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Five Tips for Developing an Adaptable Approach to Online Marketing

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In Lee Odden's new book, Optimize, Odden suggests that companies need to have an "adaptable approach" to content and online marketing.

During this week's episode of Marketing Smarts I asked Odden what he meant by that comment. Here's what he told me. (If you want to know what he said when Ann Handley interviewed him about his book, check this out.)

1. Start With a Goal

If you are going to go to the trouble of creating content and publishing it online, you need to have a specific goal in mind. As Odden asks, "If there's no reason for it, then why do it?"

The specific goals of your online marketing strategy depend on your business, your customers, and numerous variables, but you must have goals. "If a corporation is publishing content just for the sake of publishing content, then they're not that different from a spammer," says Odden. So, don't be a spammer! Have a goal.

2. Develop a Hypothesis

With your goal in mind, you begin selecting and implementing the tactics you will use to achieve it. Those tactics may include creating a blog, launching a podcast, devising cool infographics, or doing something crazy that no one has ever considered.

No matter which tactic you choose, you need to have a hypothesis about what's going to happen. How exactly are things going to work? Developing a hypothesis requires you to think things through and to have a way of figuring out whether your efforts have borne fruit.

3. Monitor and Measure Progress

Your hypothesis said, "If we do X, our customers will do Y and that will result in Z." You did X. Did Y and Z follow?

To answer that question, Odden says, "We need a methodology for monitoring our progress." A methodology will have at least two components: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)—the actions or events you want to measure—and some way of collecting data. The beauty of online marketing is that, by virtue of its being online, we can collect mountains of data. The difficult part is figuring out what type of data is meaningful and what is noise. You will need to look closely at what measurable actions are most closely correlated to which measurable results.

4. Analyze and Revise

You have a goal and a hypothesis. You've identified ways of measuring your progress. And you're actively gathering data to "measure actual impact." Now, you need to analyze that data and draw some conclusions. Is our strategy working? If so, why? How could we make it work better? If not, why not? What do we need to do differently? The purpose here is, as Odden insists, "to extract insight to further refine our goals."

Going through this whole process is pointless unless you take the insights you've gathered, reapply them to your efforts, and strive for continuous improvement.

5. Adaptation and Optimization

It's a cliché to say, "Change is the only constant." However, that cliché happens to be true. An adaptable approach is one that allows you to adapt to change. The only way to do that is to clearly perceive what is happening and to adjust your actions to fit the changing circumstances. Developing and test hypotheses, and learn from these activities. By doing so, you are also following the path of optimization, which Lee describes as "continuous effort to make better, make perfect."

And isn't that the path we should all be on?

If you'd like to hear my entire conversation with Lee, you may do so here or download the mp3 and listen at your leisure. Of course, you are also welcome to subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes and never miss an episode!

(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Smarter Goal Setting)

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My name is Matthew T. Grant, PhD. I'm Managing Editor here at MarketingProfs. I divide my time between designing courses for MarketingProfs University and hosting/producing our podcast, Marketing Smarts. You can follow me on Twitter (@MatttGrant) or read my personal musings on my blog here.

If you'd like to get in touch with me about being a guest on Marketing Smarts or teaching as part of MarketingProfs University or, frankly, anything else at all, drop me a line.

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  • by Slavik Volinsky Wed Jun 20, 2012 via blog

    I liked how this post put the "continuous improvement" concept in 5 steps, emphasizing measuring and refinement. From experience -- yes, we have an ultimate goal for our company's content/blog, but setting up KPIs and regularly analyzing what really moves the needle is a great advice.

    I will have to check out the podcast!

  • by Chandra Blouin Wed Jun 20, 2012 via blog

    Great article. Again reinforcing that online marketing is really no different than offline marketing, just with different tactical tools ;)

  • by Matthew Grant Tue Jun 26, 2012 via blog

    I agree. It's not new, entirely, but there is a continuousness to the online medium that depends continuous attention!

  • by Matthew Grant Tue Jun 26, 2012 via blog

    It's easy to do a bunch of stuff. It's hard to be methodical about watching how things perform and changing course/tactics based on what you find.

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