As a marketer, you’ve undoubtedly been asked by your boss or your CEO to explain the ROI of a certain project or initiative. Marketers are often challenged to prove that their efforts have made an impact and that the budget spent was worthwhile. This push for ROI is common but overlooks some of the most valuable data points we have. While stats like web traffic and email engagements can’t be directly equated to a sale, they can tell a story.
At ODEA, in addition to focusing on the elusive “return on investment”, we believe analytics give specific insights into what worked well and what didn’t work well in our executions. Within that discovery, there is also opportunity to set new goals and change course on strategy based on our learnings. Is it a direct line to ROI? No – but analytics outside of sales still have a valuable story to tell.
Here are a few ways you can tell a story and set goals with your marketing analytics:
1. Web Traffic
It’s not enough to simply report the web traffic numbers for the current month. Context and history is key. It doesn’t mean anything to say there were 10,000 web visits this month. It means more to say there were 10,000 web visits this month compared to 8,000 last month and 7,000 this time last year. Include history within your marketing reports for reference.
And don’t stop there! Try to discover why there are spikes or drops in web traffic. Look at individual page visits to see if any page has had a significant change in traffic that is impacting the overall numbers. Did you add or delete a page? Make substantial changes to an existing page? Reorganize the menu or navigation? If you can point to a specific reason it will help explain the successes or falters of your current efforts and guide your future tactics.
Our favorite web metrics: Time on Page, New vs. Returning Visitors, Most Visited Webpages, Bounce Rate
2. Email Engagement
The key to valuable email analytics are benchmarks. Of course, it’s great to see your open rate and click rate increase, but what are you reaching toward? It’s unrealistic to think you’ll ever hit 100%, so what is the sweet spot? Look up your industry standard via Mailchimp or HubSpot and include those in your monthly report as a tangible goal.
Another valuable method for communicating email engagement success is to include a breakdown of each email’s content. It’s nice to have a high click rate, but which links performed the best? Which performed the worst? Work that into your marketing efforts moving forward by providing similar content as high-performing links or take a new approach with low-performing topics.
Finally, if your email had multiple places to navigate to the same link, which one generated the most clicks? Did people gravitate toward a photo, a call-to-action button or a standard hyperlink? Make sure you’re including these data points in your monthly reports and adjusting your email designs accordingly.
3. Direct Mail Campaigns
Direct mail pieces have always been a challenge to track. There’s no guarantee that it’ll be delivered and that the intended person reads it, much less opens it. This is especially frustrating as we marketers get more and more used to the tracking digital efforts provide.
Depending on the goal of the direct mail campaign, you may have specific metrics you’re looking for like number of registrations, webpage views, and so on. Our best recommendation is to guide contacts to a specific landing page in order to execute the desired action. Beyond a potential spike in overall visits, you won’t be able to tell which visitors that month were a result of the direct mail campaign. Make sure the URL you direct them to is unique to the campaign and nobody else has access to it. That way you can tell exactly how many visits the campaign produced.
Even better, use a marketing automation tool like HubSpot to track specific visitors. When visitors submit a form on your landing page, they’ll be cookied, thus all of their activity on your website will be tracked. This helps when it comes to reporting the success of your campaign. You’ll have metrics that are specific to the actions of the campaign contacts.
(Note: marketing automation is one tool that gets marketers closer than ever to ROI metrics. A web visit can potentially be tracked directly to a sale.)
4. Year in Review
At the end of the year, we compile a Year in Review analytics dashboard for our clients. The goal of the dashboard is to paint a picture of the past year and compare it with the previous year. To provide context, we include a list of all the marketing efforts that we executed that may have had an impact on the data.
The key is that we don’t just email it out and call it a day. We walk through the dashboard together and see what conclusions we can draw. In some cases, we’re not able to pinpoint a potential reason for the increase in a webpage’s traffic. But when we discuss it with our client, they share insights and executions that we might not have been aware of. We also ask ourselves: what did we learn and where do we want to go? These conversations help recap the year and set the stage for the next year.
For example, for one of our clients we wrote two blogs per month and sent them out via a monthly newsletter and social media posts. After a year, they produced decent email engagement and modest web traffic, but it only continued to decrease the more we blogged. From their Year in Review dashboard, we discovered that their portfolio pages on the website greatly outperformed their blogs. What did this mean? Their potential customers were more interested in visuals than blog posts. That led us to spending budget on photography rather than blogs the next year.
The above metrics aren’t necessarily going to lead you to proving ROI. However, they do tell a story about your marketing initiatives. Instead of feeling challenged by analytics conversations, take the opportunity to dig a little deeper. You may be surprised what story the numbers tell!