Wednesday, February 5, 2014

4 Mistakes to Avoid in Marketing Analytics

Ok, January just passed, so it may be a bit late for a New Year's Resolution. Then again Chinese New Year was on Friday, so maybe I'm still good.

Regardless, I have a New Year's Resolution Challenge for my fellow marketing analytics brethren (and sisters).

I have worked with all sorts of data to extract meaningful insights my whole career. Long before there were infographics! With the proliferation of data today, companies are drowning in data and there is definitely a talent shortage of business-savvy analysts. (Looking back now, being a math major seemed like a brilliant move even though people joked about how I'd only end up being a math teacher...but I digress.)

Measuring marketing effectiveness is hard...really hard. And with the hype of Big Data and tracking issues, many marketers end up in analysis paralysis or throw up their hands in frustration, often settling for "basic" reporting from various disjoint systems that gives a myopic view of performance. Or worse, they or their agencies make up esoteric metrics that are meaningless. The latter is one of my pet peeves because it ends up hurting themselves, giving some of us data-driven marketers a bad name, and is a dis-service to the marketing industry.


Sometimes, a new metric needs to be created. Like when TV advertisers created GRP, which is simply defined as Reach X Frequency. While GRP was new, the notion of Reach and Frequency made sense. Today, that's a well understood metric by all marketers, especially the C Suite. When online advertising was starting in the late 90's, folks created impressions and click-through rates. While understandable, digital marketers quickly moved to conversions, like online sales, revenue, or leads -- KPIs that senior management clearly got! But soon, digital marketers wanted credit for non-direct response tactics and that's when things got murkier. Social media marketing made it worse when we went from number of Fans or Likes to "Engagement Rate." Engagement rate is one of the most over-used, buzzwordy KPI's out there today! When online marketers need to prove the value of a video ad or a content marketing piece in social spaces, I often hear people say "we had a great engagement rate." Does that really mean anything to a CMO? Or more importantly, would the CFO get it in order to fund more "engagement" in marketing investments?


Another trend I've noticed, especially in social media marketing, is people making up new composites or indices based on what they can measure or can create with a "black box" algorithm.

Don't get me wrong. Indices are useful, but more for benchmarking to others or establishing trends over time. But it's not a good marketing effectiveness metric.

Marketing KPIs should be well tied to the CMO's marketing goals like sales, leads, or brand awareness. If the CMO asks how our online marketing is doing? You can't say: "Great! Our online advertising effectiveness index is up!"


This is also one of my top pet peeves of all time. We all know there is a statistic out there to support almost any argument you want to make. But try not to cite research that is outdated, especially in fast changing industries like online marketing and mobile. Even my beloved WSJ falls victim to this time to time. In a recent Oct 28, 2013 article called Pediatricians Set Limits on Screen Time, the author makes the case that children are spending way too much time on gadgets. No argument there, but cites a 2010 research study from Kaiser:

Children ages 8 to 18 spent an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day consuming media for fun, including TV, music, videogames and other content in 2009, according to a 2010 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The report was based on a survey of 2,002 third- through 12th-graders, 702 of whom completed a seven-day media use diary. That was up about an hour and 17 minutes a day from five years earlier. About two-thirds of 8- to 18-year-olds said they had no rules on the amount of time they spent watching TV, playing videogames or using the computer, the Kaiser report found.

That is not only 3 years old, but children's media consumption is probably even higher today! In my experience, outdated sources are used when the author can't easily find a more recent source to support the argument or sometimes too lazy to look for it. I'm not suggesting that with this WSJ reporter, but I've had to educate colleagues about this bad habit many times in my career.


I recently saw a social media monitoring tool that had defined Brand Awareness in its dashboard as a function of reach and conversation strength. What?!? There is already clear, well-established definition for this. When it is changed, it causes confusion. This is a case of analysts "stretching" to make some made-up metrics seem relevant by slapping a more familiar term to it.


We all know marketing analytics is a constantly evolving beast and measurement is not perfect and never will be. So we do what we can and hope to raise the bar for our industry daily. As a data-driven strategist, after I present my analysis and recommendations, the 3 greatest words to come out of a client's mouth is "That makes sense." There's so much data and noise out there, that the hard part is actually telling the story, not crunching the numbers. It's the difference between a quant jock and a thought buddy.

So as we enter 2014, let's strive to do better with measurement and analytics! And collect as many "That Makes Sense" as we can.


1 comment: