So I made a mistake. I referred to a post on Unfunnel’s website without hashtagging @unfunnel, giving them good reason to scold me for lurking in ambush. I apologize. I usually stick to the rules of netiquette, and I horribly failed to do so in this case. However, since @unfunnel asked me to grab the opportunity and claim my five minutes of fame, I happily follow their invitation. Read on to learn what all the fuss is all about …

On May 23, I stumbled upon that post on unfunnel.com, written by Erica Klinger, which bore the promising headline

>>> Top 10 Conversion Strategies for the Agile Marketer

I gave the article a brief glance, decided that I liked it, and copied the link to recommend it on twitter. Being the hairsplitter that I am, I couldn’t resist adding my special sauce by stating that while there were some #lean #startup #custdev #tactics to be found in the article, #strategy and #agile were a no-show. That being said, of course there were no characters left for @ mentions, and truth be told, I didn’t even bother to find out who the author was. Here’s what happened:

Not strategies, not agile: The tweets that sparked off this blog post

‚Not strategies, not agile‘: The tweets that sparked off this blog post

First of all, I need you to understand that I am not doubting the effectiveness of the concepts conveyed in Erica Klinger’s article. For all I know, they may be awesome advice – otherwise I wouldn’t have shared. However, my notion was that those concepts were tactics rather than strategies, and that they were not agile by nature. So why do I think so? (For those of you not fond of hair splitting, this is your chance to exit—everyone else, please read on.)

Let’s start with ’strategy vs. tactics‘.
There is a great number of competing definitions for the term strategy, and I’m not going to dive into any kind of scientific discourse because, you see, I’m not a scientist. However, there are some minimum requirements which a concept must fulfill in order to be recognized as a strategy. In short, and across all definitions, a strategy is a particular set of decisions and actions designed to reach a set of specific (as in quantified) long-time goals.

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EXAMPLE

Imagine Napoleon saying “We have this battle against Prussia coming up, and I’d really like to win without losing too many soldiers. My strategy is that we get some troops together, make sure we use the right weapons and attack those bastards.”
So how much of a strategy do you think that would be?

Wouldn’t you rather expect the wee little General to come up with a plan like “We have a slight advantage as we have xxx more soldiers. If it’s raining, we’ll attack at 8 o’clock sharp, coming from the East. If not, at 8:30 from the South. We will get all cannons over to that hill first and then do A. The Prussians will react doing B and we will strike back doing C, and if that doesn’t work out as expected, we’ll surprise the Prussians by doing D. As a fallback plan, we can always rely on E. In any case, the outcome will be yyy, give or take a y.”?

Well, I would.
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So let’s get this straight: A sound strategy will

  • Define and quantify long-term goals
  • Describe conditions and circumstances
  • Define the key metrics
  • Specify processes and tools
  • Assign roles and responsibilities

As opposed to that, the infographic “Top 10 Web Unfunnel Conversion Strategies“ describes broadly acknowledged actions designed to reach nonspecific, short-term goals. Nothing wrong with that, but it means we’re talking tactics here. In addition, some of these Top 10 are so trivial they don’t even qualify as tactics [symple_highlight color=“red“](10 – Contact Info – Make sure your visitors can contact you at any point in time)[/symple_highlight].

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That being said, let’s move over to ‚agile or not‘.
Agile marketing, as we are all well aware, means

  • validated learning over opinions and best practice
  • customer discovery over prediction
  • customer centric collaboration over hierarchies
  • flexible planning over rigid roadmaps
  • in short: experiment, measure, learn, adapt, iterate

Claim: “Taking the traditional marketing funnel strategy for comparison, here are some agile and cost effective approaches to the same business conversions and a newAgile Conversion Strategy infographic that shows how it all fits together.”

Let’s take a closer look at one of the three (not ten, mind you) strategies standard procedures described in the article:
Traditional awareness strategy vs.Unfunnel awareness strategy – Goal: biggest reach for lowest cost

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TRADITIONAL AWARENESS STRATEGY

You would start with trying to get the biggest reach for the lowest cost and even buy lists and use affiliates to help you.

Problem 1: lower cost usually means not very sophisticated ad targeting and impressions, this = an unqualified audience coming to your site.

[symple_highlight color=“blue“]Of course, unsophisticated ad targeting does not result in an unqualified audience. It results in fewer conversions and a higher churn rate. As an agile marketer, you might embrace that drawback if it means lower ad cost, or switch to better targeting at higher cost.[/symple_highlight]

Problem 2: It is also hard to track if those impressions actually converted anyone to measure true ROI.

[symple_highlight color=“blue“]You may want to tackle that one by pointing your ad audience to different landing sites or by promoting individual URLs, which is rather inexpensive while at the same time offering you awesome AB testing opportunities.[/symple_highlight]

Tools: You use media vendors or 3rd party platforms to do your placement and report results – which typically aren’t free.

UNFUNNEL AWARENESS STRATEGY

Start with your most loyal audience, people who’s name you know and have a history on. You know their affinities and interests and you leverage these people with incentives to promote your products – they ones they they love and use.

Tools: Hubspot, Sprout Social

[symple_highlight color=“blue“]While media vendors and third party platforms don’t come for free, neither do Hubspot or Sprout Social. As an agile marketer, you’ll consider sticking with your affiliate system and addressing your loyal audience via e-mail or social media (you know them, remember?).[/symple_highlight]

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To sum this up, Unfunnel’s advice is that you “start with your most loyal audience, people who’s name you know and have a history on. You know their affinities and interests, and you leverage these people with incentives to promote your products – the ones they love and use.” Sounds familiar? I would think so. You can read that advice in a gazillion of savvy blog posts. Just search twitter for #custdev and #growthhacking.

In case you have never tried that approach yourself, it comes with a bunch of obstacles:

  1. You need a loyal audience to begin with
  2. You’ll miss the chance to get early feedback from customers who are not your loyal audience
  3. It will take you time and money galore to come up with incentives that work.

Hence, it only works if you have a product range, an audience and the means to leverage these people ready at hand. Moreover, in an agile approach, you’d typically not do one and leave the other, but do both in the most targeted way possible, measure the results, and optimize throughout iterations.