Ideas for getting started with measurement planning
With 2022 fast approaching, it's time to reassess your team's measurement strategy ...some high level thoughts on getting started
At events where I speak to marketing practitioners (back when in-person was still a thing) I continued to make the statement that it has never been a more exciting time to be a digital marketing or public relations professional. Why so exciting? We’ve never had so many tools and tactics to reach our target audiences at our fingertips. We also have an unprecedented amount of data to shift our execution from “gut feel” to data-driven. But before we can dive into new tools and start to use data to improve our programs, a critical yet frequently missed first step is to conduct measurement planning. As the new year is fast approaching, today I wanted to share thoughts on just some of the key actions your organization (or agency) should conduct during the planning process. All of the following is applicable to both startups and large companies alike, the process is really no different, it’s the specific goals that are unique and should be determined to suit to your current situation.
Outline objectives & KPIs, get team alignment
This is really the first step: what does success look like to your business? Get as specific as possible. If you are reading this, you’re probably in some area of technology and your answer was likely revenue generated from marketing initiatives. If you said yes to this, awesome, you’re spot on and your marketing professor is likely applauding you (and frowning at people obsessed with ‘vanity metrics’ such as ‘likes’ and followers or nebulous, silly aspirations like ‘going viral’). Now, go further: what tactics do you plan to implement to generate revenue, and how do they accomplish this? What does success look like (X percent increase in Y tactic)? Create a matrix outlining it, along with the key performance indicators (KPIs) that map back to revenue. For example, more (relevant and engaged) website visitors leads to more micro and macro conversions, which leads to more revenue. Or, a larger (opt-in) email list of excited users equals more click-throughs to landing pages for absolutely can’t-miss content (such as a juicy, sector-specific research report), providing your sales team more, relevant prospects to work with. Or, a larger community in social leads to more re-sharing and awareness of your content + brand and ultimately clicks/queries back to your social hub, which lifts brand and organic marketing metrics. The list goes on, of course, but the point is to map out how all the marketing tactics you ship every day roll to the important stuff (and ultimately compound).
Again, outlining metrics at each step is key, as it will also guide setting both micro and macro goals in analysis tools (think of micro goals like dating and macro goals like marriage, you ultimately work up to the big stuff of actually converting customers, but asking them to get in bed with you on the first date goes …about as well as you’d think).
As my friend and former colleague at Google Avinash likes to say, “If you ain’t got goals, you ain’t got nothin’!” Your 12 month plan should all map back to results, and if you have activities on it which don’t, consider removing them or re-thinking how to determine if they’re effective. A few ‘faith-based’ initiatives are not the end of the world, and everyone has some, but just remember you’re going to get questions about them at some point (and so you’d better have answers).
Before implementing tools, ask tough questions
Until you know precisely what it is you wish to accomplish, it is premature to start testing out tools or shopping vendors. Different tools have different strengths and flexibility (not to mention costs and user preference). There is a lot that goes into selection of the right measurement tool, but really it comes down to the questions that matter to you first: can the tool easily (and in an automated fashion) measure the metrics you care about? Can you get the support you need (or for free tools, are there qualified consultants available)? Does the tool integrate with your other initiatives/digital systems (web, app, POS, and beyond)? How easy is it to customize reports and segment data? Be sure to ask all the tough questions (both internally with your own analyst and externally with a vendor) first. I previously gave a talk outlining all the steps you need to take in order to ensure your tools, team and processes all work together if a video explainer with visuals is helpful:
Have reporting plan, cadence, actionable next steps
Now that you have your objectives down, your marketing plan complete, the KPIs associated with your programs established, you know what tools you’re planning to use and how you’re going to integrate them, you need a plan to actually start using the data. Ideally, you have an analyst resource on your team focused on delivering the right reports, insights, and actions to their appropriate stakeholders and evangelizing data to those in your organization. This last point is important: it’s still not enough to assume people will act on data unless you make it clear what actions your team members should take and get everyone excited about actually implementing recommendations.
A monthly analytics meeting including all important (cross-functional) stakeholders to actively review data, insights and next steps is wise for most organizations, as many are busy and tend to gloss over email updates or Slack posts. Actively reviewing what’s happening is key, and helps maintain alignment and expectations. There are no surprises if everyone is following progress as a team: data-driven decision-making is undoubtedly the future, but keep in mind it’s still new territory for many. Working collaboratively and transparently will help everyone get comfortable and value metrics appropriately/ensure you actually do the right things with them to improve results. To get there, the right leadership and team is key. Analytics is ultimately a people problem, not a software one (about 90% of your resource/budget should be on people, 10% on tools — if you think you can do it the other way you’re setting yourself up for disaster).
Quick wrap before you refresh your approach
While the above is just a primer on measurement planning and the actual steps you take will vary based on your organization and resources, the point is planning is the key first step in measurement. As simple as it may be to actually implement a tool, it’s ensuring you use it effectively as an ongoing part of your marketing that makes the difference.
A prior version of the following post originally appeared on my ClickZ column, however I am sharing an updated version now as it’s timely to spend time on this with the new year fast approaching.