Marketing Measurement Hacks for When You Need Fast Answers

January 10, 2019 
Contributor: Laura Starita

Improvements in marketing data analytics help marketing leaders make more data-driven decisions, yet many common situations fall outside the scope of current analytics programs. Measurement “hacks” can help fill the gaps.

All the talk about advances in marketing data analytics makes it seem like marketers today can access answers to any question at a keystroke. Reality, unfortunately, is more complicated. Although 16% of marketing budgets go toward marketing data analytics, it is often difficult to get fast answers to tactical questions. Analysis takes time and having the data, but even when data exists, it isn’t always accessible or organized to answer common questions.

“Even as marketing leaders continue to invest in marketing analytics they still don’t use them for most of their decisions, because their analytics don’t answer all the questions they have and the analysis can’t be done fast enough,” says Jason McNellis, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner. “Hacks offer quick, approximate answers to difficult questions without large investments of time and money.”

“Analytics don’t answer all the questions [marketers] have and the analysis can’t be done fast enough...”

Common marketing measurement hacks help predict the impact of a campaign or technique before it happens, or estimate the results from campaigns after the fact. Below, we give an example of each. But first, a warning: Hacks provide rapid estimates that can inform decisions and prevent programs from stalling, but they’re not a substitute for thorough analysis — and shouldn’t be passed off as such.

Hack example 1: Forecast campaign spend

The CMO of a financial services firm wanted to generate 1,000 new leads in the company’s target customer segment through a social ad campaign. The CMO approved $5 million for the effort, but would it be enough to produce the desired results? 

One helpful hack marketing teams can use before launching the campaign is to conduct a sanity check by forecasting impact forward and backward to assess whether the campaign can meet the CMO’s expectations with the budgeted resources

To forecast forward, start with the budget and sketch out the media plan. Estimate the likely response to the plan based on results from past campaigns. Forecast backward by starting with the desired outcome (the 1,000 leads) and moving backward through the steps of the customer journey to calculate the number of impressions, click-through rates and conversions the campaign would need to achieve 1,000 leads, given historical performance.

This method can apply to small single-channel campaigns, such as social ads, or to large efforts like a product launch. A complete set of customer steps and accurate conversion rates are necessary for useful results. Use historic benchmarks for conversion rates based on similar audiences, where available. Mature analytics teams that have conversion rates by audience type and channel can use those for added accuracy.

A marketing analyst at the financial services firm performed the forward and backward forecast, and found that the planned social ad campaign would need to generate about 2 billion impressions to produce 1,000 leads — twice as many as was likely given the budget. The analyst shared the results with the CMO, who set a more realistic goal.

Hack example 2: Measure brand impact

A consumer products brand bought an advertising spot for a new snack on a prominent TV network awards show. The brand wanted to understand the impact of the ad on awareness of the new product in the days and weeks after it ran. Because it was a traditional TV ad, there was no direct-response data, but that didn’t mean marketers couldn’t get some sense of the results.

The “hack” in this case is to use available metrics from web and mobile analytics tools, search platforms like AdWords and social listening tools to estimate the incremental impact of the campaign. For web and mobile traffic, compare the number of unique visitors from before and for some period after the campaign, with special attention to content and pages associated with the campaign message. Track the number of searches that use the brand, product or campaign tagline before and after the campaign. Listen also for brand, product and campaign-specific posts on social channels, blogs and other public platforms.

This hack works best to measure the impact of adding a marketing tactic (or removing one) from the standard marketing mix and to check for residual or lingering impact.

This hack enabled the consumer package company to get a quick estimate of the impact of the TV ad. The analytics team was also able to estimate sales impact by applying historic conversion rates to the increased traffic — in essence, using the “forcast campaign spend” hack described in the first example.

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