Commentary

Online CSI: Conversion Sequence Investigation

Forensic Science - it's everywhere.

Tune into network TV any night of the week and you'll see a law or crime drama that revolves around scientific analysis of evidence. Our preoccupation with these dramas has led to one of the most watched television series in history ... CSI.

What is the fascination? I believe that it's for two main reasons. First, it is human nature to want to uncover the truth. Second, we want to base our decisions on the cold hard facts.

These same principles certainly hold true when allocating multi-million dollar marketing budgets.

In the world of marketing, with reduced budgets, greater demand for accountability, and shorter tenure for marketing executives, the stakes have never been higher. The need to back up strategic decisions with deep analytic insights has never been greater. Fortunately, as in the criminal justice world, technological advancements can now provide marketers with the information they need to make informed judgments, confident they are accurately interpreting the evidence.

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In my last commentary I noted the importance of synchronizing the tracking of various online channels as the critical foundational element to provide DNA-like proof to power your decisions. Once your programs are tracked consistently, the next step is to do the "forensic" work of identifying the most prominent Paths to Conversion (P2C). When done correctly the findings are truly enlightening, providing the kind of clarity into the sequence of events leading to successful outcomes that have subsequently allowed clients to gain efficiencies and increase financial returns.

How is this possible? Because marketers embracing P2C gain two unique advantages over other marketers - the understanding of the interdependence of the various channels on each other that conspire to drive the outcomes you desire; and the ability to recreate and repeat/ those activities on an ongoing basis, at scale, to provide consistent performance.

Without this knowledge marketers are at a significant disadvantage. If you've ever had to scale back or eliminate a program in your mix without firm, comprehensive evidence that no negative ripple effect would occur; if you've ever made blanket percentage or dollar reduction across all programs in your mix; if you've ever been frustrated at the inability to repeat success at ever-larger volume - then you understand the difficulty of operating without the insight that P2C provides.

Conversely, marketers who have been at the forefront of the P2C movement have gained efficiencies and also have been able to confidently answer classic questions such as:

• What impact, if any, does "view-through" truly have on my conversions, versus what I would have gotten without it? How should I acknowledge and account for that impact?

• How much of my budget should I allocate to each channel?

• If I have to reduce budget, how will I adjust the mix without negatively impacting my results?

• To what extent should I invest in non-branded keywords?

• Am I paying out unnecessary commissions?

• Do my display, email, CPA, etc. programs have any impact on my paid search conversions?

• Can I reduce my paid search bids and still hit my goals?

These and many more nagging questions are finally in the realm of being put to rest. Marketers who are embracing technological advancement are not repeating the mistakes of the past. They are no longer only looking at the last click because it is the easiest route, or because they aren't able to understand deeper correlations between marketing activities. They are no longer anxiously awaiting the results of a flight of programs, hoping they work out as intended. And, for these marketers, the verdict is in: Success!

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