Tips for measuring marketing impact to prove ROI

Contributor Kristie Colby explains how to align your systems so that you can track prospects’ interactions all the way to the sale and beyond.

The post Tips for measuring marketing impact to prove ROI appeared first on Marketing Land.

Marketers can struggle to prove the value of their programs when there isn’t always a direct response or purchase. This is especially true for B2B marketers focused on lead generation programs with long, complex sales cycles. So, how does a marketer faced with such a challenge assess the impact of their marketing efforts, prove contribution to revenue and demonstrate ROI?

Understand marketing objectives

Most marketers have several different goals that drive their strategies and programs. Typically, we are allocating resources across multiple programs and channels to meet the following objectives:

  • Brand awareness and market positioning.
  • Lead generation.
  • Lead nurture and sales enablement.
  • Target account acquisition (via Account Based Marketing).
  • Customer loyalty and growth.

Each of these efforts will involve multiple touch points that have varying levels of impact on a prospect or customer’s decision-making process. But what is their ultimate value to the organization?

Critical success factors to measure marketing impact

Here are some of the items that need to be addressed in order to assess the value and contribution of marketing programs:

• Acquiring customer data. Marketers must have the technology and infrastructure in place to record meaningful information about various touch points that contribute to lead generation and customer acquisition. These systems do not rely solely on what the prospect might provide. For example, online registration forms might capture name, email, company name and phone number. In most cases, a marketing automation platform is used to supplement prospect-provided data.

TIP: Most marketing automation systems provide cookie data that can be appended to lead records automatically. Then, when that lead takes a specific action that is important to the marketing program, the engagement can be recognized and possibly addressed with proactive campaigns and programs.

• Ensure consistent parameters. The entire organization must utilize the same parameters and field values to record information related to lead/customer acquisition. They must be categorized with meaningful and actionable values that can be captured by the technology and systems in place. Most companies use a combination of UTM parameters that can be captured by hidden fields on forms and lead source details that can be programmed into a form or labeled within their own parameter.

TIP: Two parameters that must be consistently used by sales and marketing across all programs are utm_medium=[insert medium] and utm_source=[insert source name]. This allows proper channel grouping for the medium (marketing medium of the tagged URL — paid search, social, email, for example) and aligned source values (where the visitor clicked on the tagged URL — for example, Google, Facebook, newsletter).

Often, organizations don’t have total alignment on how to use and populate these parameters, and this can cause data errors and inconsistencies. Taking time to map all lead fields with values that can be used consistently is essential to evaluating marketing programs and their impact on revenue.

• Fully integrate systems. In order to maintain data integrity, sales and marketing systems must be aligned to share all of the data being acquired over time. Specifically, marketing automation and CRM systems must utilize the same fields, populate those fields with common values and pass these details back and forth as data is acquired. Data in these systems must sync as leads move through the sales cycle.

Furthermore, this integration allows marketers to personalize the experience they are creating for each prospect and measure the impact of individual touch points. One example of this type of data integration and how it effectively enables a personalized experience is for leads that have been qualified and sent to sales.

TIP:  The ability to understand the marketing touch points a prospect previously engaged with will help sales reps set the proper tone and context for their initial sales discussion. The prospect’s specific challenges and requirements can be addressed with helpful, relevant content throughout the nurturing process and tackled head-on in sales discussions.

Later, when (hopefully) that prospect becomes a customer, the marketing automation system will route the record to a customer list and begin customized programs focused on loyalty and retention.

Now, with these three critical infrastructure items nailed down, marketers can focus on developing different types of reports to measure and analyze the impact of their programs.

Analysis and insights

With more data comes the power to analyze and assess marketing programs in multiple ways. As leads move through the funnel, I recommend that marketers consider and analyze their results based on these three views:

  • Acquisition (initial lead source).
  • Attribution (across channels and touch points).
  • ABM (target account engagement).

By analyzing marketing data in these three ways, a marketer can start to:

  • Understand the relative impact of various marketing programs.
  • Allocate resources based on the efficient acquisition of qualified leads.
  • Determine the best approach to attribution modeling.
  • Quantify marketing’s contribution to pipeline value and revenue.

Why is this important? These insights allow marketers to better allocate resources, reduce waste and further accelerate sales.

Here is an example of how a marketer might utilize these insights to better focus their resources and drive sales. Let’s assume their organization has a long, complex sales cycle and therefore, had determined they wanted to take an ABM approach to a segment of their marketing programs. Beyond creating the target account list, the marketer will want to understand and measure engagement with multiple stakeholders within that target account.

It is likely that several different contacts within the account will participate in the process and engage with marketing programs over time. A clear understanding of which decision-makers are engaging, when, and how, will be much more insightful, when viewed in aggregate from the ABM perspective with attribution, than if each contact were viewed as an individual, independent lead and not treated as part of the whole. This ABM view will allow sales and marketing to communicate more effectively and efficiently with prospects based on all of the observed behaviors of the group of target account stakeholders.

Prove marketing ROI

Today’s marketers must demonstrate a clear, measurable contribution to the bottom line. This means you must be able to track and measure impact (in an integrated fashion across all sales and marketing systems), and you must be able to analyze all of this data holistically to draw insights, properly allocate budget and demonstrate ROI. This data-driven approach is critical to the success of any marketing team.

The ability to validate programs and confirm impact might seem like the unattainable holy grail for some marketers, but with this data and reporting in place, the holy grail is within your reach.

The post Tips for measuring marketing impact to prove ROI appeared first on Marketing Land.

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Super Bowl ad rankings: Trust your gut or employ rational thinking?

What’s the “right” way to measure the success of your advertising? Contributor Peter Minnium says the answer is “it depends,” and goes on to explain why.

