A complete guide to digital marketing strategy in the fitness sector

Introduction

The fitness market is booming. It is one of the most forward thinking and innovative industries in the world, and it is also one of the most competitive. If you want your brand to cut through the noise, generate exposure and drive sales, then you’re going to have a very clear strategy. This comprehensive guide breaks this process down into the following:

 

Market research

Before a single piece of copy is published or a single line of code is written, we need to first conduct thorough market analysis, which includes:

  • That of the business itself
  • The competitors
  • The target audience

 

The Business:

Whether you’re an operator, a supplements company or a rising fit-tech startup, the first step is to understand what it is that really defines you as an organisation:

  • What do you believe you’re incredibly good at, and always will be?
  • What are your company values?
  • What is your history? Where did it all come from?
  • What are the common personality traits across your founders or senior management team?
  • How is your brand perceived by its target audience
  • What are the existing marketing assets/activities, including the brand identity, website, email list and social media presence.

By far the most important question is the first – what do you believe you do (and always will do) astonishingly well?

In order to gather this information thoroughly you need to speak with both the founders or senior management team as well as a handful of other people at other levels of the company.

 

The audience:

The next step is to build up a clear picture of your target audience. Most businesses attempt to target too many different groups of people, and consequently they fail to speak clearly to anyone. It’s okay to have a range of target segments, but you need to ensure that there is a common theme running through all of them. That theme should be this – that they all value the thing that you believe you’ll always be brilliant at.

It’s also important, however, to build up a more comprehensive picture of your target audience. You need to answer all of the following questions for each segment:

  • What are their interests, hobbies and habits?
  • What do they do for a living?
  • What are their demographics?
  • What are their online behavioural patterns? In particular, which health and fitness brands do they engage with and via which channels?
  • How much disposable income do they have? How much do they spend on health and fitness?
  • When they make a purchase within health and fitness, is it driven by emotion or reason? Is it measured or impulsive?

To reiterate, it’s okay to target very different segments as long as they all share that common theme, but you need to recognise that if the answers to questions above are radically different for each segment then your marketing costs are going to balloon. For example, if you’re a supplements company and your target audience includes both busy professionals who spend their time on Twitter and LinkedIn, and make rational decisions based on the functional benefits of your particular protein drink, as well as 18-25 fad dieters who make extremely emotional and impulsive decisions and spend all their time on SnapChat, then you’re going to need to completely different strategies to engage them both effectively. Even if you’re able to maintain the core of your brand in the process, it will inevitably become a complex and expensive process.

For this reason, at least when you’re starting out, I would always encourage you to laser in on one group of people. The more specific the better. Identify your 1% and make sure you own 100% of it.

Once you are clear on who this audience is, you need to speak with them to learn about their perception of your current brand image. Is it communicating to them effectively? Do they like it? Do they even know it exists? This research should fall into three areas:

  • Existing customers
  • Lapsed customers
  • Those that fall within your target audience but who have never previously purchased from you

 

The competition:

The final stage of your research is to dig into the competition. This should involve:

  • Investigating their commercials. Look at Company’s House. Find information about their commercial performance. Which companies seem to be the most profitable?
  • Reviewing their online presence, including their website, blog and social media channels. What do they seem to be doing well? What are they neglecting? Where are they investing their money? There are some great tools now that will show where a website is generating its traffic. If you’re a budget gym and you see that the major brands are generating lots of traffic via Adwords or voucher code websites, then this may be a sign that you should be looking to also invest in these channels.
  • Conducting some mystery shopper calls with them over the phone. You want to learn as much as possible about how they interact with customers.

Above all, however, you are looking to confirm that the thing that you’ve identified as being:
Something you’re brilliant at
And
Something that’s really important to your target audience

Is also something that your competition is not already dominating.

There is little point positioning yourself, for example, as the lowest priced budget gym chain. Pure Gym and The Gym Group already have that sown up. It’s okay to operate at the budget end of the market, but you’re going to have define yourself by something other than cost.

