Case study: Are you confident in the data behind your digital marketing strategy?
By Dan Baum
There’s no question that with the digital landscape the way it is, you certainly have no lack of data coming in. Now what you do with that data, on the other hand, is a different story.
With that in mind, let me ask you a frank question:
How confident are you in the data your website is giving you?
It’s a pretty easy question, and I’m pretty sure most of you are using a data analytics platform (like Google Analytics) to track what’s going on on your website. It’s also probably set up correctly, too.
So, there's a good chance that yes, you’re confident that the numbers you’re seeing are accurate and as close to the truth about how people are interacting with your website as possible.
But now let's go a step deeper:
Would you stake your entire digital marketing strategy on it?
Meaning, the numbers your analytics platform is giving you, would you shift everything you’re doing digitally towards that story?
If some of you are still saying yes, I get it. If the data you’re bringing in is accurate and you’re confident in it, then why not? You should be analyzing and responding appropriately.
That being said, I bet there are fewer of you saying "Yes!" to that question than the number of those who also said "Yes!" to the first question.
OK, now for one final question — the one that at the end of the day is the only one that matters.
Would you stake your job on that data?
I doubt even the most confident digital marketers would. Or if they did, they wouldn't do so without that slight hesitation of, "Wait, am I really sure that the data we're collecting really 100% accurate?"
I ask because I want to highlight the importance knowing that you're able to see the entire true picture of what your data is trying to tell you.
It goes beyond looking at the most popular content or how many users you are generating. It's about understanding the true reasons why people come to you. Your data should help you answer with certainty:
“What does my audience truly care about?”
But answering this question is a huge challenge for most companies, because of their unreliable relationship with data. And many fail in answering this question, as a result, although they may not realize it.
Understanding what your data is trying to tell you is the only way you can get to that place of confidence to say, “I’ll bet my job that X, Y, and Z are what we need to do next in our strategy.”
Why am I sharing this with you? I've seen companies makes significant strategic decisions that are meant to move the needle, only to flatline or actually generate negative results.
But Bahler Brothers, a client of IMPACT, are a great example of a company that course-corrected away from this issue. Meaning they took the time to evaluate the validity of their data, listen to their data, and achieve great results.
Although they are in a niche industry, their story is one all digital marketers can (and should) learn from.
But first, who are the Bahler Brothers?
Bahler Brothers is a family-owned and run landscaping company in northern Connecticut — and they are seriously amazing. Not only are they awesome people but the work they do is absolutely gorgeous.
In fact, they exposed my inner need for outdoor luxury and future BBQ hosting:
I mean seriously, who wouldn’t want to be grilling endlessly if their backyard featured this setup?
Bahler Brothers specializes in hardscape pavers and outdoor luxury living, specifically in northern and central Connecticut. And they’ve been killing it for more than 35 years.
They were one of the first landscaping companies in the area to get online and embrace the potential that digital marketing could bring to their company.. And since the early 2000s, they have been writing how-tos and maintenance tips for do-it-yourselfers, as well as a lot of other helpful content.
The Bahler Brothers came to IMPACT in 2017 already bought in on the value of inbound marketing and digital sales, but they needed a little assistance optimizing the work they were doing and making sure the right people were interacting with their website.
So, we got to work.
What We Did
The first thing we wanted to tackle was their blog. It was already bursting at the seams with great content, but it wasn’t quite optimized for people to reach out to them for quotes or sales appointments.
They also needed a little direction as to what they were supposed to write. The how-tos and tips were performing fine, but they wanted to know what types of content were the best for driving more appointments.
Following research and strategy development, we redesigned their blog from this:
We also took a look at the content they already had to see what people really cared about.
This was the “A-ha!” moment for them. Even though they specialize in hardscaping and pavers, the most popular content their users were into didn’t quite line up with that.
According to Google Analytics, here were their top-performing articles:
It’s pretty clear based on their traffic patterns that their most popular content was about landscaping in general, and not about some of the other services they offer like outdoor kitchens, paver patios, walkways, driveways, or water features.
We didn’t want to completely ignore those service offerings, but we had to give the people what they wanted — and, according to the data, that appeared to be landscaping.🌳
At the same time, the sales team saw a lack of traction or conversions to customers from sales calls due to budget constraints.
As it turned out, the most common complaint was that the prospects didn’t expect some of the services to cost so much. They needed a way to filter out the unqualified leads earlier on on the process, so their sales team could focus on selling to the right people.
