How you report your numbers is important. You need to share your findings in a way that is meaningful to your organization. To make them meaningful, your reports should align with your goals. As well, a report should be actionable. Pair your measurements with recommendations to improve.
What is working? Capitalize on that. What isn’t working? Do you need to pivot to another tactic? Your report should show clearly what you’ve learned so that decisions can be made about what to do next. Good reporting can help build confidence among stakeholders. Doing it regularly allows you to have a living, breathing strategy that can respond to changing circumstances. You don’t want your strategy to be set in stone from the beginning, instead, you want it to grow in response to how well it works. Flexibility is key. Not only does the market change, but your priorities as an organization may also change.
I recommend creating a custom dashboard that is user-friendly, intuitive for a lay person, and gives you constant updates. It should include only the metrics that are meaningful for you and should be accessible to everyone involved in your digital marketing strategy. I also recommend that there is some clear ownership for you digital strategy that appoints a person who is responsible on checking in on the metrics on a continual basis. As the digital world changes, your strategy will evolve. The process needs to be looked it and documented.
Another aspect of measurement is that what you measure ends up having specific incentives for your stakeholders and may affect how you do things in unexpected ways. We’ve seen the negative effects of online publishers who are hungry for clicks alone: fluffy click-bait. Black hat SEO is an example of how a certain incentive system has caused people to do things that otherwise wouldn’t make sense. A friend worked at a company that put financial incentives in places related to traffic on blog posts written and socialized by different team members. The management team hoped that overall numbers would go up and each team member would work to the best of their capacity, but instead the competition between team members caused them to socialize some blog posts at the expense of others.
The take-home message: Be mindful that what you measure affects how you do your work.
What Does Success Look Like for You?
I asked Caleb Sexton of Maga Design about how his organization measures success. “Success for us is a mix of qualitative and quantitative feedback,” says Sexton. “A big driver of it however is focused on adoption and buy-in throughout an organization. Much of our work is dedicated to helping drive strategy across an organization as much as it is to see how it manifests outside in the market. This often in the form of engagement, buy-in, alignment and satisfaction regarding change tracked over time. This doesn’t so much as show up in day as it does over year or two years.”
I recently read an article on Docurated about how different marketing professionals quantify success. There were thirty marketers included in the article and they gave thirty different answers.
“The most important key metric to track when measuring the effectiveness of your marketing campaign is the cost to acquire a single new customer [or donor],” writes Joseph Hirschhorn Howard of Masslight in Washington, D.C. “This simple statistic will help you evaluate the overall rate of growth of your business [or organization]. If the cost to find, convince, and onboard new customers is too high, your business won’t be viable in the long-term. There are other metrics that are also highly important, but this one will provide a telling view from 30,000 feet.”
“Tools like ‘Optimizely’ allow one to AB test different elements on a website and let the users vote on the effectiveness of a micro-marketing initiative with their behavioral patterns,” Nima Noori, CEO of TorontoVaporizer. “If the color of a sign-up button changes and the click through rate goes up by 1 percent, that may indicate that the new color is just more effective. This is the new era of marketing that is driven by real-time data and users voting with their behavior.”
“All of my marketing efforts are measured against business goals, and I use a mix of tools and metrics to do that. For instance, if brand awareness is a goal, I will track the reach and engagement of my social media posts in the platform analytics and in my 3rd party tools like Sprout Social,” writes Michelle Stinson Ross, head of Outreach at AuthorityLabs.
What success looks like for you is dependent on your goals. Are you getting the donations you need to do the important work that you do? Are you finding the service users that are most in need and incorporating them into your programming? Are you providing the services that best solve the social problem that your organization wants to address?
This article is an excerpt from my book-in-progress. For more about the book, check out my "why" for writing it.