At the moment I’m inspired by Matthew Syed’s excellent book Black Box Thinking.
Amongst other things, he posits the question: why, given the same amount of training and practice, is it often the case that one person gets better and better whilst another makes no progress at all?
One reason is because practice and training require high quality feedback data to compare endeavour with outcomes. Without feedback, practice is like playing golf in the dark. You can practice as many hours as you like, but you’ll hardly improve at all. You need to switch the lights on.
What you might think matters, probably doesn’t matter
So it is with digital marketing. In this endeavour, we have the great advantage of having a ton of useful feedback data at our fingertips.
As long as all the trends are going in the right direction (rankings going up, cost-per-click going down) there’s a tendency to sit back and think all is well.
But really we’re still playing golf in the dark, because we have not yet uncovered the real feedback metrics that are going to affect a customer’s business. We have not yet uncovered the stuff what matters. When this realisation dawns, as it quickly does, we level-up our measuring by installing conversion tracking to track every desired action – e.g., app downloads, form-fills, phone number clicks and so on.
We may then think we are really measuring stuff what matters. We adjust our strategy to get more conversions, more downloads, more stuff.
This is a great way to achieve average improvement.
Measuring stuff what really matters
To get to the next level, really effective digital strategy, we need to understand what really matters to clients. It is surprising (not to say shocking) how many clients do not understand their own key metrics.
The key metrics will typically include: customers acquisition, customer retention and churn, rate of customer win-back, profit-per-sale, Average Customer Lifetime Value. Only when we rigorously measure these metrics and link them to our digital strategy can we get a true picture of effectiveness.
There’s just one problem. For digital marketers, these metrics are usually much harder to get from the client. They are often impossible to measure digitally. We have to link our measuring systems with the customers’ sales managements, CRM and sometimes even their accounting systems to get real-time data.
For clients, there’s sometimes a tendency to consider this kind of data as confidential and conceal from the digital marketing team. This is a mistake. Only armed with the stuff that matters can digital marketing be any more effective than playing golf in the dark.
Switching the lights on
My recommendation for clients wanting to succeed with digital marketing is to start with your personal business metrics in mind and present these as KPIs to be improved by the digital marketing team.
Make it clear that the measurement of traffic, users, clicks, downloads is just a means to the end of improving the stuff what matters.
And challenge them to come up with a strategy and measuring method that links their efforts to these vital metrics.
In other words, to play with the lights on and work on what really matters.