Success strategy: Be rigorous with marketing tech

Scott Walker has never been someone to brag about his business. But he’s making a big splash in the market for waterproof gadgets. As a junior at Brigham Young University, Walker founded Underwater Audio to sell waterproof iPod Shuffles online.

Underwater Audio's Scott Walker

Underwater Audio’s Scott Walker says that small businesses need to understand their own marketing technology.

As it turns out, the twenty-something entrepreneur is on to something big. Between 2012 and 2013, the company looks set to double its sales to $4 million with customers in more than 15 countries.

ROI-driven marketing

Digital marketing is at the heart of the company’s growth, says Walker.

“The guiding principle for advertising spending since we started Underwater Audio is not to cap our budget,” he says. “As long as you’re making more than you’re spending, you should feel good about your investment. It’s like a money machine.”

Walker points out, however, that marketers can’t just throw darts in the dark. The ability to drive profits depends on a solid quantitative framework.

“Your metrics need to be spot-on,” Walker explains. “You need to be confident in how you’re tracking things and how much your costs are. Otherwise you could be spending a dollar and only getting $0.50.”

Retargeting for success

The company deploys its ads across Facebook, Google’s search engine and Google’s display advertising partners. But the overall goal is to build individual relationships with customers. Retargeting, which shows your ads to customers that have visited your site, has been a key driver in accomplishing that.

“The more direct you are, the more you can focus on customers who’ve actually engaged with your website,” Walker said.

Shawn Aguilar of mobile marketing provider TapSense agrees.

“Retarget users based on specified actions that they’ve taken on your site,” says Aguilar. “Assign a conversion value up front to each of these actions. This will help your company generate higher levels of engagement and value. Maybe they’ve already downloaded a piece of content. When they come back through a banner ad, the chances of conversion will be much higher.”

Making an outsized marketing impression

One byproduct of using retargeting along with a finely tuned analytics framework: you look bigger than you are to customers. Underwater’s clients are impressed by the company’s widespread presence online.

“They are shocked that such a small company can be so effective,” Walker boasts. “Over 10 percent of our customers are influenced by retargeting before they purchase. So, if you’ve visited our website, you’ll see our ads.”

But there are also critics of these data-enabled tactics who say retargeting is creepy. Both Walker and Aguilar say it’s essential to make sure potential customers don’t see your ads too often—something that technology makes possible—for fear of turning them off.

“Set parameters to make sure that you’re not bombarding your users with ads,” Aguilar says.

Walker also makes sure that there are at least two different ads to display to customers.

A model of attribution

Online marketing has become more complex and customer paths to transaction can follow a number of steps today. Small business owners need to make sure that they’re building what are known as attribution models.

“We can track very specifically how much it costs us to acquire one customer,” says Walker. “We can see what the impact is. How it’s trended over time, segmented by ad or website, and we can bid separately on all of those separate things. It makes it easy to have an effective campaign.”

For some companies, retargeting alone will not be effective. Attribution models can help transform up-and-running campaigns into profitable strategies.

“Cookie-based re-targeting hasn’t worked well for us,” explains Parry Malm, account director at Adestra. The cloud-based digital marketing technology provider uses custom-audience style retargeting instead.

“These use an email hash to deliver emails based upon personally-identified channel interactions,” Malm explained.

In other words, marketers can email targeted messages to customers and prospects based on past website activity.

A hands-on approach

Walker advises small business owners to be hands-on with their retargeting strategy.

“A lot of small business owners hire an agency and trust them to do everything for them,” he adds. “They don’t understand what’s going on behind the scenes.”

Small businesses can, and should, at least get their hands dirty. Run a couple of tests, understand key performance indicators and make sure that you’re familiar with your advertising partners’ dashboards.

“Nobody cares about your business as much as you do, no matter how much you pay them,” Walker says. “It’s always your own business that’s on the line, not theirs.”

Ritika Puri
Ritika Puri is a San Francisco-based blogger who covers the intersection of data, sociology, and technology. She transforms marketing strategies into revenue-generating growth engines.
Ritika Puri
Ritika Puri
Ritika Puri
Tags: Business,Business Intelligence,Social Media