I bought a dress because of your Facebook ad, but you may not know it

A model walks down a fashion show runway in a red and black dress
“Stop Looking! Fashion Runway 2011” by Henry Jose, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 4.0

I recently bought a dress online following this flow:

  1. See dress on a Facebook ad, fall in love with it, click on ad
  2. Ad takes me to a company page, I’ve never heard of the company before, this makes me wary of purchasing
  3. Conduct a Google search for reviews of dress
  4. Finding nothing, go to Amazon and look for the dress there. Find positive reviews, including photos of actual people wearing the dress
  5. Opt to purchase on Amazon because:
    1. Amazon has standardized recourse/return methods if the purchase goes bad
    2. I can easily track the shipment
    3. I had a gift card from my birthday I wanted to use up
    4. It was the same price as the initial website

If you’re the business selling the dress, using simple Click-Through Rate (CTR) tracking methods (# of people clicked on ad, % purchased after clicking), you’ll never know that the Facebook ad “worked.”

If you’re using “Last Interaction Model” tracking, you’ll assume the purchase came from Amazon. Amazon played a role, but it wasn’t the whole story and didn’t prompt the purchase.

If you’re using “First Interaction Model” tracking, you’ll assume the Facebook ad did all of the work, ignoring the role of the web search and Amazon.

To really understand the full journey, you have to look at a broader set of data and how various advertisements and marketing promotions play critical roles in your sales.


Further reading: Addressing the Question: Measuring Advertising ROI


Measure success by results, not actions

Quick quiz: Which answer would you prefer if you were the one asking the question?


Did you get your grades up?

a) I studied more and spent more time at school.

b) Yes, my grades now all B’s or better, up from C’s and D’s.


Did you sell more of our company’s chocolate?

a) We spent $100,000 in advertising and had sales reps pitch over 100 grocery store chains a special chocolate package.

b) Our sales of chocolate are 50% higher this year than last year, increasing our profits by $500,000.


Have you impacted our school’s students with free textbooks?

a) We formed a committee that meets regularly. We also held a workshop and a webinar.

b) Compared to last year of 600 students using free textbooks, we now have 3,000 students using free textbooks, saving them approximately $300,000 this year. Our class drop rate has declined by 10%, and our students are doing as well or better in the courses with free textbooks.


Did you increase our employee retention?

a) We conducted a survey and found out why our employees are unhappy. We plan to have a forum to share the results. Then we will decide next steps.

b) Currently we’re losing 10% of our workforce each year. We conducted a survey and used those results to create the following next steps. Our goal in the next 12 months is to use these steps (including a forum) to reduce our employee turnover to 5% from the current 10%.


Actions (all a’s above) are important steps to results and they can be powerful goals on the way to results, but they aren’t results. To be truly successful in your initiative, decide what result (all b’s) you want to see, and measure your success by that.

Measure marketing/initiative success based on outcomes, not actions

S - specific, significant, stretching M - measurable, meaningful, motivational A - agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented R - realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented T - time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable
“SMART Goals” by Aaron Davis, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the biggest mistakes we often make with marketing campaigns and initiatives is we measure actions, not outcomes. In order to be successful, we need to clearly define our goals and then clearly define what success is, based on outcomes.


If your goal is to impact a large number of your students by utilizing Open Educational Resources vs. expensive textbooks

Not success*:

  • Number of meetings held
  • Number of people who attended a workshop
  • Having an event or display


  • Number of students no longer paying for a textbook that were before
  • Percent of student body no longer paying for a textbook

If your goal is to sell cars

Not success*:

  • Number of phone calls into the dealership
  • Web traffic
  • Test drives
  • Advertising budget amount spent
  • Click rates


  • Car sales

If your goal is to become thinner

Not success*:


  • Inches lost
  • Reduction in clothing size (although brand sizes vary heavily)

* The items listed under “not success” are useful, they will help you accomplish your goals, but when you are asked “What did you accomplish?” or “Was your initiative successful?,” you shouldn’t respond with these as your answers. For example, if someone asks “Did you reach your goal of becoming thinner?” it doesn’t make sense, or answer the question, to respond with “Well, I went to the gym three times this week.”

Why fitness trackers and ad metrics rarely work

A wrist with a Samsung Gear Fit on it
Measure your end goal.

“Samsung Gear Fit unboxing” by Vernon Chan is licensed under CC BY 4.0


Many people are quick to defend fitness trackers such as FitBit. “It makes me walk more!”, many forum posts conclude. But if you probe these people deeper and ask what their goal is, they will say “To lose weight.” “Are you losing weight?” I inquire. “Well, no.”


The problem with this calculation is simple; more steps do not equal lost weight.


The actual formula is:


More activity + less caloric intake = losing weight


So fitness trackers are a part of the picture and can help with more activity, but it’s not the only factor needed to reach a weight loss goal.


Similarly, if your goal is sales, judging your marketing campaign by one metric isn’t going to help.


  • Awareness doesn’t direct correlate to sales
  • Clicks don’t equal sales


The actual formula varies depending on goal and industry, but typically it looks something like this:


Quality product/service that people need/desire + effective promotion + correct price point + available when/where the sale could happen = sales


Before you decide what you are going to measure, decide your goal and measure backwards from that.


Further reading:

Addressing the Question: Measuring Advertising ROI

One of the hardest questions, I think, for marketers and advertisers to answer is the dreaded question “How can I measure my advertising?” because, unfortunately, it just isn’t that simple. That isn’t to say that there is no way to do it, it just is a lot more complex than most would think. So, this post is a listing of my three favorite ideas on how to explain the complexity of advertising return on investment  (ROI) to someone when they ask the question.

The Team Concept

Especially helpful if the person plays or watches sports, for this explanation, you ask the person to think of a team sport, such as hockey. Then, ask the person to identify only one person from the team who responsible for the most recent win of that team. Depending on what type of sports fan they are, they might mention the coach or the star of the team, but the reality is, it takes the whole team to win or lose a game. Each person plays a part in the end goal. Then you can explain how advertising works similarly, because some combination of advertising, promotions, and other marketing caused the purchase through reach, branding, frequency, etc.

Google does a good job of explaining this in the video below. You only need to watch the first minute of the video though. After that, they try to provide you with a solution that also isn’t reasonable because it assumes all communications come from the company (friends and family are a huge part of purchase decisions!) and assumes only an online strategy. Nonetheless, they highlight the team approach very well.

Go Ahead and Do a Survey

Especially if you are being asked by someone who likes numbers, actually doing a “How did you hear about us?” survey will help your case. Those of us in advertising and marketing know that people have no idea where they see or hear things or, at a grander scale, even what causes them to purchase something. But others don’t. For these people, a simple, “How did you hear about us?” will help you prove the problems with measuring advertising ROI because people will report seeing or hearing from you in a lot of places you weren’t.

I used this approach years ago using Facebook advertising. I created Facebook ads that linked to a “please contact me” style form. The only way to get to the link and the form was through the Facebook advertising. But, just to prove my point, on the bottom of the form was the “How did you hear about us?” question with a listing of social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc). Keeping in mind that they could not get to the survey through any other means than Facebook and the fact that they had just clicked on the link. Now, here’s the results: 50% of respondents clicked on some other social media site than Facebook. I know, I was shocked too, but that’s completely the truth.

Tell Me About Your Last Major Purchase?

Probably my favorite way of showing the difficulty of measuring advertising ROI, however, is to ask the person about themselves. I generally pick a car, but you can pick any major purchase, and then just ask them what specific ad caused them to make the purchase.

I used this technique with a friend of mine. In his case, he had just bought a new car so I asked him what specific advertisement had caused him to buy that particular car. At first, he pointed to the 0% financing deal that had just came out. But, after asking him if that really was the only thing that caused his decision, he then talked at length about how his family always buys Fords, how he had read a lot of good reviews on it, how he’d seen a lot of ads about what his particular Ford could do, and even how he had seen multiple ads for the 0% financing. After all of that, he went silent. Then he just said “I get what you mean now.” “Perfect,” I said and that was the end of the discussion.

What’s your favorite way of explaining the difficulty of measuring advertising and marketing ROI?

Church marketing: Marketing thoughts for an open and affirming church

As a favor to a friend and as community service in my field, I wrote the following about church marketing, and particularly marketing an open and affirming church. Some details have been removed to keep the church’s information private. 

