If there's one thing we've learned over the last 12 years in working with our clients, it's that it is relatively easy to hit a lot of singles and doubles, but pretty hard to hit out-of-the-park home runs. And, as in baseball, these singles and doubles add up to lots of runs -- bottom line increases in revenue and profits. So let's look at a 9-player batting order and see how many singles we can hit during these tough economic times.
Instead of trying to throw 95-mile-an-hour fastballs all the time, work in some curves, sliders and screwballs. In search, it's not always about being in the #1 position of results or getting more impressions than your competition. With the right ad (pitch selection), you can throw the curveballs at your competition. Key: you need to know how to develop ads that attract and qualify visitors.
Based on your knowledge of the opposing batters, calling the right pitches and placement is your job. Online, it's analyzing your back-end data and Web analytics tools to make the right calls. There are probably dozens upon dozens of trends lurking in your databases, waiting to be mined. For example, do you email specific segments of your email database (and get superior returns), or do you blast emails to your entire database, and wonder why the results aren't there?
Your position is a key one, as 50%, or more, of all outs go through you. You always need to be on top of your game, and be flexible enough to catch balls thrown by a number of different players. In the online world, you should be looking at what we call the "purchase consideration cycle," matching up your keywords with copy and display ads with placements to the point at which consumers are researching products online. If you're not doing that, you're taking your foot off the first base bag before the out is made and wasting a lot of money in the process.
Often a pivotal position when it comes to double plays, a second-base person in the online world must also look for situations that result in two outs at once. This position requires adaptation and trust. Know the role that each channel plays in influencing another. Understand your marketing mix so you know when to shift right and when to cover the bag.
Probably the most important position in the infield, you have the most ground to cover and often the most difficult plays to make. Many shortstops happen to be leadoff batters due to their speed and agility, so as a key player on the field, you need to "make things happen." You are the playmaker. Know your bread and butter and scrutinize it. Whether it is search, television, display or email, you should constantly strive to make it better.
Preventing balls from getting down the third base line and resulting in doubles and triples is a key part of being a great third baseman. In the online world, you can accomplish the same thing by watching out for hidden problems that can result in sub-par performance. Watch your competition. Have you ever experienced a decline in performance and wondered why -- even when you didn't change anything? Maybe your competition did. Get on their mailing lists (catalog, email, etc.), know their clickstream (Hitwise is a great tool), and monitor their offer strategy.
Left Fielder, Center Fielder, Right Fielder
Clearly, you three have a lot of ground to cover, and it's up to you to catch fly balls, prevent singles from turning into doubles, and rob opponents of triples and home runs. Speed is your key asset. Speed online is also a key asset. The online advertising industry changes so fast that you need a small team of experts to keep up with changes and understand how they can impact your ecommerce business. Do not silo your reach, but constantly test instead. When something doesn't work, figure out why, adapt and test again.
On the diamond, you're the one who understands all the personalities of your players, their strengths and weaknesses, and how best to utilize each one in your quest to win games and get to -- and win -- the World Series. In the online customer acquisition space, you need to be the visionary one in your company. You need to understand the relative benefits of PPC, SEO, lead generation, DRTV, RSS and mobile and determine how they all interact. Most important, you need to assess your in-house talent (or lack thereof), and figure out what to outsource and what to keep in-house. Without exception, the best online marketers use a combination of staff and vendors to get the job done. Who's in your lineup, coach?