Of all the areas of marketing uncertainty that we’ve been hit with in the past year, data is definitely near
the top of the list, mainly because shifts to digital behaviors generate more and more data. And there
was enough uncertainty around our data before the pandemic hit, so with the pandemic and, for digital
marketers, the prospect of cookies going away, the acceleration has been even greater. Put it all
together and, for most data analysts, you have one big ball of “oh *bleep*, what do I do next?”
The answer to that question lies in delivering relevant insights and analyses—it’s more critical today
than ever. You need to deliver them in ways that make it easier for your business to make faster
decisions, because faster decisions provide competitive advantage. And the way you do this is through a
clear understanding of the fundamentals of good measurement.
We don’t talk enough about the fact that good analysis and insights work is grounded in good
measurement. Knowing the right KPIs, having “business-relevant” targets for KPIs, connecting them with key supporting metrics, and consistently providing insights on performance that’s “good” (or not so
good) are all important outcomes that are driven by measurement strategy.
Yes, the old “tried and true” fundamentals of measurement will still lead you down a successful path.
We may need to think about them a little differently because of the variety and velocity of data that we
all live with today, but they’re right there waiting for you. So here are my top three measurement
“fundamentals”—if you put these into practice today, I guarantee that you’ll be able to “translate”
digital marketing and media data into effective decisions more quickly and consistently:
1.) Make sure you have “comparables” for your KPIs.
Good measurement starts with defining the right KPIs. Once you’ve done that, the next step is to define
comparables for your KPIs. When I say “comparables,” I mean targets, forecasts, or benchmarks to
compare performance against.
The reason these are so valuable is simple: Have you heard the saying that “there’s a reason why they
make cars with a big windshield and a small rear-view mirror?” In other words, our attention should be
mostly focused on what’s ahead of us. While what’s behind us is important, we should spend less of our
time there. The same is true with measurement.
Without comparables, our attention on KPIs quickly shifts to the rear-view mirror, because that’s all we
have to look at. And I’ll ask you—how many valuable meetings have you had where you spent all of
your time trying to figure out what happened (past tense)? Probably most.
Anytime you can get a team focused on looking at performance and measurement in the context of
comparables, you’re going to see better plans, better execution, and better results.
The best and most useful comparables are targets connected to business goals. Next most useful are
industry benchmarks, if they are available. And if you can’t get either of those, then your next best
option is to look at changes over time, either year-over-year or month-over-month being most common.
Set relevant comparables, and use them as a core part of your measurement strategy. You’ll see your
speed to insight increase, and you’ll see implementation and strategy teams more engaged because
they are more focused on what’s ahead.
2.) Align your measurement strategy and approach with customer behaviors, not internal silos.
I know, I know, I know; we’ve all heard this a million times, and we’re all nodding our heads saying “of
course we measure that way, Rob. …We’d never look at things in silos. That’s so 2005!” Is it?
I’ll save you the soapbox speech—but use these “truths” about behaviors to guide your measurement approach:
- Users don’t behave in a linear fashion—they don’t cleanly move from one stage of the journey to another just because it looks good in your funnel visualization.
- Because of that and many other factors, all media channels influence each other. As we all know, you can’t determine the value of paid media by only looking at behaviors that happen in paid-media channels. The same is true of owned media. You must measure and analyze them together.
At a minimum, make sure you have your analytics tools set up to capture data on users who visit your
site multiple times from different channels, and report on the impact of paid and owned channels
If you want to get more adventurous, test different attribution models and pick the one that works best
for your business. (Hint: U-shaped is a good place to start.) And even more adventurous, use your
media data with analytics to start painting the broader picture of media’s impact/effectiveness.
The biggest challenge is that this is a complicated process that you need to keep as simple as possible in order to get to meaningful outcomes to inform optimizations and strategies. So, start simple and start
small, don’t be afraid to make “reasonable assumptions” when needed to connect data and insights, and create a cross-channel measurement approach that more closely reflects reality than your internal silos.
3.) There are predictable user behaviors in your data—know where they are and their impacts.
If you asked me where I see the biggest gaps in measurement strategy, my first response would be
having a lack of meaningful performance targets (a “comparable” as mentioned above). The second-
biggest gap I see: a lack of understanding of the underlying behaviors (and data) that have the biggest
influence on your KPIs and targets.
Even with the shifts we’ve seen in the past 12 months, there are still many behaviors that users
consistently exhibit over time. That means there are likely some key “80/20s” or “70/30s” in your data,
i.e., behaviors you can measure that have a big influence on the performance of your KPIs. Understand
where they are in the data, how much they contribute and influence your KPIs, and make them your
KSMs (key supporting metrics). These are a critical part of your measurement strategy, because when
you can identify them, they are the first place you look when you see notable changes in your KPIs.
And by measuring and monitoring them, you’ve taken an important first step in moving from having
disconnected reporting to a connected performance model, which allows you to use measurement to
get to insights, decisions, and actions more quickly.
Your measurement strategy, and how you implement it, sets the stage for creating valuable insights and
stories that drive decisions and actions. Remember these three fundamentals to get your Measurement
on the right track to being a competitive advantage for your company.
Rob Silas, Senior Analyst