Influencer Marketing Can Have Great ROI and You can Prove It

In my previous post, I discussed how influencer marketing will become a prominent marketing tactic in 2020. In this post, I would like to share what is working and what influencer marketing needs to do to become a trusted channel.

In my previous post, I discussed how influencer marketing will become a prominent marketing tactic in 2020. In this post, I would like to share what is working and what influencer marketing needs to do to become a trusted channel.

Designing an effective influencer-based campaign must take into account the objectives of the campaign, whether it is a product or service, and the length of the product purchase cycle. As a result, execution varies. However, a clear consensus is emerging that the most successful campaigns focus on co-developing content, where the influencers are given the flexibility to determine the right way to introduce their audience to the sponsor’s brand. In these instances, brands work with influencers to design content that interacts with their product or service in an entertaining or informative way. When done well, the influencer’s credibility transfers onto the sponsor’s brand. A great discussion on this can be found on Scott Guthrie’s podcast.

A Successful Influencer Marketing Campaign

One example of an influencer campaign that I really love is the Liquid- Plumr “Will it clog” campaign. In this campaign, Liquid-Plumr worked with Vat19 to create funny and interesting clogs for Liquid-Plumr to tackle, like a pile of gummy bears. For Vat19’s audience, this was completely aligned with their theme of creating entertaining experiments. For Liquid-Plumr, not only was it great brand exposure, but it also built significant brand trust among viewers. As the challenges became more and more insane, viewers were impressed with how effective the product was at tackling tough clogs. I recently had the opportunity to hear Bryan Clurman, brand manager for Liquid-Plumr, share the team’s experience, and the lift in sales he showed was impressive.

I assume Liquid-Plumr detected the increase in sales because it was an impressive viral campaign lifting historically flat sales. In this aspect, this case is atypical. Many influencer campaigns are effective, but struggle to show it. Ask a typical marketer working on influencer campaigns and they will confess their most pressing challenge is measuring impact. Currently, most common attribution metrics rely on the same pixel/cookie-based tracking that has been used for digital ads over the last two decades. While this method has some clear benefits, we also know that there is usually a non-trivial gap between actual impact and that which can be directly attributed using cookies. (Let’s forget, for the moment, that the industry-wide death of cookies has already begun.) In my experience, this gap increases with longer sales cycles or when driving brand recognition is the primary goal, as opposed to immediate sales. The further the sale is from the ad exposure, the greater the chance that direct attribution will be lost.

The Magic of the Middle Funnel

An important part of the total ROI solution lies in the middle of the sales funnel. Activities here are closer to the initial ad/brand exposure. For example, assume you are looking for a washing machine for a new home, where your actual purchase may not happen for weeks. While conducting research, you come across a recommendation from a trusted influencer. You interact with the content and may click on a link to the brand website. There, you might look at reviews and product features, but you are still not ready to purchase. These engagement activities have economic value. We know this, because as engagement with a brand increases, sales should increase. However, middle of the funnel measurement is often neglected.

While paying more attention to middle funnel metrics is one step, the other is generating more compelling middle funnel activities. If an effective influencer campaign leads to a clickthrough, can the brand extend that co-branded experience on its own digital property? Not only will that cobranded experience keep the viewer engaged, it is also great for ROI tracking. Even if pixel tracking is lost at this stage, a statistical algorithm can now be employed to correlate the increase in co-branded engagement with eventual sales.

The truth of the matter is, influencer marketing does not have a measurement challenge. Influencer marketing ALSO has a measurement challenge.

What that means is there is nothing uniquely perplexing about influencer marketing ROI. However, influencer marketing is still very new and therefore, the burden of proof is higher. As with all successful marketing ROI plans, it requires a focused approach that clearly defines the objectives and actively seeks opportunities to encourage measurable engagement.

Where Do You Start? Teaching Direct Marketing to College Students

What’s the best approach to engage college kids in understanding direct marketing? Principles first; metrics second? Or Metrics first; principles second?

What’s the best approach to engage college kids in understanding direct marketing? Principles first; metrics second? Or Metrics first; principles second?

I remember sitting in the parlor of a Catholic parish rectory in North Jersey while my wife was participating in a wedding rehearsal. The Mets game was on TV. The brother of a parish priest who was visiting from Ireland asked me to explain baseball. Explain baseball?!?! Where do you start?

