Many laypersons and marketing professionals choose to look at different metrics when evaluating various different types of digital marketing campaigns. It’s important that business owners and managers and their marketing specialists (whether in-house, or an outside agency) are looking at the same Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) when determining if a campaign is successful.
The first reaction of many is to look at sales. While order volume and revenue are crucial to the success of a business, they won’t necessarily tell you if your marketing is going well. Marketers can drive you high-quality prospects all day, leading the proverbial “horse to water”, but they can’t necessarily make the horse drink the water, or in this case, make people buy from you.
Dozens of factors can dissuade shoppers from making a purchase. For instance, if your product or shipping pricing are not competitive, there may be nothing wrong with your marketing campaign, you may be getting plenty of potential shoppers from your marketing campaigns – you’re just not closing the sales. You may need to fix other issues causing potential shoppers to jump ship, like issues with your website hosting account. Marketers can’t account for these types of anomalies, or bigger problems, like an economic downturn, or seasonal shifts. Even the best marketers are unlikely to convince people to buy space heaters during a heatwave.
This doesn’t mean that we ignore sales, we just don’t use them to determine if we’re doing a good job at marketing. We instead look at 3 things:
Marketing is a nuanced mix of art and science, but to experienced professionals, it’s not magic. It takes a lot of “elbow grease”. We start by looking at getting the right tasks completed. In a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign, this may relate to things like keyword research, content writing, sitemaps, and lots of other relevant tasks that should be addressed. For pay per click marketing (PPC), we look at testing different ads, keywords, and other metrics. Every type of campaign has different deliverables. It’s always best to understand what work will be produced by your marketers and to get regularly scheduled reports in order to identify if your marketers are in fact doing what they’re being paid to do. If they are following the marketing plan that they’ve you’ve agreed to, at least you know that they’ve been proactive, even if there are still questions about the success of the campaigns.
Results of Deliverables
In an SEO campaign, we can track and report on how your website rankings have changed over time. If the deliverables have led to increased rankings for your target keywords as intended, then the fruits of our labor are pretty obvious. In a Google AdWords PPC campaign, if we can establish that your cost per acquisition – what it’s costing you in ad dollars to get a lead or eCommerce sale, then we can establish that we’re helping to improve your campaign as intended. There are similar metrics that we can look at for social media, email marketing, and other types of campaigns. If we’re optimizing your marketing to drive better results, then we’re doing a good job overall of delivering positive results.
It’s important to have timelines in place. With an SEO campaign, it will typically take months to achieve the desired results. With a PPC campaign, it will take weeks if not months of testing and measuring various parameters to work toward a truly optimized campaign. It’s a test and measure process in which changes are made, and then we have to wait to collect fresh data, rinse, and repeat.
If you’re investing in marketing, you should absolutely be utilizing systems like Google Analytics – a free tool from Google, to track the traffic coming to your website. These tools can anonymously tell you how website visitors are finding your website, and what their interactions on your website are like. If it can be established that targeted traffic is increasing from organic search, social media, or other active marketing campaigns, then you’ll be able to see the progress and understand what you’re getting. Furthermore, you can get an idea of what these visitors are doing on your site, and evaluate the quality of the traffic.
It’s important to look at data in the aggregate. Any business can experience a slow day. In marketing, while we can look at a short period of time, and might find something meaningful, we mostly focus on long-term trends.
We want to see improved rankings, traffic, etc., but these also need to coincide with good conversion rates. If your pricing is not competitive, you have a lot of negative reviews, your site looks outdated, is slow to load, or isn’t mobile-friendly, or you have other issues that are turn-offs for potential customers, you may very well need to simultaneously look at conversion rate optimization. This is the same process that brick-and-mortar retailers use to “build a better mousetrap”. For example, this is why supermarkets have fresh produce in the back of the store, and impulse buys at the checkout. A good agency can advise you on best practices, and make recommendations on what will make your website more customer-friendly, or even advise when it may be time for a full redesign or rebuild.
If you don’t have one team that’s responsible for both your web design and your digital marketing, I’d recommend having joint meetings or conference calls so that your various staff and/or vendors are working toward the same goals, and understand the challenges that you’re facing. Equally importantly, you should continue to play an active role in the decision-making process, and continually identify what you can do to help your marketing campaigns, and what business decisions may be affecting your bottom line. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to call in an outside consultant to audit your metrics, and help make sure that you’re in great shape. Even if nothing is “wrong”, they’ll almost certainly come with some helpful suggestions for how you can be doing even better.
Robert Rand – Guest Blogger – Vice President of Operations at Rand Internet Marketing
Educated at NYU Poly, Robert has managed the development and marketing of hundreds of websites. He helps clients take their businesses to the next level by employing best practices, while staying at the forefront of our industry. From technical issues to traditional marketing efforts, Robert takes pride in providing clients with services that will make a difference in their bottom lines.