 

The Brand

Your brand needs to be separated into two levels:
Your brand core – the one thing that you will always stand for. The thing that you will do better than anyone else in the world.
Your complete brand identity – the extension of your brand into a complete personality, vocabulory, organisational framework and visual identity.

 

Brand core

If you have completed the market research phase effectively, you will have already identified your brand core. It is the one thing that sits at the intersection of these three truths:

  • Something your business does remarkably well
  • Something that your audience really cares about
  • Something that no competitor is dominating

This core needs to be consistently communicated at all times and inform all of your major strategy decisions. For example, if you’re a supplements company that defines itself by veganism and animal welfare, then this must shape not only your website and social media communications, but it should also impact your internal culture. That’s not to say you would only hire vegans, but if there is not a genuinely shared concern for animal welfare and a love for an all round ethical lifestyle, then sooner or later you will be found out.

Your brand core has to be real. It has to come from within.

 

Broader brand identity:

As important as your brand core is, it needs beefing out. Otherwise your business will appear to lack substance, be easy to replicate and fail to connect with consumers on an emotional level.

You therefore need to expand the brand, and I suggest using David Aaker’s Brand Strategy Planning Model to do so. It may be over 25 years old but little has really changed. He breaks brand identity down into the following areas:

Brand as product – if your business is in wearable tech then you will almost certainly want to communicate the various product features and benefits. What does it do that its competitor’s products don’t? These selling points tend to appeal to the more rational decision maker; someone who is educated in the market and understands what they’re looking for.

Brand as organisation – any fitness business that sells to the trade (B2B) will want a particular focus on brand as organisation, but it’s something that all companies should look at. This is primarily referring to your company values. What is your internal culture like? How much emphasis do you place on customer service? Do you have a CSR policy? What qualities and values do you expect your employees to exhibit?

Brand as person – ultimately every purchase, even those that appear rational, are based on emotions. Your ability to communicate and connect on this level is dependent on how your brand is perceived as a person. Create a complete character. Give them an age, gender, name, personality type, tone of voice, job, hobbies, likes and dislikes. This persona will not only help shape your communications, but also assist with recruitment and engaging with brand ambassadors, as you will have a clear picture of the personality traits you are looking for.

Brand as symbol – now we come to the pretty stuff. Unfortunately this is usually the bit people jump to first (and often exclusively) when constructing a brand identity. This visual element is an essential part of the process, but it’s important to remember it should be a window into the genuine personality and values of the organisation underneath the brand, and not a disguise that allows the company to pretend to be something that it isn’t. These visual elements include typeface, colour palette, logo and user imagery.

Once pieced together these 4 elements can help produce a rich and complex brand identity that connects you to your audience and protects you from your competition.

 

Brand positioning:

One of the inevitable challenges of evolving and growing a business is channeling it towards different audiences without losing touch with your identity.

This process is often referred to as “brand flexing” as you attempt to bend the brand without breaking it entirely. This is why brands have different “positions” so that they can effectively speak to different audiences while still staying true to their foundations.

A classic example of this has been in the supplements industry, where many successful supplement companies have attempted to target a more mainstream audience in the search for bigger volumes. It has to be said that so far most attempts have been pretty unsuccessful as they’ve largely failed to engage the mainstream whilst simultaneously weakening their relationship with the very audience that brought them their success in the first place.

If you are going to attempt to reposition your brand then first ensure that you are absolutely crystal clear on your brand core, and under no circumstances do anything that compromises this core. If the only way to target a mainstream audience is to let go of your brand core, then accept you will never be a mainstream brand, and that’s okay!

 

Value proposition and credibility:

For each market that you position your brand in, it’s important to have a compelling value proposition and the credibility to support it.