This is where the creation and integration of self-selection tool on their website came in. More specifically, we helped them build out a cost calculator to put right on their homepage so that users could figure out themselves if their eyes were bigger than their wallets.
🔎 Related: What are self-selection tools, and why does your website need one?
The calculator became their main value proposition and CTA on their homepage:
With a bit of math and development work, they were able to cut out a lot of the wasted hours on the phone:
But did all of this work yield the results they were looking for?
First, let's talk about what worked
Well, it turns out it did a lot worked well, as a result of these initial efforts.
First of all, their organic traffic skyrocketed, almost doubling in less than two years of their new content strategy.
On top of that, the cost calculator was a hit all by itself, generating more than 600 new contacts and 20 directly attributed contracts signed. It also solved the sales team’s problem of losing too many deals because of budget.
Time to celebrate a job well done, right?
Well, hold the phone.
A few things didn't work
On (virtual?) paper, the data coming in from HubSpot and Google Analytics looked amazing. The huge increase in traffic drove them to become one of the most popular landscaping blogs in the country.
But these wins exposed a much larger issue.
Now, I’m going to seem like that annoying teacher waiting for his students to come to the right answer, but here we go...
This is a chart showing the locations of where their traffic was coming from:
Now, tell me, what’s wrong with this picture? Don't scroll down and cheat — think about what you already know about this company.
Stop scrolling. I see you cheating.😡
(Maybe I trust you, maybe I don’t.)
What's the answer? Drumroll, please...
Their traffic was coming from all over the country, and they only target northern and central Connecticut for service delivery.
That's right! Yes, they were getting a ton of users... but from New York, California, Illinois, and a bunch of other states that they can’t even service. No landscaping company would fly to your house no matter how much you wanted to pay them.
Let's take a look at their numbers more deeply:
“Goal Completions” here refers to designated actions we tell Google Analytics to track. In the case of the Bahler Brothers team, we were tracking appointment requests, subscriptions to their blog, and completions of their cost calculator.
While Connecticut remained the number one state for traffic and goal completions, it only accounted for 8% of all the traffic they were getting. And more than half of their conversions were coming from states besides Connecticut.
Again, that was not a good thing.
Having a ton of traffic from all over the country isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in fact it’s a pretty big bragging moment — but if you can’t convert those users into sales, what’s the point?
Clearly, we needed to pivot our strategy
Again, this all comes back to understanding the information the data is trying to tell you, and about knowing your audience and what they actually care about. We needed to find out what people in Connecticut cared about.
While we appreciated the love coming in from California, it's a just a smidgen outside of the service area for Bahler Brothers.
So, we dug in again, this time filtering out all other states to see what users in Connecticut were doing on the site — or what it is that Connecticut users specifically cared about.
Here is a breakdown of the most popular pages people viewed from Connecticut only:
Pavers for the win!
All the landscaping-related articles were still getting great traffic from Connecticut, yes, but something about pavers makes people in Connecticut go wild. In short, the audience they were targeting as customers had more niche interests than those of their broader, national audience.
The content they were pushing needed to change to target the people that actually generate revenue for the Bahler Brothers team.
So, we made a pivot and started writing more about pavers for that paver-hungry Connecticut audience. Again, the other articles didn’t stop — Hey Cali, this one’s for you! — we were just diversifying the content being produced to go after that revenue-generating audience.
Now, let's talk about Google Ads
I'm a paid media guy, so, of course I had to plug Google Ads in here somewhere, right?
Because we were dealing with such a small target area, we tested out running local ads on Google. The small area we were working with made sure the cost-per-click was relatively low, so it was worth a small test budget to see how they would fare.
Over the course of six weeks, we spent $2,500 on ads related only to the paver services the Bahler Brothers offer — and, more importantly, we only targeted people that the Bahler team could actually help.
During that time, the ads generated 17 leads and nine closed deals, which resulted in over $38,000 in directly attributed revenue. Boom baby.
Now, it’s time to celebrate a job well done.
It's all about the integrity of your data
At the end of the day, all of this comes back to understanding what your target audiences care about through your data.
Looks can be deceiving when you have a ton of different tools barking at you with their metrics. That's why you must always remember to dig deeper into what’s going on — and verify you're looking at the right metrics — so that you can be confident in any direction you want to take.
Regardless of any humility and integrity you have, we all want to look good in front of our team in one way or another and good data management can help you do just that.
Wondering where to begin?