Despite all of the professional speaking and training I’ve done in direct response marketing, the first time I taught a college course devoted entirely to it was last spring. I started with the fundamental concepts of media, offer, and creative. I had them write about each of these concepts from their own experience. We went over the various targeting opportunities marketers have online and offline. And at the end, we covered measurement and metrics.

At the end of the course, I asked the students to tell me what worked, what didn’t, and what should be changed. The most insightful comment was from a student who said:

“I wish you had covered all that measurement content at the beginning of the course. It made me realize why all that other stuff was important, and how it fit into the big picture.”

HELP!

Now, as I embark on teaching a course dedicated to Direct Response Marketing at Rutgers School of Business Camden, I’m looking for advice about how to sequence things.

Last year, when I bemoaned the lack of an appropriate up-to-date textbook for this discipline in this column, Dave Marold and Harvey  Markowitz stepped up and recommended the Fourth Edition of “Direct, Digital, and Data-Driven Marketing,” by Lisa Spiller. (Thanks for that Dave and Harvey; I’m using that book in the Fall).

What Do You Think?

Now I see the benefit of stressing measurement early. Even though I told the students every class that the coolest thing about direct marketing is that you can measure it, apparently the mechanical reality of measuring something like search engine keywords was not real for them. So:

  • Do I incorporate some form of measurement into every lesson?
  • Do I introduce a comprehensive measurement unit early in the course? (Spiller’s book does that early on, in Chapter 4).
  • Or, do I go full-on “math course” at the beginning, and thin a 40-student class down to 20 students after two weeks? (Just kidding).

Opinions welcome. (Actually, encouraged.)

How I Cut the Cord and Learned to Love OTT

Just how many months — no, years — does it take for a logical, clear-headed, money-conscious, well-informed consumer to overcome inertia, cut the cord in his home television habits, and move to OTT?

Just how many months — no, years — does it take for a logical, clear-headed, money-conscious, well-informed consumer to overcome inertia, cut the cord in his home television habits, and move to OTT?

I’ll let you know when it happens.

Yes, I’m one of those Americans — a dwindling number, but we’re still a force. Being charged a couple hundred dollars every month with our stripped-down, no add-ons triple-play (phone/TV/Internet) packages, because there’s no cable competition (in my building) and Spectrum knows it. We don’t even have access to Verizon or AT&T, or RCN, either. Such a dilemma.

Thank goodness for Mom and Dad. They don’t pay my bills. But they donated to me their Roku device when they upgraded their own TV sets. They also added me to their Netflix account as a gift, and now my viewing habits — finally — are changing. Scheduled television via cable at home is clearly on the wane. On linear TV via cable, I watch local news and live sports, mostly — and even some of that I can stream.

As stuck as I am in my ways … I’m about to go bold. And do the deed. Snip! (Well, we’ll see.)

In the meantime, advanced television is clearly on the rise.

“Ad spend on over-the-top (OTT) streaming video will increase 20% this year to $2.6 billion, according to a Winterberry Group study of U.S. ad spend data,” reports eMarketer. “Despite OTT’s surge, it’s still small — compared with the $69.2 billion that Winterberry Group estimates U.S. advertisers will spend on linear TV. For some advertisers, measurement challenges prevent them from investing more in OTT.”

A recent Direct Marketing Club of New York program included a panel of experts who parsed some of the challenges. With OTT, you have two worlds colliding — traditional television and traditional digital — and the user (me) has an expectation that online video, if I’m to watch it as programming, had best carry the quality of linear television. I even want my online video advertisements — hey, it’s ad-financed content on many platforms — to carry the quality of a TV ad, rather than a GIF. Still, I’m open to new ad formats here — I’m starting to enjoy 6-second ads, thanks to digital training. And I’m actively searching and browsing, often on a second device concurrently, some of it prompted by content and ads.

We Need Industry Standards …

What metrics matter to whom? Audience reach and eyeballs may coo the traditional TV media buyer (and seller), who simply wants those same or similar metrics digitally. And that may be fine for CMOs who live and breathe “passive” awareness, but addressable television’s real prize is data: user data, dwell time — and demographics — that shed light on a brand’s customers, one device or cross-device, and one view or continued view (start viewing a program on one device, and finish viewing on another) at a time. Here, “active” engagement metrics matter, such as clickthroughs, conversions, and attribution. These data drive the algorithms that target and tailor the advertising.

