Marketing

Understanding Marketing Metrics: Real-World Analogies for Digital Marketers

ARTICLES Understanding Marketing Metrics

Metrics drive marketing. And in the age of the internet, devices, and social media, the type of marketing driving those metrics is digital.

In the old days when billboards, commercials, and print were king, sales were the only metric that mattered. Now, with everyone carrying devices with cameras, microphones, web browsers, and the means to send data from every tap and click, the data you can gather from a single user interaction is substantial.

The older mediums of marketing haven’t gone away. Billboards still dot highways. Commercials still interrupt your shows, but now they stream over your Roku stick on thousands of channels instead of over your TV with tin foil wrapped around the antenna.

Marketing metrics are still very relatable from the analog world to the digital. Let’s take a look at the importance of understanding marketing metrics and how they relate to both the analog and digital worlds.

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Understanding marketing metrics and KPIs

Understanding marketing metrics and KPIs

Marketing metrics measure the success of campaigns by showing how they track toward specific key performance indicators (KPIs). Key performance indicators identify the goals of the campaign and show how well campaigns are reaching those goals.

Metrics are generally static in that they don’t change for a particular channel. For example, email marketing metrics are usually concerned with opens, clicks, bounces, unsubscribes, etc., regardless of the type of email campaign you’re talking about. Metrics are usually consistent over the life of many campaigns.

KPIs are different in that they can change depending on which part of the marketing funnel you’re in. For example, goal completion KPIs track a sales cycle by determining which activities within the cycle correspond with sales goals. You can calculate goal completion by taking the total number of visitors who completed a specific component of the sales cycle and dividing it by the total number of visitors.

For example, if 100 users visited your site, and 30 of them clicked through to the Contact Us page, you would have a 30 percent goal completion rate.

3 types of metrics

Understanding marketing metrics starts with breaking down the differences between impressions, reach, and engagement.

Impressions

1. Impressions

The total impressions related to a piece of marketing content are the number of times the content was shown to the target audience. Impressions represent the opportunities an ad has to influence a potential customer.

An example of impressions in the analog marketing world is the number of times a commercial rotates during a season of television, or during a week of radio. The impact of the commercial can be determined by both the number of times the commercial rotates as well as the size of the audience it’s being exposed to.

When talking about impressions in the digital environment, the banner ad is still one of the most common ways to get impressions. Having a banner ad in regular rotation on a high-traffic website definitely has the potential for a lot of views.

But while banner ads are still in heavy use, social media is continuing to grab eyeballs. According to Statista, ad impressions on social media are up 20% year over year.

Reach

2. Reach

Reach and impressions are sometimes used interchangeably. While they are definitely related, they are different.

Impressions refer to the number of times content displays. Reach is the total number of people who have actually seen your ad or content. So if your content is displayed on a user’s screen three times while they scroll, that would count as three impressions but only as a reach of one.

Reach in the analog world could be something as simple as the number of people who drive by a billboard. When your billboard is on a country road in Iowa, it’s not going to have as great of a reach as a billboard on the I-5 in Los Angeles.

Digital marketers measure reach in a number of different ways, especially when it comes to reach on social media. For example, organic reach is the number of people who viewed your content for free. Viewing a post while scrolling through a Facebook news feed is a good example of organic reach.

An example of paid reach is someone viewing an ad that was at the top of their feed because the ad’s creator paid for it to have top placement. Viral reach would be the viewer watching content because a person on their friend list shared it with the viewer.

Engagement

3. Engagement

Engagement is a measurement of the number of interactions users have with your content. Think of engagement as the next logical step after reach. Users viewing your content is one thing, but if the content initiates action to either buy or enter the next section of the marketing funnel, then you have something else worth measuring.

Because of our pervasive online world, people are viewing about 3,000 messages a day. With all that noise, getting a message through that inspires people to action presents a challenge. 

Grocery stores have lots of examples of things that boost engagement from shoppers. Seeing a package of cookies among all the other packages of cookies in the aisle is nothing new. But the endcap with the decorated holiday cookies in its own standalone display may entice the shopper to purchase something that they weren’t planning on buying.

Engagement is a pretty wide umbrella in the digital world. It can be something as simple as a user liking and commenting on your Facebook page to pressing the play button on a video posted on your blog. It can be early in the funnel, like clicking on a banner ad. In the middle of the funnel, it can mean scrolling to the bottom of a product page. At the end of the sales funnel, filling in a form and pressing the “submit” button to make a purchase is also a form of engagement.

Any interaction a user has with content you provide is engagement. Multichannel engagement refers to customers engaging with a company via phone, email, or chat. Each channel is managed in its own separate platform. Omnichannel engagement blends two or more of these channels together through a unified console.

A great example of omnichannel engagement is what happens when you call your cellular provider for customer service. Because of higher-than-expected call volume you may be put on hold to wait for a customer service representative.

Using omnichannel engagement, a digital assistant informs you that, instead of waiting on hold, a text has been sent to your phone allowing you to engage with another representative over chat instead of waiting for your turn in the call queue.

A modern, expanded view of marketing

The beauty of digital marketing is the huge amount of interactions that can be quantified and measured by count, length of time, intensity, breadth, and depth. This can give marketers a truly multi-dimensional picture of the customers who are engaging with their content.

Digital marketing hasn’t abandoned the old measuring systems. It’s expanded on them. Metrics identify what matters the most within your digital marketing strategy, and provide answers to the questions most important to your business.

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About the author

John Boitnott

A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked at TV, newspapers, radio and Internet companies for 25 years. He currently writes at ClearVoice, Motley Fool and Entrepreneur.com. He’s also written for Fast Company, NBC, Inc Magazine, USA Today and BusinessInsider, among others.