We are all time poor, and the start of the year is no exception. January typically is a time of reflection from the last calendar year, and planning for the year ahead. Do we need to hire more people, launch new products, change our business model, increase sales - there are plenty of questions business owners ask themselves at this time of year.

Being mindful of this, I've come up with 5 questions I ask myself and feel you should too when it comes to digital marketing. The questions are designed to be answered fairly easily, and I've provided more context below, to help you answer them.

  • What is my digital marketing saying about my brand?
  • What were the outcomes of my digital marketing in 2015? What can I learn from this?
  • What are my competitors doing?
  • Am I spending my time and money wisely in digital marketing?
  • How can I be doing something different in 2016, to increase my success in this space?

So let's go through these questions in more detail.

What is my digital marketing saying about my brand?

Take a good look at your website and active social media accounts, and ask yourself if you were a prospective customer, would they appeal to you? Ideally, have a colleague or friend who doesn't know your business well, and is happy to articulate their thoughts (yes, we want tough feedback) to do this for you, whilst you sit with them.

Ask your nominated reviewer questions, such as;

  • What does this say about who Company X is?
  • What are some of the questions you are asking yourself about (company name)?
  • Do you feel you would use (company name) if you were looking for (your products or services)?
  • If not, why not?
  • If(company name) was your company, what would you do differently?

I wrote an article a while ago, on our 6Q blog, titled The Simple Secret to Improving your Startup, about user testing such as this, which is worth reading.

This is something you don't need to spend much time on; an hour here or there can produce amazing insights that you can use to improve your digital footprint. The total cost could be a few coffees and a few hours of your time.

What were the outcomes of my digital marketing in 2015? What can I learn from this?

First off, what are you tracking as far as metrics? Do you know where your sales or enquirers are coming fromand are you regularly looking at your website traffic statistics, such as Google Analytics?

If you aren't tracking anything, start right now, like today. Ask whoever answers sales enquiries (it could be you) to start taking note of where the enquirers heard about you. It could be categorised such as 'Trade show', Word of mouth, Google, etc.

Then, get your website on Google Analytics, if it isn't already, and start understanding how to read the reports. You want to, at least, see that your website is getting traffic, however there are plenty of other insights that come from these reports, which we can fill many articles about.

If you have been tracking these things, great! Look at the metrics, and determine how many enquiries there were, and the amount of resulting sales or business turnover that came from these. Is this comparable to other marketing you are doing, such as media or direct mail?

What are my competitors doing?

Whilst I'm conscious not to spend too much time looking at what others are doing, it is still something you should be doing semi-regularly. There are two types of competitors; who you consider are your industry competitors, and who the general public find when they search for your product or service (also known as online competitors). The latter is far easier to review.

Here are a few quick steps you can do to review what your online competitorsare doing.

1. Start by creating a spreadsheet with 5 columns. They are;

  • Search term
  • URL
  • Business name
  • Likes
  • Dislikes

2. Choose a phrase you expect your prospects to search for. We'll use 'Widget perth' for this example (what are widgets anyway?).

3. Search for that phrase, and click on the top ranking websites, writing down the website address, business name, and a few points what you like and dislike about their website.

Online competitive research

Online competitive research

4. Once you have a handful, consider trying another phrase. Whilst you are at it; where is your website ranked in these results?

5. Now go back to your website; are you guilty of any of these dislikes, or could you perhaps incorporate those likes you found in your website?

Write down a list of things to change in your digital marketing, and give these deadlines to stick to. I wrotean article about the power of setting up reminders and priorities for this sort of activity, which I encourage you to read; Improve your Digital Marketing, one hour at a time.

Am I spending my time and money wisely in digital marketing?

There are two costs with digital marketing; the hard costs, for items such as Google AdWords, Remarketing, Facebook Advertising and Website Development, and then there are the soft costs, such as your time planning, someone within your team writing blog articles, and the like.

Tally the costs up, rounding up to the nearest thousand, and then compare this to your answer in our second question. Was the money you spent a wise investment for the returns you realised? If yes, great, then consider expanding your digital marketing further, to get even more returns, or if not, look at how you are spending your time and money, and consider gettinga second opinion.

How can I be doing something different in 2016, to increase my success in this space?

Out of all of this, you should be able to create a list of things you wish to achieve in 2016. It could be, add more articles, improve search engine rankings, engage more on Facebook, or overhaul your website. List them in a spreadsheet (I seem to love spreadsheets) and then prioritise based on perceived value (what you could expect from returns).

Digital Marketing 2016 Tasks

Digital Marketing 2016 Tasks

You can see in the above example, we made 'make website mobile responsive' the most important task. We know thisbecause in Google Analytics, we can see the following;

Device statistics for website, Google Analytics

Device statistics for website, Google Analytics

From this (example above) alone, we can see a few common issues.

  1. 39.11% of our sessions came from mobile - over 61,000 sessions in fact.
  2. Average pages viewed per session were nearly half of desktop pages for mobile users (4.8 pages versus 8.1 pages)
  3. Session duration (the time people spent on our website) was 7.5 minutes on desktop, but only 4 minutes on mobile.

We can combine these three takeawaysabove, to say 'Wow, we are losing business, and interest, because our website looks terrible on mobile!'. Yep, that makes this a priority over any other activity.

In Summary

There you have it; 5 simple questions to ask yourself at the start of the new year, to help you define a better spend and energy on digital marketing in the year ahead. Good luck to you, and I wish you plenty of success in 2016!