And remember the Big Data “ouch” when mobile, social, and local users flooded the market? Same goes here: “Data is overabundant, non-standardized, and non-harmonious,” said one panelist. We need to codify, standardize, and become screen-agnostic in our reporting. Certainly, people expect viewing on a TV to be different than viewing on a smartphone. Marketers need to know device use metrics to see how ad delivery may need to differ. Yet the user metrics do need to be agnostic — audience and engagement metrics need to be settled upon for the marketplace to trust, verify, and grow. That’s because in OTT and Advanced Television, “data is the most important ROI.”

I didn’t have to finish my blog at any particular time today — thanks to TV on demand, anywhere. Oh wait a minute, I gotta shut my laptop: the season finale of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” starts in 10 minutes, and I’ve been looking forward to it for two weeks! Inertia, indeed.

Toasting 2018 Silver Apple Honorees: In Their Words

You might have heard of a big event that happened last week in the USA. No, not THAT one. I’m talking about but the presentation of the Direct Marketing Club of New York’s 2018 Silver Apples honors. Here’s more about the awards, from the Silver Apple honorees themselves.

Silver Apple Honorees ballroom
Photo Credit: Edison Ballroom via DMCNY, 2018

You might have heard of a big event that happened last week in the USA. No, not THAT one. I’m talking about but the presentation of the Direct Marketing Club of New York’s 2018 Silver Apples honors. Here’s more about the awards, from the Silver Apple honorees themselves.

The Silver Apples recognize leadership, stewardship and business success mid-career in the data, direct and digital marketing field. Each honoree has (more or less) 25 years of experience, with matching achievements to point to … and all have additional contributions to our industry, community, mentoring and giving back.

With the assistance of newly named The Drum U.S. Editor Ginger Conlon, I thought it worth amplifying a few key industry insights shared by this year’s individual honorees:

Anita Absey, Chief Revenue Officer, Voxy (New York):

Favorite Data Story: “Back in the very early days when I was at Infobase, we were doing data overlays on customer databases, which was novel at the time. While working with a large insurer, doing overlays of demographic and socioeconomic data on their database, the profile and segmentation scheme that emerged from that work actually defied some of the assumptions that they had about the characteristics for their customers’ profile. The insights we provided them helped them make subtle changes in their communications and targeting to customers, which improved the overall risk profile of their customer base. It was gratifying to see how data could affirm or deny assumptions and enable our client to make decisions that helped improve the risk profile of their business.”

Measurement: “Hope is not a strategy. Your actions have to be data-based, not hopeful. Similarly, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Unless you have data that points you to the actions and decisions that are best for the business, you’re running blind.”

Matt Blumberg, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Return Path, Inc. (New York):

On Choosing Marketing: “The thing that drew me to marketing was the Internet. I had been working as an investor at a venture capital firm that invested in software companies. Once Netscape went public and people started figuring out the short- and the long-term potential of the Internet, I got very excited about working in that field. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the Internet is all about direct marketing. For the first several years of my career, I would never have described myself as a direct marketer; but in hindsight, obviously, I was.”

On Inspiration: “It’s several sentences out of a speech by Theodore Roosevelt called ‘The Man in the Arena.’
It’s incredible. It goes:

” ‘ … The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’

“I take it as the entrepreneur’s motto. It’s a beautiful passage that I have taped up everywhere.”

Pam Haas, Account Director, Experian Marketing Services (Providence, RI):

Overhyped: “Display and programmatic technologies are overhyped. It’s like the early days of email marketing: People just started sending millions of emails, hoping some would stick. The same thing is happening in display and programmatic. That part of the industry still needs to mature.”

Best Metric: “Right now, it’s the ROAS: Return on Ads Spent. I love that. For every dollar that the client is spending, we know that we are driving X number of dollars in sales.”

Career Advice: “Diversify. In marketing, there are so many different angles and specialties that you can focus your career on. Throughout my career, I’ve [been] able to gain experience in multiple facets of marketing: direct response, email technology, and in databases and modeling. Digital is so sexy right now, but the fundamentals still apply; so it’s important not to pigeonhole yourself into one area.

