Measure What Matters: Conversation Starters for Measuring Digital



Got it out of your system? Great. Now, don’t say those words again – unless you sincerely mean them.

In today’s marketing/business world, the idea that he who has the most data makes the best decisions is actually doing more harm than good. Granted, there are many companies out there wading through the data flood that are doing it with ease (and surprise, they’re usually based in the technology sector), but that’s not the case for most brands. I’m not a data scientist – I’m a marketer. I know enough about query strings, pivot tables, and APIs to get myself in trouble (and I usually do). What I do know, though, is that marketing/advertising/PR/customer service/[insert business group function here] have an obligation to report metrics that matter – not just to their group, but to the business and the business’ goals. Here are four ideas to spark your thinking about creating a meaningful digital measurement and reporting program. Note: If you were expecting to read this and get a list of KPIs to throw in a dashboard and call it a day – you’re sadly not going to get that. Each opportunity is different, thanks to different goals, data availability, and structure. Sadly, there is no one-size-fit-all solution.

Know Your Business Goals

Fans are a great stat, if you’re a baseball team and you’re looking at how successful you are. Likewise, if you’re running a Broadway show, you want to make sure you have as many people in the theatre every night as is humanly possible. It’s not the same for brands. Brands’ business goals can range from the incredibly tactical “Sell 5,000,000 laptops this Christmas,” to the fluffy “be the most-loved mobile device maker in the world.” Each of those are great in their own right, but there aren’t really marketing metrics that directly tie to them – and there shouldn’t be.

If your business goal is to sell 5,000,000 laptops at Christmas, you’re probably going to look at measuring clicks on links, site traffic, and conversions – but you’re not going to be too concerned with buzz or sentiment, as long as those laptops are getting from the assembly line to under someone’s Christmas tree.

If you’re aiming for the slightly more fluffy “be the most loved mobile device maker in the world,” you’re probably more concerned with measuring sentiment online, positive buzz, number of complaints, and scores from your customer service team. The point here is, you have to know and agree on business goals before you go collecting digital metrics, as trying to make them fit when going the other way can be messy.

Measureable Should Equal Actionable

If you can’t do something based off the insights your teams create around reporting, what’s the point? I use the words “Actionable Insights” with my teams and clients. Yes, that campaign got a bazillion and three impressions, but what did we learn? The learning wasn’t that we got a bazillion and three impressions, but that people reacted positively to ads that contained a blue background 3x better than images with an orange background – so we should create more images with blue backgrounds. That’s something that our creative/content team can immediately start doing once they read the report.

I like to end reports with a “Three Things to Do by Tomorrow” slide that gives people very clear marching orders – whether those are optimizations or net-new tactics. Doing this gets people thinking in terms of “what did we learn that we can action right away to save money and be more effective.”

Automate What You Can

APIs and automated downloads are your friend. They’re also the friend of your reporting and measurement teams. If they can spend less time clicking download, that means they have more time to analyse the data, working toward that idea of Actionable Insights.

While we’d all like to have custom-built tools plugged into APIs-a-plenty, that’s simply not possible for many marketers. What is possible, though, is creating regular reporting using automatic downloads – and using tools to help where networks don’t have the options.

The time you save will most likely outweigh the costs associated with automated data and report delivery, but more importantly, it frees your teams up to focus on objectives.

Forget Everything Else

This is probably the hardest bit, quite honestly. Once you set your framework, you need to let it run for a while so you can see what’s working and what isn’t. When you start bolding things on, taking things off, and augmenting existing pieces you eventually end up right back where you started – with a jumble of numbers and insights that don’t match up, don’t show change over time (because you keep changing), and don’t necessarily level up to business goals.

Making a concerted effort to measure and report on the pieces that matter not only to your specific area of the business, but wider business goals means less time and effort on your part and savings for the company in the way of data licensing/storage/tools/etc.

I once had a client that paid a company to essentially search the internet for mentions of their brand and hand score (because things like Crimson Hexagon didn’t exist yet) posts to let them know the mix of positive, negative, and neutral comments. So, every month the client got their numbers, read verbatim examples… and then continued doing exactly what they were doing. What was the point? The number had become nothing more than a check box on a review sheet – not actionable.

Note: I don’t mean to just go heads-down, but you do need to actually start measuring/reporting at some point – and that takes turning off the big data info flow for a bit.

At The End of the Day…

CEOs of large companies don’t keep track (or at least I hope not) of how many Facebook fans they have. If marketers can start thinking in terms of overarching goals and how what they’re doing contributes to those goals, that’s a good first step. The amount of data out there won’t get smaller anytime soon, so it’s up to us to fight for streamlined processes where possible and to help push for better understanding about metrics that really matter.


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