Every minute in cyberspace, billions of digital events are taking place such as ad impressions, search clicks, online video views, mobile app usage, email opens, social likes, and re-tweets. In this fragmented era of digital media, how does an advertiser's digital team make sense of it all? Who's to say which channels should get a piece of your budget? What's your process for answering these questions?
The question I'm really asking is: What is marketing measurement's role in your organization? And what should it be?
Certainly the advertising creative gets the lion's share of the attention. Without a great message, the campaign won't perform well. Media is also critically important -- the where, when, and for what cost will the message be shown to prospective customers can't be ignored. Then there's the landing page and the website: If not optimized for maximum usability and effectiveness, the visitors driven to these properties won't convert. Finally, we get to measurement, where in many marketing organizations it is initiated at the end of a campaign to see what is or isn't working.
But let's rewind a couple steps. Isn't measurement actually a vital part of the process? And as such, shouldn't it be involved in every step along the way? Below I've detailed 11 areas where measurement enables highly impactful decisions for marketing organizations. You could be failing if you don't recognize just how important it is to you.
The campaign process
Before a campaign starts, measurement of previous marketing campaigns can absolutely point your media buying and planning teams in the right direction. Marketing managers often complain about seeing the same old publishers in media plans crafted by their internal and external strategists. Is that because they have concrete evidence that those partners truly perform well or is it more bottom rung marketing from overworked staff?
Data-driven marketing organizations have an edge over their competitors by not only knowing what previously worked, but also what previously failed. Sometimes knowing what didn't perform well can lead you to better solutions than trying to further build on already good performance.
Optimization approaches come in as many flavors as ice cream. Many marketers say they do optimization, but what does that really mean? Can you articulate what common currency your optimizers are using to compare, for example, your paid social advertising and your promotional emails? Are you confident that your recommendation to pull out of a particular publisher is the right thing to do?
This is where measurement is usually brought in. "How did we do?" is the question that needs to be answered. The problem is usually that your data teams have tracked a ton of things that make pretty PowerPoint slides, but how can you be sure they are using the right metrics and the right tools?
For example, email metrics include open rates and click rates while online video has start, stop, and completion rates. How do you compare those two together to know which one you should add more money to and which one you should cancel immediately?
Measurement as an ongoing partner
Marketing measurement should also be used between campaigns to help drive your organization forward.
Which publishers or ad networks are actually working? Where should you be spending your dollars? A new Demand Side Platform wants more of your business -- has its track record with your marketing budget proven its worth?
Evaluate team members
Do you need to hire two more analysts? Is your search agency doing well or do you need to find someone else? What about bonuses, promotions, etc.? Are you comfortable with evaluating your team on fuzzy math?
How much should you even be spending on online video right now? Did your first mobile app perform well enough to justify another build?
Provide creative direction
Which copy and images have been resonating with your audience recently? Can you continue to just build upon the current story or do you need to think outside the box? Marketing measurement can inform the creative team as well as the media team.
"What if" scenarios
How do you calculate how much more budget you need to drive X more conversions? What happens if you kill your email program at the end of the year? You have to cut the budget by 15 percent, where do you start? When you have a solid measurement approach, these questions are much easier to answer than without.
How can you possibly be making the right moves if your measurement isn't solid?
Measurement as a unifying force
Gets everyone speaking the same language
The best data-driven organizations move in concert with each other. If one team is focused on sales while the other is focused on click-through rates, then you have two teams with different objectives. In some cases, teams can be working against each other and not even know it.
All partners know how they're going to be evaluated
Your media partners want to succeed for you, but without a strong measurement approach, they won't know the parameters of success. Without a strong, centralized measurement methodology, the rules tend to keep changing as new metrics suddenly become prioritized.
Keeps stakeholders accountable
Why did that publisher get put on the plan again? Are they really that good or does your media team just have a good relationship with the sales rep? When your measurement is chaotic, other criteria float to the top as decision influencers. With strong measurement, everyone involved knows their role and can be held accountable.
Measurement can be the catalyst to help you de-silo your marketing efforts. It creates the currency that everyone can follow and build towards.
A strong foundation
It's not that you ignored measurement before, but once you realize just how many decisions are made by measurement, it becomes very clear how important it is to have the proper measurement in place. Unless you have a deep foundation of measurement that can deliver clear insights, you may as well be rolling the dice.
Are you okay with having sub-par solutions in any of the areas above?
In fact, if you're using a last ad measurement methodology or other less reliable proxies for success, you could be optimizing against yourself and hurting your campaign by turning things off that are really working and promoting campaign elements that have little incremental impact on your results.
In a recent internal study here at Visual IQ, we found that over 70 percent of all campaign elements (placements, keywords, etc.) had a 20 percent or more variance in ROI when compared to last ad measurement. That means that you upwards of three-querters of all of your decisions (under last ad) could be absolutely wrong!
The arrow analogy
When you fire an arrow from 10 feet away, if you're 10 percent off, the arrow still strikes the target -- even if it doesn't hit the bull's-eye. However, if you fire an arrow from fifty feet away, your 10 percent error widens over distance and you completely miss the target and the haystack to which it was attached.
This demonstrates just how important it is to have a very accurate measurement foundation. Once your numbers leave the page and are being used across the organization to drive impact various choices, poor measurement simply compounds already poor decisions.
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