“While in a mentor program at Equifax, my mentor was a woman and she told me, ‘You have to be your own PR person. You have to make your accomplishments known, because nobody else is going to do that for you.’”

Keira Krausz, EVP and CMO, Nutrisystem, Inc. (Fort Washington, Penn.):

On Her Current Assignment: “I’m proud of where we are at Nutrisystem and I’m particularly proud of what we’ve built as a team. Our job is wonderful, because we get to help people live healthier and happier lives. Since 2013, we’ve nearly doubled the business, which means we’ve helped a whole lot more people get healthier and happier. Along the way, we’ve revamped nearly every aspect of our business that you can think of, and we’re just getting started.”

On Mentoring: “In my first years in marketing, I was always being asked what my goals were and how I saw myself in years to come, and I always felt flummoxed, because I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t one of those young people who had their whole life planned out when I was 25, and I often felt insecure about that. But it turns out that was OK.

“So, one thing I did that I would advise is, from early on, try to work for someone you can learn from. Somebody who you admire, who has something unique, and who can teach you something that you think you’re missing. The rest will fall together.”

Tim Suther, SVP and General Manager, Data Solutions, Change Healthcare (Lombard, Ill.):

On Career Choice: “I’ve always been technology-oriented, from learning to code when I was 17 to graduating college with a finance degree. With that background, naturally, I was suspicious of marketing. A lot of marketing felt inauthentic and superficial to me. But I had this one moment where I actually saw a dynamic gains curve for the first time and I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is one of the most interesting things I’ve ever seen.’ It was the intersection of the art of marketing and the science of data that really drew me in; and boy, did I get lucky on that one, because that’s what it’s all about today.”

On Being Data-Driven: “This might surprise you a little bit, but it annoys me when marketers say that they’re data-driven, because that’s like saying, ‘OK, it’s time to turn off my brain and just let the data drive the story.’

“I think marketers are far better off when they are data-informed, where they’re combining what the data is telling them with their own business judgment to make the right decision. Human behavior is still too complicated to purely reduce to what an algorithm tells you to do; it has to be a combination of what the data is saying, creative savvy and business judgment.”

This year, DMCNY added two special awards not tied to mid-career, but recognizing two huge drivers in our business today: advocacy and disruption. The inaugural Apples of Excellence 2018 honorees include:

Advocacy:

Stu Ingis, Chairman, Venable LLP (Washington, D.C.):

On Policy-Making: “The whole privacy concern is overhyped. What’s not getting its fair recognition, in the policy world, is all of the innovation that the marketing community brings to society. For instance, they’re bringing real-time targeted marketing to television and delivering marketing communications that consumers are interested in on a personalized basis.”

On Careers: “Take the long view. Work really hard; don’t worry about the compensation or the glory, and then persevere. Stay with it. Don’t switch jobs all the time thinking that something else is always better. If you develop your skills, the good work will come to you. You don’t have to go to it.

“I’d been representing the DMA for about two years, and I had an opportunity to leave the law firm and go out in the early Internet age at Yahoo!

“Yahoo! stock was going up. I would have made millions of dollars a day. I went to Ron Plesser and said, ‘I like working for you; I like the clients; I like the work I’m doing. But I could go get really rich working for this company.’ He said, ‘Why do you want to do that? It’ll ruin your life.’ For whatever reason, I actually believed him and agreed with him. And I stayed at my job. It was probably the best decision I ever made. I don’t regret it for a second.”

Disruptor Award, Presented by Alliant:

Bonin Bough, Founder and Chief Growth Officer, Bonin Ventures (New York):

About Bonin: “His unique approach of applying innovative technology to create breakthrough campaigns helped to reinvigorate traditional marketing brands, such as Gatorade, Honey Maid, Oreo and Pepsi.

“But his influence doesn’t stop there. Bonin believes in supporting young talent and savvy entrepreneurs. While at Mondelēz International, for example, he created internal programs to mentor young talent and launched a startup innovation program, Mobile Futures, to provide a platform for marketing-tech and agency start-ups to work with the CPG giant.

“Stephanie Agresta, global director of enterprise growth at Qnary, describes him best in her recommendation on LinkedIn: ‘Bonin is a force of nature … A true rockstar from Cleveland to Cannes, Bonin has been [at] the forefront of the digital revolution from the beginning. Smart, successful, and connected, Bonin has the pulse on what’s next. Those that know Bonin well can also attest to his generosity, commitment to mentorship and a deep belief that anything is possible.’”

