What are the key areas that separate an ACE performance marketing strategy from a merely OK one? Here are my top eight must haves, a mixture of different skills, mindsets and approaches, that I think should be front of mind for everyone in the performance marketing industry.

Capitalising on consumer insight

1. Behavioural mapping

Knowing and understanding your customers’ behaviours and the factors that influence their purchasing decisions is key to developing a high performing campaign. This impacts everything from the commission model you use through to how offers and content are tailored to each channels and publishers.

Understanding when and how to approach your consumers should be the number one focus for an e-marketer. This should be done through a thorough and daily analysis of the available data. From Google Analytics to Experian Hitwise, there are many ways for an e-marketer to extract, analyse and map out the optimum consumer approach.

2. Efficient targeting

Addressing the users at the right time with the right message ensures strong conversion propensity. Publishers are addressing the increasing demand for user-tailored campaigns from advertisers with innovative technologies from multi-device retargeting and on-site conversion tools.

Clever marketing is all about moving the customer along the purchasing decision making process. This again comes down to understanding your customers and the key touch points that will impact the conversion. Adapting the content according to the different stages of the buying process is as crucial. Know your audience, know your contact points and pitch your content right.

3. Consumer engagement

The real value of a consumer cannot only be measured in terms of basket value or cost per sale. Actually this is merely of interest. Consumers’ value should be mapped out not only in monetary terms but above all in lifetime value terms, encompassing brand loyalty and “brand ambassadorship”, hence the importance of engaging with your consumers.

This is a challenge for most advertisers in the versatile online space where users are constantly over-stimulated. Focusing on enhancing the consumer experience and making an adequate use of social, email and content will make the difference in unleashing your consumers’ lifetime value.

Executing smart campaigns

4. Maximising the reach

Online shopping involves a complex process of steps and triggers until a conversion is made. Users browse, search, review, play, like, share, compare using different paths, devices and channels. Brands should therefore address this complex system by cleverly accompanying the users throughout this journey in a timely and relevant manner.

From basket abandonment, dual-screening and geo-fencing there’s plenty of technologies and platforms available to ensure your strategy is diverse enough to cover all bases.

5. Trigger the conversion

This may sound obvious but strong campaign should be addressing the consumers’ expectations. Too many times do I see advertisers running promotional campaigns as a response to poor internal business results, hoping it will boost the numbers, but this is getting the wrong end of the stick. What do your consumers want? What would help trigger the conversion? These are the questions that will help you build a strong proactive and converting campaign.

When talking about enhancing conversion, running incentives and promotions is the most obvious tactic. But again adapting your advertising approach to the mindset the users are likely to find themselves in at the different stages of the process would be the first step I’d recommend taking.

6. Importance of content

As the end of the day it all comes down to content. That is to say what is given to the users to interact with. From my experience, it is something that advertisers very often undervalue in favour of more effort being spent on securing good exposure. But there’s no need for exposure if the messaging leaves the users with little or no interest in your brand. Tailoring the content to the different channels and touch points within those channels will ensure optimum campaign efficiency.

Speaking about content, I’d like to stress the value of working with content sites whether you are running display, affiliate, PPC or social campaigns. Advertisers are often put off by the small volume these sites generate, but there are myriads of blogs and niche sites out there with rich content and strongly engaged audiences which are absolute gold mines. A good starting point would simply be to send around content-focused communications. This will help them to write about you brand and products.

Monitoring performance

7. Measuring performance

No strong online strategy comes without good measurement. Everything can be tracked and data is readily accessible, but what really makes the difference is the way you make use of it. Attribute value to the different touch points by looking at what you want to achieve, whether it’s acquiring new consumers or pushing particular products.

To me one of the biggest challenges that the industry faces at the moment is being able to measure performance beyond the last click and reveal the true value of each touch point and how they interact with each other. This is particularly true for cross-channel and multi-device settings where visibility on incrementally is blurred.

8. Learning

Finally what I love most about performance marketing is the incredible amount of learning you can squeeze from each move you take. Digging deeper and realising a campaign that seemed unsuccessful does actual have a positive impact on your audience’ propensity to convert; or that a simple change in a copy’s wording can double your revenue through a particular site is truly exciting.

You can only learn more if you experiment and challenge your strategy. And performance marketing allows this because of its low risk disposition. So my best advice to ACE performance marketing would be to get creative, to test your ideas and to learn more from it.