Sandstorm Blog

Sandy
3 Digital Trends Associations Should Start, Stop and Continue Doing

As part of our annual review process we use the start, stop, continue retrospective technique. We've found it's a great way to recognize successes and opportunities for growth for individuals, teams and organizations. Thinking about the digital transformations we've seen with associations lately, below are some retrospectives on what we see trending with membership organizations. 

START
Creating a culture of data. Using data to inform your decisions and weaving that into everything you do is critical to success. We are working with an association today where we're collecting and analyzing data to identify educational gaps and drive new products (and revenue). We're also utilizing data to drive content and functional requirements on new website builds to improve the member experience. By taking a fresh look at member data for a global membership organization, we were able to re-interpret the data and create new marketing campaign messaging to increase membership and product sales. The combination of qualitative and quantitative data helps associations turn subjective decisions into objective ones. Even when we're talking creative and UX – data science for us plays a huge role.

STOP
Stop building websites in proprietary technologies on a web dev shop's server as you are trapping yourself and it’s completely unnecessary now. Many leading associations are utilizing off-the-shelf content managements systems like Drupal, Kentico, etc. to integrate with their AMS and LMS systems, provide personalized member experiences, and track analytics and KPIs. Then you have options when it comes to supporting your chosen system. You can choose to have the original digital agency maintain and support your site, you can select a new partner for support, or bring it in house. We also recommend you own the hosting relationship with a 3rd party provider such as Rackspace, Azure, or AWS so you are never "stuck". We have taken over the maintenance and support for so many association websites that didn't get the service, attention to detail, nor strategic thinking to drive their association forward, and it was all possible because of the CMS they selected (and it's always a smoother transition when a 3rd party hosting provider is involved but not necessary). 

CONTINUE
Continue focusing on member engagement, member value and the overall member experience. This is what we love most about associations. It doesn't matter if you're a trade association or medical, large or niche, everyone shares a common mission to help your members become more than they can on their own. One of the most common challenges and motivations we've seen for launching into a new website overhaul was to improve their members' online experience and increase online member engagement. And we get it – we, too, are all about the user. When you look into the member journey, continue at all touchpoints to remember we're all just people trying to be the best version of ourselves. Keep the humanity alive in your organization that you have already mastered.

This blog was posted by Sandy on February 19, 2019.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

Nick
Data Visualization and Reporting, Data Science

Using your business goals, target metrics, and other drivers defined in the marketing workshop, we create data visualizations, dashboards, reports and analysis tailored to the needs of the marketing team, executives or other stakeholders.

Rows and rows of static data become charts, graphs, and other easily consumable graphics to help you find valuable information – such as trends and patterns – hiding within the data. Business and operational decisions are made easier, faster and more confidently with this evidence. 

Want to know more about your data? Reach out today and we can work with even a small data set to show you what's possible.

 
This blog was posted by Nick on March 12.
Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Nick
Statistical analysis drives personalization

Understand critical factors, trends and relationships affecting your business and how to effectively pivot in order to achieve your business goals. Using your business goals, target metrics, and other drivers defined in our marketing workshop, we determine the appropriate analysis to help you understand what is happening with your business.

For example: Is there a seasonality to purchasing certain products? Is geography related to purchases? Do generational cohorts (e.g., millennials, Gen Xers, etc.) affect my business? Why is this happening? What is the relationship of X & Y? Does X cause Y?

We can help you understand the data available, plan for the analysis and conduct the analysis to help you answer key business questions.

Through statistical analysis and a personalization strategy, we can help connect you with the right audience by delivering the right message through the right channel on the right device at the right time, by offering a customized user experience based on demographics, geography, behavior, context, and other knowledge of the consumer. This ties your business goals and positioning to your online experience, with a roadmap around analytics, optimization, and personalization to maximize conversion rates.

 

This blog was posted by Nick on July 5.
Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Nick
Analytics and Optimization

Data is prolific. Not all of it is meaningful or easily understandable.

How do you make data work for you and your business? By turning white noise into actionable intelligence. Whether your goal is to attract more customers, sell more products, educate more consumers, keep your team members engaged, raise awareness for your cause, or just understand who visits your website, we offer services such as data strategy, visualization and analysis. If you are looking to predict what will happen next, such as who will purchase my product in the future, we can also help with our data science offerings.

Whether your target conversions are increasing visitor count, newsletter subscriptions, contact form submissions, purchases through your e-commerce site, hits through organic search, engagement through social media, or general public awareness, we use data from a variety of sources, expert strategy, and analytical processes and tools to deliver quantifiable results.