Since I had the privilege of interacting with Bonin at DMA &Then18 recently, I can attest the walls fall away when you converse with him. Disrupted, indeed.

All of these honorees as well as corporate recipient Winterberry Group have many things to teach us. That’s why it’s important we continue to recognize these business leaders, as marketing today, as Matt Blumberg says, is a 100 different things. It’s the business outcomes that matter.

By Association: Brands, Data and Marketing Finally Have Come Together

Call it marketing data’s destiny. On July 1, if membership approves, the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) will be owned and operated by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). Perhaps a merger more than 100 years in the making.

Call it “marketing data’s destiny.”

On July 1, if membership approves, the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) will be owned and operated by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

The former first began in 1917 — the latter in 1910. Perhaps this moment is destiny 100-plus years in the making.

In 1915, William Wrigley sent chewing gum to every household listed in every phone book in America — more than 1 million at the time. That was “direct marketing.”

What David Ogilvy Knew, We All Must Know Now

One of the greatest advertising practitioners of all time – David Ogilvy – knew that “direct response” advertisers — no matter what the medium — knew which ads worked, and which didn’t, because of their discipline to measure. Direct marketing was Ogilvy’s “secret weapon.”

Google did not invent analytics — direct marketers were always data-driven, and have been testing and analyzing and measuring every piece of advertising real estate under the sun. Google helped to introduce analytics to digital-first marketers.

Early on, direct marketers recognized Amazon as what it truly is — front end to back end: “direct marketing on steroids.”

DMA knows data. Its conferences, content, professional development — and advocacy and representation — have always advanced the discipline of data-driven marketing, in quality and quantity. Accountability, efficiency, return on investment, testing and audience measurement — these attributes, for perhaps decades too long — were relegated “second-class” citizenship by Madison Avenue, general advertising and the worship of creativity.

Oh, how times have changed.

Data Streams — What Direct Response Started, Digital Exploded

Even before the Internet was invented, smart brands — leading brands — started to recognize the power of data in their advertising and marketing. While some had dabbled in direct mail, most pursued sales promotion techniques that mimic but do not fully commit to direct marketing measurement. It was the advent of database marketing — fueled by loyalty programs, 800 numbers and credit cards — that gave many “big” advertisers their first taste of audience engagement.

Brand champions were curious, and many were hooked. Nothing helps a brand more than customer interaction. Data sets the stage for such interaction through relevance — and interactions enable behavioral and contextual insights for future messaging and content.

Digital marketing — and mobile since — have exploded the availability of data.  So all-told, brands must be data-centric today, because that’s how customers are found, sustained, served and replicated. In fact, data-centricity and customer-centricity are nearly indistinguishable.

ANA and DMA coming together — it’s as if brands understand (or know they need to understand) that data champions the consumer and serves the brand promise. Data serves to prove the effectiveness of all the advertising, marketing and engagement brought forth.

ANA has been acquiring organizations — Word of Mouth Marketing Association, Brand Activation Association, Business Marketing Association and now the Data and Marketing Association. There certainly may be more to this most recent transaction than my humble point of view here today.

But I’d rather believe that data-driven marketing, finally, has received an accolade from brands 100 years due. Congratulations are in order.

 

Great Marketing Analytics Can’t Drive Managerial Courage

Great marketing analytics can’t drive managerial courage, but the reverse is true. Recently, I decided to have coffee with an old acquaintance of mine. He has been in almost every company imaginable and has such a specialized role that he is in constant demand.

Great marketing analytics can’t drive managerial courage, but the reverse is true.

Recently, I decided to have coffee with an old acquaintance of mine. He has been in almost every company imaginable and has such a specialized role that he is in constant demand. Every few years, there is an explosion on innovative management books designed to put him out of business — yet he remains in high demand.

Nobody was already at the café when I arrived. He was sitting in the middle of the café wearing a shiny grey suit, black shirt and sunglasses perched on his slicked-back salt and pepper hair, purposefully baiting my awe and contempt. He flashed a big toothy grin as I approached.

“Hi, ‘Nobody.’ I hope I did not keep you waiting,” I said, trying to hide my disdain.