Your value proposition should be taken directly from your brand identity, and falls into three elements:

  • Functional benefits – this primarily comes from your brand as product. It includes the specific product features and benefits that appeal to your target audience and separates you from the competition. If you are a boutique studio, then it might include your number of classes, the music you play, the equipment used, the fact you have shower facilities, etc… Functional benefits tend to appear to people who know what they’re looking for and are making an informed decision.
  • Emotional benefits – the emotional benefits come largely from the brand as person. How is this brand going to make the customer feel? Will it improve their confidence? Does it reach into some deep inner insecurity or fear? Is the brand going to take away feelings of anxiety and stress and be a source of great support to the customer?
  • Self expressive benefits – some brands help us say something about ourselves as consumers. If I’m a member of Third Space Gym that might say I’m affluent and value nice things, whereas membership of Pure Gym might say that I’m smart with my money. Likewise carrying around an Optimum Nutrition protein shaker says something very different about you compared to a My Protein bottle.

However, you can have the most compelling value proposition in the world but without the credibility to support it you will struggle to engage your audience. Offering to take people to the moon for £100 is a pretty strong value proposition, but I doubt I would get many takers.

Credibility can come from all sorts of places, but here are some of the most common online:

  • Testimonials and reviews
  • Case studies
  • Association with large brands
  • Association with celebrities and ambassadors
  • Large social media communities
  • Awards and certifications

 

Content strategy:

Once you have your brand identity and positioning in place, you can then move on to your content strategy.

 

Content pillars and formats

Your first job is to identify the interests of your audience. What information are they going to engage with? A lot of this will be determined by their level of expertise into your industry. For example, if you’re a gym operator and your audience is primarily made up of experienced body builders, there is little point creating beginner level content. These people will want technical detail that’s grounded in scientific research. On the other hand, there is little point in a leisure centre publishing this kind of information as their audience is likely to be more family orientated and less experienced.

Likely pillars in this sector will include nutrition, exercise, community and mental wellbeing, but these are all very broad and generic topics so you need to ensure your brand identity shapes the content into something completely unique to you.

 

Be clear on objective and format

The next step is to consider the format these themes should be presented in. Will it be movivational quotes, stunning imagery, short, inspirational video, lengthy educational blog posts or engaging Facebook live sessions? This all comes down to your objective.

If your goal is to connect with a new audience, then you need to keep the format simple – imagery or short video usually works best. After all, if the reader has never previously encountered your brand then they’re unlikely to engage with anything that requires effort. You have to assume you have just a few seconds to deliver your message.

On the other hand, if your goal is to nurture your relationship with an existing audience then it’s important to provide more detailed content. This may come in the form of blog posts or longer video. Alternatively, you may wish to create a sense of community, in which case Facebook like or twitter q and a sessions could be more appropriate.

 

Identify the gaps in the market

As with any form of marketing, you are looking for the gaps. What does your audience love engaging with that seems to be being neglected.

Often the best method for identifying these gaps is to look at non competitor brands that produce the same kind of content for a similar audience. For example, if you sell gym clothes for women, you may want to look at the content that certain boutique clubs produce as they may have a very similar audience without being direct competitors.

 

Content calendar and tying in your offline activities

Once you are clear on your content pillars and formats, you then need to create monthly calendars so that everything is well prepared. These can come in a variety of formats, even just a simple spreadsheet will do, but the key is to ensure everything is signed off well in advance. This calendar should include the content itself, details of the target audience and the channel through which it will be published and promoted (which we’ll come on to later) and the day of the month on which this should occur.

Alongside this monthly calendar, you also need a calendar for the year as a whole that identifies any major events you need to plan for. These will include general events like Christmas and Mother’s Day, but also events speicifc to your business, such as when a new gym opens or there is a new product launch. Specific content campaigns can then be created around each of these.

 

BIG IDEAS

It’s important to realise that while the above is all really important, ultimately there is nothing particularly creative or special about it and therefore, unless you operate in an uncompetitive niche, you’re still going to struggle to cut through the noise. This is where your BIG IDEAS need to kick in.

A big idea is something unique that spearheads much of your activity. Something ambitious and disruptive. Something that if you get right will permanently impact your market.

