Get Revenue Marketing Analytics Right for 2018

Here’s a trap many marketers fall into in the early part of the journey: The marketing VP received additional marketing budget, but the price is that she has to report marketing numbers to the CEO each month. How do you start? Here are your best bets for initiating revenue marketing reporting this year

Last month on our revenue marketing journey, we discussed how to develop use cases as a way of teasing out specific technology requirements for marketing. This month, we turn our attention to revenue marketing analytics and, more importantly, how to choose the right metrics for where you are in your revenue marketing journey.

Here’s a trap many marketers fall into in the early part of the journey: The marketing VP received additional marketing budget, but the price is that she has to report marketing numbers to the CEO each month. So the organization is turned upside down attempting to create marketing results reports for the first time.

How do they start? Marketing ROI analysis, or marketing influenced revenue, or, harder still, predictive reports? The outcome is predictable.

6 Steps to Accurate Revenue Marketing Analytics

If you are in the lead generation stage of your Revenue Marketing journey, moving into demand generation, and recently acquired marketing automation technology, here are your best bets for initiating revenue marketing reporting this year:

1. Avoid Ego Metrics for 6 Months

Marketing ROI and marketing influenced revenue. These require a lot of pieces to be in place and working and are simply not a good place to start. We recognize that they are important, but don’t try to start here. Avoid creating the ego metrics the first six months.

2. Define the Decisions

Start by defining what decisions the demand generation and content teams are making weekly and monthly and asking what reporting related information they need to make better investment decisions. Create those reports for them first. Good examples are:

  • Weekly database engagement by campaign, content, channel, region, product interest, and contact type. Are they a prospect or a customer? Engagement means they downloaded or clicked on an offer, registered for something or visited one of your digital properties. It also includes engagement on the social channels (likes, replies, forwards, clicks). It does NOT include email opens.
  • Form completion rates (or the converse, form abandonment rates).
  • Net new leads by region, product interest, lead source and content/asset that attracted them.
  • MQLs and SQLs by lead source, region and product interest.
  • Cost per MQL from inbound sources.
  • Funnel conversion rates, by contact type, region and product interest.
  • Funnel age in stage (qualitative measure of the funnel), by region and product interest.

3. Fix the Errors

Reports like these will reveal all sorts of issues with your data and with the processes that update your data. You will spend months fixing these process issues and amending the data. You will probably also find that your data has serious omissions precluding you from reporting the way you want and a data enrichment project may be initiated.

4. Take Your Time, Before Sharing

Do not share the initial reports throughout the organization because it is likely that they are wrong. There will be errors from simply not having enough good data to be a representative sample to incorrect data to faulty report configuration.

If you share the early reports widely and the errors are uncovered by the recipients, it may take a while to recover your credibility. Take your time, validate your early reporting and gradually start to share them more broadly.

5. Are the Initial Reports Helping?

Sit in with the demand gen teams and content teams and see how they are using these initial reports. Are they useful for making decisions on a weekly or monthly basis? I.e. is the reporting cadence aligned with the required decision-making cadence? Are they getting the detail they need? Is there drill down required?

Modify your reports to fully satisfy this audience before you move to the next audience.

The Value of Soft Metrics

In the past decade, marketers and the ecosystem that surrounds them have focused intensely, investing heavily in making direct connections between marketing spend and specific, attributable results. That’s a good thing, and the accountability of digital efforts has largely driven its growth. But we lose valuable nuance when we disregard all that is not accurately and completely quantifiable.

Business meeting, reviewing dataIn the past decade, marketers and the ecosystem that surrounds them have focused intensely, investing heavily in making direct connections between marketing spend and specific, attributable results. That’s a good thing, and the accountability of digital efforts has largely driven its growth. But we lose valuable nuance when we disregard all that is not accurately and completely quantifiable. There is clearly still a relevant and worthwhile tale to be told by customer actions that are not tied to specific marketing triggers. That tale can inform and enhance budgetary and other marketing decision making if we are smart enough to listen.

Soft Metrics: A Matter of Definition

Some of this debate over hard vs soft metrics is a matter of definition. We can take cues from audience actions in a geography that has been receiving marketing spend to determine whether that spend achieves lift over control geographies that were ignored. Is that a hard metric if it does not tie the specific spend to the specific outcome by channel, by campaign, by message, by offer, by customer?

Soft metrics are often those that demonstrate intent or interest but may not be ultimately quantifiable down to the buyer, the sale or other valued conversion. Often they are generalized effects like a rise in site traffic that can be tracked but may not tie to direct conversions or customers. Other types of soft metrics are those that can’t be tracked reliably at all – like many offline ad expenditures. But we have to stop and remember that it doesn’t make them valueless just because we can’t place a value on them.

Soft metrics are still critical because they often establish behaviors that signal intent. Sometimes, for instance with highly considered purchases, the soft metrics can be personally identifiable or at least allow for customizable content delivery even if the individual is not identified. This supports additional follow ups and identifies those most relevant for particular messaging or offers. Setting the stage, if you will, for that measurable conversion down the line.

