How Numbers Lead Us Astray So Easily

Frogs, fish, dogs, spiders, hyenas, chimps and others in the animal kingdom all have an innate ability for counting. But we humans are easily fooled by numbers, especially when they’re presented in context. Learning to exploit the power of context can pay off big for marketers, but at the same time, marketers need to be careful not to be fooled themselves.

numbers
Creative Commons license. | Credit: Pixabay by fotoblend

Frogs, fish, dogs, spiders, hyenas, chimps and others in the animal kingdom all have an innate ability for counting. But we humans are easily fooled by numbers, especially when they’re presented in context. Learning to exploit the power of context can pay off big for marketers, but at the same time, marketers need to be careful not to be fooled themselves.

Consider the example of the Economist subscription offer discussed by Dan Ariely in his book “Predictably Irrational.” Ariely duplicated this subscription offer with a group of 100 MBA students:

Chuck McLeester Chart 1
Credit: Chuck McLeester

Which would you have chosen?

Repeating the exercise without the “decoy” offer of the print only subscription yielded the following results:

Chuck McLeester Chart 2
Credit: Chuck McLeester

Which would you have chosen this time? Clearly, context will fool us into perceiving the value of offers differently.

Fish are not so easily fooled.

“Small fish benefit from living in schools, and the more numerous the group, the statistically better a fish’s odds of escaping predation. As a result, many shoaling fish are excellent appraisers of relative head counts. Three-spined sticklebacks are … able to tell six fellow fish from seven, or 18 from 21 — a comparative power that many birds, mammals and even humans might find hard to beat.” Beastly Arithmetic, NYTimes Feb 6 2018

Psychology-based marketing expert Jeanette McMurtry says,

“When marketers discover the inconsistencies and irrationalities about how consumers make choices, they can create messaging that engages consumers’ minds, both conscious and unconscious. When that happens, there’s a lot more to ‘count’ when it comes to sales, revenue, ROI and lifetime value.”

One of the reasons we’re so easily tricked by numbers is our reliance on verbal intuition. In his book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” Daniel Kahneman provides several illustrations of how our intuition gets in the way of arithmetic when we’re presented with numerical problems in a verbal context. What is your initial response to Kahneman’s word problem?

  • A ball and a bat cost $1.10
  • The bat costs one dollar more than the ball.
  • How much does the ball cost?

You would not be alone if your initial response was 10 cents. But you would be wrong. Because if the ball cost 10 cents and the bat costs one dollar more than the ball then the total cost would be $1.20.

Consider how you might take advantage of people’s intuitive responses when constructing offers, but don’t let your own intuition get in the way of making decisions. Sometimes marketers are fooled by test results because they look for cause and effect in results that could easily have happened randomly. If you’re testing creative variations with samples of 25,000 impressions and your usual clickthrough rates are in the range of 1 percent (which yields a results pool of about 250 clicks), you should know with that sample size and that average response rate, your results can vary by 10 percent. So, statistically there’s a 90 percent chance that you could have gotten 225 clicks or 275 clicks. Yet, if you got both those extremes in an A/B test, it would be easy to conclude that one cell beat the other by a lot.

We are similarly confused by percentages. Psychologists Rochel Gelman of Rutgers University and Jennifer Jacobs Danan of the University of California, Los Angeles, have studied how often reasonably well-educated people miscalculate percentages. We hear that the price of something rose by 50 percent and then fell by 50 percent, and we reflexively, mistakenly conclude, “Oh good, we’re back to where we started.” Beastly Arithmetic, NYTimes Feb 6 2018

Feel free to comment with your answer to this percentage problem, or with any thoughts or experiences you have on using consumers’ proclivity for intuition over rationality to better your marketing efforts.

Defending Your Digital Marketing Budget

It’s hard to get marketing results if you don’t have a digital marketing budget. Here are three ways to position your marketing team to get the budget you need.

It’s hard to get marketing results if you don’t have a digital marketing budget. Here are three ways to position your marketing team to get the budget you need.