This letter is in response to your inquiry about marketing your church. In the below write-up, I focused on your recent transition to an open and affirming church and how you can actively talk to those who fit the description of wishing to attend a church like yours.

The below is based on my experience in marketing (which you can find at www.linkedin.com/nfinkbeiner) and the community that the church resides in.  These are merely my thoughts and reflect a unique marketing view as compared to the suggestions that you will probably receive from other marketers.

Don’t create a marketing plan, create a movement

What I am proposing is something not unheard of, but unique in the marketing realm, especially for churches. I am suggesting that you not create a traditional marketing plan. Instead, I’m recommending that you create a movement. That doesn’t mean you won’t need a plan, but this plan will be more loosely organized, less controlled, and go way beyond increasing the number of visitors to your church. This will focus on the fundamental role that your church plays in the community.

I am recommending that you focus on your recent transition to an open and affirming church and make that your church’s mission in everything they do. Every aspect of the church must live and breathe this movement and mission or your efforts will be in vain. Think Westboro Baptist Church, but positive vs. negative.

So, instead of developing advertising and spending money on media placements, I’m recommending that you instead focus your efforts and finances on hiring an experienced movement facilitator to come in (OFTEN) and walk you and your congregation of a process of taking a look at every aspect of your church, your church’s interactions with the community and see how the message that “everyone is loved and everyone is welcome” (or something similar, “open and affirming” is too stuffy and vague) can be incorporated in every aspect of what you do.

Ask everyone’s help

Imagine one of these sessions (all hypothetical for this portion of my write-up). The facilitator is leading your church through the discussion and hands and ideas are shooting up everywhere.

  • A couple that attend the traditional service point out that most of the people who are seeking an open and loving church go to the Koinonia service. But, that many of these people stop by coffee hour between the services. The couple admits that there isn’t much interaction between the two groups. They vow to step out of their comfort zone and say hello to visitors and make them feel welcome. They also vow to remember these visitor’s names the next time they come and invite them to meet for lunch the following week.
  • The man in charge of the visitor’s table raises his hand and says, “You know, coffee mugs are a great gift, but I was thinking, if we are trying to communicate that God loves everyone, why not spend the extra money and give them each a copy of The Ragamuffin Gospel?”
  • The lady in charge of booking outside groups also raises her hand, “It didn’t occur to me until now that we have a lot of support groups meeting here. Yes, we offer them space, but does that really communicate that they are welcome? Perhaps one of us should be there each week just to say hello? And maybe bring them a snack?”
  • A congregation member points out that the website could use some updating to really communicate the new message. When visitors reach the website, the message that everyone is loved and welcome should stand out and be the first thing they see. There should also be more of an emphasis on communicating the different service times and styles of worship so that visitors can choose the one they are most comfortable with.
  • Everyone at the church must make a commitment not to judge and to step out of their comfort zone.


Empower them to act

The idea is that it’s not just the church leaders or a committee flaming the fire; it’s the entire congregation. But, beyond that, the church community must feel energized and empowered to take action and represent the church on their own (note, there is a danger in this, but I still recommend it). Imagine the possibilities:

  • A guy is standing on a busy street corner in Battle Creek with a sign that reads “God hates [a homosexual derogative].” An older member of the church drives by and sees this. She was going to go shopping, but she decides instead to take action. She calls a couple of her friends and they gather supplies and head out. The guy with the sign is still standing there, but with him are three older women with signs that say “No he doesn’t,” “Jesus loves you” “Not at our church” and they put the name of the church on the signs so people will know what church loves and supports them. Note: This one is especially powerful because it’s older people taking action instead of young people. People perceive older people to be less welcoming of alternative lifestyles, so the shock of seeing older people supporting them will be even more powerful.
  • A couple of church members are talking about a church that always hands out “You are going to hell” style propaganda at the annual town festival. They decide to create their own hand-out and spend their time at cereal festival handing out their flyer to let people know that not all Christians think the way of the other church.
  • A member of the church reads an article about a new LGBTQ group forming in the community. Even though he doesn’t fit this lifestyle, he decides to join as a friend of the group to show them that there are those in the community that care about them.
  • A church member decides not to sell his van, but to instead use it and go around his neighborhood and ask his neighbors without transportation if they would like to join him at church.

