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

 

Implementing change series: It’s all or nothin’, baby

“If you want to make a significant change, it’s all or nothing, baby,” was my final thought during a presentation about increasing OER use at a college or university at this years CAMEX college bookstore conference.

a boy jump into a lake
“all in” by popofatticus, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 4.0

“If you want to make a significant change, it’s all or nothing, baby,” was my final thought during a presentation about increasing OER use at a college or university at this years CAMEX college bookstore conference.

Instinctively, we all know this, but we favor the route of least resistance. And, in our time and resource-pressed world, with so many competing interests, it’s difficult to dedicate what we need to make something work. With that said, we have to go all-in if we truly want to make a big impact.

For example, if you want to lose a good amount of weight, you may go to your doctor and ask your doctor how to lose weight. The doctor tells you:

The people who really lose a lot of weight and keep it off do ALL of these things:

  • Eat breakfast
  • Eat primarily fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes per day, 6 days per week
  • Reduce their calorie intake by 500 calories per day
  • Incorporate weight lifting into their exercise routine 3 times per week

And yet, so many people will walk away and pick only one. They may say to themselves “Ok, I’ll start eating breakfast each day” and ignore the rest. And then they wonder why they aren’t successful! The doctor said “do all of these” and the patient heard “do one of the following” and did just that.

Similarly, you see this in advertising and marketing work often with small businesses. Their agency will say, “your goal is x and this is your program that will get you there.” The client business will then pick-out one thing on that list, do only that, and wonder why they didn’t meet their goal. The client gets mad and fires the advertising agency because their plan didn’t work. Except, the client didn’t follow the plan.

In my work consulting colleges and universities on how to dramatically increase Open Educational Resources (OER) use on their campus, I’ve found there is a specific formula to success:

  • Do a minimum of 8 direct tactics throughout the academic year
  • Have day-to-day involvement from each of the key departments for success (faculty, library, instructional design, disability services, bookstore, etc.)
  • Have one active, vocal senior administrator sponsor that will champion the initiative through communications
  • Plan your year of activities out in advance to keep a continual high intensity level of activities and communications going throughout the academic year
  • Track successes and progress by outcomes for each action: Number of faculty interested, number of faculty adopting OER, number of students impacted, student success metrics.
  • Modify your plan to favor the strategies that you are having the most success from (based on the number of faculty interested, number of adoptions, and number of students for each action)

Schools will contact us regularly saying,  “Our initiative is great, but this OER thing just isn’t working for us.” When I dig deeper, something is missing from above formula, they’ve tried to skip a step or a few steps. I’d love to tell them that less effort could get them the results they want. If it could, I’d recommend less, but the truth is, if they want significant change, they have to do all of the above.

Are there times it makes sense not to go all-in? Absolutely. You may not have all of the resources to go all-in, or your political climate may not be right yet. And that’s ok; it’s not unusual, when working with schools, that I recommend a slower approach until they are ready for the big leap. At that point, however, you need to adjust your results expectations to match your effort. And, if you want to get to the high results, work toward getting in a position where you can go all in.

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.

Where is the “break” in your campaign or initiative?

A chain with a link that is broken
“Las cadenas se cortan por el eslabón mas débil / Chains break by the weakest link” by Hernán Piñera, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Previously, I discussed measuring marketing/initiative success based on outcomes, not actions. So what if your campaign isn’t successful? How do you find the “break”?

The best way is to compare to previous data and industry standards.

Previous data

Previous data is your data from previous campaigns.

Examples:

  • During your last three sales events, percent of people who walked into your dealership purchased a car.
  • Percent of people who click on your web ad who then come in to purchase a car.
  • Percent of the faculty you invite to a workshop who attend the workshop.
  • Percent of the faculty who attended a webinar and then adopted an OER textbook.
  • Last year, you upped your gym time to x hours per week and lost x inches within x months.

Industry standards

Most industries, especially trade organizations, publish industry standards and research studies that show data comparison points.

Examples:

  • Health experts say that if you cut x calories every day, you will lose x pounds in a year.
  • A national statistic shows that x% of faculty who attend an Open Educational Resource workshop and write a public review of a book will adopt the book they reviewed.
  • Auto industry statistics say that x% of people who walk in the door will purchase a vehicle on that day.
  • Email campaigns have an average of a x% click-through rate.

Comparing data to find the “break”

Examples:

  • Previous car sale weekends drew in x number of people and industry standard is a closure rate of x%.
    • The number of people coming in was higher than previous data.
    • The close rate was lower than industry standard.
    • So the break is your closure rate.
  • In the past, x faculty have attended your Open Educational Resource conference, and x% of faculty who attended adopted OER.
    • The number of faculty who attended was down this year from previous years.
    • The percentage of faculty adopting was the same as previous years.
    • So the break is the number of faculty attending.
  • You’ve increased your workouts, which has worked in the past, and you’ve cut back your calorie count as industry statistics have suggested.
    • The break could be either your diet or your workouts, or something else.

A word of caution

Just because you find where your “break” is, doesn’t mean the reason for the break is easy to identify. You need to do a lot of research to find why the break happened.

For more information on this, read Addressing the Question: Measuring Advertising ROI.

From the above examples:

  • If more people walked into the door for your car sale event but less people bought, there are a number of potential reasons:
    • Your advertising campaign attracted the wrong type of people, such as non-buyers.
    • The economy is uncertain, so the industry standard closure rate isn’t accurate currently.
    • Your sales team is new and not at the normal closure rate yet.
    • The computer system to check people’s credit scores went down, which significantly slowed the sales process.
  • If you have fewer people coming to your Open Educational Resource workshop, but the rate of adoptions amongst those that do show is still good, there are a number of potential reasons:
    • The workshop was on a day with competing events going on.
    • The way you marketed the workshop didn’t work.
    • Bad time of year for the workshop.
    • Another initiative (and meetings surrounding it) are the priority right now.
  • If you increased your workouts and cut your calories but are still not seeing a reduction in your waist, some potential reasons are:
    • Not enough variance in your workouts (only doing cardio, doing the same thing every day).
    • There’s “hidden” calories, such as in sauces, that you aren’t factoring into your daily caloric count.
    • Your calories are down, but they are mostly from processed foods (high sodium, sugar, etc.).

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.

Examples:

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

Success:

  • 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

Success:

  • Car sales

If your goal is to become thinner

Not success*:

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?