Why Attention to Detail Matters Most in Marketing
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to hear a talk from the great chef Thomas Keller, whose restaurants (French Laundry, Per Se, and Bouchon) have arguably done more to influence American cooking than any others in the United States. At one point during his presentation, Keller asked a kind of rhetorical question: “What makes our cooking so good compared to others?” He smiled a bit, then gave an example of what made for a great piece of fish versus just a good piece of fish. He suggested that the distinction hinged on something he called “finesse” – the little details in the presentation, the seasoning, and the precise approach to time and temperature that made the dish stand out versus a more standard preparation.
The truly extraordinary chefs, he said, exhibit such finesse every time they present a plate.
His point was not lost on me: The people who are really great at what they do focus on executing – not just the big things but also on all the little details. And that’s true whether it’s cooking, sports, medicine, construction, the arts, or marketing.
Why Details Matter in Marketing. Example: E-Commerce
Let me explain how it relates to marketing with a simple illustration: You have an e-commerce site that, through various channels (direct, email, paid search, paid display, content marketing), gets about 1 million visitors a month. Of those visitors, say 20 percent (200,000) make it to a product page. From there, 25 percent (50,000) put an item in the cart and then 60 percent of the cart audience actually checks out (30,000). So, roughly 3 percent of the visitors, which is about average for many e-commerce sites, makes a purchase. Let’s also assume the average purchase price is $75.
For the month, that site earns $2.25m. So far, so good.
Now, let’s look into the details. What if by changing a subject line on several emails, I could get better open and click-thru rates? Maybe I improve the language on our emails’ calls to action so they’re clearer and more relevant and similarly get a few percentage points of improvement. Let’s say I also adjust our paid search ads to create more urgency, improving our performance there, and I make some SEO changes (headlines, URLs, title tags, image alt text) that make our product pages more relevant to potential buyers’ searches – say that gets us to page 1 for a few different listings in the store. Overall, let’s estimate that I could improve relevant incoming visitor traffic by 10 percent. So instead of 1 million visitors, I get 1.1 million visitors. With the same buyer funnel, I would get 220,000 people to a product page, 55,000 to put an item in the cart, 33,000 to purchase and earn $2.475m ($225,000 more).
Details Make Your Buyer Funnel ‘Efficient’
In the previous example, I didn’t even include the optimizations I’d want to do on the e-commerce checkout process itself. But as you can see, doing these little things can add up. It leads to a bigger point: Because many departments don’t have the luxury of a large branding budget, marketing often becomes this non-stop activity, focused on continuously improving so you can make your buyer funnel as efficient as possible.
Think about it. The more people you can get to each stage of the funnel process means the more effective you’ll be in driving results. Little things – such as a better call to action, changing a subject line, altering headlines to improve SEO on a blog post, adding a countdown clock to an e-commerce checkout – all matter to advance more visitors to that next step.
In the real world, perhaps one of the hardest parts of marketing is knowing that there’s always more to do in terms of executing on those little details. After all, the closer you can get to personalizing promotions and experiences for a potential buyer, the more likely they are to convert. But you can’t personalize it down to an individual. So, building a special email journey for a particular segment, or A/B testing the call-to-action button on that paid ad, or the adjusting that headline or URL for the best SEO all make sense to do. The issue is, of course, time.
The Great Marketers Focus on the Key Optimizations
Because I’m a realist, I won’t sugar-coat it: Marketing can be a grind for this very reason. There often aren’t enough resources to do everything well. And contrary to the view others have – that all of us just sit around dreaming up branding promotions all day – execution and spending time on these seemingly small details remains a huge part of the profession.
In some ways, I’d argue that the great marketers in our profession are those that do the most with limited budgets, because they don’t have the luxury of spending money on a large branding initiative to drive more top-of-the-funnel awareness. These are the individuals that can manage their time, focus on the optimizations and details that make the biggest difference, and still improve on results every month.
It’s certainly not easy to do. But nothing that’s worth it ever is.
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