Adding Up Marketing Metrics

Marketing metrics can get a bad reputation. Kevin Lindsay discussed why this is: why do marketers (and people working with marketers) sometimes lack trust in the numbers they are being given? “When 60% of customers are coming from one channel, and the remaining 50% coming from another, then what? Anxiety, distress, distrust — and the cycle continues” (Lindsay, 2014)

The author makes the good point that as marketing becomes more complex — more omnichannel — this is only likely to get worse.

Much of the problem Lindsay discusses relates to attribution — i.e. giving credit to what marketing effort was responsible for the sale. In an omnichannel world if you are contacting the consumer in a variety of places, and on various devices, this creates considerable problems. Lots of different channels were, at least partially, responsible for any sale but assigning seemingly arbitrary percentages is quite unsatisfactory. When you think about it deeply, the whole notion of single issue causation is a bit of a nonsense. In life no single thing really causes another single thing. That said, it is often useful to assign credit and blame; just saying everything is caused by everything isn’t a good guide to action. In terms of metrics you can’t have causes that add up to more than 100% without it being very confusing.

It doesn’t really solve the problem but better explanation of the system and the recording process seems a reasonable first step. One thing marketers can do is to learn to work with multiple data sources. This can help make the analysis better, “while relying on a single data source sounds appealing, in practice digging through multiple sources is more likely to yield an accurate picture” (Lindsay, 2014). Multiple data sources are hard to use so planning for this upfront is vital. Determine KPIs in advance and give thought to the managing measurement of various data sources in advance.

Finally, Lindsay suggests that we need to get comfortable with never being able to get the absolute truth. Be willing to admit when your metrics are imperfect.

Read: Kevin Lindsay (2014) Why Your Marketing Metrics Don’t Add Up, Harvard Business Review, September 090, 2014