Whether we’re talking about a new brand development project, campaign strategy, a user experience design project, or developing a strategic marketing plan, at our first meeting, nearly every potential client asks some form or another of the question, “How can you help me measure ROI?” And inevitably, our response is, “Well, what systems or tools do you have in place to measure it now?” I’d like to say we are surprised when many answer, “None.” or, “We have some Google analytics data, but no one is really doing the analysis.” But those responses are far too common, even among some of the best companies in the world, to be surprising anymore.
There have never been better tools available for marketers to measure customer engagement and actually tie that engagement to measurable results. But, like any tools, they aren’t very useful without a thoughtful plan on how, when and where you’re going to use them. So, let’s take a look at some basic planning solutions to help you avoid some of the common pitfalls and track your marketing ROI more effectively and efficiently.
Don’t confuse data with measurement
Most organizations treat marketing data like a Star Wars geek treats action figures. They like collecting it, but they have no plans to play with it. Collecting data is the easy part. The ability is built into most digital marketing tools, and getting an accounting of that data is as easy as clicking a link or two. Far too often, companies stop at the gathering. But understanding the business or customer stories that data portends means going beyond collecting the data, investigating how that data changes over time, and performing the proper analysis needed to understand why the numbers are the way they are and how your marketing efforts are affecting those numbers, over time. Which brings us to the next point.
Budget for analysis
The main reason we encounter why companies don’t properly analyze their marketing and web data, is that, even though they have spent tens of thousands of dollars on I.T. implementation and software licenses, the time or funds for analysis have not been accounted for in the budgeting process. Analysis, at least today, requires meaningful human intervention. And the more complex the organization, sales process or data set, the more time it takes to properly analyze the data. For most enterprise level businesses, that means budgeting for at least a full time senior position or the financial equivalent in fees to an outside firm.
Only measure what matters
“We measure everything.” A lot of businesses say that with pride. But in our experience, that pride is misplaced. Measuring everything simply adds noise into the system. Before implementing any analytics program, make sure you understand what measures matter and what available data you can ignore. Then craft your measurement plan around those measures and only those measures.
Put the right hooks in place
With the default install of any analytics tool, the data can begin to deliver a picture of what’s happening almost immediately. To make that data truly meaningful or actionable, you need to make sure the actions that affect your returns are documented and highlighted. Google has a great gallery of examples of how using custom tags with Tag Manager to create dashboards in Google Analytics has helped companies see the forest for the trees in their analytics data.
Define success in advance
Return can be measured in a number of ways. Directly, as changes in actual revenue. Or, indirectly, as changes in visits or conversions. Which measure is most relevant to you depends on your business and your goals. The point being is that you should have concrete agreement across your team regarding what measures you hope to move with your marketing strategy and what level of movement qualifies that as a success—before you launch your campaign. If you don’t, basic human nature may conspire against you and tempt you to call improvement in any metric a success—even when it might not be the metric you were hoping to move, or one that is materially important to forwarding your business goals.
Align the relevant internal resources
For most businesses with complex or extended sales cycles, tying campaign performance to business performance often requires data or assistance from a variety of sources. Sometimes that can be automated (like tying Marketo into a SalesForce implementation). Or, it may mean receiving something as unstructured as obtaining a leads spreadsheet from the Sales department you can use to correlate lead acquisition dates with campaign calendars. Even after you’ve created all the right connections for analysis, automated or manual, developing and implementing any future action plan based on the results of that analysis will likely require cooperation between departments. So, it pays to involve any relevant parties as early in the process as possible.
In the end, it's all about priorities
In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin quipped, “Never confuse motion with action.” Getting to a real understanding of ROI on your marketing efforts requires more than simply going through the motions of gathering data. You need to actively prioritize the data points in your measurement plan that align with the goals in your strategic business plan, and make sure the company is prepared to address any issues or opportunities revealed along the way.