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An analytics roadmap for marketers

An analytics roadmap for marketers Eric Wittlake

Measurement and analytics: It is a topic near to every marketer's heart and mind. Some love it, some resent it, but we all know it is critical.

The problem is that too often it stops short. Results reporting and tactical optimization become the primary focus when that should just be the beginning.

An analytics roadmap for marketers

Knowing results is not the primary purpose of measurement and analysis. The primary purpose is improving efficiency and effective scale of your program.

The following four steps will keep your marketing, measurement, and analytics focused on improving your business results. Grab a pen and paper if you want, as there is an exercise that accompanies each step to help illustrate and solidify the process.

Step 1: Observe your marketing

You cannot connect the dots until you know what dots exist.

It is time to get to know your program and the environment around it. In order to do this, you need to know your program inside and out. For example, you must know:

  • Creative -- the call to action, color, image, message, format.

  • Media plan -- placement on the page, audience, site content, number of competing ads.

  • Delivery -- impressions, share of voice, frequency, flighting, clicks, click rate, interaction rate.

  • Results -- conversion rate, cost per action, brand tracking, social media reactions.

  • Environment -- major news, political and economic changes, competitors activity.

Ideally this observation is ongoing. This is an area where larger organizations with dedicated analytics staff need to integrate these facets into the full program, not just analysis cycles, in order to ensure they are connected to all the details.

Grab a piece of paper and write down 25 observations about your marketing program. The observations can be big things or little things. Don't explain them, simply note them.

Now turn the paper over and write 25 more. At this point, smaller programs may need to turn to reporting, creative, or newsfeed to spark additional observations.

For large programs, this exercise could continue almost indefinitely. There are a huge number of observations that can be made in marketing programs, and every one represents a dot that can potentially be connected. If you are not aware of it, all of the number crunching will not help.

With the nuances of the program ingrained, it is time to analyze the results.

Step 2: Analyze the results

It is time to start connecting the dots. The goal of analysis is to identify the connections between elements of your program, moving from what happened to why it happened by developing insights.

Based on your observations, you should have ideas for a number of potential connections to investigate. Your knowledge of the program will guide your analysis and identify connections beyond that which a pure statistical analysis, a focus on creative executions, or media placement would uncover.

At a minimum, your analysis should include the top performers, the laggards and trends, and changes in performance during the program.

By connecting observations like flighting, colors, or call to action (as opposed to specific placements or creatives) in addition to performance and outcomes, you will develop a much better understanding of the core drivers of performance.

If your observations did not include best and worst performers and trends in performance through the program, add them now to the list you made in the first exercise. For each observation:

  • Identify the connections -- What other observations are connected? What other elements of the program influenced it or did it influence?

  • Find the "why" -- For each trend, outcome, or result you observed, determine what the most likely drivers are, beginning with the connections you identified.

With these insights in hand, it is time to apply them and identify new opportunities.

Step 3: Identify opportunities

Once you have insight into why your program performed as it did, it is time to focus on ways to improve results. Starting with the insights developed in the second step, identify new opportunities to replicate success, and avoid elements that lower performance.

By building on insights into why a program worked, you can identify new opportunities and ways to optimize current activity.

In this step you need to identify two types of opportunities:

  • Optimization --What changes can be made within the current program, from budget allocation, to creative rotation, to media placement?

  • New opportunities -- Using your insights into what drives the performance of your program, identify new strategies or media and creative opportunities that are likely to perform well. Identifying these extensions is key to long-term performance improvements and scalability.

New opportunities should be at least half of this list. If all of the opportunities you can identify point to optimization within a program, you either need to revisit the underlying performance drivers and look specifically for ways to replicate them or your ongoing management and optimization has room for improvement.

For each of the underlying performance drivers you identified in step 2, identify at least one opportunity to optimize or extend your program. List the opportunities you have identified and ensure at least half represent extensions and new opportunities to test.

Based on the insights, you should now have a long list of optimizations and net new opportunities. Now it is time to get some perspective on where to begin and how much you can accomplish.

Step 4: Balance

At this point you have too many opportunities, and not enough time or budget to implement all of them. Similar to the advice in health magazines about what foods you should eat, individually each opportunity is good, but you simply can't do them all.

Over the long term, identifying new opportunities is critical to staying ahead of competitors and improving the scalability of your programs.

Prioritize your opportunities based on expected results and fit it within your overall marketing mix and scalability. Once you have priorities, select opportunities that cover a range of underlying drivers and continuing your testing and insights.

Consider the timeline, cost, and potential return (including the value of testing and developing new insights) of the opportunities identified in exercise 3. Then, grade opportunities into A, B, C, D, and F groups.

From your A and B graded opportunities, select a range of opportunities to test, paying particular attention to the opportunities aligned with performance drivers that come up consistently in exercise 2. These are generally the opportunities that you can build on and continue scaling.

The opportunities selected should fit within your overall marketing mix, be significantly different from each other and existing elements of the campaign, and have a high expected return.

You now have a plan built up from analysis and insights that should improve your results and increase the scalability of your marketing program. This process is designed to make it easy to avoid some of the most common pitfalls in reporting and analysis.

Pitfalls to avoid

Here are three common pitfalls to watch for and avoid in your analysis:

Optimize to best performing elements
Your focus on the best performing elements of your program should be about replicating those elements, not narrowing down your program so much as to only include them. When you focus on why parts of the program work well, you open up opportunities to test and expand.

Focusing on the marketing results
Ultimately, marketing must move the business forward. If your marketing results are improving but the underlying business results are not, you are using metrics to tell lies.

Always increasing quantity
Both quantity and quality need to be measured together, and they are often at odds with each other. The metrics you use need to include a balance of quantity and quality measurements. This simple framework for online media metrics is a good starting point to identifying appropriate metrics.

In summary
By focusing on understanding your program and identifying new opportunities -- rather than monitoring and measuring performance -- you will continue to improve both the efficiency and scalability of your marketing programs.

Eric Wittlake is head of media at Babcock & Jenkins and blogs about modern B2B marketing at B2B Digital Marketing.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"An image of a running track" image via Shutterstock.

Eric is a marketing strategist and the head of media at Babcock & Jenkins, where he works primarily with enterprise B2B marketers. He is also blogs about content, social and digital marketing for B2B on his personal B2B Digital Marketing...

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