Our services are designed to help you become a data-driven, and predictive, organization:

Data Strategy
Let's work together to collect the right data in the right way for easier reporting and analysis. We'll help identify what type of data you have access to, in what format, what can you do with it, and identify a long-term plan to leverage your data for intelligent, real-time decision-making.

Data Visualization & Reporting
Make sense of your data quickly through visualization. Rows and rows of static data become interactive real-time charts, graphs, maps, or customized reports for any end user.

Statistical Analysis
Understand critical factors, trends and relationships affecting your business and how to effectively pivot in order to achieve your business goals.

Predictive Analytics
Looking to learn what will happen in your business? We can work with you on building custom machine learning models to help you forecast and predict your business.

Web Analytics, SEO/SEM & Insights
Provides your people the data that they need to know how they are performing on their goals and the key indicators that drive your business. Brings you our expert opinions on how to improve your existing analytics implementation, data management, and ability to derive insights. Increases awareness and convenience by bringing your website, online tools, or other web presence to the top of search results. Drives qualified traffic and conversions through targeted advertisements based on the search requests that people make.

A/B and Optimization Testing
Makes your website, mobile application, or other user interface more efficient and effective by giving visitors multiple versions of pages, content, and layout, and measuring what gets the most response.

Ready to use data to improve your business? Contact us.
 

Sandstorm proudly works with:

Qualtrics
Tableau
 
 
 

This blog was posted by Nick on January 10.
Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Nick
Analytics, Analytics Strategy, Nick Meshes, Clickstream data, SEM

Analytics are now a standard piece to any project. Our society has evolved into a data-rich environment, allowing for greater consumer insights and in turn smarter analytics strategies. However, some businesses are approaching analytics as an afterthought and as a "nice to have" option. They put a great deal of work into setting up sites, landing pages, campaigns, etc, but are then only looking at analytics as simple measurements of success/failure and not the dynamic journey it should be.

Often times when setting up reporting tools, people take a “set it and forget it” approach. They establish an idea of what data they need, set up a dashboard and some notifications and then it is managed as time allows by someone whose main responsibilities are elsewhere in IT or Marketing. Worse, they don’t even configure the reporting tools and just go with the default settings. They essentially put it on autopilot, and it fails to take into account feedback and doesn’t allow room for shifting strategy due to changing goals.

An effective analytics strategy is a dynamic journey built around the analytical data where the strategy is adjusted accordingly to drive goals and conversions. It is a very agile process of frequent measurement, discovery, strategy, and course adjustment.

Recently, we worked with a client in their higher education industry who ran frequent email, SEM, display, and offline campaigns. As part of the project to help them redefine marketing strategy, we reviewed their analytics for clickstream (Google Analytics), search engine (AdWords), and member data (their CRM system). They were very concerned with increasing new leads, as well as monitoring the established leads down the funnel to drive sales conversions. They had a small marketing team with a wide variety of responsibilities and were looking for ways to measure success without requiring too much time from their team.

We did two things for them: provided analytics training and automated as much of the process as possible. In the training we gave them tools to eliminate unneeded information from their data stream and to track goals accordingly. With automatization we set up message reporting around goals and added attribution and valuation to maximize the mix of offline and online channels. Both of these tactics streamline the process allowing the team to spend less time pulling reports and more time to strategize around the results.

We acknowledge that people will be at different comfort levels with their analytics and data stream, but analytics will only work as hard as you do. Like other parts of business, you need to build an analytics strategy that not only defines goals but continually informs them. Once you have the strategy it is easy to set up a process to track, monitor and adjust your analytics strategy.
If you need help turning your analytics strategy into a dynamic journey, contact Nick at nick@sandtormdesign.com

 

This blog was posted by Nick on September 14, 2016.
Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Bill Kurland
Digital Marketing Personalization, remarketing, retargeting, digital marketing stragety

I’d been browsing through Stephen King books on a popular e-commerce website. When I clicked over to a news article, an ad for The Gunslinger followed. I barely gave it a second thought when the same ad appeared in my Facebook feed. Then the emails started. For days after, the same ad haunted me everywhere I turned: no social network, email service provider or website was safe. Leave me alone, I shouted at my monitor, the room spiraling out of control. Leave me alone!

I’m being dramatic, but when marketing personalization goes wrong, the user experience gets creepy. When done right, personalized ads and emails provide a near one-to-one conversation between brand and customer. But get it wrong and “personalization” feels intrusive, alienating and leaves customers wondering who’s watching them.  

