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When it comes to selecting the right metrics to measure your marketing and comms activity it's always good to apply a framework. This is the first a few posts where I'll outline the measurement framework I use with my clients every day. In this post, we'll cover off how to think about identifying meaningful metrics based on their purpose, and we'll also look at how to organize them into a set of KPIs that measure your execution holistically (as opposed to just measuring awareness).
I generally organize my metrics into 5 different metric categories, which include awareness, engagement, perception, experience, and conversion.
It's important to note that depending on your campaign objectives and channel mix you may not need a metric that falls into each category. But I generally recommend that you select metrics that fall into at least 2 of the 5 categories so you don't run the risk of focusing on 1 measure in isolation. This is what I like to call anchoring, which means that you're always looking at 1 metrics or KPI is relation to another (e.g. a change in awareness relative to a change in engagement).
Awareness metrics tell you about how many people were exposed (e.g. reached) to your marketing activity.
Awareness metrics are best used to provide context while evaluating performance while other metrics (e.g. engagement, conversion) give you more insight into how well your marketing activity actually performed.
Awareness metrics are often misused for vanity purposes as they typically produce the biggest and most impressive number. This is why you should never look at awareness metrics in isolation, as they should always be considered in relation to metrics in other categories such as engagement or conversion.
Engagement metrics tell you about how many people responded to your marketing activity.
Engagement metrics provide useful insight into how well your marketing activity performed (e.g. did your content resonate) and these metrics become particularly useful when examined in relation to metric categories like awareness and perception. For example, did engagement on my site go up because of an increase in traffic, or did perception of my brand go down as a result of increased engagement due to a PR crisis.
Contrary to what many believe, engagement metrics are not always explicitly positive. For example, you could receive high engagement due to a negative story about your brand that has gone viral. Therefore, it’s important to understand that engagement does not always imply a positive response to your marketing activity.
Perception metrics provide invaluable insight into the tone or opinion toward your marketing activity, or brand. Measuring engagement is not always enough, and perception metrics can fill a big gap in terms of helping you understand whether your activation has positively impacted consumer or customer perception toward your brand, products or industry.
Perception metrics like sentiment, if quantified properly, provide very rich insight into the response to your marketing activity. Did people like or hate it, did you increase or decrease brand affinity, are just a few examples of the types questions you can answer by looking at perception.
Unfortunately automation in this space hasn't quite lived up to expectations (i.e. see problems with automated sentiment), and therefore measuring perception often requires a great amount of human intervention and effort to make the data more accurate/usable. Which in turn can make measuring perception difficult and time intensive.
Experience metrics tell you about the quality of the experience for the people who engaged with your marketing activity. It’s important to note that you generally only need experience metrics when measuring activity on a platform you have built and/or maintain (e.g. website) as you don’t generally have the ability to optimize the experience for 3rd party platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc).
Experience metrics offer insight into the root cause of a poor performing campaign that you might otherwise attribute to something else (e.g. creative assets, ad targeting, etc). As an example, let's say you have a large scale display campaign driving traffic to a landing page on your site, and you notice that 95% of the visitors bounce when they should be viewing multiple pages. When we see poor performance like this, our first instinct is often to look at the ad execution (e.g. copy, creative, targeting) and diagnose whether there's something wrong with your media plan. But, what if you looked at Google Analytics and found that average page load times on your site were 10 minutes. In this example, most visitors were probably bouncing out of frustration due to long load times.
This is exactly why you should look at experience metrics for platforms you manage. Experience metrics help you to properly diagnose poor performing campaign assets so you don't waste time trying to optimize something that isn't broken.
Diagnosing technical issues or errors that are the cause of a poor experience can be a difficult and cumbersome task. You are also sometimes constrained by existing technological platforms and architectures that can make it difficult to react to performance related issues that are creating a poor experience.
Conversion metrics tell you how many people followed through to a desired action (or actions) which in turn create some form of business value. Conversion metrics are most often associated with e-commerce and sales, however, conversion metrics apply to any channel and business objective and can include metrics like leads, whitepaper downloads, etc. Put simply, conversion metrics measure any action(s) that you intended your audience to take as a result of being exposed to your marketing activity.
Conversion metrics are essential to understanding whether your marketing activity is actually creating business value.
Outside of e-commerce, you need to be very careful about how you select your conversion metrics and subsequently how you quantify them. When it comes to selecting conversion metrics, make sure that you choose metrics/actions that truly create some form of business value. And if you do decide to use a conversion rate make sure you consider which touch points contribute to your conversion calculation (e.g. site wide visits vs landing page visits / sales).
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