1. Data Matters

First and foremost, you have to track your activity so you can demonstrate what is working and what is not. Ideally, you’ll do this in ways that make sense to the folks holding the purse strings — more on that below — but at the very least, you need to demonstrate stability and growth even if you can’t tie your activity directly to revenue.

2. Track the Right Metrics

As alluded to above, there are metrics and there are metrics. Likes, follows, friends, subscribers, are all meaningful metrics in their own way, but they aren’t bottom line metrics. We refer to these metrics as process metrics and differentiate between them and the business metrics that will be of interest to those with P&L responsibilities.

In this we’ll include lead generation, lead quality and revenue attributable to your digital marketing efforts. The more top-line difference you can make — and demonstrate — the easier the decision is to continue/increase funding for your initiatives.

Don’t forget the other side of the coin, though: costs. If you can demonstrate that the leads and revenue you generate are costing the firm less than other channels and techniques, you’ll have excellent ammunition, even if yours isn’t the biggest producer of revenue.

3. Create Value With Your Digital Marketing Budget

The overall goal is to create value for your firm. Doing this requires a data-driven approach that, at its best, can stand alone as a significant source of new business for the organization.

That can be a high bar, depending on both your industry and your organization. You can still create lasting value if your initiatives have a strong positive impact on your organization’s sales team. You’re safer if you can produce revenue, but if you can produce demand that the sales team converts, your budget is safe. (And as we noted above, if you can document that the demand you produce converts more consistently than other sources, your case becomes that much stronger.)

If you find yourself lagging behind either of these benchmarks, it may be time to proactively approach the executives responsible for your budget, swallow hard, own up to your shortcomings and seek buy-in on a plan to improve performance.

That’s no easy conversation, but it certainly beats watching your department die a slow death as it is starved of the resources it needs to be anything other than a service bureau, fulfilling requests for marketing communications materials. That’s the point at which you and your team become expendable. Creating value is an imperative for relevance — and survival.

What Do Customers Really Want? Google Analytics Can Help You Find the Answers

Do you truly know your online customers? If you answered “yes” but don’t use Google Analytics, then you might easily be mistaken. Your website might bring in quantifiable numbers of customers — and it could be responsive on mobile devices while satisfying the basic criteria of good SEO — but what about the performance metrics you can’t see?

Do you truly know your online customers? If you answered “yes” but don’t use Google Analytics, then you might easily be mistaken. Your website might bring in quantifiable numbers of customers — and it could be responsive on mobile devices while satisfying the basic criteria of good SEO — but what about the performance metrics you can’t see? What about dissatisfied visitors who bounce within seconds, or the folks who fail to convert after placing items in their online shopping carts?

And what about the willing, eager shoppers who you’re completely missing out on? What if your audience doesn’t care about half of your blog posts, PPC ads or Facebook updates? It’s easy to get excited about new leads and sales from online marketing. Too often, though, business owners and novice marketers leave money on the table by failing to look deeper into their websites and marketing efforts.

In short, they fail to ask: “Am I honestly reaching my customers?”

You can find answers to this question with Google Analytics, a free service that offers near endless amounts of data about how people interact with your website. Follow the data, and you’ll eventually learn what your customers really want. Then, and only then, will your business fully benefit from your website and marketing efforts. Here, we’ll dig deeper into how Google Analytics can help you learn more about your customers.

Why Do People Visit Your Website?

You’ve probably heard the terms “advertising funnel” or “conversion funnel” thrown around. In marketing, “funnel” is the term that describes a consumer’s journey toward becoming a customer.

It might begin with someone searching Google for cheap men’s running shoes, then clicking a sponsored result from Nike and ordering shoes online. That said, funnels can also be more complex. The same person might see a blog post on Facebook written by a local running store. He then follows the blog and reads new posts over the next few weeks. Eventually, he clicks through to the running store’s website from a link in the blog post, and he ends up buying a new set of trainers.

Direct, Data-driven Marketing Increase Brand Equity

I may be a ripe heretical candidate to be barbecued at the stake by my more conservative direct marketing colleagues, but I’ve come to the conclusion that communications which enhance brand equity should be accounted for as such, and that this value must be part of and added to the data-driven marketing equation.

