While evaluating advertising impact may seem daunting, here are 10 actions you can take to find out what is moving the needle and what isn’t in your marketing communications plan.
1. Set a Clear & Measurable Objective: What do you want your advertising campaign to accomplish? Increase awareness? Traffic? Sales? By how much? You would be surprised how many times marketers are unwilling or unable to set a measurable goal. However, it’s an important first step on the route to determining effectiveness. How do you know if you’ve arrived at your destination if you don’t know where you’re headed?
2. Test Your Creative: While it is relatively easy to swap out digital creative, TV commercials are typically pricy to produce. Sometimes advertisers resist copy testing because “there isn’t enough time” or “we don’t have the money to change anything, anyway.” But spending significant sums on media behind an ad that doesn’t resonate with your consumer can be ineffective at best and damaging to the brand at worst.
There are many relatively quick ways to check creative — often for less than the cost of one national 30-second spot.
3. (Really) Understand Your Media Plan’s Numbers: A TV cost per thousand (CPM) may be based on a demographic target, while a digital display CPM may be based on all internet users. Alternatively, a CPM could represent a strategic target, a guaranteed target or viewable impressions. Ask questions! Be sure you understand how the numbers on your plan work together to provide the reach you’re seeking from your marketing communications.
4. Line Up Effectiveness Plan with Advertising Objective: If your goal is awareness, commission a tracking study to determine brand and advertising awareness and favorability. If your goal is traffic, make sure you’re counting the people walking through the store door. Your agency can help advise on the proper research to demonstrate achievement of your goals.
5. Utilize Digital Measurement Techniques: ComScore and Nielsen offer services, including viewability and verification, to determine viewability of your digital media. (Fifty percent of your display ads may be unviewable.) They also provide a calculated gross rating point (GRP), so this can be combined with TV and radio. GRPs are particularly useful for commercials appearing in online video.
6. Test & Learn: A good rule of thumb is that 5-10 percent of your media budget should be devoted to new tactics. New media and new devices are appearing every day. It’s a perfect time to get experiences with emerging media with little risk. On the other hand, if trying something new doesn’t make you uncomfortable, you’re probably not investing enough in it. Be sure to set up test parameters clearly so your success measurement is clear at the end of the experiment. A strong control group is vital for understanding the impact of these new techniques.
7. Create Simple Models: Utilizing sales data and advertising data you can create multiple regression models to help determine the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing efforts. A marketing analyst can create the models utilizing weekly data across all marketing efforts. While there is no current standard for data quality, you can improve the model by making sure your data is clean and consistent.
8. Create Predictive Models: A marketing mix model will not only tell you the ROI of your marketing efforts, but help you evaluate “what if” scenarios so you can best guide future investment. While marketing mix models are expensive, they are currently one of the best techniques for assuring the success of your plan.
9. Track Success Metrics: Set up a dashboard to keep track of key performance metrics throughout the campaign. If you have completed number one, above, all stakeholders will be clear on what those key metrics are and can easily evaluate success or lack thereof. This gives you the opportunity to course-correct on the fly. In the meantime, be sure you are keeping good records of your activity for future modeling needs. Bad data leads to bad models.
10. Recognize the Art & the Science: No measurement technique is perfect, no model is perfect, no research is perfect. While greater amounts of valuable data generate greater certainty, we are rarely 100 percent sure of an outcome. Continue to learn and grow with your measurement plan, accepting applause and refining missteps as you go.
By following these 10 best practices, you will soon have keen insight into what works and what doesn’t in your marketing communications plan. So next time the CFO asks you what you’re advertising has accomplished, you’ll be able to point to a long list of successes!