“Nah, it’s all good,” he replied. “I was just people watching.”

“So what have you been up to?” I asked.

“Same old, same old … consulting business is as good as ever.” To punctuate his point, he grinned and leaned back with hands behind his head, as if he were ready to fall back into a hammock.

“Yeah, tell me what you do, again?” I asked.

“My consultancy focuses on accountability. It is really a simple model. When something breaks down in the workplace, or there is a failure to perform, I am called in to take accountability. Usually, when I show up, people will be stressed out. The guilty parties think someone else is responsible or are looking to share the blame, leadership does not want to create a toxic environment, and everyone wants to just move on. As a result, I come in. Everyone points to me, and they agree that it is Nobody’s fault.”

“Wow! And what do you charge for this service?”

“Depends, but it is usually a large percentage of gross revenue or net profit, depending on the size and type of failure I assume responsibility for. Business is great!”

My memory of our last conversation is suddenly jarred.

“That’s right; last we talked, we discussed how the wave of data-driven management was going to put you out of business. Wasn’t there some concern that measurement and analytics were the new wave of human capital management and that through measurement, greater accountability would come about?”

“Nobody” brightened up and leaned forward. His eyes opened up and his jaw slackened in awe of his luck.

“Yeah, that was what I was afraid of,” he said, “but it turns out, this big data threat has turned out to be a big hoax. You see, I was not called in because accountability was difficult; I was called in because accountability was icky. No amount of data and measurement will help my clients generate a healthy approach toward accountability if they don’t have the vision of what good accountability looks like. “

I had always disliked Nobody. While he feared the disinfecting power of data, I spent a good part of my career preaching the gospel of insightful data. I had always seen him as a Luddite; someone unaware and clinging to old ways. However, after this insightful confession, I found a sudden rush of respect for him. He knew things about business that I was now just learning for myself.

“Nobody, you are right,” I said. “I don’t deal with accountability directly, but I am often asked to help clients with data-driven customer strategy and marketing effectiveness. I have found that the analytics part is easy. However, it is often lack of clarity, purpose, and vision that prevents data and analytics from being effective.”

He smugly flashes that familiar, self-satisfied, toothy grin and instinctively my resentment reappears. However this time, it’s a different resentment. This time, my disdain is seeded with a healthy and well-deserved sense of respect and fear.

“You know your business model is still destined for obsolescence,” I insist. “It is just a matter of time. Wait till artificial intelligence shows up.” I am embarrassed as soon as the words part my lips. I feel small and helpless, like a kid fighting off a bully by threatening to call in an older sibling.

“Nobody” senses the change in our dynamic. He leans in closer than at any time in our conversation. Like a Bond villain, secure in his advantage, unafraid to share a horrifying truth.

“YOU-DON’T-GET-IT.” He pauses after each word, maximizing the dramatic effect, entirely playing out the Bond villain cliché.

“Data, AI, analytics — none of this matters, unless you have the courage and vision to use it in transformative ways. In fact, in this data-driven age, managers are so enamored by what they CAN do, it is hard to think about what they SHOULD do. As a result, my friend, managerial courage and vision are harder than ever. ”

Damn, he’s good.

Content Marketing: Better Metrics Mean Better Measurement

It isn’t always easy to measure the impact of your content marketing or attribute sales, leads or lead quality accurately. One way to improve the quality of your measurement is to improve the quality of your metrics.

It isn’t always easy to measure the impact of your content marketing or attribute sales, leads or lead quality accurately. One way to improve the quality of your measurement is to improve the quality of your metrics.

Analytics data is easy to come by. In most cases it’s even available free or is included in services you’re already using, like an email service provider. That doesn’t mean all that data is useful.

In fact, having all of that data is a problem of its own — the firehose problem. As in, if a firehose is your only source of water, you’re either going to have to be creating in how you use it, or quenching your thirst is going to be a painful proposition.

Understanding Different Types of Metrics

Assuming you’ve solved that problem, and can isolate the data you want, it’s important to focus on business metrics rather than process metrics. We define these as follows:

  • Business metrics directly impact your businesses profitability (Sales, for example)
  • Process metrics are proxies that tell us about our marketing but not necessarily our business (Twitter followers are a good example)

As you’d imagine, business metrics are far more important, but many marketers focus more on process metrics because, well, they’re much easier to come by. Just log in to Twitter, Google Analytics or just about any other digital marketing platform and you’ve got your data.

