How do I know if my digital marketing campaign worked?

A beginners guide based on the techniques used by the Fortune 500 companies.

I work with mega-corporations around the world. Brands that we all know and love. Despite their seemingly endless resources and a deep bench of marketing talent, I often find myself asking the same question over and over again.

How do you know if the campaign worked?

If you are a small or medium business with far fewer resources, asking yourself the same question, don’t sweat it! The big guys don’t often know either.

In this article, I’m going to give you the same advice I give them without the sticker shock of a consulting invoice.

Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

What do we want to happen?

Seems obvious, right?

You’d be shocked (or maybe you wouldn’t) how often marketers set out to execute a campaign without clearly defining the goal of the campaign. Often, as marketers we simply get complacent. We assume that everyone on the team knows what our goals are, what the ranking of priorities is, etc. It is a good bit of campaign hygiene to regularly define “what we want to happen” every campaign.

As a new marketer, you might be thinking to yourself, “Well, uhhh…I just want to sell more stuff.”

Yeah, exactly! We all do.

The issue is that rarely does a customer journey look like this:

  1. View ad.

  2. Visit merchant.

  3. Buy product.

There’s a lot of things that a customer does between each step in the purchase funnel. Consequently, you need to break down each step of that customer journey and feed it. Nurture it. And move that customer toward the purchase event.

What the heck are you talking about?

Let’s say you sell high-end exercise equipment like Peloton or Mirror. Or let’s say you own a local landscaping business. The logic and best practices are the same.

As a customer, if I’m going to buy a $2500 exercise bike or a $30/week lawn service, I’m probably going to do a little bit of research before or after seeing your ad.

Photo by Charles on Unsplash

I am not likely to see your ad and then immediately call you up with my credit card with no steps in between.

While your ultimate goal is to sell you my bike or lawn care services, you are going to need to nurture your purchase decision a bit first. For example, you might try to get a potential customer to watch a YouTube video made about your bike or gardens you design.

Next, you might have written some content about the importance of regular exercise or keeping my lawn fertilized by a professional.

For customers on the fence, hopefully, you have a bunch of customer testimonials to show off.

Lastly, for the exercise bike, you prefer that customers simply order them on our website. For the landscaping business, you really want people to give us a call because we need to discuss their unique property in a bit more detail before proving a price.

What did you accomplish?

  1. Awareness. You have planted a seed of interest in the mind of the customer through our paid ads.

  2. Consideration. You provided the customer with information and resources to help make the decision process easier.

  3. Intent & Purchase. You brought the customer to the point of sale. (Online transaction vs phone call)

Awareness

Step 1 above, you generated interest through targeted mass marketing.

Q: What did we want to happen?
A: You wanted customers to come in and consume the information we curated for them.

Consideration

Step 2 above, the customer browsed and consumed all of the content that you know will help them make their decision with confidence, and ultimately consider buying from us

Q: What did we want to happen?
A: Have a potential customer browse the curated content we created and place the company in their consideration set.

Intent & Purchase

Step 3 above, it is closing time! You lead the customer to an online transaction or towards picking up the phone to request a quote.

Q: What did we want to happen?
A: You wanted the customer to order online or call the office.

Note: To all of my professional colleagues rolling their eyes at this oversimplification, I hear you. Baby steps. Besides, don’t you have some KPI’s to optimize? Scram!

How do we know if it happened?

You have successfully broken the goals into more specific sub-goals and organized them by awareness, consideration, intent, and purchase. Now that the goals are broken down into smaller bites, things start to become more clear. [Hopefully]

In response to our “What do we want to happen?” question, you now have a distinct answer for each of the 3 steps. So now you have to ask yourself, “How will we know if it happened?”

How do we know awareness happened?

For a small or medium business without a multimillion-dollar research budget, figuring out of your customers are aware of your product/service is going to be a challenge. Furthermore, understanding if customers increased their awareness of you as a result of your digital marketing campaign will be even tougher.

Luckily, there are some proxy metrics we can use to determine if we have been successful at this stage. It will vary based on the digital media channel. Here are some to consider.