Make Sure You Have the Full Picture

For brick and mortar retailers, restaurants, CPG marketers and others, the drive to reveal the path from online messaging to offline conversion has been powerful. But tracking the results of online messaging or experiences to foot traffic or in-store sales is a tricky and incomplete effort. We often don’t know if the least traceable efforts are the most or least impactful. Most important, however, is the sum impact of all the efforts. Looking at all the insights available – both hard and soft – will give you the best picture to trend over time and use to make decisions.

Hard metrics have their own limits. We may think of them as an absolute straight line in a controlled environment but that is an illusion. First, there are limits on the accuracy of tracking across channels and platforms and even the smartest marketers still struggle to establish clean data with baselines and trends that are reliable. Secondly, it’s not clean. We can’t discern a myriad non-traceable influences like some competitive actions, or offline influences like first person recommendations – even a consumer’s mood. Macro effects that can be expressed by things like sales rises are most often the result of many, many efforts. Some are in are control and trackable and some are not.

The best marketers can do is measure what we have available and take into account all the information at our disposal – whether it is hard or soft. Information is never complete. A marketer’s job is to use the information at hand to understand consumer needs and reactions to certain stimuli to the best of

their ability. That means making use of everything at their disposal, weighting it for confidence and relevancy. Consider the hard data just the tip of the iceberg and ignore the rest at your peril.

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.)

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.

When Marketing and Politics Collide

America is politically obsessed right now. Each day there is at least one and often several news items that lead to a cycle of finger-pointing, name-calling and outrage. It doesn’t matter which party or candidate you endorsed, where you live or where you get your news — emotions are running high all across the land. What does this politically and emotionally charged climate mean for marketers?

Politics and marketingAmerica is politically obsessed right now. Each day there is at least one and often several news items that lead to a cycle of finger-pointing, name-calling and outrage.

It doesn’t matter which party or candidate you endorsed, where you live or where you get your news — emotions are running high all across the land. What does this politically and emotionally charged climate mean for marketers?

There have long been companies and business models defined by a cause or a philanthropic purpose. For instance, Tom’s Shoes is one of a host of buy one/give one modeled retailers that have a clear purpose built into their brand. But that’s different than consumer brands taking a stance on a timely and divisive political issue.

Well known corporate entities and brands like Starbucks, Nordstrom’s, Lyft and Amazon have all taken recent public, political positions — up to and including boycotts and legal action. Research from Morning Consult reveals the support behind that kind of activity — at least among young adults. Another study from J. Walter Thompson Intelligence further validated and quantified that finding, citing “Americans are […] overwhelmingly supportive of brands that take stances on issues: 78 percent agree that companies should take action to address the important issues facing society, while 88 percent agree that corporations have the power to influence social change.”

Does political activism help a brand with conventional brand metrics? Maybe. The Super Bowl LI ads that had a political message appeared to create more buzz, engender more sharing and had higher recall than non-political ads aired during the same game but reviews are mixed on whether these ads were effective at creating emotional connections, building brand favorability or purchase intent. Longer or deeper commitments to that strategy would presumably produce different results but that is not clear as yet and different, additional metrics must be considered when examining the effect of a political stance.

The decision to embrace a cause or take a political stance has potentially significant impact on market perception and brand performance. That impact could be positive or negative and requires a thoughtful approach to what must be a long term commitment.

Know Your Audience

We’re a nation split right down the middle on many critical issues so taking an action or position is a chancy endeavor unless your audience is well understood and unified on that particular issue. Even so, the threat remains that some will see a vocal and public position as unwarranted, in poor taste, or simply outside of the realm of a brand’s responsibility or authority.

For some niche or lifestyle brands it’s natural to take a stance on social or political fronts that relate to the brand’s value proposition. Their audiences accept and even expect it. That assumption should be validated with prior research of course, and be sure to factor in any potential backlash from broader populations exposed to ads. In general, the universe of active, political brands is expanding as consumers increasingly look for more than a transactional relationship with their favorite brands. If a consumer is going to emotionally connect to a brand, they want to know they are in sync on important matters. Social media has given both brands and consumers the tools to connect on multiple levels.

That deepened brand relationship tends to happen after brands have done the hard and time-consuming work of establishing a clear brand voice and messaging platform based on consumer information, insights and feedback. In the future, more of that work and messaging will likely be around issues, causes, and policies to help develop recommendations around social and political activism. This is not familiar territory to most marketers and they may need to reach out to consultants to help them understand and frame their options.

Corporate Responsibility

What is a brand’s obligation to enter the dialogue? There are a dizzying number of issues to consider as the link between politics and business issues is becoming more direct and more visible to consumers. The decision is unique to each company but colored by an inherent lack of control over the final message.

