My last two posts exam­ined the impor­tance of incor­po­rat­ing mar­ket­ing agility to drive busi­ness results within tele­com com­pa­nies. Shift­ing toward greater agility requires both large and small changes, both of which can be dif­fi­cult. Let’s take a look at one under­uti­lized tool and four crit­i­cal met­rics wire­less oper­a­tors can use to drive moti­va­tion for change while pin­point­ing places to improve dig­i­tal results.

Chal­lenge Your Frame of Reference

When con­sid­er­ing agility and change, I often reflect on my expe­ri­ence run­ning the St. George Marathon back in 2001. Since the race was my first marathon, I built a work­out plan after a lit­tle light read­ing about marathon train­ing pro­grams and set a con­ser­v­a­tive goal to fin­ish in 4:25:00 (more than 2x slower than the cur­rent world record). After sev­eral months of train­ing, I crossed the fin­ish line in 4:23:30 with a nearly over­whelm­ing sense of eupho­ria and accomplishment.

Later that same year, I joined a men’s out­door soc­cer league (I played soc­cer in high school and wanted to start play­ing again). The first game was a disappointment—I found myself run­ning my marathon pace the entire game.

Reflect­ing back on my train­ing pro­gram, I’d spent count­less hours run­ning at a 10-minute mile pace with lit­tle vari­a­tion. The train­ing unin­ten­tion­ally locked in my pace frame of ref­er­ence to a 10-minute mile (a high con­trast to the all-sprint work­outs my high school soc­cer coach put me through). You don’t have to be Arjen Robben to run cir­cles around a mediocre marathoner jog­ging slowly across the field dur­ing a soc­cer game.

Break­through Plateaus (Is 100% really 100%?)

Ath­letes often use inter­val train­ing to break through plateaus in per­for­mance. Dur­ing inter­val train­ing, ath­letes prac­tice run­ning at a higher pace over a shorter dis­tance than they can cur­rently sus­tain dur­ing their tar­get race dis­tance. Bench­mark­ing and trend­ing my marathon train­ing pace in com­par­i­son to my sprint pace on the soc­cer field would have cre­ated moti­va­tion, urgency, and the right per­spec­tive to adjust my train­ing pro­gram to include inter­val workouts.

Bench­marks pro­vide sim­i­lar lift for wire­less oper­a­tors by creating:

  • Moti­va­tion (we’re not where we want to be)
  • Urgency (the com­par­a­tive trend isn’t mov­ing in a pos­i­tive direction)
  • Per­spec­tive (uncover new tar­get areas and goals)

High growth and change in the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions indus­try over the last decade have pro­duced astound­ing results. Mobile oper­a­tor prof­its have dou­bled, fueled by leaps in device capa­bil­i­ties that dra­mat­i­cally expanded rel­e­vance of mobile devices to users—see The mobile operator’s dilemma. How­ever, as fixed and wire­less mar­kets con­tinue to mature around the globe, the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions indus­try is at risk of lock­ing in an out­dated frame of reference.

US Mobile

As an exam­ple, let’s take a look at mobile sub­scrip­tions per 100 peo­ple for the United States based on 20 years of wire­less sub­scriber data from the World Bank. Look­ing at the data, you may make the assump­tion that mobile sub­scrip­tion growth has started to stag­nate, just like my marathon train­ing pace. US wire­less oper­a­tors could con­clude they need to shift focus away from acquir­ing new cus­tomers and toward retain­ing cus­tomers, increas­ing rev­enue per cus­tomer, and cul­ti­vat­ing adja­cent opportunities.

vs UK mobile

How­ever, when com­pared to the UK where mobile sub­scrip­tions top 124 per 100 peo­ple, the data tells a dif­fer­ent story. While both coun­tries are see­ing sub­scrip­tion growth taper, UK sub­scrip­tions have reached a sub­stan­tially higher level than the US.

Are there unique con­di­tions in the UK dri­ving the dif­fer­ence? Sure, dif­fer­ences include mul­ti­ple SIM cards per per­son, shorter mobile con­tracts, and mul­ti­ple devices per user. Could there be a mar­ket oppor­tu­nity in the US to drive sub­scrip­tions to a new level? Definitely—just look at the jump in sub­scrip­tions in the UK from 1998 to 2000. Is dri­ving sub­scrip­tions to a new level advis­able? Probably—but cau­tion (and a broader per­spec­tive) is advised. Single-minded focus on dri­ving sub­scribers could unin­ten­tion­ally pro­duce neg­a­tive results, just like my train­ing pace.

Break Away from Low Conversion

Let’s assume for a moment that increas­ing top line growth by dri­ving new sub­scribers is a key objec­tive for your com­pany. You’ll get a lot of bang from con­ver­sion rate improve­ments since it com­pounds the effec­tive­ness of all the other cus­tomer acqui­si­tion activ­i­ties, so let’s take a look at con­ver­sion rates for North Amer­ica wire­less operators.

