Analysing The Learn Phase Of Digital Strategy
The LEARN phase involves constant evolution. Every action, positive or negative, is a learning that can be used to create improved performance in the future. It is important to understand how to analyze your activities and extract core learning from patterns, results and trends you identify.
Throughout your campaigns and activity, you will be implementing optimizations and changes. During the Learn phase, you will be identifying change but based on larger volumes of data. The Learn phase is about implementing change based on learned insight. It is a phase that brings value to long-term performance.
- Analyze Performance: Review how each of your pieces of activity are performing.
- Identify Patterns: Identify the patterns in results and what they might mean.
- Identify Behavior: Identify specific patterns of behaviour from your audience that tell you things about them.
Baked-in measurement is what you will have achieved if you followed this entire process. Too many people measure after a campaign and then wonder why they can’t state the performance of something in just a series of KPIs. Measurement is addressing the relationship of KPIs to business results.
We have already agreed what that is by identifying our KSOs (Key Success Outcomes). Baked-in measurement requires campaigns and sometimes even executions to consider how they will be measured at the end of the campaign. Which is why we focus so much on constantly asking ourselves why we are doing the things we do.
In order to truly measure, you must introduce more than digital metrics into your measurement. You need to be able to layer social metrics over other measurements to attempt to identify the correlation between specific metrics. When a correlation is identified, you have the potential to isolate social from any other activity and test your theory to see if digital on its own creates a shift in measurement, e.g. sales, dwell time, organic search performance. By identifying how you will measure an activity before it goes live, it will allow you to include measurement throughout the process of development and asset creation.
As previously outlined, ROI will continue to be a myth if you don’t begin to establish theories of performance and test them. Digital needs to be a part of your attribution model. It might not necessarily create the last click or the final sale, but it has a very significant role along the customer journey influencing the sale. To establish ROI, you need to begin a long process of uncovering those influences and measuring them for your business.
Unfortunately, there is no magic formula. Digital has become such a big part of our lives; its impact is mixed in with many traditional measures as well as its own, e.g. TV, Search, Radio, etc.
This has come up in a number of sections so far. During the Learn phase, reading reports and analyzing data, for the most part, gets easier. You are normally dealing with much larger volumes of data of much longer periods of time. As a result, it is easier to spot trends and patterns that indicate learnings. Toyota has a global policy for challenging themselves called ‘The 5 WHYs‘. When faced with a challenge, ask yourself ‘Why?’ 5 times. This will allow you to probe potential opportunity areas.
#1 Consistent reporting
Throughout the time period, you will have been consistently reporting and developing your own benchmarks, at the end of the time period, you will have solid benchmarks. It is time now to identify through the year at what points you improved and where did you fall down. WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?
When looking at specific KPIs throughout the time period, are there any specific peaks or troughs? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?
#3 STRONGEST RESULT
When did you see your strongest results and performance? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?
4. Layer over this business performance, is there any correlation? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?
Performance is something you can record daily/weekly/monthly. You should note that making short-term decisions is a short term objective – it is about adjustments and optimizations. Performance measured over-time should be addressed quarterly, bi-annually and annually to derive insight that is implemented to affect long-term change.
In terms of performance, there are four specific areas of digital that you should be observing to assess long-term change and strategic decision-making:
#1 Content Performance
If you followed a very specific content strategy, you will have been consistently reaching your audience with the same tone and personality for a long period of time. Following this, you can clearly identify from performance metrics moments of performance that were strong and ones that were weak. You should derive insight from challenging that performance with, you guessed it, WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? This insight should be used when going back into your Plan stage before the next phase. These learnings should be re-entered into the process and to evolve your strategies.
#2 Media Performance
This performance is a lot more clinical and there are fewer assumptions or observations. Media works almost exclusively on KPI performance. Which platform, when supported by media, drives the strongest response or results? Remember your format lists from your content strategy? It’s time to revisit this one, but looking at the performance of specific format areas. What formats does media perform well with and what does not perform well? This should guide your next media plan and allow you to better spend your media budgets by format.
#3 Observational Conversation
At the start of this process, you would have initially addressed the volume of conversation your brand had. Using keyword searches on Twitter, Instagram and Google, you are now seeing volumes of mentions including:
- Keywords that are linked to your campaign
- Hashtag usage
#4 Search Analytics
How are users arriving at your site organically? What terms are they searching that bring them to the site? All this data should be taken and applied to content planning for your site to continue to develop content for SEO. What are people now saying online about you? What does that tell you? And, you guessed it – WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?
We’ve all seen the rapid growth of digital in the last decade. In 10 years we’ve invented the smartphone and the storage capabilities in your mobile device have the power of a super-computer from ten years ago. The evolution has yet to show signs of slowing down. You must try to keep pace with the industry if you can expect to continue to evolve your businesses use of digital. Disrupt yourself so you aren’t disrupted too late. Keep yourself and your team up-to-date with the latest developments in the digital marketing industry in each of the following areas:
- Identifying New Channels: Constantly staying on top of new channels that our consumer is using and how they are using them.
