5 Progress Areas for Your Website and Online Marketing

This management/productivity advice is written in reverse order. Firstly the summary and recommendations. Secondly the framework. Thirdly, the introduction to the framework. If you don't read most of the article but do try out the recommendation, great.

TLDR

By dividing up your online marketing work into our recommended five broad areas, as separate to-do lists, you make it easier to assign work to the right people, easier to keep top management control over productivity, and easier to cover all bases regardless of the existing strengths and preferences of your in-house marketing assignees.

5 Progress Areas & Recommendations

Divide your online marketing work into the following five progress areas, which have an explanation below.

  1. Perma content

  2. Promo content

  3. Ad campaigns

  4. Technical - Webmaster

  5. Customer feedback loops

View/print a simple agenda layout using these 5 Progress Areas.

RECOMMENDATIONS

i: read the notes further on in this article to 'get' what the headings mean, then pull together all current and wanted website and marketing tasks, and categorize them into 5 separate to-do lists under these headings.

then:
ii: note WHO is responsible for each area

then:
iii: if any of the areas say "ME", revisit management 101 class or "why I want to be an entrepreneur" - then cross your name off

then:
iv: for each area where you are pretty sure you have the right person to take care of it, sit down with them and construct a shared to-do list that includes specific achievement goals in a specific time AND the ability to queue up ideas so they don't get forgotten - For a minimalist no-learning-curve software tool we love Kanboard.

and then:
v: as a matter of top management work priority, find assignees for the areas which don't have a clear manager

The key message is to regain manageability of your digital marketing work by clarifying the responsibility for getting stuff done away from yourself and onto the right people.


 

Using the 5 Progress Areas as a management framework

For EACH area 1-5 you should have or acquire:

  • A good understanding of your current reality, plus things currently urgently unsatisfactory, plus what work is currently actually in progress (not just planned /mentioned)
  • A fairly strong idea of your strategic aims for each area so you know how to prioritize task suggestions
  • ONE named person responsible for managing this area (who, in a small business context, is likely also to be the person doing most of the tasks... but as you add specialists for different tasks you have deftly created a lite management structure by ensuring work all goes through the one known person)
  • A clear task list that is visible to management and referenced/updated in progress meetings, divided into:
    a) a list of the things currently under way (or soon) which have been agreed to do by a deadline (usually, the working month)
    b) a list of the things which are priority candidates for the things to get done in the NEXT month/cycle
    c) a backlog/wishlist of things which we might/do want to do, but not high enough priority to work on them yet
  • Regular [I did not say frequent] management meetings in which you review progress, weigh up ideas and priorities, and set new goals

Even the smallest business should do something meaningful in EACH area EVERY month. It is unlikely that you lack ideas of what to do, but the important thing is to define achievable tasks that are within reach of your resources.

Separating out these clear five areas allows you to:

  • hold separate assignment / reporting meetings for each one, or if covering in one meeting the ability to keep issues separate according to responsibilities;
  • assign separate budgets or at least categorize and track costs arising;
  • BALANCE work between different areas, ensuring you are not under/over-emphasizing particular work --> particularly in TIME SPENT VS RESULTS and in BUDGET;
  • rebalance as you grow your business and marketing scale;
  • ask the right questions to the best advisors (e.g. don't [only] ask your web designer how you can get more traffic, and don't necessarily expect your blog writer to know how to make the website load faster).

Having separated the five areas you can also manage the lines of communication to make sure the right people are talking to each other and working well together. As you know, "he-said-they-said", and "we assumed they were in charge of that not us" are classic excuses for things not getting done.

Stay open-minded and creative

Try to reset regularly to seek ideas that are important as well as just "ideas someone came up with". Below are some ultra-open questions for this.

If you are the bossman/bosswoman who usually tells people what to do, try asking them instead. Let the assigned manager mull over these questions (discussing with their contacts) and bring back ideas, so that you are not limiting the possible scope of the task list by your own preferences. Inexperienced staff will not produce good answers the first time round, but if you continually reset by posing these questions, you are training them in marketing thinking for each area, and at some point will start to get back stuff that you hadn't thought of.

