The old adage goes, “you have to spend money to make money.” But as we all know – an important distinction is that you have to spend money wisely to make money. Not all advertisers spend their money in wise ways. Whether that means not being able to attribute success to their channels and tactics to learn and grow or not having a definition of success in the first place.
This is why a strong measurement strategy is key to both short and long term success. Without a clear measurement strategy in place, you may find yourself looking at your campaign in a year (or sooner) wondering what your dollars got you in the first place while having no meaningful results or learnings to show. No matter what you are trying to achieve, clearly defining your measurement plan will allow you to tackle the challenge and make the best, strategic choices for your campaign and ultimately drive business success.
Our teams don’t just develop media plans, we bring in our full selves everyday to stretch our clients’ dollars as far as they can go to achieve their unique goal. We try to think beyond data and technology to challenge the status quo and build upon previous learnings to continue fine tuning every campaign. Measurement is a topic I am extremely passionate about so when I was asked to share how I start every measurement strategy for this blog series, I couldn’t have been more excited to geek out over it. Below are the key steps I take with every measurement strategy that can help you hone your strategies as well.
What are my business and marketing objectives?
If you don’t know the problem you are looking to solve, there is no way to determine the answer. I always encourage my clients to identify both their business and marketing objectives. It is important to do both, as sometimes they are not the same. Sometimes there are multiple steps needed to achieve a business goal, other times media can’t actually be optimized for a particular objective.
Generally, the business goal represents the way a company brings in revenue and/or a grander vision of how they want to see the world. Marketing goals represent the steps your marketing will take to achieve the ultimate business goal.
For example, a business goal may be to drive YoY growth in sales, but you may have three marketing goals such as driving awareness of the brand, driving consideration of the brand, and ultimately driving first time trials of the brand… Again, while you could just focus on final conversions, it is important to consider the entire user journey and how you build demand for your product or service. Focusing only on lower funnel initiatives may prove fruitful at first, but building a strong brand is key for long term growth. The KPIs and tactics you consider for each of these are completely different, so this is the foundation for a good media plan.
What are my KPIs?
Your KPIs (key performance indicators) should directly connect back to your marketing objectives. If you want to drive website sessions or online actions, looking at impressions or CPM as your KPI doesn’t get to the heart of what you are trying to accomplish. Looking at the wrong KPIs can cause you to make decisions that ultimately hurt your business.
I always ask myself, when it comes to my KPIs, what action do I want them to take next? That answer ultimately should become your KPI for each marketing objective. Some goals can be answered directly by media metrics such as sales, sign-ups, and website metrics, but others may be more nuanced and go beyond what media can measure alone. This may be a time you incorporate or invest in advanced measurement. Whether it is a brand lift study, a foot traffic study, or a sales lift study – these studies can help prove out the value of media. We will be dedicating a separate post to advanced measurement later on in our series to help you understand the best times and ways to integrate this type of measurement.
How will I compare performance across time and channels?
Volume KPIs (impressions, site sessions, sales) have their place, especially when setting goals for your organization. However, it will be important you also establish a metric that is normalized despite the amount of spend/impressions so that you can compare performance.
For example, let’s say I said search traffic dropped 10% year over year. At first blush, you may think that is a negative thing. But if I followed it up by saying our total search budget decreased by 55% year-over-year, then this paints a very different and positive picture. The same thing can be said as you start comparing differing channels and tactics that have differing costs. So, as you build out your strategy, it will be important to determine how you compare both quantity and quality in your campaigns.
Quantity metrics are generally based around cost (cost-per-X). These are great for measuring efficiency of tactics. This removes spend as a variable (as budgets between tactics or campaigns could vary widely) and compares on more like terms to determine the best use of dollars to drive volume.
Quality metrics on the other hand focus on rates. This could be things such as video completion rate (video completes divided by impressions) or pageview rate (pageviews divided by impressions). This is similar to Quantity metrics in that it compares tactics with both large and small volume in a more similar way. What percentage of the time did the user do the desired action? This is important especially for lead campaigns where driving high quality leads is more important than driving cheap leads that don’t convert.
What performance do I want to see?
Once you know what you want to do and you know how to measure it, the next step is understanding what you will define as “performing well.” Firstly, it is important to understand benchmarks. This is generally defined as the performance baseline and what you can expect to see. Every tactic has different benchmarks, so it is important to take that into consideration.
Going one step beyond benchmarks is setting goals. This is the performance you would love to see in an ideal world. While it is important to set realistic goals that are achievable, this is where we generally push our boundaries and challenge ourselves. This is especially critical for campaigns that are based on conversions, as benchmarks are likely hard to come by, knowing every sale and conversion are different. If you clearly communicate your goals with your agency or team, they will be more likely to deliver results.
How will my creative strategy and media strategy work together?
Creative strategy that mirrors the ultimate media strategy is absolutely critical to media success. At True Media we work with both in house teams and creative agencies to ensure that assets developed follow our measurement strategy. This means that your call to action should be very clear (and directly related to your KPI). This helps ensure the consumer understands what their next step is and has a good user journey and experience.
What is new?
It can be easy to just keep doing the same approach every campaign with the same tactics; however, the media landscape is constantly changing. An approach that worked three years ago (or even 6 months ago) may be outdated, with new measurement solutions and metrics becoming available. This evolution ensures you are on the cutting edge and moving the needle with your marketing dollars. While doing this can take time, in my experience, cookie-cutter plans rarely outperform campaigns that regularly adapt and are custom to an organization’s goals.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Every campaign has its own unique challenges to be met, but no matter the campaign, these six questions can be the start of a strong measurement strategy that will align with business goals and lead to long term success. By defining success and understanding what metrics will indicate success, you can create a wise paid media strategy leading to overall growth for your organization.