Let’s be clear: performance marketing is not ‘affiliate marketing’. Today performance marketing is about getting the most out of all response-driving digital channels. With the plethora of targeting options and optimisation techniques that now exist, marketers can and should be looking to maximise efficiencies from every digital marketing activity.
Data + Technology + People = Performance Marketing
Performance marketing is no longer a single activity but a way of enhancing marketing delivery to effect incremental improvements across every part of the marketing process – continually.
Understand what is and isn’t working
Before channel performance can be improved, it’s important to determine what you are trying to achieve then review what is and importantly isn’t working. This is where bringing in outside expertise can add real value.
Once you have the results and insights by channel, it’s time to review and audit how you are managing those channels to identify opportunities for improvement. Applying market insight using the right technology to look across your marketing informs channel-level decisions that achieve greater efficiencies across all activities.
Often brands have a silo plan to ‘do display’ or to ‘get a video campaign live’ believing that the base channels – PPC, SEO, affiliates or display retargeting – are already ‘maxed out’. This might be true in some cases but generally through the combination of hard optimisation and application of a gain score model you can drive more volume, often at a lower cost.
Learnings from other competitive arenas
Sir Dave Brailsford, architect of the British Olympic track cycling success and now team principal at Team Sky, is a great example of focusing on all aspects of the activity to drive performance improvement.
“Sport is about continuous improvement, it’s about getting better,” said Brailsford. “It’s about being better next year than you are this year. It’s a bit like Formula One. You have a car and the designers might say ‘we can’t think how we’re going to make this any better’. But ultimately you can. And that’s what we’ve got to do.
“It’s important to understand the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’. Put simply, how small improvements in a number of different aspects of what we do can have a huge impact on the overall performance of the team.”
Brailsford’s application of this concept is something that all brands can apply to their channel strategies and marketing campaigns.
Execution is key
As former Asda chief executive Allan Leighton advises in his 10 rules for business success: “Focus on execution”. There is no point identifying what you need to do unless you do it and do it well.
Being able to access data quickly makes for faster optimisation decisions, helping you to move ahead of your competitors. You understand your business better than anyone, including what triggers or events exist in your industry.
Empowering your digital specialists with this information will allow this to be factored into planning, providing tactical opportunities to boost channel performance. This relationship between digital specialists (or executioners) and the client is key to achieving success across all your performance marketing channels.
Helen Walsh, head of digital marketing at Aldermore bank, explains how performance marketing tactics have helped her business: “Equimedia was tasked with driving our performance marketing channels to the next level for our retail savings and mortgage products.
“It looked at all the elements of our campaigns: display campaign optimisation, affiliate programmes, promotion optimisation and tracking improvements. As a result of this focus on every element of our activity, it delivered a 181 per cent increase in sales while reducing our cost per sale by 29 per cent.”
Identify your own marketing levers
Understanding your business models and challenges outside of individual channel performance is important and can help develop additional insight and lead to different answers. For example, with WHSmith our broader understanding of the tight profit margin challenges with online book and stationery sales meant we could develop a bespoke feed-management solution that tiered the retailer’s affiliate and PPC channels in accordance with its category profit margins.
Providing tighter control over every sale that occurs within these channels resulted in a 60 per cent reduction in cost per sale and 460 per cent increase in order volume compared to the previous year. WHSmith ecommerce director Angus Hayman says: “Employing this strategy means we can now match our spend to our margin, improving the efficiency of our marketing spend and ensuring that we are not delivering unprofitable sales.”
Results like this are achieved thanks to the evolution of targeting options that can be applied to channels such as digital display advertising and the progression of techniques such as real-time bidding and programmatic buying.
This has led to a shift in the way that all digital channels should be viewed. The ability to optimise all to a granular level means brands should be aiming to deliver continuous performance improvement across all marketing activity.
At Equimedia, it is the right combination of Data + Technology + People that = Performance Marketing.
Five top tips for performance marketing success:
1. Get your analytics right. If you don’t know how things are performing, you don’t know what you can improve.
2. Create granular campaigns. Whether it is adwords or display campaigns, budget and optimisation management at a granular level will give you greater control.
3. Know your limits. Management of performance marketing channels is a full-time job. Enlisting an expert can help to amplify marketing performance.
4. Control, test and learn. Ensure performance is benchmarked and tests are recorded. This cyclical process prevents performance from becoming stagnant.
5. Don’t neglect the website. It’s not all about campaign management. Your website can be your greatest asset or worst enemy depending on your conversion rate.