Generating a big idea requires a great deal of research, but if you want an example then you’re looking at it – The Fitness Network was launched by Boss Digital in 2015 because we felt that there was a lack of quality, actionable business insight in the fitness industry. Our goal is for it to become the leading business insight platform for our sector online. That’s a big goal and we still have a long way to go, but the success of TFN to date (over 200 interviews with some of the biggest names in the industry) is a perfect example of what’s possible when you set your targets high.

 

Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing has taken the fitness world by storm over the last couple of years. If you’re not familiar with it then it’s the process of building relationships with people who embody your brand and hold considerable influence over a large proportion of your target audience. These people could be bloggers, vloggers or instagrammers, and their audiences could range from a thousand to a million.

 

What are the benefits of engaging with influencers?

Like a BIG IDEA it should spearhead all of your activity. By engaging with fitness influencers that embody your brand and have the same audience as the one you are trying to get in front of, you can achieve all of the following:

  • They reinforce your brand positioning
  • They enhance your credibility and trust
  • They increase your brand reach among your target audience on social media
  • They may be able to provide you with links for your SEO if they have blogs
  • They can help you to scale your content by providing you with regular content every week, including video
  • They can provide you with compelling case studies for your website
  • They nay even leave positive ratings on your website if you have reviews integrated

This is of course all assuming that they like your product!

 

How to identify engage with the right influencers for your brand?

The most important thing is that you feel they are aligned to the personality you have identified for your brand. The next step is to ensure they are not already working with competing brands and that their content looks authentic – not just packed with promotional messages for various companies.

You also want to consider the quality of their content – if, for example, they regularly shoot quality video, that could offer significant benefits to you. Likewise if they have a blog that is going to offer additional benefits from an SEO perspective.

Arguably the least important thing (and ironically the first thing that most people look for) is the size of their following. Often it’s better to work with someone who only has a small following as they are far less likely to be working with other brands and will almost certainly work harder for you. The key is to ensure their content is of great quality and their audience is genuinely interested in what they have to say.

There are various ways to reach out to influencers but the most common are either directly via social media or via casting calls. Once contact is made you need to negotiate the deal. In some cases this may involve providing free product (gym clothes, supplements, club membership, etc) or it may involve payment. The key is to ensure that whatever is agreed is clearly documented within a contract so that both parties understand what is expected.

In order to make the most of the opportunity you need to ensure you are building a strong relationship with the influencer. It can be worth setting up group channels on WhatsApp to communicate with them as a group, which often sparks some gentle competition between them all.

 

Channel strategy

Now that you have your brand identity and content strategy in place, you can move on to distribution. Typically companies work the other way around which is why their activity is so often generic, disorganised and ineffective.

Your digital channel strategy is likely to include the following:

  • All social platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn (if you target the professional market)
  • Email
  • Organic search
  • Paid search
  • Your blog

The key is to be clear on how each channel is aligned with the objectives of your different forms of content. For example, Instagram is great for your inspirational content, while your blog may be better for educational content. Email is effective at both educating and converting, while organic search is there to help you be found.

 

Social media

Too often social media is viewed as one singular channel. In reality each platform is completely distinct, both in terms of audience and in terms of the form of content that is suitable for it.

Facebook

Facebook is by far the most broadly applicable of social platforms. All age groups and demographics are highly active on Facebook, and it also aligns itself to a range of different goals:
Reach new audiences – using Facebook’s extremely sophisticated advertising platform you can target people based on demographics, interests, page likes, purchase behaviour and a vast range of other variables. Using inspirational content that is of broad interest you can engage with your target audience even if they have no prior connection to your brand.
Nurture relationships – once you have used the inspirational content to grow your brand reach and increase the number of likes on the page, you can then nurture those relationships down the funnel via more informative and educational content, such as long status updates, videos or links to blog posts.
Build a community – either via pages or groups you can develop highly engaged communities by encouraging your audience to share their own stories and actively support one another. This is common throughout the fitness industry, particularly in those with a strong female audience.
Provide social proofing – by having such a large community you are demonstrating the influencer and trust of the brand, which can have a significant impact on customer’s decision to purchase.
Driving sales – finally, Facebook should not be underestimated for its ability to drive direct ROI. Through targeted direct response campaigns you can present your audience with highly bespoke ad creative that pushes them through to landing pages on your website. A great example of this is with new gym launches, where the gym can hit its break even point by the day the doors open, often through Facebook direct response advertising alone.