Opening Keynote - Dinosaurs & Cowboys: Direct Marketing Secrets Every Marketer Needs To Know Whether You Are Selling Online, Offline or Both
Direct marketing may be an older technique, but it’s relevant and adds to brand equity
Check out even more about personalization and artificial intelligence with FUSE Enterprise.

Back when direct marketing was a tribal affair and its warriors and their acolytes were constantly on the field of battle against the trendy “mad men,” it was a heresy to even consider that any marketing action that didn’t have a measurable call to action was anything but pure waste. The image purveyors had a monopoly on all of the glamor and all of the money. And they could laugh off that eternal question attributed to Lord Leverhulme: “I know half of my advertising expenditure is being wasted, but no one can tell me which half.”

Long before we had computers to churn all of the numbers, our DM tribe boasted that we could exactly determine whether the advertiser was getting his money’s worth by dividing the total advertising expenditure in each medium, or even each specific ad, by the number of measurable sales generated. When a campaign was running, the first place to stop when one got to the office in the morning was the mailroom, because that’s where the orders were.

Until the last decade of the 20th century, the concept of valuing “brand equity” didn’t exist. If you owned Coca Cola or Nescafe, what the brand was ‘worth’ was measured almost totally by the sales and profits generated in the marketplace. In 2006, “The Journal of Consumer Marketing” published an important academic article, “Measuring Customer‐Based Brand Equity” which made a compelling argument that “brand equity positively influences financial performance.” Even the most hidebound direct marketing professionals had to recognize this reality, even if they found it convenient to ignore it in their own work.
Recently, working on a project to present the results of a broad multi-media campaign to a company with the recommendation that it be expanded, one of the factors arguing for that expansion was an analysis of the return on the marketing investment (ROMI). The combined press media and digital campaign invited the reader/viewer to an attractive homepage, which both told the advertiser’s story and offered the next step in the journey — registration to receive a free series of ‘content’ publications and videos.

Peter's media response analytsis
(Note: In Brazil, where this article was written, in the templates, commas denote decimal points and ‘.’denote the commas used to separate thousands.)

Using the standard media response template, it was easy enough to put costs against each of the site visitors and registrants. For the advertiser’s $60,000, he received 5,300 visitors; and of these, 2,060 people registered to receive the additional content. Although it had been established by the client that the lifetime value of a purchaser would average $250.00, because there was no direct sale of the product (although one could have been promoted with an incentive coupon, etc.), the problem was how to show the advertiser what he had gotten for his money.

To value the campaign, we had to start with the concept that only a percentage of the registrants would be “buyers.” So we built a simple “sensitivities” table, ranging possible conversion percentages Peter's blog post chartand established the sum of all of the costs that would be necessary to effect the conversion, had the client wished to promote a direct conversion. Looking at the number of likely sales from the sensitivities table, even being conservative and saying that only 40 percent or 824 would become buyers, the cost per sale at $54.88 would be acceptable: a lower cost would be better.
There is an old saying that: “The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next.” If it were a direct marketing heresy in the past to ascribe any value to the frequency a consumer came in contact with a brand message if this could not be traced to a measurable sale, perhaps we ought to revisit this and, in our new digital age, this might be transformed into orthodoxy. That said, how can we reasonably and fairly determine the added brand value: What price should we put on each head?

Another Peter blog post chart

Economics teaches that the value of something is what a willing buyer is prepared to pay for it. If the willing buyer is prepared to pay $5 per thousand to send out email messages, then is it really a heresy to say that these communications have a positive value in conveying the brand message — adding to the brand equity — to the analytically selected audience? Note that in the campaign results summary above, we have valued the 20 million brand impressions at $60,000, almost the entire amount the advertiser paid for the campaign. Adding this to the hypothetical $206,000 of revenue earned from sales means that the ROMI is 3.9 times.

I may be a ripe heretical candidate to be barbecued at the stake by my more conservative direct marketing colleagues, but I’ve come to the conclusion that communications which enhance brand equity should be accounted for as such, and that this value must be part of and added to the data-driven marketing equation.

Learn even more about the convergence of technology and branded content at the FUSE Enterprise summit. Artificial intelligence and personalization will be featured among many other techniques and technologies.

