The goal of any marketing campaign is to have the best performance possible — but to do that, you need to be able to observe, track, and optimize its effectiveness every step of the way. That’s where the three fundamentals of marketing analytics come in to play. These fundamentals serve as a foundation for deep analysis and help you accurately measure your success throughout the life of your campaign.
Understanding these three principals of marketing analytics and how they work together to tell the story of your campaign and optimize its effectiveness is the first step toward transforming the sea of numbers into actionable insights. So, let’s get started.
Simply put, data is a collection of facts and statistics that can be used for reference or analysis.
Once compiled, data can be read and transformed in a way that leads to optimizations, insights, learning, action, and results.
Data serves as a single source of truth that allows for visualization and analysis. Within that data are numbers that you can track to measure and gauge your performance — these are called metrics.
Metrics come in all shapes and sizes, such as impressions, conversions, unique users, completion rates, frequency, time on site, and more. These metrics can be broken down into two categories: vanity metrics and actionable metrics.
Once you dive into the sea of data, it can be easy to get lost. It can also be easy to find numbers that seem to support prior decisions without telling the full story. These are called vanity metrics. They indicate improvement and can help make you look good to others, but they don’t help you understand your own performance in a way that informs future strategies.
On the other hand, actionable metrics tie to a specific and repeatable task that you can improve. Actionable metrics are the numbers that help drive the goals of your business.
Remember — the numbers are just the numbers. It’s up to you to organize the metrics in a way that tells the full story of the campaign and provides actionable insights.
You won’t be taking action against the “fluff” within the data, so it’s important to focus on the metrics that are actionable, meaningful, and impactful.
To do that, you’ll need to be able to recognize which metrics are actionable and which are vanity.
To start, ask yourself a few questions:
Does the metric help you make critical decisions?
When you look at it, do you know what immediate action you need to take?
Does the metric inform future strategies?
If the answers to these questions are no, then it’s probably a vanity metric.
At the start of each unique campaign, you’ll select a few important metrics that will help accurately gauge your success.
These are your key performance indicators, or KPIs. Now that you’ve learned how to spot a vanity metric, you can choose KPIs that actually provide insights and lead to improved strategies.
Luckily, for every vanity KPI out there, there is an actionable KPI that you can refer to in its place:
Actionable: Sessions, Unique users, Time on Page, Bounce Rate, Direct Traffic Lift
Actionable: Sessions From Social, CTR, Engagement Rate, Share of Voice, Mentions
Actionable: CTR, Conversions, CPC, CPM, CPA, ROI/Incremental Lifts
Here is a quick reference for selecting KPIs that are actionable based on the type of campaign:
Impressions, frequency, CTR, offline conversions, VCR, website traffic, time on site, brand lift
Impressions, frequency, CPM
Conversions, CPA, CTR, CPC, CVR, revenue
CTR, CPC/CPM, website traffic, time on site
The focus on actionable insights is key when analyzing data and making optimizations to campaigns in the digital world.
To ensure a foundation for clear and concise insights, the structure of data should be tailored to the key objectives and goals of each campaign. Remember, without establishing goals and measurements of success, you can’t take action that matters.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. If you can’t improve it, what’s the point?
Many people that begin their analytics journey start off believing that more data is the key to success. After all, more data means more power… right?
Well, not necessarily.
More important than the quantity of our data is our ability to sort through it to find the answers we need. Overwhelming data can lead us to believe we have the answers when we don’t, and that can cause us to act on falsely assumed insights.
Once a campaign’s objectives have been determined and the evaluation of the live campaign begins, it’s essential that we take key data points and build out a visualization.
Spreadsheets are not data visualization. They make it nearly impossible to determine actionable insights because the meaning is lost in translation. And, if insights can be found, they could take hours to determine, whereas a visualization can reveal insights in seconds.
Here’s an example:
Unlike a spreadsheet, data visualizations transform data in a meaningful way and bring it to life through graphs, design, and color.
Visualizations help users explore and understand the data, allowing trends and insights to surface significantly faster.
Plus, data visualizations allow us to slice and dice the data in a more intentional way that reduces the time to insight — and that means performance can be improved faster. And, as we all know, time is money.
The story we tell with the data we collect and analyze — the narrative — is arguably the most important fundamental of marketing analytics.
Adding a narrative to your data and visualizations ties it all together — a story unfolds, and the big picture is revealed in a meaningful way. Context and commentary are often necessary to fully appreciate and understand an insight, especially for those who don’t fully understand what all the numbers and metrics mean and why they matter.
By combining the right data, insightful visuals, and a powerful narrative, you have a data story that can influence and drive action.
Now more than ever, it’s crucial that we evaluate our marketing effectiveness in real-time to achieve optimal performance. The digital landscape is dynamic, and as more and more technology and placement opportunities become available, expectations for success will increase in tandem.
It’s no secret — data can be easy to drown in. But when marketing analytics is leveraged as a full process, the results can provide incredible, detailed insights and be built upon for future successes. Analytics removes the doubt from the data and allows you to be more proactive — instead of reactive. And as we all know, when it comes to campaign management, optimizations, and insights tied to key metrics — it pays to be one step ahead.