Instagram

Instagram is far more limited than Facebook but arguably more affective at the one thing it does well.

The audience is far younger than Facebook, with the vast majority of users under the age of 30. The content is also far more visual, making it less powerful at educating and informing, but far more powerful at inspiring relationships with new audiences and developing engagement among a community. Instagram is also hugely popular among influencers, particularly within the health and fitness market, so plays a hugely important role in your influencer strategy.

It’s also worth remembering that Instagram works off the same advertising platform as Facebook so once you have an effective brand and engagement strategy on Facebook, much of that can be migrated over to Instagram.

SnapChat

SnapChat has become famous for its ephemeral content experience. By its very nature SnapChat brings brands to life in a fun and informal way. It’s not for brands that take themselves too seriously.

The platform definitely has its challenges from a marketing perspective and the advertising is limited currently to very large brands, but for anyone looking to engage in an authentic way with 18-25 year olds, it’s an essential channel.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is of course hugely important for organisations targeting professionals. It’s fantastic for sharing content and for initiating relationships with new contacts. Its advertising platform is also rapidly improving.

Linkedin is more effective for individuals developing their personal brands than for collective organisations, but at the very least any company targeting fitness professionals should ensure it has an up to date company profile and all your on-site content is shared on LinkedIn via your teams individual profiles. It often generates more traffic for B2B companies than any other platform.

Twitter

Twitter has stagnated in recent years and is generally not where I would encourage most businesses to focus their efforts, but their are some exceptions:
Twitter is still very strong across professional networks so, like LinkedIn, is essential for anyone developing their own personal brand.
It is probably the most popular channel among journalists, so if you’re looking to engage with the media and generate exposure for your brand then Twitter is probably the best channel for you to do so.
Likewise many influencers are on Twitter so it can be an important channel for building those relationships, although they’re far more likely to be highly active on Instagram.

Like LinkedIn, at the very least it’s worth having a professional profile for your brand which you can use as a means of promoting your on-site content, but I’m generally reluctant to advise brands to invest too heavily in advertising content as it’s far more expensive than Facebook and typically reaches a far smaller audience.

 

Your blog:

Most websites in the fitness sector have blogs now, but probably less than 10% use them effectively.

Here are some of the benefits of having a blog:

  • Improves your websites SEO through increasing the range of content on your website and improving other metrics (such as link accession and engagement)
  • Provides a home for your long form content and somewhere to sign post people to from your other channels
  • Provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate your insight and expertise
  • Encourages you to keep studying your industry – don’t underestimate this! An hour of research and writing a day will ensure you stay well ahead of the curve.
  • Increases engagement and retention on the website as you’re giving the user a more complete experience.

One of the reasons why your blog is so important is that, unlike other channels, you own it. You have no idea what Google or Facebook or LinkedIn will do in the next 12 months – will they lose popularity, will they increase the cost of advertising to the point where it’s no longer viable for you? Your blog on the other hand is entirely within your control.