The Battle Between Macro and Micro Marketers

Reading first-quarter reports from a variety of companies, not surprisingly, everything was focused on the “macro” numbers. The totals. Total sales and revenue, total costs, total number of employees, total ROI. That’s what the analysts and shareholders say they want to see. Don’t bother them with “micro” details: These just get in the way of the “big picture” and anyway, it is about time for lunch.

marketers battleReading first-quarter reports from a variety of companies, not surprisingly, everything was focused on the “macro” numbers. The totals. Total sales and revenue, total costs, total number of employees, total ROI. That’s what the analysts and shareholders say they want to see. Don’t bother them with “micro” details: These just get in the way of the “big picture” and anyway, it is about time for lunch.

There is no question that the big picture is important. But all macros are the sum of lots of little micros; and especially, the health of data-driven marketing businesses is determined by the optimization of each of these micro details. When they are summed together, they produce averages. And it is no secret that average is the most dangerous word in all of marketing — especially our data-driven kind.

Imagine 10 men sitting at a bar having a beer. The net worth of five of them is $250,000 and the net worth of the other five is $350,000. It is easy to calculate that $300,000 is the average net worth of the men in the bar. But now another thirsty fellow comes into the bar and orders a beer. His name is Bill Gates and his net worth is measured in billions. Now what’s the average net worth of the men in the bar?

It is perhaps a silly example, but if you are a marketing professional, you know that in working to define the income range of your target audience, the distorted figure you get when Mr. Gates’s net worth is averaged with those of the other men in the bar, it makes the “average” totally useless from a marketing point of view.

Like so many other things in today’s increasingly digital world, fortunately fewer and fewer marketing professionals are talking about average when they have a cornucopia of metrics that invite us to look at each specific person. The end of average is upon us, and we shall not be sorry to see it go.

And yet, even when we operate at a micro level, valuing each action or combination of actions, we can sometimes overlook the proverbial forest for the trees.

Especially if we have a big success, one of the easiest things in the world is to become complacent about it. That’s the direct opposite of “optimization.” Let’s call it lazy minimization.

Recently, a client, working to develop just how much marketing money he could afford to spend in each available medium and the optimum mix, challenged one of the golden rules I had laid down for the use of the Allowable Cost per Order (ACPO) model — never spend more than the ACPO.

The ACPO Methodology is explained in detail in the e-book “Profiting from the Magic of MarketingMetrics,” available from Target Marketing. For a free, short “How to Calculate the ACPO” presentation, just email “ACPO, Please” to pjrosenwald@gmail.com.

Turning away from his computer screen, he posed a very simple question, one that I should have asked myself years ago: “If you never spend more than the ACPO, are you optimizing your profit, or are you just playing it safe?”

While there is certainly nothing wrong with being “safe,” it is hardly the way to drive maximum growth.

When we ranged the different media cells from the lowest cost per order (CPO) to the highest and concentrated on the effect on the cumulative profit, we received a compelling message that our historic focus on not allowing the ACPO to be exceeded was detrimental to profit. I’m still kicking myself for not having asked and answered that question years ago.

Peter's ACPO chart

It’s all in the numbers. Had we eliminated all CPO cells higher than the ACPO of $265, we would have had 707 fewer sales and, therefore, less market share — a shortfall of 35 percent. But we would have spent $248,313 — a savings of $323,337, or 43 percent. That had always struck me as the best strategy.

But in asking the “optimum profit” question, my colleague had opened the door to a whole new way of seeing. Because, as you can easily see in the illustration, the optimum cumulative profit of $429,508 comes with the 13th cell at a CPO of $441, compared to the ACPO of $265. If optimum profit is really the name of the game, which it usually should be, then cutting off at the ACPO would be the wrong strategy.

We see this kind of aggressive thinking more and more and it is exciting. What we see less of, especially in SMBs, is a willingness to grasp the fact that however well things are going today, they could be improved if only management would abandon complacency with the “good” and focus on making it “better.” If only they would insist on getting inside the big macro numbers and look at the micros.

