Are Your Clients Worried About the Wrong Metrics? Here’s How to Define Success


We pitch a digital strategy to a client. We create the campaign. We measure, we measure, and we measure some more.

Finally, we present the results to the client who then asks, “Are these numbers good or bad? How did we do?”

The truth is, I’ve been working with clients long enough to know that what they’re really saying is, “We, in this room, sitting around this table, have been tasked to elevate our brand in such a way that we effectively, thoroughly crush our direct competition. So, regarding the numbers you just presented -- which one tells us how thoroughly we crushed our competition? Is it that one? What about that one there?”

As it turns out, digital metrics are a wonderful, terrible thing. They can tell you everything and nothing at the same time.

And when it comes to application, perhaps the biggest miss in a client’s digital strategy is the impractical desire to benchmark themselves against other advertisers, when in fact, the best measure of digital success is to benchmark a campaign against oneself.

Allow me to explain…

Breaking Down Unrealistic Benchmarking

As savvy marketers, we have the means to provide industry or vertical-specific benchmarks, benchmarks for specific ad products, and even benchmarks down to certain asset sizes. However, all of this data means very little unless you’ve carved out specific KPIs for clients to measure themselves against.

Quick — which banner ad copy sounds more enticing?

  1. Click Here to Download a Coupon & Save $0.75
  2. Buy One, Get THREE FREE

Certainly three for the price of one is more desirable than saving a meager three quarters, right? This is precisely why a benchmark like this would not deliver meaningful results.

Now imagine that example A represents your client’s offer and example B represents that of a different advertiser. See where their frustration is stemming from?

It’s like taking their Facebook post promoting a new blog article and trying to hold it against Frito-Lay’s Do Us a Flavor campaign (in which a participant has a chance to win a million dollars.)

Quite simply, when the value of the offers isn’t comparable, it’s unrealistic to even consider juxtaposing their performance.

So how do you focus a client’s attention to where it should be?

While us digital folks would love to give clients special blinders that will keep them focused on the “right” measures, until that technology is developed (note to self: open new Kickstarter campaign now), here’s what I’d recommend:

5 Steps for Measuring Digital Campaign Success

1) Establish a Baseline

Before you can get where you’re going, you need to have a strong understanding of where you are. Establishing a baseline will help you achieve just that.

To start, you’ll want to identify key measures at the beginning of a campaign that can be used to measure against for future campaigns. One way to do this is to measure CPCs (cost per click) or CPMs (cost per thousand) across channels.

It is important to obtain a firm grasp on numbers like these, as costs can rise and fall depending on where the digital media is served, in addition to other seasonal trends.

We’re currently comparing the success of one of our client’s Pinterest Promoted Pin campaigns against their other social campaigns to help us generate more holistic insights.

2) Measure Beyond the Click

Oftentimes clients confuse the number of clicks a campaign receives with its overall success rate; however, it’s important that they understand that there is more to performance than this metric alone.

To avoid any confusion, you’ll want to start by mutually agreeing on what action you want consumers to take.

Do you want them to visit a website and sign up for something? Download a coupon? Make a purchase?

These KPIs aren’t just about a click-through rate.

While this isn’t to say you should exclude this metric from your final report, you’ll want to define it as it relates to other key metrics such as the view-to-click rate or click-to-submission rate, as these numbers will help you draw more meaningful conclusions based on consumer behavior.

For example: let’s say you notice that the view-to-click rate for the campaign is below average. Perhaps this means that there is content that can be further optimized to move more people towards the call-to-action.

3) Communicate Throughout the Entire Campaign

Clarity is key.

Before you launch a campaign, you’ll want to be sure that the client is well-versed in all of the metrics you’ll be measuring. This means not just knowing what they are at face value, but what they really mean and if applicable, how they are calculated.

While establishing this understanding right off the bat should make it easy for you to address any of their questions or concerns up front, it’s important that you leave the door open for communication throughout the entirety of the campaign.

As the numbers begin to take shape, new questions may arise, and committing to honest and open communication will help to ensure that you are able to make the proper optimizations throughout without pushback or unnecessary complications.

4) Avoid Spinning Bad Results

Trying to pass off subpar results as something more is not only dishonest, but it has the ability to seriously damage the relationship you share with your client.

If a campaign didn’t turn out the way you both anticipated, be honest with the client on what worked and what didn’t work.

While sharing success stories is the main goal, talking through what didn’t work will help you to uncover insights that can be used to optimize future campaigns. Not to mention, it’s likely that they will appreciate your transparency as it can be a tough thing to come by these days.

5) Don’t Overanalyze

Yes, the beauty of digital is real-time data at your fingertips, and clients do love a good A/B test. However, it’s important that you’re careful about not overdoing it.

Testing numerous CTAs, varying ad sizes, and different creative executions across various media placements will leave you with a mess so big your head could explode as you try to find statistically significant differences in their performance.

To prevent this from happening, focus on testing one variable at a time. This approach will ultimately leave you with cleaner results so you can make quick optimizations without having to overanalyze the jumble of data in front of you.

Try It For Yourself

Don’t just take my word for it, go put these steps into action.

The way you measure success for your clients has a major impact on the way they view the collective success of their business. To ensure that their perception is accurate (and your relationship remains strong), look to this list of tips before you deliver your next report.


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