Relevance, not omnipresence

Consumers overwhelmingly desire—and expect—personalized ads.

  • More than 70 percent of consumers prefer ads tailored to shopping habits and their interests, according to an Adlucent study.
  • The same study found that three-quarters of consumers want more relevant ads that align with their needs and wants.
  • Marketers see 20 percent increases in sales on average when utilizing personalized ad journeys.
  • Conversions increase by 10 percent with personalized email messages, based on research conducted by Aberdeen.

The same studies show that consumers are willing to provide their private information, but expect relevant content in return. Unfortunately, digital marketers are doing a poor job of delivering on their side of the bargain. A Yahoo survey showed that only 37 percent of respondents found desktop ads relevant. Those numbers were even smaller for mobile and in-app advertising—30 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

Consumers also want a voice in the conversation: over 65 percent want the option of privacy controls, and almost 60 percent want ads based on information they proactively provide.

So, how do you develop unique, actionable messaging without crossing the line? Use these tips to create engaging conversations and avoid the creep factor.

1. Respect your audience

You want to show consumers that you understand their desires—not that you’re following them at every turn. Be implicit instead of explicit: imagery or copy that confirms a customer’s DMA is great, while creative that confirms you have their address information is too much.  

2. Know your channel

A personalized salutation is almost expected in email these days, but a digital ad is probably the wrong place to address your customers by name. Only 29 percent of consumers who completed a recent study said they would engage with ads containing personal information like their name. Go where your customers are engaging and give them the power to start a conversation.

3. Humanize your brand

Whether you’re B2B or B2C, there’s room for some personality in your brand communications. The goal of personalized marketing is to have a one-to-one conversation, and who wants to talk to someone without a personality? Whether you’re a Joker, a Dreamer, a Rebel or a Hero, let customers feel your personality.

4. Test and optimize

Even if you start with strong creative, its effectiveness will diminish as time goes on. A study conducted by ReTargeter found that clickthrough rates decrease by nearly 50 percent after five months. An A/B test can be a simple way to find the most effective creative and power optimization. Dynamic optimization can help achieve significant uplifts in conversions.

Sandstorm® is ready to help you develop a digital marketing personalization strategy that engages your customers, without creeping them out.

This blog was posted by Bill Kurland on July 11, 2016.
Bill Kurland, Copywriter

About the Author

Bill Kurland

Copywriter Extraordinaire

Nick
Data strategy

At Sandstorm, we can help you develop your data strategy including identifying your business goals, questions and/or issues, identifying the available data sources and developing a plan to seamlessly integrate the data in order to analyze it in real-time.

Almost every organization is trying to figure out what to do with their data and how to do it. So you are not alone, we work with a variety of clients in various states of data collection and analysis to help them get smart about leveraging their data and uncovering hidden insights to inform their business.

 
This blog was posted by Nick on April 30.
Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Nick
Analytics driving business

 

Enter the Clickstream

Web analytics tends to start with collecting and analyzing “clickstream” data - the information that can be collected directly from visitors to your webpages using javascript, cookies, images, or other tags that act as tracking codes. Here are 15 questions regarding your visitors (clickstream data) you can answer, examine, and visualize through website analytics tools like Google Analytics: 

  1. Where are visitors entering and exiting your site?
  2. How many people visit specific pages? What content is drawing the most attention?
  3. How many people immediately leave? Which content is failing to retain them?
  4. How many people are first-time or return visitors?
  5. How long do people stay on your site?
  6. Where are your visitors geographically located?
  7. What browsers, operating systems, devices, and screen sizes are they using?
  8. What keywords are driving people to your site through search? What pages are delivering search traffic? 
  9. How do visitors flow through your site? Are they efficient and inefficient paths? Do they see your intended message or offering?
  10. How much response does each call to action get?
  11. What referrers are directing visitors to your site? From which search engines (organic results or marketing campaign), social networks, blogs, web pages, etc? What content are they being directed to?
  12. How fast do your pages load? When and where are the peaks and lows?
  13. How are the specific goals you’ve defined in the analytics tools being met?
  14. How are your pay-per-click campaigns working?
  15. What additional demographic data is available for each of the questions above? 
     

That's great - But What Do I Do with It?

The answer to each of these questions can help you optimize the user experience, raise your search engines rankings, tailor your message expand your audience or focus on a specific segment, and build data-driven personalized relationships online.

The answers to these questions are often quite valuable to your business. Some are immediately apparent, such as the answer to “How much response does each call to action get?” Others, however, may seem to have less business value, at least at face value. For example, “why do I care where my web visitors are geographically located?”