In today’s world, if the aggressive collection and use of the right micro data isn’t part of the core business case of an entrepreneurial company, something vital is missing.

Endit …

6 Tips for Interpreting Content Marketing KPIs

In my last post, I addressed the metrics that should be a part of your content marketing KPIs. Today, I’d like to dive into what to look for in the marketing metrics you are measuring.

content marketing KPIsIn my last post, I addressed the metrics that should be a part of your content marketing KPIs. Today, I’d like to dive into what to look for in the marketing metrics you are measuring.

1. Think Motion Pictures, Not Snapshots

Perhaps the most important concept you can take away from this column is the truth that although data points can be valuable individually, you’ll gain the most insight from your KPIs by tracking them over time.

This will generally give you a more accurate picture of the health of your online marketing efforts since the trends can help you filter out more of the noise. The shorter the period you’re examining the more likely something anomalous will impact the accuracy of your data.

Over time, you’ll see trends develop and you’ll gain an understanding about the metrics where small changes are important and the metrics where even wild swings aren’t cause for alarm or celebration.

2. Think About Context

Here again, I am suggesting that you not look at individual data points discretely, but rather as part of a larger whole. For example, seeing an important page on your site with a higher-than-average exit rate might look alarming, but it might simply be the nature of that page’s content combined with the fact that it is a more popular page.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try to decrease the exit rate on your key pages, but you probably shouldn’t be comparing a page like that to a low-traffic page that appeals only to a small segment of your overall audience.

3. Understand the Metrics

Most metrics are going to be fairly straightforward and easily understood even by those not already familiar with reading analytics, but as a marketer, you’d be wise to assume nothing, and work an explanation of key metrics into your presentation so more senior people don’t have to ask.

You should also make sure you and your team really do know what, say, bounce rates are and how they work. This keeps you and anyone who reviews your metrics from reacting to results incorrectly.

For example, we frequently see contact pages with bounce rates that are higher than the average for the site overall. Invariably, a client will ask about this – isn’t it a “bad” signal? In fact, it’s probably not. As you can imagine, a fair amount of your contact page traffic may be from folks who search for how to contact you by phone or email. So what do they do?

  1. They go to their favorite search engine and enter, “phone number for Andigo” or “Andigo email address.”
  2. They click on the link to your contact page
  3. Once they get to your page, they pick up the phone or send you an email.

That’s it. And that’s good. Actually, that’s great since it means they’ve “converted” and moved their relationship with you beyond simply consuming your content.

4. Looks For Gaps in Attribution

While we’re on the subject of contact points, you should look for gaps in attribution that open email addresses and phone numbers can cause. If your contact page simply has “info@mycompany.com” as a way to contact you, you’ll never be able to tell whether the email that lands in your “info” inbox is from the website or elsewhere. (To say nothing of spam you’ll be receiving.) Instead, use a mail form that can be coded to let you easily identify the inquiry as having come from your website and even feed it directly into your CRM, alerting the appropriate team members based on information in the form. (Zip code or area of interest, for example.)

Does Your Content Work? Advanced KPIs for Google Analytics

You spend tons of time making sure every word in your blog posts is perfect, but are you measuring the performance of these posts effectively?

Google Cabinet MCheck out even more about personalization and artificial intelligence with FUSE Enterprise.

You spend tons of time making sure every word in your blog posts is perfect, but are you measuring the performance of these posts effectively?

Whether you’re a Google Analytics magician or a certified beginner, GA is integral when evaluating the performance of any website (including small blogs).

For many just starting out in Google Analytics, digging through your plethora of data to unearth actionable insights is no small feat. To save your soul (and your time!) this post will walk you through how to create my go-to advanced segment: Engagement/Post.

This GA segment is simple, quick and applicable to any type of blog or business with content-focused KPIs.

Without further ado, here’s how you can take advantage of the unique segment I created to measure user engagement on my blog.

Kia blog post GA segment

What Is Google Analytics Advanced Segmentation?

