Common wisdom says that analytics should form an integral part of the review, measure, and iterate cycle of digital marketing.
In this model, a practice might experiment with video, collect as much data as possible, then develop or abandon according to results. Reliance on tools like Google Analytics is seen as key to delivering these insights.
Our recent series on digital marketing shows that while the performance is very important to accountants, evaluation methods other than analytics tools are often used. Also, measurement occurs at different parts of the cycle, according to what is being analysed.
This behaviour falls into two broad approaches. First, there is an effort to explore and understand new areas. We might liken this to mapmaking. Second, analytics are used to track the progress of established goals. This is a form of map reading.
The limits of analytics
The main barrier to our interviewees’ use of conventional analytics is limited resources. Keeping a number of channels in play takes time and business itself takes precedence over data analysis. “I’ve had to prioritise doing the work rather than so much marketing,” said Kylie Fieldhouse. “You have to be really invested in Twitter, so I use it very sparingly.”
Like Fieldhouse, Gloria Murray avoids becoming overwhelmed by focusing energy to where potential clients are most likely to congregate: “The use of LinkedIn and Twitter is about keeping my presence up. I don't have a specific strategy. The people I am trying to attract are more likely on Facebook.”
Interviewees receive reports on their web traffic, social reach, and SEO but some, like Peter Disney, are skeptical of its true value: “I occasionally look at Google Analytics, and I get separate reports from Facebook and LinkedIn, but I'm not convinced that they give me the whole picture.”
Instead, feedback from trusted relationships is often considered more informative. “We are looking at things like brand awareness which is much harder to measure,” said Bhimal Hira, “but we get concrete examples of where this pays off. We won a client recently who told us that he had seen our articles online. It’s things like that you have to look at.”
For other firms, results might be measured by sign-ups for webinars, new Facebook group members, or other metrics, once they have been identified as valuable to the outcome of a specific goal.
Understand new territory: mapmaking
As firms transition to digital, they are putting resources into understanding their customers. Fieldhouse poses the question that drives a lot of the analytic process: “Where are my ideal clients hanging out, and what can I do to get them to contact us?”
We might think of this as mapping new territories. Jen Gerrard puts it strategically: “Because we are so niche, the marketing style and where we spent our money also had to be niche. I had to be analytical upfront.”
A detailed map reveals valuable resources, as Hira explained: ’We look at the key markets, who the key decision makers are, and how we can put ourselves in front of them. We look at where the spend is and then we look at niche areas even within those niche areas. One market we are looking at is very, very slim but one client is worth £100K.”
Move in the right direction: map reading
The second use of analytics occurs later in the iteration cycle. This approach is like checking the map of a familiar territory, to validate you are still moving in the right direction and correcting course as necessary.
For Gerrard, this verifies that the firm’s marketing is effective. “We use social to generate enquiries and Practice Ignition to understand how they become clients.” Reports ensure that Gerrard’s message resonates as intended: “We want to see what kind of impact it is having. Sometimes the content you thought would be seen as least interesting actually gets the best reaction.”
The upfront analysis of niche offers Hira a clear set of KPIs later in the process: “We were focusing on generic terms and would get lots of traffic. We used Google Analytics to look carefully at where they were coming from. That generates a lot of business but the quality is low and so is the fee income. Now, we have taken a step back, we are measuring against enquiries, the income that's generated, and the spend.”
This analytics also serve as an early warning of a changing business landscape. Gerrard added: “If we are not getting leads from Twitter, then we’ll do something else. We use analysis to do some trial and error and find it’s a continual reassessment process.”
When the existing map no longer brings expected returns, it needs to be redrawn and the first phase of analytics is required.
Discover more about analytics and how marketing can help your practice with the Practice Excellence webcast.
About Richard Sergeant
Specialist insight and business development support for accountants and their vendors. Cloud advocate with a pragmatist eye.