Your Marketing Measurement Plan Is Broken — 4 Steps to a Unified Analytics Fix
This article was originally published on AdWeek.com on March 16, 2018.
Marketing has an analytics challenge.
As advertising has become relentlessly omnichannel and people-based, many brand marketers have found that their analytics — the key to understanding marketing performance and driving customer experience — have failed to keep up. As a result, critical decisions are being made based on data that may be insufficient, inconsistent and inaccurate — hardly a way of setting your team up for success.
Consider the trade-offs many marketers face today. Traditional mix models provide a picture of aggregate channel performance, but miss tactical marketing performance. Attribution models give a much clearer picture of the impact of digital programs, but don’t take into account traditional media, external market forces, or even other critical marketing decisions like pricing, product, inventory, distribution and customer experience. Both are helpful but limited measurement models, and each acted upon alone may take marketers in the wrong direction.
Rather than settle for the individual measurement models and their limited vantage points, we see progressive marketers embracing unified marketing analytics. Unified models blend both approaches, providing a full view of the key drivers of a brand’s marketing performance. This single model is more accurate and actionable at the strategic and tactical levels, guiding high-level allocation decisions, as well as discrete granular optimization choices by tactic, creative and audience.
Best-in-class unified analytics consider all marketing and media impacts as well as non-marketing effects such as pricing fluctuations, economic factors and competitive intelligence, to create a complete and accurate understanding of what is driving the business, rather than over- or under-attributing the impact of marketing.
The end-result is greater marketing accountability, with a clear picture of how marketing investments impact overall financial performance.
By following these four steps, companies can start moving toward a unified analytics approach:
Embrace holistic measurement
Marketing organizations are getting data from a wide range of internal and external sources — social media platforms, marketing clouds, DMPs, DSPs, to name a few. The problem is that each of these platforms has its own analytics approach and metrics. The result is an overwhelming flow of data that may be redundant or inconsistent, clouding your view of the customer. But you can’t avoid this until marketing and sales channel silos are eliminated.
Holistic measurement, on the other hand, brings everything together in one place, making it easier to generate actionable insights. Marketers can get a clearer understanding of true omnichannel impact, gauging how campaigns work across channels and audiences, as well as their effects on brand and customer behavior.
Even the most advanced model is only as good as the quality and completeness of the data inputs it relies on. Identity remains one of the biggest challenges for marketers in today’s connected world. Underlying that challenge is that you can’t measure what you can’t see. With consumers using more devices than ever, it’s harder and harder to accurately connect online and offline brand interactions to the right person.
Bad data, incomplete purchase pathways and misunderstanding the person on the other side of that ad or transaction leads to inaccurate consumer-level models. Bad models lead to poor decisions based on faulty analysis. And all of these wrong turns lead to real financial inefficiencies and ineffective marketing investments. Do it wrong and it can cost you money, and maybe even your job.
This isn’t a one-time effort either. To succeed with a unified approach, marketing teams need to work with their partners — technology providers, agencies, consultants — to constantly validate marketing and media data. Clear data governance standards ensure that the data is reliable and that all users of these insights and recommendations understand limitations that need to be accounted for when making decisions and investments.
Advertisers need to understand which of their marketing efforts are the most successful sales drivers by matching marketing investments to the financial outcomes they’re generating. It’s not simply knowing if a campaign was successful, but seeing how it impacts brand, online and offline sales, and audience responsiveness. Simply depending on only a marketing mix model or a multi-touch attribution model doesn’t provide that complete insight.
Unified analytics solutions — by using multiple approaches to measure performance across the campaign life cycle — ensure brands are able to evaluate budget scenarios, plan for their tactical challenges and continually optimize their marketing investments across their different channels. As important, they are able to identify outside factors that may have an impact — things like economic factors or actions by competitors.
Make insights actionable
Bringing together disparate data grounded in robust identity and unified analytics provides marketers the clearest possible picture of the different purchase paths their customers are traveling. With this information in hand, marketers can identify the right message, frequency and sequencing of campaigns. By having a better idea of what motivates different consumer behaviors, brands are in a stronger position to anticipate needs and build campaigns and experiences that deepen their overall customer relationship and drive sales.
The truth is, a lot of analytics are still backward looking; they measure what’s already happened. A rear-view mirror may be great if you need to explain to the CFO why your sales were up or down, but it’s entirely insufficient to plan and future-proof your marketing strategy in the dynamic landscape in which we all operate. A unified solution lets marketers scenario plan all possible choices to look into the future and optimize marketing investments. This kind of systemic, accurate simulation approach provides brands with a significant competitive advantage by letting them respond and react as customer needs change.