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The One Marketing Plan You Shouldn’t Live Without, But Often Do

Posted by Keith Moehring on June 19, 2014

magic eye analyzing marketing performance data

Remember Magic Eye pictures? One Christmas, my uncle framed one for me and each of my cousins. It was one of the more memorable gifts that year because I was obsessed with seeing the hidden picture. The trick is you cross your eyes, squint and hum the theme song from Gilligan's Island.

These Magic Eye pictures are not all that dissimilar to what a marketer would see if all the marketing and performance data available to them was compacted into a small rectangle. We are overwhelmed with data from every marketing channel, tool and platform used to run our campaigns.

What we need is a way to focus our eyes to see the hidden performance picture.

Enter the Marketing Measurement Plan...

The purpose of a marketing measurement plan is to:

  • Identify business objectives.
  • Define the metrics that can indicate success.
  • Guide the configuration of tracking tools (in this case, Google Analytics) to report the data that matters.
  • Outline the reporting and distribution of marketing performance data internally.

This blog post will guide you through how to create a marketing measurement plan for your business. 

Pre-Step: Assemble Your Team

The process to building a measurement plan involves input from at minimum three different organizational perspectives.

  • The Executive: Needs to have a strong grasp on the business’s direction and objectives, as well as a high-level understanding of anticipated marketing campaigns and upcoming milestones.
  • The Expert: Needs to have a solid understanding of Google Analytics, and any other tracking tools used by marketing, sales and customer service, their features and capabilities.
  • The Technician: Needs to know what technologies are currently, or will be, deployed that prospective and current customers may interact with or that marketing and sales may use for lead management, and how to configure each so the proper tracking can be implemented.

Step 1: Define Marketing Objectives

As a team, your first job is to answer, “Why are we marketing?” The answer to this question will define your marketing objectives.

When answering this question, don’t be vague. Saying things like, “We want to be known as ...” or “We want to be the established thought leader in ...” are too broad. Conversely, saying, “We want to be in the Wall Street Journal” is too specific and limiting.

According to Avinash Kaushik (@avinash), your marketing objectives should be DUMB:

  • Doable.
  • Understandable.
  • Manageable.
  • Beneficial.

Focus on tangible goals that can be defined by metrics, benchmarked and measured over time. In most cases, your primary marketing objectives will include one or more stages of the marketing funnel:

  • Build Brand: Strengthen brand awareness and audience reach.
  • Generate Leads: Create and qualify new sales leads.
  • Convert Sales: Turn leads into customers.
  • Increase Loyalty: Build a more loyal and profitable customer base.

Step 2: Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Define and associate a primary KPI with each of your marketing objectives, which can be used for a quick gauge of performance. For example, the primary KPI for a brand building campaign may be website traffic.

At the same time, solely focusing on primary KPIs may not tell the whole store. They can be, as Eric Ries (@ericries), author of The Lean Startup, calls them, “vanity metrics”:

Take the number of hits to a company website. Let’s say we have 40,000 hits this month—a new record. What do we need to do to get more hits? Well, that depends. Where are the new hits coming from? Is it from 40,000 new customers or from one guy with an extremely active web browser?

It is important to select a handful of supporting KPIs to qualify and supplement the story told by the primary KPI. In our brand-building example, your analytics expert may also identify the following as a way to understand the effectiveness and quality of branding campaigns:

  • Percent of new visits.
  • Traffic source.
  • Social media reach.
  • Social media mentions or engagement.
  • Blog and email subscribers.
  • Inbound links.
  • Media placements.

Step 3: Profile and Segment Audiences

Growth in the above objectives and KPIs is great, but ultimately you need to reach a specific target audience. Growing an audience you can’t sell to does not equate to success.

For this reason, the executive and analytics expert need to define the characteristics of your targeted buyer persona, and identify the dimensions or behaviors that can help you filter out irrelevant activity. For example, with Google Analytics you can:

  • Use geo location dimensions to view only activity by those in targeted regions.
  • Filter out existing customer activity by using Page Tracking dimensions to remove those that visit the login page.
  • Eliminate employee site activity by filtering traffic from your company’s IP address.

Create segments, custom reports and view filters in Google Analytics to only include the sessions of those users that meet specific criteria. In addition to your aggregated website traffic, analyze KPIs using these filters to ensure your performance reports are relevant. 

Read more about profiling users and sessions with Google Analytics here.

Step 4: Establish Benchmarks and Targets

Benchmarks give you a point against which you can measure progress.

When possible, use historical data—12+ months of data is optimal for seasonal trends and year-over-year comparisons; 3 months will give you an average baseline from which to work off; ultimately, something is better than nothing.

Next, look at historical data to define targets for each of your KPIs. According to Avinash, “Targets are numerical values you’ve pre-determined as indicators of success or failure.” They’re necessary because they help:

  • Define whether the 1.2 million views you got on YouTube was good or awful.
  • Plan campaigns and marketing initiatives better. Avinash adds, “If you were responsible for getting 5 million views in a month, would you execute your campaign differently than if that number was 500k?

Step 5: Decide Who Gets What Report

Your executive should identify the stakeholders that will be evaluating marketing’s performance. Next to each, detail what metrics they are interested in reviewing and how frequently.

This outline is going to serve as the blueprint for your expert to set up and configure automated email reports and dashboards within Google Analytics, or your other analytics technology. It will also help to remind you who wants to see what as campaigns are launched and evolve.

Cross Your Eyes and Get Started

Armed with a marketing measurement plan, it is time for your analytics expert and the technician to integrate and configure Google Analytics and any other tracking tools. It is at this point that you can start generating reports to see the hidden performance picture through the nonsensical collage of data. Use your plan to help organize, dissect and key in on what matters.

For more on how to build a measurement plan, check out:

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