Here are some common reasons why so few blogs achieve anything of substance and what to do about it:

  • They’re called “Blog” – Just because it’s a blog doesn’t mean you have to call it “The Blog”. You want this thing to have a personality of its own. A great example in the fitness sector of an outstanding blog that’s developed into something so much more is Furthermore by Equinox.
  • They’re all about you – your audience is almost certainly not interested in the same things you are. They have virtually no interest in your latest news or changes in your market. They care about the things that they care about, and that should all be defined by your content framework.
  • They’re too technical and serious – many blogs, even the ones that talk about the right topics, go in to far too much detail and inject next to no personality. That’s okay if your targeting professionals, but if it’s a consumer brand then less is almost certainly more. Imagery and video are now just as essential on blogs as they are on any social channel.
  • They have no share counter or email capture – Once people are on the site, you want them to do something. Ideally that would be to immediately become a customer, but that’s not too likely. Secondary goals include getting them to share the content so that their networks see it, or signing up so that they are on your list and can begin to build a relationship with the brand. You need to ensure that the appropriate functionality and forms are present, with clear calls to action. Although be careful about the use of light boxes as they can trigger penalties from Google if they seem to intrusive.

 

Google:

As important as social media now is, most consumers still begin their purchase journey via the search engines so it’s essential you have a clear strategy for your SEO.

SEO has changed considerably over the years, but the most important thing to remember is that all Google is trying to do is rank awesome content from awesome brands. Every decision you make, therefore, should keep those two things in mind.

Here is a breakdown of the main factors that are believed to currently impact SEO:

  • Basic on-page content – this is referring to your tags, attributes and elements across the page that tell Google what the content is all about. When building your site the developers should be asking you questions about what you would like these to be – “Protein powder”, Gym in London”, “Yoga instructor”, etc…? You will have various pages across the website that should be targeting big key phrases, including all your product, category and service pages.
  • Broad relevance – basic keywords are one thing, but when someone makes a search query you need to consider the infinite range of possible user intents, and ensure that the page ticks as many of those boxes as possible. For example, it may be that if someone searches for Gym London they are hoping to find address information, photos of equipment, review integration, details of the on-site trainers, a video of the studios, and information on parking and creche facilities. If this information isn’t present and in the appropriate formats then that is almost certainly going to hurt your rankings.
  • Links – For years SEO was all about attracting links from other websites. In fact it was so powerful that many businesses appeared that sold these links (typically from low quality, spammy websites) for anything from $1 to thousands. Thankfully those days are largely behind us (due to various Google penalities, particularly one known as “Penguin”) but legitimate links still continue to be a hugely important factor. In fact most SEOs would probably agree that they continue to be the most influential “signal” in determining website authority. Consequently PR and content marketing have become extremely popular as legitimate means of attracting links from quality domains.
  • Social media – the link between social media and SEO is still debated as it is difficult to show a causal impact. However, there is no question that there is a strong correlation between social media presence and search rankings. After all, great brands producing great content will almost certainly have both more links and social media activity. It’s all interconnected.
  • Engagement – like social media, the impact of engagement metrics (time on site, page views and bounce rates) on rankings is difficult to prove. However, the general concensus is certainly that a poor user experience will only weaken your chances of ranking well, particularly on mobile devices.
  • Technical – finally, there is a long list of technical factors that can influence your rankings, from page load speed to having a secure (https) domain to integrating schema mark up. Schema is a form of code that enables developers to inform Google what exactly a piece of content refers to (is it an address, recipe, event, review, etc?)

 

Email:

Email is often the last channel that brands consider. Perhaps that’s because it’s less visible (unlike a website or Facebook page, you can’t easily see what email content your competitors are sending out) or perhaps because it’s old and therefore not very exciting. However, for many brands, this is their single most important route to market.

Good email marketing performs a variety of functions:

  • Educator – at the very least, your business, whether it’s a gym, leisure centre, supplements company or fit-tech brand, should use email as a cheap and easy way to stay in touch with your audience through providing them with inspirational and informative content. Even if they don’t do anything with it, this is a simple way of staying at the front of their minds.
  • Lead nurturer – for some businesses email is an important means of warming up new leads into hot prospects. This is particularly true for those companies that sell high value items to the trade. For example, if you run an equipment company then you could capture leads on your website by offering a free download (5 Pieces of Kit That Will Transform Your Member Retention This Year) and then sending the person a series of automated emails that build them into a stronger and stronger prospect. After half a dozen emails you can then push them to a webinar where you can convert them into a paying customer.
  • Sales driver – for many ecommerce supplement companies email is their single biggest source of sales. It’s not just a question of sending out weekly promotional offers; you have to be more targeted than that. You can see when people will run out of a particular supplement and send out an offer the day before, or even give them a free gift on their birthday. The more targeted, the stronger the relationship you will build.
  • A social catalyst for your blog – brands typically struggle to drive huge numbers of social shares directly from their blog, even if they put paid budget behind it. However, by distributing your blog content via your email list you will find that you typically generate a far greater number of social shares, and it won’t cost you a penny!