NA benchmark

If you’ve read Adobe’s 2014 Best of the Best Bench­mark report, you’ll imme­di­ately notice the aver­age con­ver­sion rate for wire­less oper­a­tors in North Amer­ica (0.53% on desk­top) is low com­pared to other indus­tries (aver­age for tech is 1.5% and aver­age for retail is 2.2%). While long pur­chase cycles con­tribute to low con­ver­sion rates for wire­less oper­a­tors (2 year con­tracts any­one?), improv­ing con­ver­sion does feel like an oppor­tu­nity for the entire indus­try. Don’t be lulled into think­ing these indus­try aver­age con­ver­sion rates are sat­is­fac­tory or 100% of what’s possible.

Here are a few places to start if you’re inter­ested in tak­ing a deeper look at improv­ing conversion:

  1. Iden­tify the opti­mal con­ver­sion work­flow. For some wire­less oper­a­tors, the most prof­itable con­ver­sions may hap­pen in-store (try­ing increases like­li­hood to buy), so don’t assume you should drive up con­ver­sion in your dig­i­tal chan­nels irre­spec­tive of in-store and call-center chan­nels. How­ever, by putting data sys­tems in place to prop­erly attribute cross-channel con­ver­sion, you may find dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing chan­nels are influ­enc­ing offline con­ver­sion more than offline mar­ket­ing chan­nels. If you’re already set up for cross-channel con­ver­sions, give your­self a pat on the back and go explore addi­tional Big Data opportunities.
  2. Build con­ver­sion remar­ket­ing capa­bil­i­ties. Vis­i­tors leav­ing after ini­ti­at­ing the check­out process are highly qual­i­fied leads. With a few changes to the check­out work­flow, these prospects could be tar­geted with mes­sages over email, text, or in-app com­mu­ni­ca­tions. This is where mar­ket­ing agility pays big div­i­dends. In fact, Voda­fone Aus­tralia recov­ered 15% of lost sales oppor­tu­ni­ties by remar­ket­ing to users who aban­doned the con­ver­sion funnel.
  3. Include app con­ver­sion. While I haven’t included any app bench­marks in this post, a recent mobile matu­rity study by Adobe and Econ­sul­tancy shows more than 50% of mar­keters don’t know how app con­ver­sion com­pares to other mobile chan­nels. If you’re not mea­sur­ing con­ver­sion for your mobile app chan­nels today, you may want to check out Adobe’s mobile app capa­bil­i­ties.

Dan Barker’s blog post on con­ver­sion rates also pro­vides some great addi­tional advice around improv­ing conversion.

Break Down Inter­nal Gridlock

In addi­tion to con­ver­sion, dig­i­tal tele­com mar­keters should also include the fol­low­ing three bench­mark cat­e­gories and met­rics when assess­ing their cur­rent dig­i­tal per­for­mance and advo­cat­ing for change. Under­stand­ing how well your com­peti­tors exe­cute in these areas will help you pin­point oppor­tu­ni­ties and break the mind­set that your cur­rent results are “good enough.”

Single Access visits have been removed from engagement to eliminate users moving directly from retail sites to account functions, and percent of visits from mobile would be much higher if account management sites and functions were included.

Sin­gle Access vis­its have been removed from engage­ment to elim­i­nate users mov­ing directly from retail sites to account func­tions, and per­cent of vis­its from mobile would be much higher if account man­age­ment sites and func­tions were included.

You’ll note each bench­mark includes a mobile com­po­nent. For telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies (and espe­cially wire­less oper­a­tors), includ­ing a mobile per­spec­tive on all met­rics is crit­i­cal since the tele­com indus­try sees much higher mobile vis­i­ta­tion from users com­pared to other indus­tries. By incor­po­rat­ing a device spe­cific view, device-centric areas of opti­miza­tion become read­ily appar­ent. Mar­keters may also wish to dig deeper on the fol­low­ing themes:

  • Pen­e­tra­tion. Is the busi­ness sup­port­ing customers/prospects in key chan­nels and device types? (Areas for addi­tional analy­sis include per­cent of mul­ti­de­vice users and pen­e­tra­tion for spe­cific devices.)
  • Engage­ment.  Is the busi­ness pro­vid­ing the opti­mal expe­ri­ence for customers/prospects once they’ve com­mit­ted to stay­ing on the site? (Areas for addi­tional analy­sis include video engage­ment and time on site.)
  • Com­ple­tion. Are customers/prospects suc­cess­fully com­plet­ing key tasks? (Areas for addi­tional analy­sis include self ser­vice and e-support com­ple­tion rates.)

Get Mov­ing

Since my expe­ri­ence back in 2001, I’ve inte­grated inter­val train­ing into my run­ning work­outs with much more sat­is­fy­ing results both on the track and on the pitch. Bench­mark­ing can pro­vide sim­i­lar improve­ments for wire­less oper­a­tors (as well as the broader tele­com indus­try) by chal­leng­ing the cur­rent frame of reference.

To improve the short-term dig­i­tal per­for­mance of your busi­ness, use the bench­mark met­rics above to cre­ate urgency, moti­va­tion, and per­spec­tive; and be sure to incor­po­rate bench­mark­ing into the busi­ness results feed­back loop to con­tinue build­ing toward future success.

Do you have a bench­mark you feel is crit­i­cal to mar­keters in the tele­com sec­tor? Please men­tion it in the com­ments below.