Contact the media when action happens

When something dramatic happens or if you know something major is going to happen, call up your local media sources and let them know. They may come out, they may not, but it’s still worth the phone call.  The action must be unique and significant for the media to pay attention (and please don’t contact them if it isn’t . This means your meetings you hold don’t count. But, taking the examples above, the older women standing next the man with the derogatory sign, for example, should be reported to the media immediately. Just in case it doesn’t last long enough for them to get there, snap a close-up, high resolution photograph and email it to them. Consider also posting it on your website and social media sites.

I would also recommend creating video testimonials from a wide variety of people at your church on the subject of everyone feeling welcome. These do not need to be professionally done. In fact, they will probably seem more genuine if they aren’t. Post them on YouTube and Facebook and embed them into your website.

The commitment

As you can see from the above, this isn’t a marketing campaign. It’s a movement and that means the church, if they choose to do this, must agree to a long-term commitment. This isn’t a month or even a year campaign; this is a radical change to how the church is involved in the community.  There must be a long-term and serious commitment to this movement or it will not work and could potentially backfire (people thinking you just were “in it” if you could get new congregants out of it).

The biggest commitment will be time and effort. Again, I recommend you hire a facilitator, someone who is very knowledgeable in change movements, to come in regularly to meet with your church and keep the momentum alive. Your church will be facilitating a lot of discussions, making a lot of changes based on suggestions, and need to find a way to celebrate and encourage positive changes within the church and the community. As a pastor, you will probably find that this is taking up a majority of your working hours each week.

In regards to costs, there will be the cost for the facilitator, any costs from holding the meetings (you know people love food at those), and additional costs based on changes. An example of a cost based on changes is above in the coffee cup example. The coffee cup is a lot less expensive to give out to new people in comparison to the book, but it’s not going to be nearly as effective either.

Another factor to consider when looking at the costs of something like this is in comparison to a traditional advertising and marketing campaign. Although I believe heavily in traditional advertising and paid advertising for many organizations, I don’t think it will be effective for your church. Your target audience is used to people paying lip-service to their cause, but not being willing to take action. So, you could spend $20,000 to $50,000 per year in advertising (which would probably be the minimum in your market using newspaper ads or radio or billboards to effectively get your message across), but, in my opinion, it would be a lot less effective than creating the above described movement.

The results

Despite what some marketers will tell you, it is very difficult to judge whether or not a marketing campaign is working. For more on this, read Addressing the question: Measuring advertising ROI.

With that said, I think the movement vs. a traditional campaign is going to have the best chance of success. Not only will this campaign reach those in the LGBTQ community, but it will also reach those who are looking for an open-minded, accepting church.  In addition, this approach has the added benefit of enhancing the mission of your church as an open and affirming congregation and one who is spreading the word of God to all people.

Ultimately, how well this movement works is entirely up to your and your congregation’s commitment. If you do this campaign half-heartedly or don’t keep adding wood to the fire of the movement, it won’t be successful. Also, if everyone is not on-board, it won’t be successful either. Think about it from a traditional business perspective, a company can do all of the advertising in the world, but if you walk-in and have a bad experience with an employee, none of that advertising matters to you. And, you are likely to tell your friends, which will overrule any positive advertising effects they have had too.

Within a couple of months, will you see dramatic increases in attendance? Probably not. This type of campaign will take a long time to show results. This is mostly due to the skepticism of the target audience and their perception that this is a short-term campaign vs. a long-term commitment to making them feel welcome. Also, building a strong reputation takes time in general.  Very few organizations gain a solid reputation overnight. Most take at least a year if not more depending on the size of the market area. Finally, people are busy and distracted now more than ever. Reaching them will take repeated exposures to your message in a variety of ways before it will finally “click.”

Thank you

I’m not a long-term candidate for advice or consultation on this project due to the distance of where I live compared to you now and my lack of interest in doing any consulting work, but as a form of community service, these are my thoughts for your consideration.  Thank you for allowing me to share them with you.  If you have any questions about this write-up, please feel free to contact me.

Nicole Finkbeiner