What is SMART Marketing?

The S.M.A.R.T. acronym first surfaced nearly 40 years ago and caught on as an efficient and intelligent method for setting business goals. For companies to successfully achieve those goals, they first needed to define them in ways that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Over the decades, the mnemonic concept evolved to make the goal-setting process more applicable to the digital domain most businesses operate in today, but the fundamental idea remains the same. You can’t achieve a goal that isn’t well-defined and based on quantitative benchmarks.   

We’ve modified the acronym to focus on S.M.A.R.T marketing and digital advertising. Using online data collected through AI-driven technology, we help clients increase overall profit by providing marketing intelligence insights and improving online performance. Here’s our S.M.A.R.T. marketing formula for building a successful digital strategy and how some companies implement the tactic to achieve their goals.

S: See Which Advertising Channels Drive the Most Leads, Sales

Visibility into digital advertising results remains a challenge for many companies, particularly those relying solely on Google Analytics and similar free tools. While Google can give you a broad overview of web traffic and channel performance for Google Ads, even the enterprise version doesn’t take into account multiple visits by the same shopper on several devices as it only measures anonymous traffic. 

Use software that identifies each individual consumer who visits and engages on your website, then tracks that user across multiple digital platforms for multi-touch attribution. That way, you can eliminate the massive amounts of duplicate data often generated by a single consumer revisiting the website on different days from different devices, like on a tablet at home, on a desktop at work, then on a mobile smartphone in the car. 

By utilizing a marketing cloud and CRM that centralizes and analyzes all data streaming in for a company, including point of sale, you can follow a lead to fruition and tie online leads to in-person sales. With smart marketing, you can clearly see which combination of digital advertising and marketing drives the most leads and sales will give you accurate ROI results, which will help you prioritize spending and set more precise goals.

“I think the ultimate metric that matters is what money hits the front counter,” says Joey Gunn, Vice President at Knight Furniture & Mattress. “Obviously, the metric we’d all like to see get better is the close ratio, right?”

M: Make Smart Marketing Decisions Based on Consumer Insights

The consumer data collected on a client’s website as shoppers engage with AI-driven interactive content, such as quizzes and customized calls to action, generate valuable customer journey profiles. By examining the data, you can reach your smart marketing objectives and discover what the majority of your customers say they value most in their shopping experience and find ways to cater to those specific demands. 

Do shoppers at one location place price over convenience, whereas another store or property encounters more leads looking for luxury? Do most of them own pets or have kids, or are the consumers in your market suddenly looking to downsize?

“That type of data definitely helps in making more informed decisions for marketing and when planning for capital improvements for the property,” says Lisa Harris, Regional Manager at Texas-based W3 Luxury Living.

With such detailed data and consumer insights, your marketing team gains marketing intelligence that not only identifies trends specific to your online audience, but also how to best attract and serve your customers. If most people select upgraded appliances as their top priority when researching on the website, make sure photos and relevant content featuring those products surface first on the website. Also, make them a focus in your company’s digital advertising and social media strategy. 

A: Analyze Data to Cut or Reallocate Spend and Increase Channel Performance

Data should lie at the very core of every business decision and goal you set when defining your smart marketing objectives. And, remember, analytics is never a one-and-done task. 

“Every advertising funnel needs perfect tracking,” says Ivan Barratt, Founder and CEO at Barratt Asset Management in Indianapolis. “That is what’s a little frustrating in multifamily, and I see it’s coming along, but other industries are doing this so much better.”

Barratt says channel attribution is what lacked from their data results until they employed AI technology on the property websites. “That’s what has always been missing, the ability to assign dollar values to each of those channels and see what the cost is, the ROI.”  

Barratt meets with his executive team at least weekly to review the company’s data and performance across the portfolio. They compare online conversion ratios, look at how many prospects contacted each property, and reveal the number of tours booked and leases signed in the past week.

“The way I’ve been able to scale this business effectively is, of course, it first takes great people,” Barratt says. “But, you must constantly be on the search for great technology and tools that help them do their job better.” 

To keep up with the ever-changing digital world, your business must constantly reevaluate the online data streaming in from various places and be prepared to make a shift if something isn’t working or set higher goals if you blow past established benchmarks. 