The Super Bowl is the single most viewed televised event in the US. Every year, more than 100 million people tune in to see who will be crowned NFL champion. There is no bigger or brighter stage for impactful ad content, so it is no wonder that a 30-second commercial this year sold for an average of $5 million. With the stakes that high, brands fight tooth and nail for audience attention and, like most consumers, they want to make sure they get their money’s worth.

Though the need for strong evaluative metrics is clear, the means of selection is less evident. Ad Meter, Real Eyes, YouTube, Ipsos (my employer) and many others all created rankings of winners — but each used a different system and got different results. This year, Amazon’s Alexa ad crowned USA Today’s Ad Meter rankings, while Tide, which did not even make the Ad Meter top 10, won out in the inaugural neuro study conducted by Ipsos.

When you’re right, you’re right

While your first instinct may be to assume that one of these studies got it wrong, the divergence in these ratings represents differences in testing approaches, each reflecting a distinct goal and research philosophy. Though methodologies vary, the most dramatic distinctions arise between studies that evaluate audiences’ conscious responses and those that measure nonconscious reactions.

Behavioral science research has revealed that people employ two kinds of information processing: System 1 and System 2. The former is automatic, rapid, efficient, and often operates below our conscious awareness. It can be thought of as our intuitive “gut” reactions and feelings. By contrast, System 2 is controlled, analytical, and deliberate. It is only active when we have the ability and the motivation to consciously process information.

System 1 and system 2 in the spin cycle

These different systems come into play at different points in consumers’ exposure to a brand’s narrative. In the early stage of a product’s lifecycle, the best communication strategy may be to inform and educate prospects as to the new product’s superiority to other existing solutions. Emotional appeals may not reach a skeptical consumer, but providing viewers with the information they need to make an informed judgment can help win them over.

After the early stages of a product’s lifecycle, when the shine of the new has fallen away and other products have caught up in terms of rational benefits, it’s the brand’s image, relative appeal, and closeness that drive consumer choice. Lists of product benefits and demonstrations of their relative strengths become burdensome to viewers, while emotionally-stirring or visually-exciting ads can captivate their attention and maintain their interest.

Picking the right tool for measuring effectiveness

Just as the stages of a product’s lifecycle should inform the choice between educational and emotive advertising, a brand’s needs dictate whether an understanding of an ad’s System 1 or System 2 impact is most relevant. When making this determination, it is important to consider the strengths and limitations of viewer self-reporting. While System 2 studies may yield more thoughtful responses, they can overlook nonconscious viewer engagement.

Like most research techniques, the Ad Meter evaluates participants’ articulated response to individual ads. It relies entirely on viewers’ conscious assessment of the ads with self-recruited panelists scoring each ad on a 1 to 10 scale. As marketers we are very familiar with these types of survey questions: “Which ad did you like best”, “Which ads did you dislike”, or “Which ads were most memorable?” These are all examples of System 2 processing.

Measure reactions with the blink of an eye

Methodologies that measure System 1 processing of ad content may be less familiar, but they can be powerful. Neuroscience has armed researchers with an arsenal of techniques, including EEG (electroencephalogram), Facial Coding, Eye Tracking, and Biometrics. The merit of each of these approaches is determined by the importance of recreating a natural viewing environment and which level of analysis most directly answers a brand’s questions.

  • EEGs measure fluctuations in the brain’s electrical activity using a headset. They provide great temporal resolution by matching voltage spikes and waves to the introduction of stimuli and can be read at fast speeds, giving almost immediate results. However, EEGs struggle to simulate a natural viewing environment, as respondents are required to wear a headset and must be mindful of moving while participating in the study.
  • Facial coding reads emotions from facial expressions — happiness, surprise, sadness, disgust, fear, and confusion. It can track minute changes in mood, revealing if a scene is having the desired effect. Capable of distinguishing between a sincere and an insincere smile, it can provide great insight about the true emotional state of viewers when watching ads, but participants need to sit in front of a camera and remain focused on the content.
  • Eye tracking measures the movement of a viewer’s gaze across the screen and allows practitioners to see through the audience’s eyes. It is one of the best ways to determine what attracts and captures a viewer’s attention, though it does little to explain what (if anything) the viewer is experiencing. Eye tracking also requires participants to sit in front of a specialized camera, which, while less intrusive than an EEG, is still short of a natural viewing environment.
  • Biometrics can be measured in many ways, including Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), also referred to as skin conductance or electro-dermal activity. When the viewer becomes excited, sweat production increases, making it possible to directly monitor the impact of stimuli on the viewer. Measuring GSR is far less disruptive than other System 1 tests, as it does not require cumbersome equipment or severely limits participants’ movement.

Tides of sweat make for winning ads

GSR was chosen for Ipsos’ study because it was deemed the best way to collect System 1 data while preserving the natural viewing environment so important for the Super Bowl. The human body has the highest number of sweat glands in the hands and feet, making them ideal sites for testing. In the interest of both maximizing accuracy and minimizing disruption, a wearable Shimmer GSR device — designed to be attached to participants’ fingers — was used.

Image via Shimmer

Participants enjoyed the Super Bowl in the comfort of a small theater, while the devices tracked their levels of excitement. When Alshon Jeffery reached for a one-handed catch, Eagles fans tensed in anticipation. Their heart rates spiked, and sweat production increased, as part of their bodies’ natural response. Every time David Harbour delivered his soon-familiar line–” It’s a Tide ad” –their amusement was nonconsciously expressed the same way.

It all comes back to the brand

The ads in this year’s Super Bowl were tested and ranked by no fewer than six companies using various System 1 and System 2 methodologies. Each was “right” for a specific context, delivering a unique perspective on the ads’ impact on viewers. Smart marketers and their agencies know to choose a methodology based on their specific objectives and are paying increasing attention to the needs of their communication to engage System 1 and System processing.

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