- Channel Advancements: How channels are developing. Pay particular attention to new releases from Google and how social media formats are evolving.
- New Technology: Constantly observing how innovation is disrupting your industry e.g. voice search, wearables, 360, video, etc.
- Consumer Behaviour: How is your consumer changing? How are they adopting new behaviours into their lives? What are they?
- Mobile: How does mobile continue to sit at the centre of our lives? How do consumers expect mobile to work for them?
Technology is one thing, but human brainpower will remain the most valuable resource for your business. If you are creating talented individuals they will continue to push their capabilities. You must ensure you are creating a culture of learning and a pang of hunger and ambition for innovation.
Cyclical Planning Model
Everything in your organization’s digital journey should be cyclical. It is an iterative process where learnings can be noted and then applied. At every step, positive and negative results can impact future performance. Long-term strategies should live for years. As a result of recording data long-term, analyzing it at specific periods in the year will allow you to learn, iterate and evolve.
The Digital Marketing Institute’s 3i principles; Initiate, Integrate and Iterate will specifically help you design a cyclical planning model.
The factors attributed to the success of long-term strategies are:
- Consistent Measurement: Make sure that your teams are recording all agreed information and data, reporting on it regularly. Using the same measurement long-term allows for more effective pattern analysis.
- Regular Performance Reviews: Ensure that at a low level, reporting is carried out daily/weekly/monthly. More importantly, ensure that reviews are in place that occurs quarterly/bi-annually/annually because it is at this level long-term decisions can be made for change.
- Maintaining Pace: Ensure that you and your team are constantly asking yourselves ‘what’s next’ and ‘what’s new’. How well you can maintain pace with the digital landscape will affect your ability to innovate and evolve with it.
- Increasing Investment: This one can hurt, but it’s scary sometimes when you meet brands that tell you they have invested the same levels in digital for a number of years. If digital is still seeing exponential growth, why aren’t budgets growing? This is regularly because digital is not connected to business performance, but you won’t have this problem because you have baked-in measurement! Ensure you are asking the question annually, ‘are we investing enough?’
Quarterly reviews for your strategy are important because they address performance, but also allow you to address the pace of change. Is there a new format or channel that didn’t exist when the strategy was being developed and should these be implemented into the strategy?
There are a number of key methods for addressing change in your organization:
#1 Annual Reviews
At the end of every year, the whole team should gather and discuss the previous year. This open forum should allow everyone to discuss highs and lows, positives and pain points. This review with overall performance review will massively assist with your next iteration of strategy or the following calendar/financial year. It is important you host these reviews away from your office if you have a team. Make it informal and encourage team members to be honest.
#2 Trend Analysis
Quarterly, you or a member of your team should be responsible for reporting back to the team on trends. What are the new platforms, their audience and behaviours? What new consumer trend featured in the last quarter and what did we learn from it e.g. Ice Bucket Challenge. What are we learning about specific demographics?
#3 Team Audit
Bi-annually you should be addressing your resource. Do you have enough people? Are you structured correctly? Should you move from a flat structure to a tiered structure? Are there processes that are causing delays that can be improved?
#4 Team Input
Create an open environment. You should encourage a culture that allows your team to make suggestions, identify opportunities and reward it. This will grow a passion within the team and a curiosity.
A Digital Champion is a highly effective method of assigning team members specific areas of digital that they are responsible for championing and keeping the team informed. It delegates the job of keeping pace with the landscape to one individual but also makes those individual wizards in a specific area e.g. Snapchat, Social Video, New Platforms, Tech. Following these practices creates a sustainable learning model for your business. It builds a team that never stops learning, that has an appetite and a passion for what they do.
As the digital landscape continues to evolve so too does the resource requirement. It is important that as you progress your use of digital, that you continue to invest accordingly. If you do not continue to increase resources, you might find your competitors making headway in channels, formats or activities and you will have to catch up and won’t have the resources.
Brainstorms are one of the most under-utilised team functions. It involves a group coming together with a specific challenge and then ‘throwing ideas around’. As team members come up with ideas other team members naturally manipulate and change the ideas to add to them. No negative language is allowed. There is no such thing as a bad idea but an underdeveloped idea. NO one is allowed say ‘that’s not a good idea’, your challenge is to see where you can take an idea you don’t think can work and add value to the idea to make it work.
Fast Idea Generation: this involves setting a rule at the start that you have 15 minutes and the goal is to fill a grid 6X6 with ideas. You have to be fast and you don’t dwell on ideas you move on. This results in a large grid to work on condensing ideas after the session and identifying themes.
Revolution: This involves starting from a point in the opposite to what you want to do. Break the rules and make new rules and see where your thinking ends up because you are breaking some of your pre-conceived constraints. What if we had $1million? Airline? What if we had no planes? What if the product did this instead of this? What if there was no Facebook or Twitter Page. It forces you to think outside of the box.
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