Website technology that features AI and marketing intelligence capabilities, when all tied to a marketing cloud, deliver real-time results and can automatically adjust digital advertising campaign spends based on performance. Some companies dive even further into the results, changing the ad language to include trending keywords, and identifying other ways to improve SEO and channel performance.

“We use the psychographic information we gather from the engagement pieces on our website, almost dynamically, on a monthly basis,” says Marcella Eppsteiner, Vice President of Marketing at Mission Rock Residential, which oversees more than 105 apartment communities across the U.S. “We evaluate those insights, and then we’re able to tweak and optimize our SEO strategy, and maybe even change the content within our different advertising sources.”

While data can help you make predictions and set projections, it’s just as important to view the outcome of previous decisions. Hindsight is 20-20, so use those lessons and occasionally review past data results to see how far you’ve come and what you may have missed in the moment. 

“We take a look backwards and evaluate the efficacy of each of our advertising efforts, to see which channel is generating the most cost-effective cost per lease,” Eppsteiner says of her department’s budget review process. 

R: Reach Website Visitors in a Meaningful Way to Build Brand Trust

Let’s talk about the other major component of our S.M.A.R.T. marketing goals for digital success: the consumers behind the data. More specifically, how you can give your customers a better online experience to increase lead-to-sale conversions — which is the ultimate goal. 

The online competition is fierce these days with eCommerce staying strong, so you need to be at the top of your game when deciding on technology investments to improve customer service and the overall online experience with the brand. To find a winning combination, revisit the original S.M.A.R.T. goal philosophy and employ technology solutions that deliver specific data and measurable ROI.

“It’s a constantly moving target these days,” Barratt says. “Residents are all online. They all have smartphones, and they’re using that as a tool to narrow down their search before they ever get off the couch or leave the office. So, how do you provide some sort of sticky experience when they land on your website? How do you keep their focus there?” 

“They may be interested in 20 or 30 apartment communities — how do you remain at the top of that list?” Barratt continues. “In our business, the average lead is like the half life of a fruit fly. You’ve got to get them quick, or they move on.”

Connecting with customers starts on the website, where more than 80% of shoppers begin research for big-ticket purchases. Give them the information they seek, on their own time and in various smart platforms, to serve up the kind of online experience traditionally found on giant eCommerce websites. 

From chat-to-text tools and interactive quizzes that match them with their ideal products to realistic virtual tours, smaller companies can now successfully access sophisticated technology once only available to corporations with deep pockets and a huge marketing team. Barratt says customizing his website experience with AI-driven website conversion software makes it more compelling for consumers to use. 

“That’s what excites me right now. This kind of technology allows young companies like ours to get out ahead and find great new tools,” Barratt says. “We can’t sit on our laurels.”

T: Train Your Sales Team to Manage Leads Better to Increase Sales

Follow up an engaging web experience with personalized, timely emails or texts geared toward that shopper’s personal interests and online research to build brand loyalty and persuade that customer to come in for a visit in person. With a website connected to an AI-driven marketing cloud, you can automate that process to make the lead follow-up process more efficient and effective.

“I want that email to be waiting for them if they’re not quite ready to buy,” Gunn says. “It’s a tool to give the customer the confidence to continue on with the purchase. Realistically, the real benefit to our website is the support it gives the brick-and-mortar store.”

Almost any salesperson can increase their performance when given detailed customer journeys on specific shoppers who’ve already had several touchpoints with the company online, delivered into a connected CRM system that prioritizes hot leads and shows every interaction with a customer. However, it takes proper training and staff buy-in to make it perform as well as promised. 

Gunn says a good closing ratio for his salespeople is 30% and that the best sales staff work on getting that remaining 70% back in the door. “The way they earn the right to do that is establishing the relationship. That relationship probably started online, the way the customers are shopping now,” he says. “So, those follow-up emails and phone calls to the customer are super important. We’re not in an environment right now where we can take that data and be lazy with it, because the customer will punish you for that.” 

Walk your team through any new technology to help them become a smart marketer in the sales process and explain exactly how they can use the tools to increase conversions by improving lead follow-up. Regularly review data with them to highlight the numbers that matter most to your company and track performance of both the technology and your employees. With a trained team equipped with the right technology, you can increase the satisfaction of the staff, your customers and boost your bottom line. Sounds like a S.M.A.R.T. marketing strategy.