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Op-Ed: A Plea to Marketers – Demand Better Metrics

The op-eds continue to roll in this month. Now up to bat is Irving Fain, co-founder/CEO of customer relationship and loyalty platform, CrowdTwist. As the headline suggests, in his debut entry, Fain discusses the importance of marketers to start demanding, understanding and utilizing more valuable metrics. Prior to CrowdTwist, Fain headed digital marketing & social platforms for Clear Channel Radio Digital. Anyhow, take it away, sir.

The marketing world thrives on data and numbers, however, as access grows to more and more information, it is important to be wary of metrics that are alluring but lack true meaning. Whether they come in the form of Facebook likes, Twitter follows or—gasp—engagement, even marketing experts are too frequently caught referencing these enticing yet slightly evil numbers.

Many marketers are quick to complain about how useless, shallow and invaluable these oft-quoted metrics really are. Yet, we continue to hold them up as support for our efforts, campaigns and efficacy of the work we do everyday.

Why?

I blame the marketers; myself included, for those who criticize soft metrics should be initiating the shift to more meaningful methods of evaluation. As Milton Friedman outlined, free market economics tells us that markets are fundamentally efficient and that innovation and evolution will naturally focus on the areas where it’s most demanded. We as marketers aren’t demanding “better” loudly enough. The more adamantly we insist on deeper and more effective understanding of customers, the quicker companies will race to fill this need and the sooner we can stop relying on “fluffy” numbers to define our work. It is up to us to not only demand metrics that are more insightful and valuable but also to initiate the change.

This is my plea to marketers: We must lead the digital march forward to utilize more effective and trackable measurement for the work that we do each day.

It was John Wanamaker who said almost 100 years ago, “I know that half of my advertising doesn’t work. The problem is that I don’t know which half.” If you could have shown him the digital world we live in today, he would have fallen flat on his face with amazement. Brands can now track and understand consumers and campaigns with a depth and precision that marketers only dreamed of for decades, and yet we are not taking advantage of the knowledge at our fingertips. We should tap into the data that lets us better understand consumers and allows for greater precision in all of our efforts. Holding up a brand’s number of likes or followers is the “digital” billboard of today – you know people saw it, but beyond that it’s hard to tell how effective the campaign actually was. The same is true for engagement metrics; it’s typically a nice big number, but it is vague and ultimately shallow when you scratch the surface.

It’s time to diversify beyond these vanity numbers and focus on metrics that lead to a better understanding of true customer value or even the propensity of a customer to eventually be valuable to a brand. This is the purpose of marketing in the first place; both to gain new and valuable customers as well as keep existing customers coming back. Facebook has already released tools (i.e. the “talking about us” score), which provide a greater understanding into what’s really happening on your page.

There are fantastic analytic companies that can offer immense insight into your marketing and site activities, for instance funnel analysis to help understand how effectively site visitors are being converted and engaged. This provides valuable understanding and tangible data that actually shows a company what is working and what they need to fix. And these are just two examples among so many others!

If you’re ready to change your ways but wondering where to begin, here are a few things you can do today to start understanding and utilizing more valuable metrics:

-Insist on change even if it’s not being requested
Organizations have varying levels of sophistication around metrics and analytics. If you’re in an organization that is already performing multiple layers of in-depth analysis, make sure you integrate this information into your day-to-day scorecard. Judge yourself and your team based on the standard of measures that you know are meaningful.

If you’re in a company that’s still nascent in its metrics, be the agent of change. Even if it just means adding a few more numbers to look at that go deeper than vanity measurement, start to show others what’s possible and what can be learned. It won’t take long to convince them the new methods are worthwhile.

-Eliminate vanity metrics from day-to-day internal communications
People tend to focus on what’s in front of them, so eliminate the discussion around Facebook likes, Twitter followers and other soft metrics in your daily conversation. Your team will forget about those numbers and focus on the metrics you put in front of them. It will go a long way in changing the culture of your organization.

-Sit down and meet with companies that are innovating in the space
There are so many companies out there today that are doing incredible work around analytics and customer understanding (KissMetrics & MixPanel are just two examples of many). Take the time to sit down with them and learn about what they’re doing and what they can offer. They’ll be more than happy to take the meeting.

Once we begin to demand better metrics and take advantage of the knowledge and information that’s readily available, we can begin driving greater results. A better understanding of customer involvement helps to establish stable and lasting relationships that drive bottom line results, which in turn help to justify our continued marketing efforts. They say knowledge is power, and the more we know about our audience and their interaction and influence over our brand, the more power we have to leverage that influence.

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