The other thing to consider with your email is that unlike your various social platforms, your email list is something that you actually own. In fact for many businesses, their email list, along with the website itself, is their most valuable asset.

The key with email, like many channels, is to ensure that where possible you are repurposing existing content, rather than creating it all from scratch.

 

CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) Models:

Cost Per Acquisition refers to the amount you have to pay to acquire a new customer via paid channels such as PPC, remarketing and Facebook direct response. The mistake that most brands make is to think that the goal is to make the number as small as possible, but that’s completely missing the point.

Your maximum CPA should be determined by the lifetime gross profit value of a customer, and your goal should be to scale your sales up to the point at which the diminishing returns have increased the cost of advertising to that lifetime GP. For example, if I sell gym kit and my average customer is worth £1000 in gross profit, then I know I can spend up to £999.99 generating each new customer. When I first begin my advertising I target the cheapest keywords and most promising target segments, and consequently I can generate customers at just £100, which means I’m left with £900 profit. Amazing. Let’s say I then scale up my advertising but I have to include less valuable keywords and go after secondary audiences on Facebook, and consequently my cost per acquisition grows and grows. Many businesses would become unconfortable at this rising cost and stop, perhaps with then CPA gets to £150-200. But that’s crazy. Even if the CPA hits £500, that still means the customer was worth £500 profit. And so I should theoretically grow and grow the advertising until it has eventually hit £1000.

There are three major benefits to this sort of CPA model:

  • It enables you to scale fast – Organic growth takes months, even years. This kind of approach is how companies enter and take over markets seemingly overnight.
  • It allows you to tests new spaces – investing in the brand can be a big risk when there are so many question marks – how well will you convert leads? What will their lifetime value be? How easily will you be able to scale operations? A CPA model can allow you to profitably test a market before you invest in an expensive long term brand strategy.
  • It gives you a safety net
    – many brands won’t want to invest on an ongoing basis in an aggressive paid campaign, but it’s a huge reassurance to know that the option is there should you need it. Every business should know that when the pipeline runs dry there is a contingency in place that can kick in at the push of a button.

Probably the biggest reason why so few companies are willing to approach their marketing in this way is that it requires the aggression of an entrepreneur with the attention to detail of an accountant – a rare combination. There is also the fact that many companies are constrained by cash flow, no matter how profitable the exercise could prove to be six months later.

 

KPI’s and tracking

Modern analytics dashboards, such as Google Analytics, present the user with an absolute goldmine of data. The challenge is that there is far too much. For the typical user it’s absolute information overload, and consequently nothing comes from it.

Yes it’s fun to have a play around with all the different insights, but sooner or later you need to narrow it down to the priority KPI’s that really matter and then get back to work.

These priority KPI’s will vary from business to business, but for most will include:

  • Total organic search traffic
  • Total brand reach via social media
  • Engagement on the website (I would suggest concentrating on time on site)
  • And of course, conversions

Conversions will mean different things for different businesses:

  • For a supplements company they are likely to mean ecommerce sales
  • For a gym they will mean new sign ups
  • For an equipment company selling to the trade they mean email enquiries
  • For an online fitness magazine they may be triggered by a number of page views

Whatever constitutes a conversion for your business, that’s the thing you should be obsessing on. Companies sometimes call this their northstar. It may not necessarily be directly revenue generating (although for most companies it is) but ultimately it’s the metric that embodies the collective performance of all other metrics.