Google Analytics Advanced Segments isolate specific types of traffic within your reporting views for deeper analysis. Segments essentially allow you to view GA data that follows your specified criteria. There are five ways to customize segments; by:

  • Demographics
  • Technology
  • User Behavior
  • Date of First Visit
  • Traffic Source

In addition to this list, GA provides the ability to program your parameters with conditions and/or sequences under the “Advanced” tab within the segment editor. This gives you the added flexibility of setting multiple conditions (which we’ll explore later) for your segments.

Using Advanced and Custom Segments in Google Analytics

In any view, segments can be found at the top of the screen underneath the header that contains the report’s name, your selected date range and the options for sharing. To remove/edit/share segments, toggle its settings by clicking the arrow next to each box.

kia blog post GA view

GA offers pre-set segments, such as:

  • Converters
  • Non-converters
  • Direct Traffic
  • Mobile Traffic
  • Etc.

Take a look at these later on, if you’re interested in using Google’s system segments.

Creating the ‘Engagement/Post’ Segment

My go-to segment, Engagement/Post, is unique because it gives you a refined look at the performance of specific content rather than an overall peek at website traffic.

Kia blog post Engagement/Post segment
Here’s how I define Engagement when creating the Engagement/Post segment

Next, you’ll create a condition that excludes traffic from your categorical website pages (example: home page, about us, etc.). Because it’s super-important to analyze these separately. This is because user intent and behavior varies, depending on where they are on your site. Bundling all activity without distinguishing between the pages that matter most is a sure-fire way to fudge up a good GA analysis.

Of course, this can all be done in a variety of ways without using advanced segments (think: filters, views, content groupings, etc.). But segmentation in GA is a foolproof way of validating this type of traffic data without getting your hands too dirty.

Kia blog post Engagement segment detail
Your GA segment should look something like this now

This advanced segment will allow you to better understand which content drives the most engaged users on your site. Compare it against other segments for best results.

Explore the Solutions Gallery

Kia blog post GA gallery

The GA Solutions Gallery is for those interested in importing dashboards, custom reports and segments into their own GA accounts. Essentially, this platform serves as a forum for sharing user-generated GA solutions.

The Solutions Gallery is perfect for beginners, because there aren’t any major commitments or heavy setup involved with importing. For pros, check out the GA Solutions Gallery if you’re looking for specific, detailed segments that align with common KPIs.

Feeling lucky? Upload or create your own solution to share publicly for reuse in the gallery.

Recommended Dashboards for Content Marketers

  • The Content Analysis Dashboard provides you with insights that help evaluate the efficiency of your content. The dashboard widgets show the pages that are underperforming or overperforming so you can adjust your strategy accordingly.
  • The Engagement and Loyalty Dashboard helps you analyze traffic growth over time to improve loyalty and engagement with your content.

You can also create your own dashboard in Google Analytics under the “Customization” tab. The tab is great for everyday GA users who wish to make shortcuts, craft custom reports and receive alerts.

Marketers, what’s your opinion on my Engagement/Post segment? Did you implement it, or did you find another segment that matched your needs in the Solutions Gallery?

Learn even more about the convergence of technology and branded content at the FUSE Enterprise summit. Artificial intelligence and personalization will be featured among many other techniques and technologies.

All KPIs Are Not Created Equal: Measuring Content Marketing

Too often, there’s an overemphasis on process metrics like page views, open rates and list growth (subscribers, followers, friends, etc.). This is understandable since these are among the easiest metrics to obtain and to interpret. The metrics that really matter — business metrics — get lost with the focus on process.

tape measureCheck out even more about personalization and artificial intelligence with FUSE Enterprise.

“If you’re not measuring it, it doesn’t matter.”

It’s hard to argue with that marketing truism — it’s just about impossible to know what is and isn’t working if you aren’t measuring your efforts and tracking your results. But what’s often left unsaid is that what and how you’re measuring matter.

Too often, there’s an overemphasis on process metrics like page views, open rates and list growth (subscribers, followers, friends, etc.). This is understandable because these are among the easiest metrics to obtain and to interpret.

The metrics that really matter — business metrics — get lost with the focus on process. Business metrics include leads generated, revenue booked and return on investment, and provide insights on your business’ health.