Dwell time: Some digital media formats actually can report how long the customer was exposed to your ad. For example, how long was your banner ad on screen before the reader clicked away? How much of your little video ad was actually watched on Facebook? Dwell time can provide a directional understanding of how likely someone was to be exposed to your ad. Whether or not the customer will remember it is a totally different question.

Engagement: Did the customer engage or interact with your ad in any way shape or form? Clicks are one obvious signal. There’s also swipes through a Facebook or Instagram carousel ad. Shares of the ad itself. Mouse hover over. etc. Basically, anything that will show that a customer took 2 seconds out of their day to at least “touch” your ad versus just seeing it on screen.

Search activity: After your campaign has been running a little while, did you see any uptick in people Googling your business name or product? This is a strong signal since people had to remember you in order to search for you. (Yes, this is highly directional, and not definitively causal.)

There are plenty of others, but you get the idea. Stop and ask yourself what logically makes sense to indicate that a customer is now aware of your specific business or product.

How do we know if consideration happened?

This section of the funnel is a bit easier to measure than the first. At this point, hopefully, you’ve drawn the customer into a curated experience designed by you. As mentioned, viewing informational YouTube videos, reading product descriptions and specs on your site, checking out reviews and testimonials. All of these activities are gold.

The customer is now actively considering making a purchase with you. If you’ve done your job of curating that experience well, your brand will end up at the top of the final consideration set.

Photo by YTCount on Unsplash

Remember, you always have to assume that a customer is going to look at your competitors and compare you. In the end, you need to come out on top.

So how do you know consideration happened?

YouTube views: If you’ve created guided YouTube content, you should start seeing your view counts go up in response to the campaign you deployed.

Onsite visits: Using Google Analytics and other services, you should be tracking all of your visits and page views. These platforms are designed to show you which people showed up on your site organically versus those that showed up as a result of clicking an ad. Specifically, the visits where a person spends meaningful time (not two seconds) or visits multiple pages are where you should focus.

Requests for information: Some visitors might fill out a contact form on your site. Others might Tweet at you, or send you a message on Facebook.

Repeat visits: If you see that a certain set of people keep revisiting your new sales content, this is a strong signal, especially for high consideration products.

How do I know if intent or purchase occurs?

Well, this feels a little obvious, doesn’t it? Yeah. Mostly.

If a customer ultimately makes the purchase, congratulations. You win. Skip down to the smaller conversation about attribution below.

Otherwise, you are at this phase when a customer calls you, asks for pricing, contract terms, service agreements, etc. The customer intends to work with you subject to not running into any dealbreakers.

In our landscaping business example, if a customer calls you for a quote, you are moments away from stepping out of consideration and into intent. If you have been in business a while, you have experienced this moment first hand. This is that glorious point when you can tell the person wants to get a deal done, but just needs to hammer out a negotiation.

In the exercise bike example, I often see this when a customer starts looking at shipping cost information and return policies. They want to buy the bike but just want to make sure it isn’t going to be $500 to ship it, and if they don’t like it, can they return it. Otherwise, in their mind, they are sold.

How do we know if the campaign is working?

Ultimately, you need to make sure that there is a healthy amount of measurable activity occurring at each step of the funnel, at all times.

Are you seeing a growing number of people engage with our ads? YES
Are you seeing a steady flow of people consuming our curated content? YES
Are people checking out on the website or giving us a call? YES

If you can prove that there is measurable activity at each stage, you my friend, have a healthy pipeline fed by a great campaign.

What’s this about attribution?

Woah grasshopper. You are venturing into more advanced skills that I will cover in a future post. For now, here’s what you need to know.

Spend time asking yourself how you will know that it was the digital media campaign that fueled each part of the funnel.

For example, get a special phone number that is capable of tracking call volume, and only use this number in your paid marketing campaigns. Then you’ll know that customers got the number from your ad or curated content.

Create custom hashtags for the campaign, special campaign-specific landing pages, unique coupon codes, etc. Anything that will help you prove that the customer lead was generated by the campaign versus organically.

In summary, the name of the game is to break your goals into their component parts. Assign the goals to stages in a basic marketing funnel. Then devise ways of knowing that the stage was fueled by the campaigns you put into the market.

This was a beginner's overview of what is essentially a multi-billion-dollar marketing machine. In future posts, I’ll cover each of the topics introduced here in more detail. Cheers. — TL

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