Marketers are inundated with tools, indicators, and options for measuring campaign performance. In some sense, we’re beholden to the recent torrent of investment in analytics to prove a success and show ROI. It’s given us the ability to take a deep-dive into just about every customer behavior, but not all metrics are created equal and finding the right ones for your brand can be challenging.
That challenge is often referred to as analysis paralysis—when the abundance of possibilities makes marketers spin their wheels trying to go down every rabbit whole without producing any actionable results. If results are formulated, they often create a fragmented story of insights that leave strategic partners scratching their heads and unable to take any reasonable action.
Focus on the Foundation
Every brand is unique and as marketers, strategists, and analysts we want to find something that backs that up—that needle in a haystack that proves something different about our customers. We never stop to think about whether some of our metrics are actually important for us to be observing constantly. Just because it’s possible to measure, doesn’t mean it has any quality or benefit to the brand’s major pillars.
Instead of running down rabbit holes, step back and develop an action plan centrally focused on these core tenets.
Brand Initiatives, Pillars, and Company-Wide Goals
Metrics are only as good as the initiatives that they support.To be successful, we need to be strict and focused on the KPI’s that we choose to measure. Each should be directly reporting on major brand initiatives that different teams are trying to accomplish. Whether that’s as simple as driving sales or as complex as fostering customer loyalty, each KPI should be provable to support that goal.
There are a couple of important reasons for narrowing that focus. First and most importantly, metrics need to tell a cogent story. Data analysis is useless if nobody can understand where to go with it. Great analysis isn’t just about metrics; it’s about making metrics relatable, so action can be initiated by strategic partners.
Second, one of the biggest issues that brands face is that each department has its own goals. Everyone is driving different priorities leading to stalled total progress. By aligning key metrics upfront to major initiatives, leadership can ensure that each team is driving towards the same progress points. In fact, teams acting together can reach their goals shockingly fast when customers find consistency across every channel. We can control the narrative, drive efficiency, and impact goals and customers quicker by centralizing core metrics.
Showing causation is challenging, especially when we’re trying to read loyalty and other behaviors that require numerous indicators melded together into one story. But some metrics have more impact than others.
Metrics that show a direct cause open windows for a clear view of the customer. They enable marketers to take action and make progressive changes.
To show cause and effect, we need transactional behavior—it’s the best way to show a customer’s mindset and to show the journey that led them down that path. As an added benefit, transactional metrics are directly supportive of brand goals, and by staying focused on them analysts can tell a very clear story of customer behavior.
Just as it’s important to stick to hard, transactional metrics to show effect, it’s also wise to shy away from soft “engagement” metrics that have a myriad of variables that lead marketers astray. They’re great for directional reads, but it’s important not to stake claims on them since they have too many potential paths, reasons and motivators. If you’re going to read engagement metrics, stay shallow in the funnel on takeaways.
Test & Learn
Even by sticking to transaction-based metrics, it’s still almost impossible to actually prove anything. There will always be another variable or another potential cause that can’t be accounted for by analysts.
The long-term option is to test everything. Nothing should be simply taken at face value and nothing should be taken for granted. A/B testing is the best way to institute fact-based marketing. Given A/B testing’s importance, brand testing calendars can get severely backlogged and some teams can wait more than a year to find that their tests become a priority.
The answer isn’t to throw more resources at the problem; more tests simply complicate the results by confounding the analysts with the number of variables in place. Instead, the answer remains in leadership’s hands. Much like before, where we focused on aligning metrics to company pillars and initiatives, each test proposal can be placed in a prioritized order based on its relevance to those company pillars dictated by leadership.
That way, testing is not simply based on total potential ROI, which can be a guessing game anyway when each team ramps up numbers to move higher on the priority list. Instead, as a group without bias, we can identify which proposals have the most potential impact on brand goals and the metrics we’ve selected to drive them. It’s a fairer testing model, it has higher fidelity by removing most of the bias, and it slims down the total testing calendar. It’s a win for everyone.
Analysis isn’t neutral. It’s filled with bias, motivation, and contention. And the more money we push into it, the more tenuous those metrics become without the right guidance.Yet if we can contain those biases and maintain reliability, measurement can be a momentous driver of positive change. The process can solve most of our problems and that’s no different for analytics.
Identify what really matters. Quit looking over your shoulder at the competition. Be strict, don’t hope and place your faith in quality. If you can focus on the foundation of your brand, core initiatives, and telling a story that shows impact, measurement can be an essential catalyst to drive change in unison and result in stronger progress.