Brand messaging is picked up and replayed in both traditional and internet media outlets and then by consumers themselves. Consumer statements are often laced with approval or condemnation and then further exaggerated by the bubbles of self-validation that social media networks and news/opinion curation encourages. This generates an exaggerated reaction to any action or statement as the sling-shot effect of the Internet magnifies both the reach and impact within certain, connected populations. So a little potentially goes a long, long way but not always in a predictable direction. Corporate responsibility and communication officers have never been more challenged.

SEO Tracking 101: What to Track and How to Track It

SEO tracking is a critical component of search engine optimization which will allow you to see which Web pages are doing well and which need an SEO overhaul.

TM0810_searchglobe copyAs you probably already know, tracking is a critical component of search engine optimization (SEO). After all, you cannot possibly know what is working well and what still needs to be tweaked unless you track your results. Watching your trends over time will let you know how your website is performing overall, as well as which Web pages are doing well and which need an SEO overhaul.

Yet, with so much available data out there, it can be tough to know where to focus your tracking. Here are the essential elements that every business owner should track, and how to go about tracking them.

Keyword Rankings
The most obvious way to check your keyword rankings is to simply type your keyword phrases into Google and see what pops up. Unfortunately, your results will be heavily skewed. This is because Google personalizes search results based on previous browsing history. Since you are likely a frequent visitor of your own site, Google will artificially inflate your site’s rankings when you search for your keyword phrases from your own computer.

To get around this, you can use Google Analytics to learn your true, unbiased keyword rankings. Make sure you have an account at www.google.com/analytics and that the relevant code has been added to every page of your website. Also ensure that you have a Search Console (formerly known as Webmaster Tools) account at www.google.com/webmastertools and that the two accounts are linked.

Under Google Analytics’ Acquisition tab, click on Search Engine Optimization and then Queries. This will show you the keywords for which you are currently ranked, along with additional information for each keyword like the number of searches, your average Google ranking for that keyword, and your average click through rate. These numbers are unbiased, so they will not change based on your browsing history.

Search Engine Traffic
Your search engine traffic is all of the organic (non-paid) traffic that visits your website from search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Under the Acquisition tab in Google Analytics, click on All Traffic, then Channels, then Organic Search to view your search engine traffic trends.

The precise numbers here are not what’s most important. Instead, look for general trends over the past 6 to 12 months. Do you see a general climb? If so, then you are doing well. If you see a general decline, then your SEO needs attention. Also note any major spikes, whether upward or downward, and see if you can determine the reason for them.

Don’t Get Lost in a Maze of Metrics

There’s a lot of data out there. More than any one marketer needs at any one time. The new frontier in using big data in multichannel marketing is learning what data you need. And that starts with clearly defined marketing objectives. The proliferation of data has caused many marketers to get caught up in minutiae that are not relevant to their objectives. With all the data that’s available, it takes discipline to focus only on the metrics that are relevant. Too often the most important metrics like cost per acquisition and customer lifetime value are overlooked while we’re looking at things like email bounce rates and time on site, which certainly have their place, but should be viewed in the context of how they can be leveraged to improve lifetime value.

There’s a lot of data out there. More than any one marketer needs at any one time.

The new frontier in using big data in multichannel marketing is learning what data you need. And that starts with clearly defined marketing objectives.

The proliferation of data has caused many marketers to get caught up in minutiae that are not relevant to their objectives. With all the data that’s available, it takes discipline to focus only on the metrics that are relevant. Too often the most important metrics, like cost per acquisition and customer lifetime value, are overlooked while we’re looking at things like email bounce rates and time on site. Those are metrics which certainly have their place, but should be viewed in the context of how they can be leveraged to improve lifetime value.

How Many Metrics Do You Need?
Every semester, more than one student in my “Advertising Research” class asks:

How many questions do we need to have in our quantitative questionnaire?

My answer is always the same, and always initially perplexing to them:

As many as you need.

The ensuing discussion is a lesson in the importance of setting clear objectives:

What are you trying to find out? Write down what you need to learn from your survey, and develop questions that will get you that information. Once you’ve done that, count the number of questions you have. That’s how many you need.

That lesson applies to marketing measurement, as well. With all the metrics that our marketing analytics platforms can provide, it’s easy to get buried in a landslide of statistics that don’t really relate to your business objectives. If your objective is lead generation at a landing page, why measure time on site? (Of course if you find that the abandonment rate on the data capture page is high, then look at time on site. You may be asking for too much information.)

Define What You Need to Know
If you’re looking to optimize your cost per lead or maximize lead volume, you’ll need to track cost per lead by individual tactic. You’ll find an interesting approach to maximizing lead volume in a previous “Here’s What Counts” post. But if you’re looking to enroll people in a CRM program and every one of your touchpoints is essential, then you may be able to skip that level of analysis. (If that idea seems foreign to you, check out this “Here’s What Counts” post that talks about a real world scenario where it wasn’t necessary to track cost per enrollment by vehicle.)

Every end has a beginning. Measurement always starts with the objectives you set at the start of a campaign. If they are clearly defined and you focus only on those metrics that are related to the objectives, you won’t find yourself buried in data that’s not relevant to measuring your success.