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“Measure twice, cut once” – The origin of a digital measurement framework

When it comes to defining success for any business, the key driver would be to increase revenue and at the same time to reduce cost, thus maximising profit. Typically, a business would derive a set of objectives around the key drivers. These objectives go by many names and definitions but at the core, they help measure how successful the organisation is at achieving these objectives.

For many organisations, this is a straight-forward exercise. It can be achieved by reviewing a set of financial statements at a set period of time during a financial period. If the objectives are not being met or are not aligned with expectations, the business would go through a process of change in order to achieve or exceed those objectives. The challenge starts coming in when you cannot directly attribute your activity against the organisations performance. There are many scenarios where this can happen. It is most predominant in verticals that produce consumer products sold by intermediaries, but it is not exclusive to certain verticals as various business units – or departments – within an organisation can struggle with attributing their performance back to the organisations key objectives.

One such business unit could be the marketing department. Their responsibility would be to attract new business to the organisation and to retain existing business by keeping consumers engaged with their respective brands. The activity of attracting and retaining through marketing has been evolving over the years, away from traditional channels such as TV to digital channels like Facebook, where the marketers hope to foster strong brand loyalty. The challenge is how does one effectively measure this digital activity that can’t always be directly attributed to revenue for the organisation.

This is where a measurement framework start playing an important role. The framework starts with the objective: what is the marketer trying to achieve? Ultimately it is always sales, but there are many intermediate factors that are conduits to sales, like brand awareness, Facebook likes, tweets, social listening, etc. By showing trends across all marketing channels as a collective, one can start making decisions on the effectiveness of activity within each channel. By clearly identifying which metrics within each channel can be used to show a specific behaviour and monitoring those metrics, marketers can improve their activities and achieve better results. The more accurate the marketer can measure the consumer decision journey, the more accurate the consumer targeting and the more predictable the sales outcomes. All measurements are about honing the strategy, messages and channels that will make consumers buy.

The big challenge facing any organisation trying to create a digital measurement framework, is that there is no standardisation. There are many different interpretations of what channels are best at what and how “good” is measured – so the entire process of measuring consumer engagement is fragmented and arbitrary. None of the big social channels define metrics in the same way and thus there is a fair amount of uncertainty when comparing channels to show success. The challenge is compounded when using solutions like social aggregators who define their own form of measurement to help their customer but end up exaggerating the problem. This is not a road-block though, as clearly defining what each metric within the measurement framework means, will ensure that all stakeholders have a similar understanding. By stakeholder I not only mean within the organisation, but also any supplier such as an agency that provides a service to the organisation. A simple rule-of-thumb is at least to gain internal agreement as to the measures, how they work towards the end-goal and how to interpret them.

At the start of and throughout the process of defining a digital measurement framework, it is important to bring all the relevant stakeholders along on the journey. The critical factor in the rapid adoption of a new framework, is through collaboratively defining the framework.

So what elements would a typical digital measurement framework include? At a macro level, you could have four levels to measure against, namely:

  • Exposure – how many people get to see your marketing message across various digital channels (exposure can be measured by the number of people potentially to see your message – theoretical reach, as against the number of people who claim to have seen it).
  • Engagement – how many people that saw the marketing message across the various digital channels interacted with that message.
  • Amplification – how many people that saw the marketing message across the various digital channels shared that message with other people or commented upon it.
  • Intimate People – how many people have decided to share their personal details as part of a value exchange.

The above objectives are then further split out into additional metrics to help support the macro level objectives. The key part though is to define which metrics per channel fall under each of the above macro level objectives. If we have to take Facebook as an example:

  • Exposure – this would be the unique Reach which is a combination of Organic and Paid Reach.
  • Engagement – this would be the unique interaction metrics such as Likes, Comments and Shares or a combination of these using Engaged Users.
  • Amplification – this would be the unique Shares, shared reviews, recommending, etc.
  • Intimate People – this would be measured using Fans, subscribing.

Each digital channel that the organisation currently uses or would in future adopt, would go through a classification exercise to place the relevant metrics into the appropriate objective to help measure marketing success. This digital measurement framework can then be shared throughout the organisation via and adoption program to assist in driving a clear understanding of digital success.

In conclusion, just because a department or business unit can’t directly measure success against organisational objectives, does not mean it wont need a clearly defined and measurable framework to help gauge the relative success of the activity it performs. Defining a clear digital measurement framework will not only provide clarity around digital measurement but will also help drive digital success through accurate measurement.

The important thing is to measure, even if the measures are still being refined. To agree to how these measures will be interpreted.

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