Measure success or actually learn something new?

What did you learn from your last campaign? That it was a success? Congratulations! In my experience, that is often the “learning” from campaigns: ”We achieved our goals.” But what if we’d focus on the learning instead? Next time, try this formula: Set your targets. Collect relevant measurements. Spend a fair amount of time on the analysis – and learn something new.

I’ve attended two different digital communications conferences over the last ten days and if there is one thing I remember, it’s the focus on measurements: “Measure – measure – measure!” Being a former market analyst, I grew more and more uncomfortable listening. Because in my experience, the measurement is just the means – a step. I absolutely agree with the speakers stating that measurements are essential – don’t get me wrong – it’s just that measuring is not the same as learning. And measurements are not the same as setting the right goals. Any communications project should start with a serious reflection on the goals as a foundation to decide what to measure. And then, once you have the numbers, the real work starts: The analysis.

Starting with the target-setting, the industry has been debating how to measure return on Investment (ROI) of digital and social media for years. To me the important aspect is not the ROI as such, but rather if the activity helps to move a potential customer forward in the purchase process? Depending on what part of the purchase process the campaign is addressing, different KPIs (Key Performance Indexes) will be relevant. I quote Nichole Kelly in the white paper Calculating ROI to Make the Business Case for Social Media Marketing:

Narrow Your Objectives. Unless you have a huge budget, you need to focus on only one primary goal, which may be generating awareness, leads, customers or improving customer retention. Knowing what you’re trying to achieve helps you determine what to measure.

My only addition to Kelly’s conclusion is that it’s not quite enough to focus measurements solely on the main KPI, but one must also consider the questions to be answered in the post-campaign analysis. In broad terms, the KPI should be specific and describe a performance level where the company will be satisfied, i.e. where the campaign will have generated good value for money. The questions to consider in the post-campaign analysis on the other hand, should rather focus on the ‘how’: What activities helped us achieve these results? What worked well? What could be improved next time? For this, a different set of measurement data is usually needed.

Picture a rather well-known brand which seeks to re-position itself as ‘green’ – caring for the environment. For the first campaign, “views” is probably a relevant KPI as the aim is to build a new perception. Let’s assume that ‘views’ of 2 key videos is the main KPI for the campaign. This is where the campaign money should be spent, and this is what should be measured with set levels: “20,000 views would be ok, but our KPI is 30,500 as we’re making a big effort here”.

Time flies and campaign is over. Time for the analysis. Unfortunately. in my experience this seldom happens as the marketing communications team has already mentally moved on to the next campaign and therefore the agency can get away with just delivering the KPI-related data: “We reached 30,675 so the campaign is a success!” Well done. But what was the learning? Maybe there was a potential to reach 40,000 by a minor tweak of the plan or the message?

This is where a different, more detailed, set of data comes into play. For instance the engagement generated by social media posts: Did some do better than others? If so, why? Did a lot of the views come from an unexpected source, e.g. search? If so why? Maybe there was a speech made by a company executive which drew traffic to the videos. Was on and off line in combination the real trigger? It doesn’t make the gathering of data easier, I acknowledge that, but taking this perspective already when setting the project plan, resources can be steered towards the right measurements to deepen the understanding of the campaign’s performance and thereby lay a good ground for future campaigns.

Measure-measure-measure, yes please! But in fact, the analysis may be the single most important part of a marketing communications activity.
Because in this lies the learning.

Blog also published on LinkedIn June 12, 2015

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