What’s missing from that data for many B2B businesses is what we might call the last mile: the connection between content consumed and a sale consummated. That means measurement and attribution take much more effort. Marketing automation tools can help with this — and we certainly recommend that you implement the sort of tracking that these tools make possible — but even if you aren’t quite ready to make that commitment, there are adjustments you can make to the tracking you are doing.

Differentiating Between Initial Contact and Greater Engagement

Perhaps the best adjustment you can make is to move away from first-level metrics and toward second-level. So, rather than focusing on the number of Twitter followers you have, focus on the number of clicks you get to lead magnets you tweet about, the number of shares your posts get, and the number of likes your content garners.

That’s not to say that tracking your followers isn’t worthwhile. It is, particularly if you track the data over time. But it’s so much further removed from usable business metrics than the process metrics that measure the next step. That is, the folks who have not only followed you, but who have engaged with you via Twitter.

This is true of other social media channels and other content types. Rather than measuring just blog post page views (which I would argue are more valuable than Twitter followers), measure how frequently a blog post is shared, leads to a newsletter signup, a lead magnet click, or even clicks to other pages on your site.

While nothing is a replacement for the direct connection between content consumption and sales, tracking the engagement-based process metrics mentioned above is a much more accurate way to assess your content marketing’s health and effectiveness than relying on those metrics that measure just an initial interaction.

SEO Measurement Challenges Continue

The measurability of Web traffic has still stands as both a promise and a challenge. As an SEO practitioner who has covered many miles of digital road, I am still amazed at how often site owners are bewildered at how to measure the success of their organic search programs.

The measurability of Web traffic still stands as both a promise and a challenge. As an SEO practitioner who has covered many miles of digital road, I am still amazed at how often site owners are bewildered at how to measure the success of their organic search programs.

In my opinion, the measurement problems for search will continue to grow and expand as search options grow. For example, once upon a time, we only measured desktop traffic and did not have to think about tablets, phones or IoT devices. As search has integrated more deeply into our lives, the challenges have multiplied. It is not just the impact of a variety of devices that have swelled the problem, but also the complexity of what is offered on the search page.

When it was just 10 blue links, it was easier to work with and analyze search program success. Many site owners still rely on tools and thought processes that are archaic for their success measurement.

Casting Just a Wee Bit of Shade

In the early days, SEO practitioners measured success based on keyword rankings. Some of the earliest tools were ranking tools. These gave a clear measurement of where in the search results a site’s pages ranked for selected keywords.

Lots was missing from this approach, including how the page converted and whether the selected phrases were the right ones for the business. As the discipline has grown in sophistication, these early approaches have been abandoned by most savvy practitioners, but many site owners still cling to these keyword and page-placement metrics.

It is our fault as an industry that we have not clearly articulated new ways for how to measure optimized pages. This is incumbent on us. As a practitioner, I abandoned rank-checking as a measurement tool years ago. When Google took away the referrers to protect privacy (their claim), I stopped being able to use the keyword-focused data from the analytics. This pulled me further from my attachment to my beloved keyword data.

Where Now?

A quick tour of the Webmaster Tools Search Console will also show how transient and variable the keyword placements are in a given timeframe.

Some things have not changed. I still use a language-based optimization focus. This is because we still search using words — words matter.

Every site owner should have a clear view of what the site is about and be able to articulate it in very clear words. I have never forgotten a lesson I learned when, after reading an entire site, I still had no idea what the business did and had to call the site owner to ask some pointed questions about the business. I discovered that none of the language that actually described what the business did was on the site. My first recommendation was a site rewrite.

These clunkers are fewer and further between today, but a lack of clear focus is still a problem. When Google wants relevant content, it is a cry for clarity. How does this effect measurement? The single easiest measurement is in sales results that can be attributed to search. This may seem very simplistic. It is, but so too are the macro-econometrics of GDP and GNP. Once past this metric, the question of what to measure is as varied as the site’s intent.

Working in e-commerce, the measurement is easier and more direct. For the goal is get the cash, get the cash, get the cash.

But for other types of businesses the metrics may be more nuanced. The point is to stop measuring rankings and measure real results.

