What Marketers Can Teach Each Other About Metrics

We've developed a bad habit in online marketing. All too often we think of direct marketing and brand marketing as entirely separate practices, complete with their own measurement models. Simply put, it’s a false distinction. Direct marketers can learn a lot from the ways that brand marketers measure their campaigns. Likewise, brand marketers, who are sometimes guilty of throwing up their hands when it comes to measurements, have much to learn from direct marketers.

Why direct marketers need to think about new metrics

Direct marketers generally measure success with straightforward cost-based metrics: CPM, CPA, CPL, CPV and CTR. And this compartmentalized view is certainly useful for setting and achieving clear goals. The problem with this compartmentalized approach is that these cost-based metrics, although helpful, don’t tell the full story of a campaign.

Take the example of a direct marketing display campaign for a high-end brand. If the campaign is getting a lot of clicks, it might appear to be a great success according to the standard metrics. But if the marketers are getting those clicks by running their banners on low-quality sites, the campaign could have a deleterious impact on the brand as a whole.



In focusing on the standard campaign metrics, direct marketers often ignore a critical metric that brand marketers look at known as view-through attribution. View-through attribution measures the number of conversions from people who are exposed to display ads during a set time period. With view-through, it doesn’t matter if a user clicks on an ad. The user often sees the ad, but only visits the advertiser’s site hours or days later.

Direct marketers should be happy to embrace view-through. After all, in many cases it can show that their campaigns are even more successful than they realize.

Why brand marketers need to think about new metrics

If it's true that direct marketers need a new approach to metrics, it’s also true that brand marketers have plenty to learn from direct marketers. Specifically, they have to learn that metrics matter.

Brand marketers, understandably, can find it tricky to measure the success of a campaign that aims simply to change people’s perceptions. But if the measurements are less straightforward, it doesn’t mean the whole idea of measurement should be abandoned. The key is moving from simple cost-based metrics (metrics that often only measure a means to an end) to a metric that looks at the campaign’s overall impact on consumers, call it "outcome," or "O."

So how can you measure an outcome such as brand perception? The place to start is often with on-site actions. When users click on an ad, it reveals little about what they think about a brand. But how someone interacts with a site reveals a great deal more.

When I was a brand marketer at a major financial institution, we developed a weighted outcome model that was based on a number of actions that customers took on our site after arriving from online campaigns. Once we had determined the most valuable actions a user could take on the site, such as watching a testimonial or downloading a fact sheet, we simply gave each action a score based on its value.

With these scores in hand, we were able to develop a formula that could measure the overall performance of the campaign. No -- it wasn't a perfect formula, but it did make it possible for us to assess various campaigns based on the outcome index and the cost of the particular campaign. In other words, it made it possible for our brand marketing team to act more like direct marketers by relying on a numbers-focused approach.  

Similarly, savvy direct marketers will continue to learn from more nuanced and comprehensive measurements, such as view-through, that brand marketers now employ. Because let's face it: we've all still got a lot to learn.


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