Joshua Giardino joined the team at Mason in November 2016 as Director of Digital Strategies & Analytics. He brings more than a decade of digital marketing experience across several technical and creative disciplines, with specific expertise in inbound marketing. We invited him to describe in his own words his approach to strategy and data.
My primary role at Mason is to unify campaign planning with measurement and reporting, across multiple channels. The central challenge is building a relationship with each client so they see us as an extension of their own team. That means understanding their business in depth so I can help them plan and measure each campaign. No two businesses operate the same way, so I have to understand their processes to determine how we can assist.
It begins with dialogue. My goal is to guide the client to articulate objectives that are SMART: Specific, Measureable, Attainable & Agreed Upon, Realistic, and Time-oriented. I then match those objectives to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics – for example, brand reach, user engagement, and conversion – and form a measurement plan to gather the relevant data.
What is often missing is a long-term, deep view of customers’ relationships with their brands. A client may focus narrowly on generating a certain number of leads by a certain date, but it’s harder to get them to prioritize longer-term metrics like Customer Acquisition Cost or Lifetime Customer Value. That skews their idea of what “success” and “failure” look like.
The other most common obstacle is infrastructure – having internal processes related to measurement and reporting. It’s not enough to have an objective without the right support system to measure the success of that objective, throughout the lifecycle of the campaign. KPIs make the difference between strategy and spinning your wheels. With the right strategy and processes, businesses can expect to see measureable improvement and a reduction in waste. They can proceed with the support of data to inform key decisions and validate or disconfirm their intuitions.
The whole goal of A/B testing is to improve KPIs. That said, audience segmentation through A/B testing is a great way to use KPIs to derive insights for improving messaging or forming new hypotheses to test. For example, imagine a sales campaign that has an email opt-in component, followed by a product demo, and then the sales cycle. By segmenting all visitors by which stage of the sales funnel they completed, we may discover useful insights about what our target market looks like. If we do the same thing with landing pages, search keywords, or ad variants, we uncover which campaigns and messaging best resonate with that audience. This knowledge forms our baseline for future A/B testing.
And it happens often that the data we collect through testing bucks our intuitive expectations. If science has taught us anything, it’s that humans are terrible estimators!
It’s important to understand the purpose and intent of those channels first. Traditional media typically drives engagement from users higher up the funnel. Properly executed, it’s equally possible to track certain aspects of traditional offline media, with methods like call tracking and campaign-specific URLs. As global marketing gains importance, specific geographic tracking will likely become more accessible and useful as well.
We can also look at things like the lift in direct traffic and branded search traffic during the period of time when the offline campaign was in market. When this information is compared to the previous period, and the same time last year, we can derive some solid intuitions about the impact the offline media had.
With properly defined objectives, we can focus on what drives business value… without ever losing sight of the fact that positive brand perception is one of the biggest drivers of business value over time. That’s why I focus so early on in helping the client understand their KPIs. Along with that focus, the appropriate tools and technology – databases, data visualization, Google Analytics, etc. – go a long way in filtering the noise.
It helps that I’m responsible for innovation! I keep up through peer groups, networking, and industry events. I also follow a number of publications, including academic research on data science and behavioral psychology. For example, I recently read an insightful publication from behavioral economist Dan Ariely of Duke University, examining the effectiveness of incremental steps along the customer engagement journey.
Make the time for measurement and testing. Don’t be afraid to push back and let decision makers know that measurement is not something that can be skipped or circled back to later. The client or “higher-ups” should understand that what I do is time intensive and not something that can be thrown in as part of, say, a media buy. There will always be an initial investment in the form of planning and set up, and it’s important to allocate resources for that.
To learn more about Mason’s data-driven digital marketing strategies, call our Bethany, Connecticut office at (203) 393-1101 or contact us online.