Before we get going, let’s address the elephant in the room: measurement is boring (to most people). That’s why we’ve done the leg-work and research to understand the essentials of campaign measurement for you!
In this post we’re going to outline the importance of measurement and distill down a few of the key considerations when it comes to designing a measurement plan.
So, let’s start by putting a stake in the ground:
A marketing campaign is only as good as its measurement plan.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re launching a $10k or $10M campaign, if you don’t have a clear, accurate, and realistic way to measure whether or not it worked you’ll end up in the same place you started: not knowing whether your marketing dollars actually accomplished your goals. As the pioneer of American marketing, John Wanamaker, once famously said, ““Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
Thankfully, it no longer has to be that way.
In order to make this easy and approachable, let’s break down the measurement plan setup into a few core pieces:
- The difference between a business objective & a KPI
- The use of proxy metrics
- Tangible, direct leads
- Softer metrics
- Direct measurement (against benchmarks)
- AB testing
- Control and exposed
- Designing a cohesive plan
One of the most common mistakes at the outset of a campaign is confusing business objectives, marketing objectives, and KPIs, so let’s start out with defining those terms:
Business Objective: An objective held by the business as a whole, that the entire business is working toward beyond just the efforts of your marketing and communications.
Example: Increasing overall sales or increasing adoption of a behavior
The business objective here is high level, influenced by all the functions of your organization, and guides all business decisions.
Marketing Objective: This objective should be what you specifically want or need your marketing campaign to accomplish in support of your business objective, and should be specific, timely, and measurable.
Example: Increase uptake over a comparable period by 15% or ensure traffic to the website and drive 500k unique site visits
With your marketing objective clearly established, you can then set your KPI.
Key Performance Indicator (KPI): Refers to the specific metric you will be measuring in order to gauge success. This has to be something that can be directly influenced by your campaign, measured, and reported on. This metric will inform your understanding of whether or not the campaign was a success.
Example: Drive 10,000 sales of train tickets online, inspire 5,000 downloads of a whitepaper, Push 1m views, or x% shift in awareness
A note on proxy metrics: Sometimes there simply isn’t a direct link between a measurable metric and the desired campaign outcome. For example, if you want to drive applications to your program but the only action that can be taken online is entering contact details to be followed up on by a representative, then capturing that initial contact info becomes a proxy metric for application success. A proxy metric is the closest logical substitute, or an indicator of an action you want the user to take next. Another example might be a campaign that looks to drive an understanding of a new offering and is centered on informative, entertaining video content. In this case you might use time on site or video views as a proxy for increased understanding.
A common mistake in determining your objectives is to assign a business objective and stop there, but marketing isn’t a silver bullet! Marketing is just one piece of the overall puzzle and ensuring clear, distinct definitions for each piece of the puzzle will eliminate confusion down the line.
Now that you’ve identified your marketing objective and your KPI, the next step is to ensure you can measure it by answering a few basic questions:
- What is the source of the data?
- Is this data being measured currently?
- Is there a clear way to access this data on a regular basis?
- Are there any gaps in the data?
- How often is the data updated or refreshed?
- Who has access to this data and who might need access?
These questions could lead you to any number of conclusions, but let’s back up and talk about a few common sources of information:
Google Analytics (GA): Google Analytics is one of the most widely used measurement platforms in online advertising and can measure a wide variety of on-site metrics. While there is some set up required, GA is ideal for any campaign in which there is a direct online action. Civilian’s digital team and the manager of your online properties can handle set up and troubleshooting.
Customer Relationship Manager (CRM): CRM tools are used by businesses of all shapes and sizes to house and manage data on current and potential customers. Some of the industry leaders include Salesforce, HubSpot, and Zoho. Your marketing campaign should be reflective of who your target audiences are, and a CRM tool is a great source for information based on factors like how leads were captured, where customers are in the sales pipeline, and a host of other important traits.
Proprietary reporting: Depending on the nature of your business, sometimes GA cannot be utilized due to highly secure, complex, or legacy systems. In this case there is often an established reporting system used by a business that can be monitored. Often work or custom tracking code is required to ensure a clear link between an online action driven by marketing and a conversion or other action within a proprietary system. This type of set up is handled on a case by case basis.
Survey or Study data: When there is a less direct action, or a shift in a less tangible metric like awareness, consideration, trust, etc. then often direct action-based metrics fall short. In these cases there are survey and/or study vendors ranging from the simple to highly detailed to fully customized that can help measure sentiment and changes based on the campaign. There are a wide variety of survey vendors available, and Civilian has experience finding the right vendor to meet the needs of the campaign
Performing a data audit prior to the launch of a campaign is not exciting work, but it is absolutely crucial to campaign success. Realizing months into a campaign that the expected primary source of data was broken or non-existent the entire time can derail the entire effort.
Now that you’ve done the work to identify your objectives, KPIs, and data sources it’s time to identify your measurement approach.
There are a few fundamental ways to gauge success:
Performance against benchmark: With this method you’ll need to have a baseline benchmark. Often you can find these by searching online, using past campaigns, or asking vendors for their experiences running similar campaigns. Once you have a benchmark, either from inside or outside your organization, you can assess whether you meet or beat that mark.
A/B testing: Also known as variant testing, this approach works best when you are looking to measure the efficacy of certain messages or tactics. Here you run two options side by side, monitor performance, then choose the winner and either commit to that or run the winner against a third variant. This can be done repeatedly, measuring performance against KPIs along the way, to understand performance in specific instances. One of the most valuable aspects of digital media today is that we are able to run real-time optimizations so that the best performing message is automatically served to the audiences who respond most to it. But we’ll save a primer on the benefits of Programmatic Media for another blog post.
Control & Exposed Testing: In this methodology you have to have the ability, audience, and/or geography to create two separate groups. In the exposed group you run your full marketing campaign. In the control group you run a pared down campaign (or no campaign). The efficacy of your campaign is then based on the difference in action rate between the two groups. This method is fantastic for understanding how much of an impact your marketing is having, versus a population that may or may not have taken the action anyway.
Uplift: Similar to control and exposed, this method relies on studying the change in behavior amongst your audience. Generally run through survey vendors, using sample based studies you can monitor the over uplift driven by a campaign. This method is great for campaigns looking to drive changes in awareness or consideration based metrics.
While this list isn’t exhaustive, it does provide an overview of the most common methodologies you’re likely to consider or encounter.
Finally, you’re ready to put all the pieces together. Working through the steps and questions piece by piece should lead you to a place where you’re able to confidently lay out your campaign and advertising measurement plan. You’ll be able to determine the overarching business objective, the campaign KPI, how that KPI will be measured, and the measurement approach that best fits the campaign. With all these pieces laid out you can confidently move forward knowing your campaign will garner valuable insights.
In the interest of brevity there are admittedly a few gaps in what has been discussed, such as how to handle campaigns that are majority or entirely offline, what some of the limitations of various methodology might be, and what some of the more advanced forms of measurement might entail. For example, many marketers today are going further than the layers outlined above and looking at complex problems such as attribution, econometric modeling, and marketing mix modeling. Conversely, if you are working with an agency that does *not* consider measurement important or take data seriously – that’s a red flag.
What is important to remember is that measurement, like media, is a test and learn process. Work with your agency partners to define a measurement agenda and then revisit it over time to ensure it still works. Identify ways to improve, and continue building upon successes, no matter how small.
While this might feel like a lot to remember, it pays to work through it piece by piece. A strong agency counterpart, like us at Civilian, can be an invaluable resource to ask questions, dig in, and make sure that everyone is set up for success.