Does marketing optimization have a life-cycle like a product?
There's an argument to be made that says yes. When you first introduce an optimization strategy the returns are immediate and clear. In fact, nothing is clearer to web visitors than a website that's not optimized! So you start implementing A/B testing. You hire an analytics expert and you bring on a Voice of Customer software. And naturally, your website begins to improve rapidly.
And this translates into more visitors and more leads as you fix the obvious problem areas on your site such as headache-inducing carousels, hidden calls-to-action, never-ending form fields and confusing icons.
Great. Now that's done your website moves into mature phase. Its "optimized". End of story. Right?
Wrong. Optimizing only ends when the cost of your various analytics and testing tools exceeds the value you gain in terms of qualified leads, returning customers and sales. It's after 'maturity' that the decline stage will come - and quickly if you stop optimizing altogether. And here's why:
1. Your products will evolve
What are you actually selling? Is it a free subscription? A demo? A trial? An enterprise offering that demands multiple sales calls?
How you communicate, promote and sell your offering online differs whether you're a start-up, small-to-medium business or enterprise.
Companies often move from selling a 'niche product' to a wider 'solution', or shift from low quality to high-end niche products or vice versa.
In addition, products evolve as technology opens new doors. The Moore's Law for example, promises ever growing technological capabilities in return for lower and lower costs - all of which have implications for how you present your offering online and what type of audience you focus your website strategy on.
2. Your target audience will change
Who are your web pages and content designed for? What are your key performance indicators? All of these change as audiences change. Sometimes they leave for other brands. Sometimes they return. And sometimes they might grow old with you.
Changes in product attract different audiences to your website. Take computers for example: Mainframes evolved into mini-computers evolved into micro-computers, and shifted target audience from massive corporations to hobbyists to executives to virtually everyone, thus creating major shifts in how vendors and CMO's think about and design the experience they present online.
3. Your competitors will act and react
Competitors' goals, beliefs, strategies and capabilities will change over time. Sometimes these move backwards and forwards in cycles. Competitors will act and react to how you yourself behave. And this has implications to your messaging, the audience segments you want to attract and how you design and optimize your website.
Does your website focus on fast, product-oriented calls-to-action with an e-commerce feel? Or does it focus instead on nurturing the reader; providing informative content; thought leadership and more subtle calls-to-action such as white paper downloads?
Much depends on how you position yourself in relation to your competitors and the opportunities you believe can be developed from that position.
4. Website technology will enable more
Technology is one of the most direct factors affecting website optimization. Back in the early 1990's when websites were just a series of single columns with text-based pages strung together in HTML, optimization took a back seat.
Then from the mid-90's we got table-based websites, Flash design and CSS - enabling designers to create style sheets that made it easier to control the look and feel of a website.
Then with Java script, navigation bars began to move to the top of the page, drop down menus became popular and forms began to appear - suddenly we see optimization in its modern form!
By the time Web 2.0 appeared in the late 2000's enabling interactive content and integration of applications, we see a shift towards publishing content rather than just selling products. And a move to engaging the consumer via social media. Enter more optimization!
Mobile is the latest of these changes. Mobile internet access overtook desktop for the first time back in 2008 and hasn't looked back since. As mobile websites adopted a 'tall and skinny' layout with an emphasis on browsing, minimal navigation and more specified calls-to-action, designers and marketing professionals are now closely studying mobile digital behavior and consider mobile optimization a dedicated field in itself.
5. People will demand personal service
Finally, people are demanding more attention in the form of customized service. Personalization is now a hot topic, allowing marketers to better engage prospects by providing them with targeted content, promotions and a more relevant digital experience. And consumers expect it. Hell, they demand it! And businesses that aren't personalizing are losing ground.
Driving this trend are the enormous amounts of analytics data available to the enterprise. Also, location-based tracking, data mining, facial recognition, the ability to record individual on-page interactions and the ability to combine these recordings into visual heatmaps that chart digital experience for entire audience segments.
The ability to use that data to personalize everything is what will characterize the digital marketplace and web optimization in the coming years ahead.
Time to Start Extending your Optimization Life Cycle
Does marketing optimization have a lifecycle? Yes it does. And for the reasons outlined above it's critical that enterprises find new ways to squeeze more value from their marketing ecosystem. The way forward is by a closer examination of what web optimization means today and how to better align company goals with the digital experience customers receive (see the blog post: Is Your Digital Customer Experience As Good As You Think?).
And like any product life cycle - with the right strategy, decline can be permanently held off, or even reversed altogether. An effective mobile strategy is one way. Laying the groundwork for personalization is another.
We'll be coming back to these two topics in our future blog posts. So stay tuned!