Good marketers are always on their toes, looking for better ways to connect with consumers and expand brand awareness. The marketing field consistently challenges us to question our existing methods, try new approaches, and advance our tool set. With so many tools and best practices constantly popping up, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s most important: the success rate of the campaign.

While digital marketing techniques are always changing, your methods for measuring their success should not – keeping detailed records of data and completed campaigns not only helps you evaluate your current efforts, but can also help you decide where to focus future resources. Here are some of the keys to evaluating new campaigns and techniques, and determining where to go next.

Determine KPIs Ahead of Time

The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for a campaign outline your definition of success for that campaign. KPIs are not only instrumental to evaluating success during and after the campaign; they also help to center your team’s collective efforts. Before implementing a new technique or strategy, list out your objectives. Will this campaign be a success if it drives traffic to your brand’s website, or if it causes an uptick in sales? Perhaps your campaign’s focus is to generate new leads, or garner Likes and Shares on social media. All members of the team — including writers, graphic designers, and strategists — should know what factors determine success for that campaign. This will help them do their jobs, and ensure everyone’s working together toward the same goals.

While campaign goals are important, they don’t mean much without data. It’s essential to determine what goal-related metrics to track (KPIs), and how you’ll collect this information. Identify one person (or team of people) to be in charge of gathering and reporting data to support each KPI. Ask yourself: what metrics will show me whether my campaign is meeting this specific goal?

If a goal for your campaign is to generate leads, you may want to track KPIs like new subscriptions to the company blog, or the number of times a piece of content (like a whitepaper or EBook) is downloaded. If your aim is to increase brand awareness, you may report on KPIs like traffic to the website, “Likes” on social media platforms, or the number of views for a certain video, or article. KPIs are critical for any campaign, but especially so when you’re testing a new technique, to see whether the new method is worth its weight.

Establish ROI

When it comes to digital marketing, it’s not always as easy as “money spent versus money made” – you need a more accurate way to measure profit made on the hours that were put into the campaign. That’s where Return on Investment (ROI) comes into play.

To establish ROI for a digital marketing initiative, you will need to determine two values – the amount of time or money spent on a campaign (your investment), and the amount of successful transactions (your return). These numbers do not have to be monetary, but they do have to represent some type of value to your team. Once you have these values defined, calculate a ratio to measure your investment against your return. The ROI of a campaign, or of a new marketing tool, will allow your company to make meaningful decisions about where marketing resources are best invested.

After years of adapting to new social media strategies, renowned networking company Cisco wanted to measure how much impact social media efforts truly had on brand awareness — in other words, they wanted to test whether the profit was worth the time invested in social media. Cisco’s marketing team launched a new product using only social media tactics. The campaign’s digital media coverage garnered 40 million online impressions, and drew over 9,000 attendees to the virtual launch events. When compared to past launches, it nearly doubled the number of press articles, and saw 90 times more launch attendees than past events — and all of this at a sixth of the cost of traditional launch campaigns, leading to an impressively high ROI. By determining clear KPIs and tracking valuable metrics, Cisco was able to provide data-driven proof that their social media investments were worthwhile to the brand.

Run a Postmortem

A critical part of any good marketing campaign is the postmortem — the process after the campaign has ended, in which you analyze both the successes and failures throughout. A postmortem is especially vital if you’re working with a new technique that you haven’t used before, as it can show you the strengths and weaknesses of different tactics. It may also shine a light on unexpected results, or give you a new perspective on how you should be marketing specific products.

Analyzing metrics, strategies, and KPIs during postmortem allowed Old Spice, the popular men’s body wash brand, to launch an expertly developed follow-up campaign to the success of their 2010 ad featuring Isaiah Mustafa. After it aired, the brand found that 75% of conversations in their category were focused on Old Spice, mainly through social media channels, with most consumers watching their ad on YouTube. As the “Old Spice Guy” soared to popularity, the brand’s marketing team leaned on metrics from the original campaign to quickly create a second campaign, capitalizing on the buzz. Noting the heavy user engagement on YouTube, the company invested time into crafting videos and responses to consumer comments on that platform. The brand’s “Response Campaign” skyrocketed its social following, increasing its Facebook fans from 500,000 to 800,000, and YouTube subscribers from 65,000 to 150,000. With over one billion unpaid impressions, the campaign also proved monumentally valuable in its earned media.

The postmortem is the perfect time to look at the ROI of a campaign, determine how your metrics performed, and use that to drive future marketing strategies. One of the biggest benefits to running a postmortem is the opportunity to decide whether a new technique should be continued, thrown out, or refined and improved upon in a future campaign.

New Efforts, New Results

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the results you expected on your first try with a new marketing technique. If you complete an evaluation, only to find this new social campaign wasn’t the success you thought it’d be, take it as a learning experience, and apply any knowledge or small wins to future campaign strategies. Don’t take it as a sign to revert back to the same old methods you’ve grown accustomed to; rather, use the results you get – whether monetary or experiential – and build upon your own winning formula.

How do you measure the success of new marketing methods? What signifiers cause you to deem a marketing strategy a failure? Tell us in the comments.

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