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Matthew Morgan, Co-founder, MakeMC

It is time to practice what we’ve been preaching about using data to drive digital change:

A CMO I previously worked with used to ask for his weekly digital report consisting only two things; total unique visits to his site and the total number of registrants in his database. Cross-referenced with his media spend report he was proud as Punch that he had 200k visits per week and a database of over 3m users. He was confused however, as to why this had no impact on his sales or share, which continued to slide.

This CMO was and is not alone. There is generally a lack of digital knowledge by senior marketers and this is driven by the complexity of the “paid, owned, earned” digital landscape. Many senior marketers are bamboozled by jargon from their digital team/agency and/or IT department. They can be frustrated by the time digital initiatives take and the lack of clarity in effectiveness measurement. Consequently, as is human nature, the CMO focusses on the easy to understand metrics that he/she can simply communicate up and down the organisation – such as unique visits and total registrants.

By only focusing on simplified metrics, as in the example above, will always be self-fulfilling as the digital marketing team naturally will continue to strive to deliver those metrics set. So, in this instance, media continued to be bought to drive volume not quality and the database continued to be filled… even though +90% of the registrants never came back to the brand.

An initial step to both addressing the complexity and helping to understand the realities of your digital marketing eco-system is to conduct a Marketing Business Alignment review. This sort of review will differ greatly across different types of organisation, but will generally include the following. First is to articulate a strategic ambition for changing your audience’s behavior and a definition of the key challenges within your organisation to achieve it. This will need buy-in from your marketing team and key suppliers. Once agreed the team can set the strategic pillars necessary to achieve the ambition from a digital perspective. Out of this a road map can be constructed with milestones and KPIs that you can measure your team by moving forward.

It is not about data volume but about the right application of data:

Consider now that we are capturing ever more data points (search, mobile, social media, beacons, pay-per-face etc etc) and you can quickly see how organisations have become overwhelmed by the data they get and have gotten bogged down in “analysis paralysis” of it. The concept is simple – to improve the performance of a brand, gather as much data as you can, drive insight out of what you find and develop communications to change your audience’s behavior – then measure, optimise, and repeat. Simple? Not so much!

A survey for last year showed that while “time on site” was the most important single digital metric to senior marketers at 27.9%, over 3 in 5 surveyed admitted they were still confused about measuring overall digital effectiveness due to too many touch-points. Additionally, analysis by TNS and Kantar earlier this year that showed that less than 30% of businesses surveyed are now using social media monitoring to inform their decisions. This was a year-on-year DROP as organisations are simply being overwhelmed by the data they have access to and consequently aren’t able to use it to power decision making.

The reality is that the larger the data set, the longer you need to properly understand the trends within it. Often the trends you see over a short period lead to more questions than answers… requiring more analysis and so more data. Typically the job of a digital agency is to provide reports on the digital campaigns they run – however it is seemingly rare that campaign reports are considered together, post mortems conducted and yearly overviews produced to garner a greater perspective of digital performance.

Moving from campaign-by-campaign reporting to a long-term trend methodology:

What is required is regular analysis over a greater period of time while focused on 6-12 salient metrics across the “paid, owned, earned” digital landscape – no one can handle any more information than this and be expected to make a decision or provide direction. From this type of analysis trends can be shown and simply explained. Then agencies, digital teams and even CMOs can identify what they want to develop, test and learn from and move forward to drive any kind of change in their organisations.

One possible solution to addressing such a complex issue of reporting is to conduct some form of results performance assessment. This serves to evaluate how your marketing team and suppliers currently map metrics against your business goals. Such an assessment helps to avoid any analysis paralysis by identifying the metrics that matter and so simplifies the process of measurement itself. The ultimate output of such an exercise will be the ability to engage in more meaningful, results-driven conversations with your marketing team/suppliers and demonstrate positive marketing as a result.

With the aforementioned CMO an assessment was completed and as a result a rolling monthly report covering all digital activity was introduced. This was formed of an agreed set of nine metrics, each with 18 months of historical data. This rigor allowed the focus for the digital team to shift from campaign-by-campaign reporting to a longer term view of paid, owned and earned digital activity performance. In turn what the team presented to the CMO to get buy-in from was clearer and the CMO himself was able to speak with greater authority on the course to take for digital transformation.

Through the discipline of this type of approach the marketing team was able to inform a better digital media strategy, a set of definitions for the role of each digital property (wired site vs. mobile, vs. social and so on), a simple site optimisation and an update to the CRM program. Additionally they were able to junk a significant portion of the database to whom they were sending email after email with no response, with the added benefit of reducing send cost. Over time this approach is leading to clearer direction within the organisation and has begun to arrest the slide in sales and share.