Keyword data could and should be one of the most important sources for account planners, argues Neil Davidson.
Times are tough for account planners. Clients' budgets are tighter and their timings are getting shorter, but they still expect a lot from their agency. For a lot of planners this means taking on more projects, working faster and smarter - but still wowing clients, of course! Worse still, many clients have a different view on account planning; they won't just leave us to get on with it like they once did. Instead, they insist on meddling and having a point of view on planning processes and strategies. I've even had clients suggest that qualitative research is slow and expensive, and not always worth the investment of time and money. When did they forget their true role in the process - to be dazzled by the agency's thinking, thank us graciously for our work and sign off the purchase orders?
Digital really is changing everything
Or maybe it's time for more account planners to practice what they preach, to listen to what their own customers - their clients - are telling them. The world around us is changing for our clients and their customers. The rise of the digital channel has changed consumer behavior in terms of how and when they interact with brands, who has control in the relationship, how consumers search for information and how they purchase. For many consumers the next stage of dialog with a brand that's tried to engage with them on TV is on the digital channel. They don't obediently type in the URL from the TV ad, they usually start by typing whatever comes to mind into a search engine.
So, you'd think that what they type into Google or any other search box at these and other times would tell you a lot about what we all want to know - what’s going on in consumers' minds? I think so. I'd even argue that what's described as keyword data, the information on the words and phrases used when consumers are searching, could and should be one of the most important sources of consumer insight for planners.
It's time to re-evaluate old consumer insight processes
Let's be honest, focus groups can be expensive and time-consuming, and quantitative research sometimes delivers lots of numbers rather than true insights. Sometimes research can be about avoiding cock-ups rather delivering real insights. I'd managed to ignore this until I started working with the keyword data provided by one of the largest keyword providers, Wordtracker. The original use of keyword data was for search engine optimization (SEO), but don't let that put you off, because its potential is much greater than for just SEO. I soon saw keyword data as my secret weapon for account planning - as consumer insight on tap.
Better insights from keywords
Trust me, I'm no great data hound. I get other people to do the work for me whenever I can. But even I've been able to use keyword data. I've also been able to do my job better and more quickly, so I wonder why more account planners aren't using it. Keyword data tells you what terms are popular with consumers in all sorts of sectors and subject areas. It also tells you if any websites are meeting the needs expressed by those searches - pretty much what any account planner needs to know in terms of consumer needs — and whether these needs are being met. Here are some of the ways that I use keyword data:
To spot trends, identify market segments and niches, and to quantify opportunities for clients in terms of customers and revenue. (If you want some examples on how to use keyword data to do this have a look at Wordtracker’s Keyword Research Guide.)
- To support developing conventional research and developing stimulus and propositions for research, using keyword data insights as a starting point.
- To develop better creative briefs, particularly target audience descriptions and propositions. By understanding how consumers feel about a particular sector, benefit or product, based on their search terms, I can remove any guesswork. Even if I've got stacks of conventional research to support this, I usually find that real search terms used by consumers add depth and credibility to a brief.
- Supporting creative development and making creative reviews more effective. I can take a creative idea and compare it to keyword data results, to see if it's original and relevant or unoriginal, irrelevant and not connecting with consumer needs. Creatives can also use it to help them develop headlines and copy for ideas in any media.
- To help support the sell-in of a creative idea to clients. By using keyword data smartly it's possible to make debates about creative work objective. Really!
- To improve overall campaign effectiveness and the integration of channels in through-the-line campaigns. Digital is changing how consumers interact with brands and planners can help clients recognize this and what it means.
Keyword insights really do work for all media
Some people will argue that these insights are really only relevant to the digital world, but they can't continue to ignore that digital has changed things. Not only has it affected consumer behavior across all channels, it has also offered a new source of insight, which is in many ways better than what we had. Keyword insights are based on hundreds of millions of search behaviors, so they are robust. And there is no research effect because consumers are just doing what they would do naturally.
Keyword data opens a new window on the world of consumer behavior and attitudes, it's constantly updated, can be accessed around the clock and it often reveals unexpected insights. If that's not enough to convince you, here's something that might make you sit up and take notice - some of your clients have already started using keyword data.
This article was first published on iMedia Connection.
For more of Neil Davidson's articles visit his Wordtracker author page.
About Neil Davidson
Neil Davidson is a marketing communications consultant and writer with fifteen years experience in advertising and direct marketing at a senior level, in client and agency organisations, managing several major agencies and his own companies. He now works with several partners in the areas of advertising, direct marketing, digital marketing, narrative marketing and writing. He also teaches creative writing from time-to-time. Read his blog at Silver Darlings