Why It’s Important to Make Data-Driven Decisions
Throughout my career, I have been in many marketing meetings where ideas have been thrown out for campaigns and the group blindly agrees to proceed with that campaign. While you may think you need to have certain things on your site or be using specific marketing channels, is that the best use of your money? Sometimes it may be, but many times you end up spending more money to get something up and running than you get in return for your efforts.
You decide you need to update the About Us page on your website to include a section about how your company’s work with rocks is a focus of your company — it goes with your core values. Rocks are the solution to everything!
So, you send your team out to get some really nice photos of rocks. Rocks in the office, your team stacking rocks in the park...you are sure this is what’s going to do it. You spend a couple hours coming up with a new section that speaks to how rocks are the reason why everyone should choose your company. You’re not a novice at campaigns, so you are going to incorporate this into Facebook ads, use search engine marketing and take out a full page ad in the local newspaper.
Let’s add that all up:
Your employee time costs:
Page writing and publishing
Facebook ad design
SEM ad set up
Full-page ad design
Facebook ad spend
SEM ad spend
Newspaper ad cost
Total cost: $3,000
You run the campaign for a month. Your boss comes to you and says sales haven’t changed at all, and asked why the campaign hasn’t driven any leads. You sit scratching your head, after all you were sure that rocks were the solution.
How do you make the right decision the first time?
It’s hard to separate what we think from what actually is. We have a built-in bias that makes us want things a certain way. In this example, the marketer made decisions based on their gut instead of data. So how do you make good, data-driven decisions?
Google Analytics (GA) is a treasure trove of data. Whether you are looking at enhancing a current page, or adding a new one, GA can help guide you in the right direction. Look at the traffic to your current pages - how does the traffic to the page you are updating compare to others? In the scenario above, the About Us page probably didn’t have enough traffic to start with to justify the cost of enhancing the page and sending new traffic.
While the bounce rate is relatively low indicating that the users are navigating to other places on the site, the unique pageviews compared to the service pages on the site are not high enough to really warrant a serious revamp. The service pages convert very well - and are related to exactly what people are searching for.
So how can you tell which landing pages generate the most conversions on your site? If you have goal tracking set up in your Google analytics account — it’s easy.
Set your date range and view all traffic channels under acquisition. Near the center of the page add “landing page” as a secondary dimension. You can then sort, high to low, by the number of goal completions. Voilà, you can see your top-performing landing pages!
Google Analytics can be daunting. There is a LOT of information and numbers that mean different things when looked at different ways. Make sure you are looking at all pieces of the analytics puzzle.
Look at previous results
Before you take out an ad in a print publication, or invest in any sort of additional marketing (direct mail, Yellow Pages, etc.) - do some research on the success you might see there. Have you run ads in the publication before? Were you able to track it?
Whenever you run print ads - try to use a special tracking number that will tell you whether someone called from that ad or from something else. Tracking marketing campaigns is not hard, unlike what many people believe.
Use tracking phone numbers, follow the analytics and look back at sales to see which efforts led to positive results and which were flops.
Use the right messaging
Finding the right message can sometimes be the most challenging part of a campaign. I recently wrote a post on writing for the appropriate audience. Not only do you need to do that, but you also need to create a message that resonates with people. Does your audience really care that you do so much work with rocks? Or are the rocks a feel-good thing that is just simply weighing your efforts down?
What you can expect
It’s impossible to know exactly what to expect from a campaign. There are too many moving parts and variables for this. Is there a seasonal effect or an abnormal temperature swing that makes the campaign more or less effective? With the fires on the west coast and storms on the east in recent months, the natural world affects campaigns in different ways - either helping or hindering.
The other thing to keep in mind is that results are rarely instantaneous. Campaigns take time and their success can often depend on how much you are spending on promotion. To get the full picture, the campaign should run for a period of time to truly gauge its effectiveness. This could be as little as 2 months for a non-SEO campaign or as long as 12 months if you want to see changes in SEO.
So before you go spending thousands of dollars on a campaign that you think will work, look at the data and research you have available. This will give you a starting point for where to focus your campaign efforts, and hopefully give you an idea of what you can expect from an ROI perspective. Not only will the data help you in finding the right direction for your campaign, but it can also reveal information on what past campaigns resonated best with your audience.