Marketing measurement has consistently improved over the years, and the advancement of digital technologies has allowed marketers to track and measure campaigns on an extremely large and detailed scale. With data and metrics at our fingertips, the feeling is that marketers and executives should be able to fully gauge the success of campaigns and marketing efforts—but it’s more complicated than that.
As great as technological advancement has made it for marketers to track customer behaviour and easily measure data, there are a number of issues and stoppages that can come along with it.
Although it can be easy to hyperfocus on a singular, specific measurement, the key to successful marketing return is to capitalize on a variety of different measurable marketing metrics.
Simply put, the dream of measuring everything is not realistic
It’s important to manage expectations—you simply cannot measure everything. Here’s a list of realities preventing your marketing from complete trackability.
While technology has enabled the ability to track a number of digital metrics, there are still many conversions that marketers are not able to track. These happen all the time, completely under our radar. They are the human synapses that occur when your brand makes a good impression, makes someone laugh, makes someone think, triggers a conversation, or causes someone to take action. By ignoring non-trackable conversions, we ignore the human side of marketing.
Users (and organizations) have the right and ability to opt out of tracking in various ways. This reality is increasing with time, and makes traditional methods for digital hyper-targeting less comprehensive.
Data can easily accidentally fall through the cracks of an imperfect system. If tracking is not seamlessly set up, there is a possibility of losing the data you’re intending to collect. Systems that involve even a small degree of complexity have a certain degree of non-reconcilable data loss.
Some customers use VPNs (Virtual Private Network) which provide privacy, anonymity and security to users by creating a private network connection. When customers use a VPN to protect their data, it can skew metrics and data as it disguises IP addresses making some user info invisible.
Most consumers use multiple devices: smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc. Tracking user behaviour across devices is an enormous hurdle, and has yet to be fully solved even by tech giants like Google and Adobe.
The Demise of 3rd-party Cookies
By 2022, 3rd party cookies and identifiers will be permission-based—meaning, the ad tracking mechanisms that have powered programmatic advertising will no longer be applicable to mass audiences. This represents a profound shift for all internet users, including brands who are currently over-reliant on cookie-based advertising channels.
There is a major focus from executives on measurable metrics
When gauging marketing success from a high level, it is common for executives to focus solely on highly measurable metrics. So much so that highly measurable marketing tactics become overvalued, while viable tactics with “low measurability” become under-valued.
Marketing return is often thought of in the context of “what does the company get out of it”. When most accountants or finance professionals think of ROI they think “money in minus money out”. ROI is typically calculated using two primary metrics: the cost to do something, and the outcome generated as a result (profit or revenue). This approach has its time and place, but there are other functional ways of looking at it.
As an alternative, marketing return can be thought of in relation to the pursuit of a better marketing system. You invest in specific parts of your marketing department/operation, and the “return” is how much better off your marketing department is after the project. The marketing stack comprises all components of marketing, including the offer, tech, talent, processes, and knowledge. Every facet of the marketing stack affects a team’s ability to thrive. While some factors may not directly attribute revenue to your marketing efforts, continuous improvement among processes and projects can be attributed to overall marketing return and success.
Types of marketing return you can measure
While revenue is a large factor for measuring marketing return and gauging campaign success, it is not the singular determinant of overall attributable marketing success. Marketing metrics you can (and should) measure include:
- Revenue: The easiest way to measure return is by calculating the direct revenue that is attributed to marketing efforts. Common support metrics include ROI (return on investment) and ROAS (return on ad spend), which directly measure the amount of return on a particular investment, relative to the investment cost.
- Product Market Alignment: Is your product in the right market? Is your service reaching the right market? Your marketing return measurements should include whether or not your product is correctly being marketed to the right audience. This can be measured via surveys, customer feedback, the types of prospects you attract, etc.
- Engagement: Measuring engagement is a functional way to tell if your marketing messaging and efforts are effectively resonating with your target audience. You should be measuring how many people are engaging with your brand, product, ads, etc. If your engagement levels are low, your marketing message may be out of alignment with your target audience.
- Brand Awareness: Despite being the first phase of the buyer’s journey, awareness-focused marketing is generally undervalued by SMBs simply because it is difficult to measure. Everyone wants it, but rarely are we willing to go out and get it, because it is hard to justify (i.e. it is hard to attribute awareness campaigns to cold hard revenue). The first step to breaking the cycle is executive education and buy-in to target this phase of the marketing funnel.
- Asset Creation: Sometimes the return on a project is getting a new or enhanced asset (website, video, eBook, etc). Often these can eventually be measured in their own rights when put into action. But without first internally valuing the process of creation, we hinder our motivation to create altogether.
- System Creation: Some marketing projects are dedicated to creating a better marketing system. Working to create a better marketing system is essential for scaling up marketing success, and return. Projects that can be attributed to bettering marketing systems include:
- Marketing automation
- Internal process
- Internal communication
- Project management efficiencies
- Internal Employee Satisfaction: Happy employees are more productive, collaborative and confident. They are also more likely to stay on. Nothing slows down a marketing system like losing a core team member. The benefit of high employee satisfaction can be directly attributed to your marketing return—happy motivated teams drive marketing.
Ultimately, to maximize overall marketing return and improve your internal marketing system, revenue-based ROI shouldn’t be the sole focus. Each measurement, no matter how small or large, is part of the greater system and should be valued as such.