Accounting For Variables You Can't Account For
Owning a new home means embracing home improvement projects. Lots of them.
I recently bought a new home, and the excitement over my purchase quickly faded and was replaced by the overwhelming sense that I had lots to do. Rooms need to be painted, the furniture needs to be updated, the landscaping needs to be finished; the list of to-dos appears to be never-ending.
So this past weekend I was determined to check off a few of those to-dos. I started with a trip to my local Lowe’s (the home improvement store) to pick up a few things.
Lowe’s has always done a great job of communicating with me. I receive its email newsletters, which appear to morph around my previous click-through behaviors. I notice the company’s paid search ads when I’m seeking specific product categories or brands. I’m reminded that it’s my DIY partner for home improvement projects of all kinds via its broadcast television ads. In large part due to this concerted communications effort, I (rightfully) had high expectations that my needs would be met upon arrival at the store.
Unfortunately, that’s where my brand experience began to unravel.
Through the front door, I went straight to the building materials department. I needed some options and prices for a new deck. After twenty minutes of looking for someone to help me, I finally tracked down a guy who worked in that department. I told him what I was looking to do, and what type of materials I needed, and asked what they had.
His response was unexpected. He told me he wasn’t really sure what the store had, then stared at me blankly for a few moments. After that brief awkward silence, I asked him if he would mind checking the inventory so I could possibly spend a few thousand dollars. He left to (presumably) check his inventory and was gone for 10 or so minutes. When he returned, he told me: 1) he didn’t have the right materials in inventory; 2) wasn’t sure when, or if, he could get them in; and 3) it was time for his break, but someone else would be along to help me out. That was my cue to leave.
How did my unsatisfactory retail experience relate to search marketing? This dynamic, where brands spend hundreds of millions in marketing communications activities only to have those entrusted to “seal the deal” fall flat, is not uncommon. Search marketing is often scrutinized to the nth degree, because pennies in incremental gross margin can contribute significantly to the bottom line. But across many industries, search is an influence that doesn’t necessarily secure the eventual purchase. A human element is required.
The unfair part of life as a search marketer is that our work is often held accountable to that eventual purchase. Closed loop technologies exist that can reverse-engineer and attribute sales revenues to individual keyword queries, but that doesn’t take into the consideration the handful of touches that occur after that prospect raises his hand. So we’re left having to accept the fact that the successes generated from our efforts aren’t always reflected in sales figures. There are too many variables and data points outside of our control.
Acknowledging that any aspect of campaign performance isn’t controllable can be difficult for analytically minded search marketers. The best advice when looking at closed-loop data is to build up campaigns to the point where they perform “well enough” -- and then turn your attention to other aspects of your digital marketing programs.
If instead, you choose to relentlessly obsess over sales data, you’ll only drive yourself crazy. Just when you think you’ve cracked the code, it will be time for someone to go on break.