Analytics and metrics make for smarter marketing

Knowing how to target and optimise your marketing spend with metrics and analytics isn’t always easy for a startup but here are some tips and tricks to get you started

Analytics and metrics make for smarter marketing

For cash-strapped startups, making every penny count is absolutely vital. Nowhere is this more of a concern than in your marketing budget, where poorly thought-out campaigns can be akin to throwing your money down a wishing well. Because of this, using metrics to keep an eye on how your spend is influencing customer journeys is an essential marketing discipline but, for the uninitiated, getting one’s head around the world of analytics and testing isn’t the easiest learning curve.

Certainly keeping an eye on whether they’re making the best use of their cash is an essential discipline for any enterprise. “Making sure that every last scrap of your marketing budget is put to good use is vital for a startup,” says Bhavesh Vaghela, chief marketing officer of ResponseTap, the call tracking and analytics company. However, this doesn’t always mean it’s easy to get a clear picture of whether a company is getting value for money. “For companies that want to measure how their marketing investment is delivering a return, it can be challenging to get that insight,” says Richard Neale, EMEA marketing director at Birst, the business intelligence service provider.

Analysing the effectiveness of an enterprise’s marketing spend will always depend on the objectives that it is trying to achieve. Chaz Brooks, creative director and co-founder of Chaz Brooks Communications, the PR and marketing agency, says that these goals may centre around things such as speeding up or lowering the cost of acquiring new customers and increasing market share. “You need to know which customers are your most valuable, what it costs to get a new customer, the time it takes from suspect to client and your share of the market so that you can benchmark your performance,” he says.

Almost invariably, the place to start is ensuring you’ve built up an accurate picture of who you are trying to actually reach. “It may seem obvious, yet so many marketers still fail to hit the right demographics,” comments Ted Prince, senior vice president of information services and corporate development at Neustar, the real-time information and analytics provider. 

“It should absolutely be the first item in any good marketing plan: home in on your target through proper demographic and behavioural segmentation and then allow the marketer to understand what specific channels are most effective for reaching that target.”

Because of this, before one even puts a campaign in motion, it’s important to conduct proper market research. “Getting to know what your target demographic likes and dislikes is crucial to creating a successful marketing campaign,” explains Jennifer Allen, client liaison coordinator at Amber Arch, the mystery shopping company. She recommends marketers conduct various forms of research, from exit polls and customer surveys to focus groups, to really get to grips with whom they’re actually courting with their marketing efforts.

Ensuring a campaign is properly targeted before putting any money down is a good start but, once it’s in progress, there’s still plenty more tracking to be done. Fortunately, we’re living in a world where almost every tool we use provides reams of data for our perusal, from CRMs to e-commerce platforms. “Google Analytics and email campaign software like Mail Chimp or Campaign Monitor can do a lot of the hard work for you in measuring the impact of your marketing activities against your chosen benchmarks,” says Brooks.

However, it’s important marketers ensure they’re getting the full picture by integrating and utilising all of the metrics at their disposal. “Data can be held in the sales and customer relationship management apps but how often is this linked up to web analytics or marketing automation information?” says Neale. “Without getting the overall picture, it can be difficult to get the right metrics in place to justify further investments.”

An enterprise also needs to make sure it’s using the most appropriate metrics. In 2013, Neustar conducted a piece of research with the marketing publication Ad Age that revealed almost a third of digital marketers were using first- or last-click attribution cookies to track consumers’ passage from ad to purchase, potentially missing a much more nuanced story. “Although still a useful measure, a last-touch attribution system gives full credit to the last digital ad a consumer sees for making the sale and this isn’t enough to tell the full story,” Prince explains.

Of course, tracking online spend is all well and good but it’s a wide world out there and only a proportion of advertising takes place on the web. Increasing oversight of offline investments is also vital. “We know the customer’s journey is not purely online so we need to incorporate a broader set of data that allows us to understand what drives the offline activity as well,” comments Vaghela. “It is only then that the analytics we have can be turned into insights that help us improve the experience we give our customers.”

Including both online and offline is an essential part of understanding the full journey that consumers are taking. “[Enterprises] need to ensure that the display ad reached the right consumer and to be able to measure how it affected that consumer’s offline behaviour,” Prince says. A marketing model that utilises offline data helps show which channels are having the most significant impact and reveals the myriad factors that are helping influence customers’ purchasing decisions.

But there’s another factor marketers can’t ignore when ensuring the best bang for their buck. While tracking can ensure you are spending smart when bringing in the customers, ensuring you retain them is just as vital a part of optimising your marketing activities. “Awareness of customer service becomes an essential requirement for marketers,” comments Neale. “Measuring how customers are responding to your service and their happiness is therefore just as essential as the number of new leads that you are creating.”

It’s true that keeping track of marketing isn’t the simplest endeavour. “As digital marketing grows in importance, the consumer’s journey to a purchase is not as simple and direct as it used to be,” says Prince. However, this is no excuse not to keep a close rein on your investment. 

Josh Russell
Josh Russell

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