sharing / snaring button to determine which has best effect for your audience.  Above all, don’t “mix” the buttons.  They should either be all “share” or all “snare”, to avoid user confusion.

10. Consider using cascading style sheets (CSS).

CSS can help detect and change the size of image and text to comfortably fit different sized device screens.

11.  Test!  Testing alone gets 82% more revenue!

Set up a Test list (internal users, including you), and scrutinize every aspect of your email before you hit the big Send button.  Don’t forget to just look at it in your inbox Listview, to be sure your Sender and Subject lines, and the first few lines of text, flow in an informative, non-redundant way. At Fan Foundry, we have discovered that our lifetime conversion rates exceed industry norms simply because we test our messages.   We have an 82% higher lifetime conversion rate across all client campaigns, based on comparison to performance reports from prominent email marketing software providers like Epsilon, Return Path, Lyris and MailChimp.  Does this mean that until email testing becomes more standard practice, you too can get 82% more revenue from your email marketing simply by testing?  Possibly;  try it! Here’s how.

Send a test email to your own mobile email reader – or as broad a variety of devices and email software as possible – to check for visual appeal and link performance.   Some of the more sophisticated marketing automation software products actually have this testing feature built-in.   Test a different subject line, a different graphic, a different CTA (Call to Action) button, etc.  Send each version to a subset of your target list.  Note the results.  Does one combination yield better conversion results?  After all the hard work you’ve done to create your gorgeous, compelling email outreach campaigns and acquire a faithful audience,  the few minutes spent testing gives your marketing ROI significant lift.   Wouldn’t you like to earn 1.82 times your ordinary revenue?  Well, then, test.  Conversely, if you ignore this step and send an error-laden email, don’t be surprised if people begin to ignore you and your results suffer.  Don’t be that person!  Make it count, grow your audience and build loyalty!

What has your experience been?  Any tips to share?  I’ll add them here and credit you.  Or you can discuss below, or just ask a question.


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