If you were an investor, would you spend money on a lot of different stocks or put your funds into several different companies then not track the results? Sounds crazy, right? You want to see how your investments are doing. You may do well in some areas and poorly in others, but you want that data.
So why on earth would you spend money on different marketing channels and not track those results? And then wouldn’t you spend time reviewing what you tracked and optimize your investments going forward?
Tracking and testing is just as important for marketing as it is for investing your personal money. Here’s a guideline for getting started or improving your existing processes.
Determine your metrics
The very basic step here is to initially determine what metrics you’re going to track. We’ve got a better overview of this on another blog post.
Main thing here is to pick a handful of numbers you think may be important for your marketing goals (and therefore your business goals) and just get started. Don’t let paralysis analysis set in as you debate about whether your website bounce rate may or may not be important – just track it anyway initially.
Know that this is also something you can totally manage yourself if you have the time and wherewithal.
Set a baseline
It may be very hard to start tracking your metrics when you haven’t done it before. Especially if you’ve been reading about things like customer acquisition costs (CAC) or user engagement, where there are a lot of different formulas for different industries.
If you’re just getting started doing anything like this, keep things simple and remember: the main thing is to just take that first step forward. Establishing your baseline is the critical piece here. You may have metrics that aren’t very important. Or you may later on wish you had included other metrics. But you won’t know until you’ve got things rolling forward.
A side note about campaigns
What most of this blog post is referring to is ongoing analytics – reporting the numbers for your ongoing digital marketing channels, like your website, emails and social media ads.
For campaigns, you’ll want to split those off into a separate piece. Different campaigns will have different goals and metrics. You’ll be able to see them in the bigger picture for your ongoing metrics.
For example, if you’re running a Facebook ad for a month in order to drive traffic to your website, you’ll want to specifically note the metrics provided by Facebook to compare this campaign to future ones. You'll also want to note things like the amount of referral traffic from Facebook to your site in Google Analytics during that month.
Stick with tracking your metrics
Establish a routine. Weekly is usually a nice balance. Monthly can be too long and have too many fluctuations, daily can be exhausting and feel inane. For very large businesses, there may be a point where some metrics need to be pulled on different cadences – for example, calculating more complex formulas on a monthly basis but reporting simpler ones a daily basis.
Just keep with it. Whatever works for you in establishing a habit, do it. It’s very motivating to look back later and be able to see trends and pat yourself on the back for recording this data.
Review and analyze
And on that note – you’ll also want to establish a recurring time-slot to go back and review all of the data you’re pulling. My recommendation for all of this is to use a spreadsheet if you’re a small to medium sized business. If you’re larger, you can use more complex and interesting tools like Sprout Social.
You just want to make sure that you go back and look at the data from time to time to see if you can glean anything interesting from it. Maybe your website form submissions are low, even though your traffic is high, meaning you may want to retool that form. Maybe you haven’t been paying much attention to Twitter but your presence is growing like crazy – so you may want to spend more time on there going forward and also specifically track Twitter as a referral source to your website going forward.
Commonly referred to as A/B testing (but also known as split testing or multivariate testing) – you want to use your metrics to then inform future tests. All A/B testing means is that you have two versions of something and you’re seeing which one accomplishes a specific goal better.
My favorite example is email marketing subject lines. Most email tools now provide A/B testing capabilities so that you can send one version of a subject line to group A and one version to group B in your database, then see which one has higher open rates. It’s that simple. The main point is that you are testing to see what your audience prefers.
It does take time but if you aren’t tracking your metrics, you can’t tell what has worked in the past. And if you can’t tell what has worked in the past, you're putting your money down blindly on your future marketing efforts.