We've all been there: We worked on an assignment where we had to create and deliver a digital plan that ran counter to our own best judgments. Sometimes decision makers are obsessed with certain tactics and make us "pound them to fit." Other times, people insist on vendors you don't think are the best choices.
Perhaps an even more common situation in which the metrics used to measure effectiveness for a plan have very little connection to what the program is supposed to do. Anyone who has had to report clicks for an awareness campaign knows what I am talking about here.
Such situations can be rather disheartening. Worse yet, they have our names on them. Accepting criticism for decisions you believed in that turned out to be wrong is one thing. Having to nail your trousers to a mast that you know has no sail is quite another.
But there is a way to drastically reduce the number of times this happens in our careers. By asking certain questions at the outset of an assignment, we can align the entire team to a set of smarter actions.
In other words, using questions to identify and "pre-sell" the sensible. Here are five simple questions you can use to get everyone pointed in the right direction.
What is the objective of the campaign?
Yes, bloody friggin' obvious. But when I ask teams what their biggest frustrations are, many say that all too often they must develop plans based upon confusing, contradictory, or unfocused objectives.
Real world example: How many times have you asked, "Is this about awareness, brand perceptions, or direct sales?" To be told it is all three? Obviously, all efforts have some benefit on every standard marketing dimension, but prioritizing goals is essential to drive real effectiveness.
Three objectives weighted equally is not direction, it's a punt. And it leads to crap plans that don't do anything well because they are forced to meet three different needs simultaneously.
If we force a decision on priorities, we can actually deliver results.
What digital measures align with the objective?
Note that I didn't say, "What measures and metrics are we using?" That is an entirely different question that may have nothing to do with the objective.
I think it can be really useful to go to your team meeting with a spreadsheet that lists all of the things you can measure on the left hand column and the different types of objectives across the top. Put a check in every cell where a measure offers a good indicator of changes against that objective.
For example, with direct online sales, the best measure is -- wait for it -- direct online sales tracked via site tags. Not clicks. Not time spent. Not video plays. Having the team fill in the chart as part of the discussion can be really valuable, because it makes people understand the essential connection between how we measure and what we are trying to achieve.
Now, if it turns out that regardless of the business objective the decision maker is set on a specific measure -- like clicks or sales -- we can at least discuss how the measure and the objective are at variance, and do a reality check on whether the stated objective is the true objective.
For example, one of the most common adages in digital is that "branding is important until the first reporting comes in. Then it's all about sales." I once worked on a client that had dreams about reaching and persuading a highly affluent audience. But the reality was that rich users were a nice to have, while lots of users were a need to have. If we had been real about the goal, we would have focused on performance tactics instead of purchasing a bunch of high CPM media in venues that attract a $100,000 audience. And quite frankly, we wouldn't have wasted $500,000 in the first month on ego instead of building the business.
What efforts outside of digital can we align with?
If future marketing efforts are to be digitally led, we need to lead in identifying and leveraging ways to drive more benefit from across the marketing plan. That means better understanding the scope, components, and timing of non-digital activity so that it can be reflected in what we are doing.
Silo-ization is something we yammer and wring our hands over. Let's start taking a proactive stance on the issue to demonstrate to clients and other decision makers that we are the solution, not another component of the problem. By understanding what the brand is doing, with which assets, at what times, we can align our efforts to maximum benefit.