What are your marketing metrics telling you? If you rely on the standard measurement tactics, probably not much.

Consider a classic metric such as clickthrough rate. By most standards, a "successful" banner ad receives 15 clicks for every 10,000 impressions, compared with an "unsuccessful" ad that attracts only five clicks. That's a slim, arguably insignificant margin separating success and failure. More importantly, it misses the point of the ad itself: to drive sales.

Video ads suffer from a similar problem. Marketers judge their efforts based on how often videos play to the end. But it's wishful thinking to believe that every play-through signals an engaged viewer. Most people watch videos on mute, or they skip straight to the end. The content, therefore, makes little to no impression, and it produces minimal conversions.

Some of the most widely used and carefully managed metrics in a marketer's arsenal don't actually correlate with business success; however, significant time and resources are still wasted obsessing over them. What's worse, meanwhile, is that many marketers miss other opportunities to optimize digital marketing campaigns and turn ads into sales.

If your positive marketing metrics aren't translating into revenue, you're tracking the wrong things. So shift your focus toward more insightful metrics and indicators of success that actually relate to your business goals. You'll have a much clearer line of sight into what's working and what's not, and you'll increase control over your marketing efforts.

Upgrading to Advanced Measurement Strategies

Some metrics matter more than others. For example, visits to your homepage have less value than visits to landing pages; that's because media metrics (the ones that measure the size of your audience) matter less than engagement and customer-acquisition cost metrics, which track your marketing efforts beyond just a click or visit.

Advanced measurement strategies don't just track business success—they explain it.

Today, however, marketers' ability to track and measure hundreds and thousands of digital touchpoints throughout the day has resulted in far more data than insights and explanations. Some marketers, for example, might know about the success of individual ads or campaigns, but how those results relate to the bottom line remains a mystery.

Advanced measurement strategies mute the irrelevant metrics and form connective tissue between the rest so that marketers have a deeper understanding of how various campaign factors can help (or hurt) sales.

That said, there is no list of campaign performance metrics that are always successful. Rather, each metric you use should relate directly to a campaign objective. Things like CTR and impressions might still be useful if the goal is to expand brand awareness, but they can be a distraction if your true goal is to acquire customers. The maxim "what gets measured gets managed" really applies here: If you're not tracking relevant metrics, you're probably not optimizing the campaign effectively, either.

Outline your measurement strategy before the campaign begins. That means identifying what metrics you'll track, how you'll define successful marketing campaigns, and where to look for data. Marketers need to do that work early on so they can track the success of each campaign from its inception.

Take B2B companies. Before the COVID-19 pandemic halted in-person selling, a common B2B company goal was to schedule in-person demos, and the strategy for doing so involved online advertising. But it doesn't make sense to expect that each video view or banner ad click will translate to someone scheduling a demo. B2B companies could learn more from dividing the digital ad budget by the amount of scheduled in-person demos to get an estimate of what each demo "costs," then adjusting spend across search, social, and programmatic channels accordingly.

Advanced measurement strategies have obvious advantages, and the case for using them is simple: If you're going to be tracking metrics anyway, why not track the right ones in the right ways?

Building an Advanced Measurement Strategy

For those willing to test new approaches, advanced measurement strategies prove to be much more accessible than most people expect—not to mention more impactful.

For better results, apply these best-practices for marketing metrics to your next campaign.

1. Focus on brand lift

Whether or not an ad leads to sales, it should always leave a positive impression. That means the audience likes what it sees, recalls the message, forms a memory of the brand, and moves one step closer to a purchase.

Instead of tracking how many people see an ad, focus on whether that ad improves their perception of the brand—also known as "brand lift."

Measuring brand lift isn't easy, but with quality data (likely from a third-party provider) and honest analysis, you can get inside your audience's head to learn whether your ads actually elevate your brand.

Depending on the media mix, for instance, you can deploy single-channel measurements on Facebook or YouTube. Alternatively, you can deploy cross-channel measurements in a demand-side platform environment using display, video, audio, native, and connected TV methods.

2. Align digital channels to investigate sales drivers

Every brand needs to know where sales originate. Online companies have mountains of data at their disposal and plenty of means to get more, but the situation looks different for B2B brands that have relied on more traditional selling methods and interactions until recently.

Customers' preference for digital interactions is obvious in their behavior: They are opting for safer digital sales interactions, and taking advantage of online channels in the process (mobile apps, social media, and online communities), according to research from McKinsey. Accordingly, B2B companies that place a higher focus on their buyers' digital experiences are more than twice as likely to be designated as choice suppliers.

Your online channels should measure up to customers' expectations: The services should be seamless and convenient, and they should easily integrate and collaborate with sales channels to collect up-to-date customer insights and identify sales drivers.

3. Use multitouch attribution

With so many channels in the marketing mix, it's hard to know which ads (or combination of ads) spark a sale.

Traditional rules-based approaches credit only the first or last impression. Multitouch attribution models, however, can trace touchpoints and assign fractional credit to each touchpoint; those models use algorithms and machine-learning to assign a portion of the credit to each ad or impression during the individual customer journey.

Understanding the source of sales on such a granular level helps marketers employ the most effective messaging and marketing mix possible.

* * *

Advanced measurement strategies don't guarantee successful marketing campaigns, but they do give marketers the ability to see when an ad is or isn't performing. More important, they offer a way to understand why certain ads succeed—and by extension, help you to optimize every ad you run.

We might call them advanced measurement strategies now, but it won't be long before they're the standard, and it's better to adapt and adopt now than try to catch up later.

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Advanced Measurement Strategies: Metrics That Actually Matter

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Ryan Green is vice president of client strategy at Coegi, a partner for media professionals seeking a streamlined way to leverage programmatic and social solutions.

LinkedIn: Ryan Green