Embrace Failure to Achieve Success

Too many marketers fear failure instead of embracing it. They fear that reporting poor results will be viewed as poor management. Instead, they should be positioning their results as learnings. Knowing what doesn’t work is just as important as knowing what does; yet the fear of failure permeates many corporate cultures, discouraging risk-taking and encouraging the status quo.

failure
(Image via iskandariah.perubatan.org)

Too many marketers fear failure instead of embracing it. They fear that reporting poor results will be viewed as poor management. Instead, they should be positioning their results as learnings. Knowing what doesn’t work is just as important as knowing what does; yet the fear of failure permeates many corporate cultures, discouraging risk-taking and encouraging the status quo.

There have been many times when I proposed a limited test plan with a small downside only to have it rejected by the client in favor of “the way we’ve always done it.” Following the course that nobody ever got fired for may be the politically safe option, but breakthrough results are never achieved from the status quo. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”

Reporting on the acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon, The New York Times noted, “While other companies dread making colossal mistakes, Mr. Bezos seems just not to care … That breeds a fiercely experimental culture that is disrupting entertainment, technology and especially retail.” (June 18, 2017) Commenting on Bezos’s style, Farhad Manjoo said in his column State of the Art, “The other thing to know about Mr. Bezos is that he is a committed experimentalist. His main way of deciding what Amazon should do next is to try stuff out, see what works, and do more of that.” (NYTimes June 19, 2017) Something direct marketers have done for decades.

Learning to embrace failure is an acquired skill. Smith College has instituted a new program called “Failing Well” to destigmatize failure for the high achievers who are admitted to the prestigious school on the basis of their perfect resumes. Smith’s Rachel Simmons says, “What we’re trying to teach is that failure is not a bug of learning, it’s a feature.” (NYTimes, June 25, 2017)

David Ogilvy, a strong proponent of testing and measurement, addresses the importance of embracing failures in the Ogilvy on Advertising chapter entitled “The 18 Miracles of Research.” He relates a story about a client who had invested $600,000 (a large sum in Ogilvy’s day) to develop a new product line. Ogilivy says, “ … our research showed a notable lack of enthusiasm … When I reported this discouraging news to the client I was afraid that, like most executives faced with inconvenient research, he would argue the methodology. I underestimated him. ‘Dry hole,’ said he, and left the meeting.”

Testing and experimentation is easy in the digital marketing environment. Even the best-conceived test plans will produce more failures than successes. Embrace those failures as valuable learnings.

How to Find a Marketing Tech Edge

One of the challenges of all the marketing tech being developed is simply discovery. The majority of it might not be a fit for your business, but the right few can change the game. How do you learn about enough new technologies to find those needles in the haystack?

All About Marketing Tech LogoOne of the challenges of all the marketing tech being developed is simply discovery. The majority of it might not be a fit for your business, but the right few can change the game. How do you learn about enough new technologies to find those needles in the haystack?

So we’ve been working on a new kind of virtual conference, one that deals directly with marketing technology and will give you a chance to hear 24 new marketing tech firms pitch their bleeding edge products and services to you.

All About Marketing Tech

This is happening at All About Marketing Tech, a brand new virtual conference we’re hosting March 1 with the help of CabinetM.

All About Marketing Tech will have two tracks. The one will have traditional webinar-style presentations on the technologies marketers are using for specific tasks, like lead generation, content marketing and online retail. That track will kick off with a keynote from Travis Wright, the author of Digital Sense, and include sessions from David Raab, Robert Rose, Brian Hansford and more.

The second track is your chance to see new technologies in a way we’ve never done before. It will have three 90-minute TECH Talk sessions where new marketing tech creators will tell you about what they’ve built in 10-minute TED Talk-style presentations.

The three TECH Talk sessions will each focus on a specific area of technology:

  • 11:30 – Through the Funnel: Customer Acquisition and Engagement
  • 1:15 – Emerging Categories: Mobile, ABM, Video
  • 3:00 – Know Your Customer: Analytics/Measurement

You most likely have not yet heard of the companies who’ll be presenting, but that’s the whole point. This is your chance to get an early look at marketing tech that’s still coming to the market — before your competitors even know it exists.

It’s going to be a great chance to expand your knowledge of marketing technology, and identify tools that could make a huge difference for your business.

I hope to see you there! Click here to register.