  1. Perma content
    "How can we improve our pre-sales information to prospective customers and improve support / ease-of-use for existing customers?"
  2. Promo content
    "What special things can we do to attract prospects or provide value for existing customers?"
  3. Ad campaigns
    "Where are we going to get traffic from and how are we growing traffic?"
  4. Technical - Webmaster
    "How can our website and other digital tools work better?"
  5. Customer feedback loops
    "How can we learn from customers how to improve what we're doing?"

 

Fill in the gaps

This approach is also useful for managing marketing agencies so that productivity and deliverables are defined according to YOUR priorities and gaps are not created by skill and preference areas.

For example:

  • Determine whether your web designers have any intention of doing anything other than design!
  • Pick apart whether a proposal for "content marketing" or "blogging" is focused on [what we call] Perma Content or Promo Content. Too often it is something like the worst of both worlds.
  • Define whether or not your advertising manager/agency are working on purpose-built and evolving promotional content, or just acquiring clicks for your existing content.
  • Ditto for social media marketers.
  • Clarify whether your full-service marketing agency is proactively working on (and supporting your team on) technical issues. Or if your technical issues are taken care of by "the IT guy" who works in a cupboard somewhere, clarify whether that person is participating in conversations with the marketing people. (In practice "the IT guy" is usually not the correct person to assign to website/webmaster work, not because they are not the most competent person, but because their skills are too narrow and better assigned on more actually-IT stuff!)
  • Understand what work YOUR team have to do (extra) in order to support the success and on-time-delivery of your agencies.

 


 

5 Progress Areas for Your Website and Online Marketing - Explained

The five progress areas are, taken together, everything that makes up digital marketing. (In our apparently-not-that-humble opinion!)

Rather than the ordinary approach of categorizing by marketing specialism or tactic, this arrangement focuses on productivity and aims to steer you towards logical separation of assignments, and towards good balance.

In our view, you should select tactics based on your intended goals in each marketing progress area. Since not all tactics are available or rational for smaller businesses to work on, in this orientation you become flexible about how to keep progressing rather than saying "we don't know how" or "we can't afford it" and then stopping.

Just to reiterate, the examples below are not to say you have to work on everything in an overwhelming way: the opposite - you need to look at the range of things you could be doing and prioritize the few, achievable, impactful things you should be getting done.

You should not do most things in marketing BUT you should be aware of the things you are not doing, and why. Your team should be aware too.

For each of the headings here are some examples to show what belongs under each area:

1 - Perma Content

Permanent public content. (Permanent does not mean it stays the same forever. But you create it to be good enough to last a while.) The most basic criterion for Perma Content is that it is useful for your customers. The ideas of accessibility, relevance, and interestingness are built into the idea of "useful"...

  • homepage, about, intros
  • categories
  • navigation hub pages
  • product and service main pages
  • deeper detail pages
  • contact forms
  • help sections
  • customer process pages
  • new customer education and onboarding content
  • autoresponders
  • presentation of search results
  • maps
  • profile content in directories, review sites, and social media
  • brochures
  • plus, depending on your business:
    - ecommerce catalogue (which at scale requires a separate heading)
    - customer profile / dashboard
    - checkout / interaction step pages/screens

Simple prioritization for perma content work:

  1. keep time-sensitive things up to date, such as news, pricing, events, schedules
  2. add new pages on time for new products/services (publishing web content should in no circumstance hold up the progression of a launch)
  3. enrich core pages for new customers
  4. improve navigation paths
  5. enrich priority product/service pages

Also: just about any gathering/production/publishing of photo and video will be way more significant than text so prioritize it.

2 - Promo content

Promotional content - The guys working on the "main" perma content say the advertising guys are supposed to produce that.

The Advertising guys sit waiting for good stuff from the content guys. (Or they go ahead with less than optimal content.)

Somebody has to do it if you want everything start working better. Assign someone!

The work for someone managing and producing Promo Content is really the main content editor among the marketing people. The Perma Content can be managed with a slightly different mentality and a lot of the work can be projectized and insourced to experts in the team. By contrast the editor for Promo Content needs to be more hands-on and able to turn around requests rapidly, AND work on never-done-before creative mini projects. Perhaps we can say Perma Content needs a hedgehog mentality while Promo Content is more fox.