To use an example, one of our clients has offices in three states. After reviewing their traffic sources, we identified a great deal of traffic from two states where they did not have offices. The visitors from these two states matched their target demographic too. So, analytics helped our client identify potential locations to expand their business. 
 

Building a Better Business

When it comes to data analytics, clickstream sources are often the most available to business owners. You can use these 15 questions to adjust your business strategy in an informed and insightful manner.

For a more comprehensive view of how you can use analytics, data-driven website optimization, and search engine, Sandstorm offers full consulting and implementation services that support and improve your marketing strategy.

This blog was posted by Nick on February 19, 2016.
Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Nick
Chicago Web Analytics Consulting Services

You know you need to perform analytics on your site, but which data points really matter and how can you use your web analytics to make good business decisions? For too many companies, they either end up logging in once a year, or find themselves in "analysis paralysis." So how do you know if you are achieving your web and business goals?

By implementing web analytics into your site, you have the tools to understand the characteristics and behaviors of your audiences, measure how changes are affecting engagement and conversions, and formulate insights to sustain and grow relationships. We implement web analytics with every site experience we build at Sandstorm®, giving our clients the ability to see where users are coming from, what’s driving them there, and what (if anything) is making them leave. In addition, we offer a variety of follow-up services depending on your needs.

Analytics Integration
We integrate the analytics we’ve implemented with your other website analytics, optimization testing, customer experience, social tracking, campaign management or other CRM tools to offer you an all-encompassing view of your customer.

Dashboard Creation
Using your business goals, target metrics, and other drivers defined in the marketing workshop, we create dashboards tailored to the needs of your marketers, executives, and other key stakeholders. Using the dashboards and automated notifications, your decision makers have valuable information at their fingertips to track key indicators and make the most informed business decisions.

On-Going Assessment Reports
After initial dashboards are created, we offer consulting services to review the data and provide advise on additional opportunities. These services include monthly/periodic reports assessment, analysis and insights around your KPIs, with actionable recommendations to increase goal completions, enhance the user experience, and adjust dashboards to identify changing trends.

Training
Sandstorm offers education on how to review and enhance dashboards and reports, as well as how to export data for other analysis tools.

Analytics Implementation Audit
Sandstorm performs an examination of your current analytics implementation to identify potential gaps or other issues. Sandstorm collaborates with you to identify the key performance indicators and tie them to target metrics across organic search, social engagement, conversion funnels, and PPC initiatives. Mapping business goals to website data, we will ensure your existing analytics solution is properly tracking and clearly reporting status that's relevant to your goals (business, marketing, website, social, etc). After identifying what gets tracked and why, data collection points, and current technology, Sandstorm provides recommendations on how to adjust tools and techniques to optimize your business.

Data Assessment
Sandstorm analyzes your current business data to identify your visitors, leads, customers, and influencers, and their behavior. This incorporates your websites, social channels, log file collection, first-party and third-party data management technologies and methodologies, dashboarding, and other relevant data. We will provide insights on where your goals are being achieved, where you can improve, what blockers you face, how you can tailor your content and navigation to drive conversions or other actions, as well as how to optimize your site for the best operational performance. Sandstorm provides recommendations on what data to collect across your channels and 3rd party data providers, how data should be collected and integrated, and technology to best achieve these goals, supported by data-driven evidence.

SEM & SEO
We do both, search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) for our clients (and for our own company as part of our digital marketing plan and web design strategy for lead generation). Here's a few things that you should know:

Search engine marketing is getting so expensive so quickly, that it just kills us when we take over a pay-per-click (PPC) Adwords account and see yet another company creating Adwords campaigns that are competing with themselves, therefore raising the cost per click... on themselves and everyone else competing for that phrase. If you think this might be you, please give us a call and let us review your account. This happens so often and everyone loses.

Search engine optimization alone does get you to the top of the search engines. It's a part of your big picture strategic planning which should include content marketingsocial media marketing, and web analytics reporting. This is a game changer for so many companies. Let us help!

Want to learn more? Tell us how we can help you with your website analytics today.

This blog was posted by Nick on September 23.
Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Nick
Predictive analytics

We can work with you on building custom machine learning models to help you forecast and predict your business. We deploy a variety of data mining and statistical techniques, machine learning and predictive models to help you leverage historical data to inform the future.

For example, by examining customer purchasing data and analyzing customer behaviors and characteristics, we can determine how a particular segment of customers will act in the future - namely what products will they purchase and when?

 
This blog was posted by Nick on August 14.
Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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