Marketers must foster skills in measurement across the business

Each year, marketers are deluged by a host of shiny new media toys to play with. Yet my peers tell me that it is one of the marketing basics that is their most consistent focus. Good old fashioned measurement.

AlexTait145

With the ISBA/IPA Good Pitch Week upon us, the value that marketing delivers to brands is in the spotlight. Measurement is how we justify our investment in media to our finance teams and the board. But many marketers struggle to put across the case for investment in parts of the media mix, which they see as essential to drive business performance and ROI.

Media, metrics and tracking change over time. That is why it is not enough for marketers to keep up to date. The developments in these areas need to be recognised and understood by a number of key stakeholders across the organisation, including finance, and to have at least one champion at board level. They are of course changing most rapidly in the digital space.

For example, long before the PRISM revelations – that government surveillance teams were accessing considerable amounts of digital data – back in 2011 Google had begun introducing changes which largely meant that anyone logged into a Google account could no longer be tracked to keyword level for Search Engine Optimisation by analytics packages.

For many brands, the amount of traffic that can’t be tracked currently stands at around 80%. This has been accelerating in recent months, and some have predicted it could reach 100% later this year. Although various workarounds have been developed by search marketeers, at best they include approximations which make it increasingly difficult to report accurately.

Does that mean we should stop investing, or invest less, in SEO? It remains so central to so many customer journeys that it would be a brave marketer who chose to reduce its priority in their plans. 

Search is not the only challenging medium for marketers to measure, of course. There is a lack of consensus within display advertising as to what should constitute a viewable (as opposed to simply served) impression. And when you add together browsers blocking cookies, cookie deletion and the rapid uptake in mobile, it can be complex to work out accurate channel attribution.

All this concerns paid media, but obviously any earned media, such as social, presents an even more visible challenge to marketers attempting measurement. Challenges apply also of course to owned media such as achieving the right investment and balance between driving the maximum desired outcomes and statistical significance in AB and multi-variate testing.

So what needs to happen now? Education about measurement is definitely a most important area. Especially the education that takes place outside the marketing department. Even the most marketing-conscious finance teams may need assistance to understand the overall business impact and risk level of marketing investment.

Possibly some of you work for brands where key stakeholders such as finance are incredibly well briefed. But I’d be surprised if none of this resonated for you. This kind of measurement knowledge is often championed by a few specialists or evangelists within a brand, rather than being part of a set business process. This means that ultimately there may be limited influence on the ultimate budget holder.

I’m certainly not saying that we should increase media budgets for the sake of it. Marketeers can sometimes lose sight of the fact that their organisations have choices to make in terms of how they are going to spend their budgets and that different media strategies suit different business models. However, marketers need to take responsibility for measurement education themselves. They need to prioritise educating their teams and key stakeholders. With the Advertising Association’s latest forecasts for growth out recently, there will be the temptation for the marketing industry to pat ourselves on the back – it forecasts across all paid media spend in 2013 growth at a solid 3.3%.

But couldn’t that figure be even greater if we better understood and wielded the power of measurement? The US industry wide initiative ‘Making Measurement Make Sense’, which brings together the national trade bodies involved in digital marketing, is a good model. Its aim is to develop standards for brand-building digital metrics and cross-platform measurement solutions. An evolving version of this principle for paid, owned and earned media could be equally relevant to the UK marketing community.

The Advertising Association claims that for every £1 we spend on advertising, the economy grows by £6. Now marketers need to show which pounds and pence can be related to their media; and the finance team needs to have the marketing measurement knowledge to define success.

You can continue the debate with Alex Tait on Twitter @ASTait

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