Examples:

  • content intended as fuel for social media
  • ad creative including banners and video
  • landing pages for PPC and social media
  • pages you add to your site primarily for SEO purposes (shock horror)
  • offer pages
  • newsletters and newsletter landing pages
  • competitions
  • content which you produce to distribute, such as infographics, slideshows
  • content which is not a normal part of your site, such as a quiz, slideshow, event report
  • press releases
  • content contributed for reviews, guest blog posts, panels
  • content for placements and advertorials

3 - Ad campaigns

Advertising is anything you do that acquires attention and/or followers and/or traffic.

Examples:

  • Paid search
  • Display ads
  • Social media ads
  • Content-boosting ads
  • Offline ads
  • work related to getting reviews, interviews, guest blog posts
  • work related to getting content placements

4 - Technical - Webmaster

Setting technical topics within the scope of marketing empowers your marketing folk to get stuff done without having the excuse that this is beyond their knowledge or responsibility limits. At the same time it helps connect your IT folk with the marketing, i.e. customer, raison d'etre of the business, which in turn allows you to define IT work by the business's aims.

A wholly IT / programmer person is not necessarily the best selection for managing the Webmaster topics because of the marketing and design topics inside. A semi-technical marketer will do fine as long as she is enabled with the right resources and connections with skilled technicians. In an ideal world, a semi-marketing-y technician would be even better, but frankly if you have a good technician, let them focus on that because there are fewer of them than good or potentially good marketers.

Examples:

  • web design (aside from full-on fresh/re-design projects, design issues are best processed through the manager of your general webmaster things and in a small business is likely to be one of the early areas you get specialist help - but keep it manageable and on-target via this Webmaster management route)
  • appearance and usability for mobile
  • site speed
  • site resilence
  • backups, restores, migrations
  • monitoring
  • error checking
  • testing
  • support for implementation of analytics
  • support for marketing-related software
  • selection of software
  • support for content publishers
  • site search usability and usefulness
  • user access control
  • a long list of things about security
  • ...and an ever-increasing list of custom-developed functionalities your programmers invented/bolted-together!

5 - Customer feedback loops

This fifth area ensures that your marketing is properly connected with your sales and customer support, and in general is about orienting your marketing people's thinking closer to the customers' thinking.

Examples:

  • Interpretation of website analytics and click tracking
  • Sales trends (voting with feet)
  • Analysis of emails / tickets
  • Analysis of chat transcripts
  • Analysis of phone logs / recordings
  • Complaint / fault / return / refund case analysis
  • Customer feedback form data
  • 3rd party review site data
  • Customer surveys
  • Ad hoc Q&A in social media
  • Face-to-face customer meetings
  • Interviews and written feedback from sales and customer support staff
  • Staff training and role plays
  • Controlled UX tests
  • Mystery shoppers
  • Reputation monitoring
  • Competitor feedback monitoring
  • Ask your parents to use the website and watch over their shoulder

Remember: it is not a successful feedback loop unless (a) the feedback and insights from it connect with the right people, and (b) those people take action that (c) demonstrably makes a difference to improve things for the customer. The majority of companies' work in the above feedback-gathering areas does not even get to (a)...


 

Introduction to why the 5 Progress Areas are useful

When we say a new website has been built, what we really mean is that it has been started.

Your website and online marketing around your website are:

  • ongoing!
  • never-ending!
  • open-ended!

By extension, to work on your website and online marketing you must come to realize that the work is:

  • experimental
  • incremental
  • about ongoing improvement

Taking the above things together it means manageability and productivity are hard: this is not a project, but a rolling, fuzzy, Katamari Damacy -like management challenge.

WHAT do to

You should translate your marketing ideas down through the following levels:

  1. Business concept
  2. Marketing strategy
  3. Marketing plan
  4. Lists and goals

On a general level (and this sounds obvious but is not easy and not commonly practiced) the stuff at the bottom that you actually work on should be well-aligned with the whole point of your business... and making a difference in it!

This framework assumes you do already know WHAT you want to do. We are looking for a useful method to get from a plan down to the action level "4- Lists and goals".

If you only work down to the level of "3- Marketing plan" then you will never have reliable productivity and progress. A plan is not actionable because it does not include assignments and does not distinguish between work in progress in X timeframe, versus work to do later.

