If It Can’t Be Measured, It Can’t Be Improved: The Ongoing Case for Performance in Digital

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According to IAB, the share of performance-based advertising as a percentage of US online advertising revenues increased from 41 percent in 2005 to 66 percent in 2015. In performance-based campaigns, marketers must predefine key performance indicators (KPIs) based on customer goals, then plan media spend accordingly and design creative assets to help deliver on those desired KPIs.

A key benefit of digital media is the ability it gives performance marketers to analyze results in real-time and then immediately adjust any element of the campaign, including the media mix, if the campaign fails to meet client goals. Measuring marketing activity is a science that uses both marketing metrics and predictive analytics.

Challenges for Marketers and Measurability

Unfortunately, measuring results isn’t as straightforward as it should be. Standard analytics packages can’t always be easily configured to measure what’s important to marketers. While there are a lot of measurement tools surfacing lately, most offer metrics that aren’t relevant – and very few (if any) can accurately measure spending and performance.

To compound the problem, there are cultural problems within marketing organizations that make measurement even more challenging. Many organizations, for example, will not build a culture around measurement and improvement within their walls. They’ll fail to use past performance to set benchmarks, and worse yet, won’t allocate resources to keep an eye on their analytics. These are also likely to be the companies that react too quickly, rather than waiting to see if any changes are meaningful trends or just momentary hiccups in performance. Other companies may set unrealistic KPIs, driven by customer demands rather than what is actually attainable.

That reaction to customer demands is a double-edged sword. As better measurement tools enter the market, customers naturally want to know more. Their expectations for marketing activities are constantly growing, and at times it becomes a race to meet them. With so much pressure, marketers lose sight of their initial goals as they strive to satisfy their customers. The concept of real-time analysis rather than post marketing activity analysis creates new stressors.

Exposure to metrics may also make some clients skittish since the numbers in digital advertising don’t always look as flattering as we’d like them to. Some clients may be more risk averse and less willing to try promising new channels, opting instead to stick with what’s worked in the past. While it is important to replicate spending in order to get real KPIs, it is equally important to be open to new directions, even at the price of a new learning curve that might pay off eventually.

Which KPIs Are The Right KPIs?

KPIs, needless to say, vary from vertical to vertical and company to company. However, they can be thought of as a funnel in which a customer’s journey is depicted from the moment of introduction to a brand by the advertiser, to the act of purchase by the consumer. KPIs should indicate the various important touchpoints along that journey, as the relationship between brand and consumer grows.

How Important is Attribution?

Attribution models tell us which elements of a campaign contributed most to conversion – whatever “conversion” means to any particular marketer. Attribution can go a long way, but it is only as good as the marketer who creates the marketing plan, and the agency he or she works with. The more sophisticated the technology, the more capability we have to interpret data and make smart decisions.

We always want to optimize the marketing spend and identify the insights that have a positive impact on ROI. Marketers use attribution to make decisions that fit their marketing activities, and these decisions, if the data is used correctly, may change over time. A good example is the hidden data between the marketing activity and the data in a company’s CRM. A solid integration between these two can help interpret and identify behaviors and trends. The cycle of measurement (test-predict-monitor-analyze) is the basis for any good attribution technology.

Customer First, Always

Marketing technology is growing and improving every day, and with it, the opportunities for successful performance marketing improve. Global digital advertising spend is increasing at an annual rate of over 12.7 percent, and digital marketing budgets are growing at an even faster pace. At the same time, customers are expecting more personalized experiences from the brands with whom they choose to interact, and these must be measured and optimized. It’s important for marketers to stay customer-focused, even as they immerse themselves in data.

Keep in mind that customers will interact with your brand on various devices, so look at measurements from a cross-platform perspective. A holistic approach to measurement (versus a channel by channel view) can provide a more precise picture on customers’ reaction to your marketing activities. Putting the customer experience first, recognizing the touchpoints that drive them to engage and then optimizing to “do more of that” can only lead to measurable success.

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