The 1 Question Every Digital Marketer Should Ask

HGTV is fascinating. Over and over you watch a couple renovate a kitchen, adding a bunch of discrete components: subway tile, granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances. Rarely do you hear them talk about the way they cook and whether their design is anything other than a showcase for all that new stuff. But the goal of a kitchen renovation is not to look like every other kitchen on HGTV. It’s to provide a great place to prepare meals.

Digital teams can be similar. They jump from project to project, cranking out work without setting goals or knowing how to measure success. Often a team’s objective is to produce a new website, not solve a problem for a business. They measure success by whether their efforts are on scope, on budget, and on schedule, not whether they achieve anything.

That’s why the most important question you should ask at the end of every digital project is:Did it work? Did we achieve what we were setting out to do and was it meaningful to our brand or business? The answer does not need to be yes, but you should be able to provide it. To do so, you need to start thinking about what works from the beginning. Here’s how:

Set goals. Before you start work on any project, come up with three solid goals for your effort. Why three? Because it’s easy to add too many goals and make them synonymous with everything your business is trying to do. So you should restrict yourself to a few realistic goals that reflect the particular initiative you’re doing.

Goals should always be meaningful to your brand or business. Gaining 10,000 Facebook friends might be nice, but if they’re not customers, they’re useless. By contrast, increased revenue is an acceptable and common goal. So is connecting with real customers and getting them to share your campaign with likeminded people.

Establish success metrics. For every goal you should designate six or so key performance indicators, or KPIs. “Likes” by themselves are not goals, but they make good KPIs. If you combine them with other metrics, like retweets, tracking links to your website, and resulting sales, you can begin to understand if you’re driving advocacy or contributing to revenue.

Monetize your goals. Many digital campaigns fail to examine the financial impact an initiative has on a business. This doesn’t have to be hard. For example, if you want to increase the call volume to your sales team, you have to figure out on average what each additional call is worth. If you’re trying to drive people to your online store, you can determine how much the average visitor spends on your products.

Analyze and optimize. On an ongoing basis you should examine your metrics to figure out what’s working and not. If something isn’t working, you have an opportunity to fix it and get to your goals faster.

Ask “Did it work?” Some digital campaigns reach their goals, some don’t. But you should always know how well you did. Do this by looking back at your goals at the beginning of the project and seeing if the KPIs confirm that you’ve met them or not. That way, you have a rational basis for evaluating your success and finding a different solution going forward.

This post lays out a broad set of principles, and you’re probably wondering, “So how do I set goals?” or “What if I can’t easily tie revenue to social media?” Stay tuned. I’m planning an ongoing series of posts around the “Did It Work?” theme. It looks at ways you can break through the clutter of conflicting digital theories and find rational ways to understand how well you’re doing.

I’d also like to thank Jason Burby, POSSIBLE's Chief Performance Marketing Officer, for his help and ideas on this post. He’ll answer any questions you have in the comments.

[ Illustration by Frank Melendez ©2013 ]


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