Most small businesses get stuck simply creating nice plans. Askng WHO is going to do it is an excellent way of getting from a plan to some action.

Less discussion of the details of what to do, and more decisions about who gets assigned to work on it... would overall mean a lot more productivity.

The minimal application of the 5 Progress Areas framework here is JUST about figuring out WHO takes something from the plan:
- pick an item from the plan, however specific or general
- figure out which Area it comes under
- assign it to the person responsible for that area
- come back later to hear the tasks that manager has exploded from the original idea
- figure out resources and capabilities
- prioritize: assign tasks and put others on the shelf

WHO is going to do it: the right person

The right person for a job:

  • has the right knowledge and skills
  • has the time and energy
  • is not significantly more valuable working on something else (opportunity cost or equivalent time cost)
  • has the resources and connections
  • is empowered
  • takes responsibility for quality
  • takes responsibility for delivery
  • does not have conflicts of interest
  • does not suffer from confusion due to overlapping responsibilities of others

(These are all performance dimensions - the higher score on each, the more likely to Get Things Done.)

The right person for a job will not need everything specified down to the detail. This is what they will figure out. Knowing whom to give a task to is absolutely more important than knowing what the task involves and how they are going to tackle it.

The main reasons things don't get done are either because nobody has been assigned the task in the first place, or that the task was not assigned to the right person.

Returning to the topic of online marketing for small businesses, a situation of un-productivity is extremely common because:

  • the people in the business have not really had the time and motivation yet to think about marketing strategically, let alone document it, meaning there are lots of potentially important and impactful things to do which nobody is aware of, or at least which nobody has recorded anywhere
  • the owner/management is not completely in control of the marketing plan (because real life), so there are tasks noted privately which have not been assigned to anybody yet
  • there are tasks which the manager is aware need to be assigned but they don't have anyone to assign it to right now
  • the task has been assigned, but not to the right person (THIS COMMONLY INCLUDES SMALL  BUSINESS MANAGERS DOING ONLINE MARKETING ALL BY THEMSELVES - your skills and knowledge may be unparallelled - but see above note about opportunity cost)
  • the task has been assigned to an OK person but that person is too contended to be productive on it

The unfamiliar and abstract qualities of digital marketing exacerbate these problems: if you want a wooden table made, you talk to a carpenter... familiar. If you want an infographic about types of wooden table and an interactive table-choosing webpage... who can do this? Unfamiliar and abstract = hard to assign. Contention is a worse problem where people find it hard to predict the amount of work something requires.

The "who" question might just be something you are more or less consciously avoiding because:

  • work is hard to describe
  • we have to ask busy people to do even more work
  • the people we ask might not technically have this in their job description
  • the people we want to do the work aren't really the right person for the job - hence problems for us and them getting the stuff done
  • we are trying to avoid adding costs which we can't afford
  • we are vaguely thinking that someone might step up and solve it nicely for free

The 5 Progress Areas model in this article attempts to address these problems for small businesses as follows:

  • work is hard to describe
    - we avoid trying to describe the work initially - we simply assign it and let the right person break it down
  • we have to ask busy people to do even more work
    - we create visibility about what people are working on and establish that resources ARE needed for our marketing in 5 clear areas... and if we are not getting results, assuming we have a reasonably good assignee, it must be because we lack resources... ultimately the conversation becomes more realistic and our goals then become more realistic
  • the people we ask might not technically have this in their job description
    - assigning responsibility for one of the five areas to someone is a good edit to a job description because it protects them from inappropriate assignment and also from unrealistic expectations (see the point above about revealing the true resource requirements)
  • the people we want to do the work aren't really the right person for the job
    - separating out areas of responsibility will help you match work to skills better; and by having a clearer scope of work and better task management, you might actually find your imperfect assignee can do better than you thought (important in the small business context!)
  • we are trying to avoid adding costs which we can't afford
    - at least quantify it, and what you also do in this process is qualify the things which you have decided not to do due to budget
  • we are vaguely thinking that someone might step up and solve it nicely for free
    - if you can get this to work, go for it, but it is not manageable in any sense

 

Thank you, the one person who read to the end.

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