That’s not to say that process metrics don’t matter at all. Both business and process metrics are valuable. Depending on your industry, your organization and your approach to marketing, you can apply both accordingly to derive your best path.

Knowing that your organization’s needs are going to differ from others, I hope you’ll take these thoughts as general guidelines rather than edicts written in stone. The one inviolable rule you should follow is, “What would the C-Suite think?” Because ultimately, if your marketing is not producing results, something has to change.

Consumption Metrics

Despite the gray areas in process metrics, they are important to track because they frequently serve as a sort of leading indicator, providing a sense of whether your marketing is on the right track. Among the metrics you should consider here are:

  • Site visits
  • Email open rates
  • Subscribers/Followers/Friends

These metrics are not going to be numbers we worry about as individual data points, but as trends we track over time. The trends will be the most valuable in monitoring content marketing.

Engagement Metrics

This is another type of process metric that will paint a clearer picture of your marketing’s effectiveness. As with consumption metrics, these are going to be most valuable when considered over time.

They are also going to be quite valuable when broken down further: Are there particular pieces or types of content that are providing better results than everything else you’re doing? That’s the content you’ll want to focus on as a model for future content development. Use your highest-performing pieces to both create more content just like it, and to reverse engineer it, if possible, to apply whatever is working here to other, less effective areas of your content marketing. Some important metrics to consider include:

  • Pages per visit
  • Time per visit
  • CTA completion: download forms, subscription signups, etc.
  • Email clickthrough rates
  • Comments
  • Social likes
  • Social sharing
  • Email forwarding

Retention Metrics

Your retention metrics will help provide insights into other metrics. A slowly growing list might mean your progress is just that — slow and steady. Or it could mean that you’re doing a great job of attracting new subscribers, but a poor job of keeping them. Plugging that retention hole could be an easy fix for increasing your reach. Common retention metrics include:

  • List churn
  • Repeat visitors

Leads Metrics

Now we’re starting to get to where the rubber meets the road in business metrics. These are the numbers that the executives in the C-Suite are going to be interested in, particularly if you can track how valuable the leads you hand off to your sales team prove to be. Consider these metrics in your evaluations:

  • Leads generated
  • Leads progressed

Sales Metrics

Finally, we have the sales metrics, which are, of course, the ultimate metric. Are we adding to the top line, and are we doing so with a reasonable return on the investment we’ve made in our efforts? Use these metrics to help you answer these questions:

  • Leads handed off to sales
  • Revenue generated
  • Profitability
  • Measurement against other lead/marketing sources

As I mentioned, not every one of these metrics will be part of your KPI dashboard. But you’ll likely want at least one of each type of metric outlined here in order to recognize where your resources are best allocated to maximize revenue and profitability. You’ll need to choose the metrics that give you the best picture of your marketing today, and give you a high degree of confidence in where your marketing is heading tomorrow.

Learn even more about the convergence of technology and branded content at the FUSE Enterprise summit. Artificial intelligence and personalization will be featured among many other techniques and technologies.

‘Who Moved My’ Multichannel Measurement on a Budget?

There are several great enterprise data platforms that can put you on your way to algorithmic attribution, but many marketers don’t have the budgets to support that investment. So how do you determine which channels are performing best for you without relying on simple but unsatisfactory attribution methods like first exposure, last click or arbitrary weighting?

Who moved my multichannel attribution?[Editor’s note: Chuck McLeester is speaking during a Target Marketing webinar on Oct. 20 titled “Who Moved the Sales? Why marketing attribution is so crucial to track, yet so hard to do.” As a preview, he’s re-running his April blog post, “3 Steps to Multichannel Measurement on a Budget.”]

There are several great enterprise data platforms that can put you on your way to algorithmic attribution, but many marketers don’t have the budgets to support that investment. So how do you determine which channels are performing best for you without relying on simple but unsatisfactory attribution methods like first exposure, last click or arbitrary weighting?

Here’s a relatively easy way to measure the incremental value of each marketing channel to determine which channels are performing best so you can optimize your marketing mix.

