When I was talking with my friend Shreesha Ramdas (from OuterJoin ) last week, he shared a perspective that really resonated with me. In a nutshell, he believes that the Marketing of online products and sites is rapidly becoming an Engineering function, both in terms of operational activities and measurement.
The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that he's on to something. Marketing of online products and sites is inherently different from classical marketing. Unlike regular marketing channels, online campaigns allow marketers to proceed systematically step-by-step along a predetermined course. The results of each distinct campaign can be measured precisely, even when multiple campaigns are going on simultaneously. Most important, the market can be broken up into thousands of micro-segments, with targeted campaigns aimed at each one.
Online Marketing Activities
This technical approach can be applied to all three types of online marketing activities:
I. Site Effectiveness
A key goal is to increase the popularity of a given web destination. The popularity measure can be expressed in a variety of ways: page views, distinct users, time-on-site, user engagement, and so on; all of which must eventually translate into a conversion rate - the effectiveness with which you can get the user to take the desired action on the site, whatever that might be.
These popularization activities can eventually be boiled down to two main approaches, which are complementary: Search Marketing (PPC) and SEO (Organic results).
A large number of technical tools are available to help with both of these approaches, such as keyword tracking and keyword optimization for the long tail. Although good old-fashioned marketing techniques always help (who can resist good linkbait ?), many of the activities that lead to PPC and SEO success can be automated and enhanced using these tools.
II. Joining the Online Conversation
As the revolutionary cluetrain manifesto proclaimed, markets are conversations, and media-savvy companies today want to be a part of that conversation. Online, many of these conversations take place on blogs, social networks and content aggregators. These types of dynamic online properties also provide great SEO benefits and direct user traffic.
Here again, technical skills that enable automated submissions and social media tracking are extremely helpful in gaining traction. The upcoming OpenSocial API (coverage ) will take this to a higher level, allowing a single submission to provide content to multiple social networks.
III. Measurement and Analysis
The two leading tools for online measurement are Omniture and Google Analytics, although many others are available in this fragmented market. The advanced features and sophisticated tracking enabled by these tools can get quite complex and technical - as anyone who follows Avinash Kaushik's blog (Occam's Razor ) knows.
Impact on Traditional Marketing Departments
The level of technical sophistication needed to achieve these goals tends to overwhelm typical Marketing departments. This is likely to have a big impact on traditional marketing organizations in mid-sized and large companies. These organizations have three main options:
- Hire techies directly into Marketing
- Create an Engineering support team answerable directly to Marketing
- Create small Business Units that incorporate both Development+Marketing
Which approach will prevail in a majority of the cases? That remains to be seen ...