Why Your Marketing Metrics Don’t Add Up

Few things can be as jarring for marketers as losing trust in your metrics. There are many sources of marketers’ trust issues with their data, but the one I hear cited more than any other is conflicting or competing data sources. Perhaps the numbers are emerging from two different reporting systems or third-party publishers, or maybe it’s a case of misattributed engagement, but all too often marketers slap down side-by-sides that simply don’t add up. When 60% of customers are coming from one channel, and the remaining 50% from another, then what? Anxiety, distress, distrust—and the cycle continues.

This discomfort is an unwelcome side effect of some welcome advances in omnichannel marketing—you’re everywhere and so is your marketing, and that’s bound to lead to at least some static. However, what we’re seeing now takes that even further, leaving marketers with significant internal and external roadblocks in the journey to become data-driven. How can you and your organization determine a single source of truth and, ultimately, leverage this to make smart, effective, efficient decisions, when the data not only doesn’t provide a clear-cut next step, but may not even make sense?

Give more sources “credit” for the sale

Attribution is one of the most common sources of confusion and distress. Even the most seemingly airtight campaigns can wind up in a situation where, at least at the surface, the numbers don’t tell a steadfast tale. One of the most common sources of data disconnect in marketing and advertising is misattribution—very simply, which platform, offer, or campaign gets the “credit” for a conversion?

Think about the last time you logged into Facebook and saw an article or video that was making the rounds. It was probably posted on a few of your friends’ walls, and maybe you saw some other people tweet about it. By the time your friend texted it to you, you’d already seen it, because you subscribe to daily updates from the site that originally posted it. Sound familiar? To which source should your click be attributed? Didn’t they all, in some way, drive you to engage with the content? Does it matter which link you clicked through when you actually consumed the content? What’s more, it’s possible you clicked through from more than one source. So who wins?

Trust issues bubble to the surface because marketers feel misled by the seemingly conflicting data when, in fact, it’s all correct—just different interpretations of what ultimately led to the conversion. Because consumers’ journeys are becoming increasingly circular, attribution can come from a variety of sources and shouldn’t incite distress signals. A greater understanding of and appreciation for this circuitous system can help dissuade some of this distrust.

Embrace multiple data sources

The best answer to data trust issues is to understand the various sources of legitimate confusion, like in the attribution example above. To accomplish this, marketers should be prepared to determine campaign key performance indicators (KPIs) ahead of launch, and ensure proper measurement across multiple internal and third party data sources.

While relying on a single data source sounds appealing, in practice digging through multiple sources is more likely to yield an accurate picture.

Global PC manufacturer Lenovo, for example, implemented a multichannel analytics strategy to measure customer satisfaction. By analyzing data from six sources—the web, postpurchase surveys, its customer relationship management (CRM) system, call center, email, and live chat—Lenovo ascertained why customers were phoning the call center and what actions they took before calling. That insight helped them improve areas of the website to reduce calls and avoid customer dissatisfaction with long wait times.

Learn to live with inflated metrics

Another common source of confusion is artificially inflated metrics. Are consumers flying through a slideshow, paying little or no mind to the images and native or promotional content? Although those aren’t great engagement experiences from a marketing perspective, they’re certainly being counted both by in-house solutions and third-party reporting systems. This doesn’t necessarily mean these are bad platform choices; but it is something you need to take into account in order to have a concrete understanding of how your marketing budget is being spent and the effectiveness of your campaigns.

And when all else fails and definitively determining the truth seems impossible, simply admit it. Decide what your organization will use to measure success, how it will be articulated and leveraged, and what you’ll look for from campaign to campaign, test to test—and make sure everyone falls in line. By having a universal set of KPIs, metrics, and vernacular, you’ll save time and key resources from ongoing debate, chatter, distress, and distrust, freeing up time for meaningful optimization activity.

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