First, pick a set of geographically similar markets — one for each channel that you’re using plus one to act as a control cell. Make them as closely matched as you can in terms of size and demography — so don’t mix big markets like Chicago with smaller markets like Waco. You also want to stay away from markets that have competing media — for example, Princeton, N.J., is exposed to both New York and Philadelphia media. Data from the Statistical Abstract of the United States and Census.gov can help you select markets that work for you.

Second, create a test matrix where one of your markets serves as a control, and the balance of your markets eliminate one of the channels you’re evaluating. For example, in the matrix below all channels are used in the control cell, and one channel is eliminated from each of the test cells.

Chuck McLeester chartConduct your test long enough to get a statistically reliable number of responses. With 250 to 300 in each column and each row, you can be 90 percent confident that your results won’t vary by more than 10 percent in a rollout scenario.

Third, examine your cost per response by market in a matrix like the one below. (These numbers are for illustration only and are not meant to reflect actual costs or responses from these channels.)

Cells that have a higher cost per response from the control indicate that the channel you eliminated from that geo area is valuable to you because it was lowering the average cost per response in that cell. In the example below, the geo areas where email, search and social were eliminated had a higher cost per response overall, indicating that these channels were important parts of your media mix. Cells with a lower cost per response from the control indicate that the channels eliminated from those geo areas were increasing your overall cost per response. In the example below, direct mail, display and mobile all had higher costs per response than the control cell which included all the channels.

Chuck McLeester measurement chartYou can do the same analysis on revenue and profit if you are engaged in catalog or e-commerce. The difference in profit between the control profit and the profit in each equally matched geo cell provides the incremental value, whether positive or negative, of the channel that was omitted in that cell.

Chuck McLeester money chartThis experiment has its limitations. Your markets will not be perfectly matched and external factors can affect your results. However, it will provide valuable insight about the interplay among the different elements of your media mix.

Finally, remember that eliminating different channels from your media mix will also have an effect on your response or sales volume. To understand how to best manage volume within your allowable cost per response or cost per order, check out this former Here’s What Counts post.

Who’s Winning in the Polls?

It depends on whom you ask. Really. It also depends on when you ask them. Over the next several months, the news media will report on poll after poll that shows either presidential candidate Donald Trump gaining on opponent Hillary Clinton or Hillary surging against Trump.

red and blue marblesIt depends on whom you ask. Really. It also depends on when you ask them.

Over the next several months, the news media will report on poll after poll that shows either presidential candidate Donald Trump gaining on opponent Hillary Clinton or Hillary surging against Trump. There will be polls on what’s happening in different swing states and among different demographic groups. How accurate they are depends on the methodology used, how the sample was derived and the margin of error associated with the sample size – not to mention how today’s events in the 24/7 news cycle can throw the results of yesterday’s poll into turmoil.

Many years ago, I remember playing with a low-tech exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia that was the best illustration of how sample size can affect the outcome of a poll.

My memory may not be entirely accurate on this, but the concept is simple. There was a box that contained 100 marbles: 45 red marbles and 55 blue marbles. You would tilt the box so that all the marbles ran to the top. Then, you would tilt the box the other way. As the marbles rolled to the bottom, 10 were captured in little cups — while the rest fell to the bottom. Sometimes, the cups captured more red marbles than blue marbles. Other times, the blue marbles far exceeded the number of red marbles. Do it enough times, and the blue marbles will eventually win.

Nate Cohn draws a comparison between polls and the national pastime in the New York Times:

It’s a lot like baseball. Even great baseball players go 0 for 4 in a game — or have rough stretches for weeks on end. On the other end might be a few multi-hit nights with extra-base hits, or a spectacular few weeks.

Sometimes, these rough stretches or hot streaks really do indicate changes in the underlying ability of a player. More often, they are just part of the noise inevitable with small samples. Taking more polls is like watching more at-bats, and you need many if you want to be confident about whether a candidate is ahead or tied.

That’s why baseball is a statistician’s favorite sport; it has a large sample size. Thirty teams each play 162 games in the regular season for a total of 2,430 contests. As the wins and losses converge toward the mean, the best teams win about 60 percent of their games and the worst teams win about 40 percent.

So be wary of placing your faith and trust in the poll du jour. It’s a long season.