You can’t spend wisely unless you understand marketing’s full impact, say marketing experts McKinsey. If we ask ourselves whether our communications and marketing budgets are being spent wisely, could we honestly say yes?
by Rachel King
You’re working on another news release. It’s about your annual report, which is a 127 page document. You know nobody’s going to pick this up as news, but you write the release anyway. Halfway through, a head of service calls to say she’d like to advertise on a national family events website. She thinks it would be good at getting more foster carers in your town. You ask why she thinks this and what demographic data she has on the website visitors. She doesn’t have any data, but she knows it attracts people because she uses it, so she has agreed to pay £2,000 for the first ad. Please can you have an advert ready by the end of the week?
Only yesterday you were writing the Chief Exec’s blog. ‘Budgets are getting tighter’ it read, ‘our processes have to become even slicker; our spending must work harder for us.’ You rest your face in your palms for a moment before you get back to that news release.
It’s a well-told story and a large part of our public sector comms lives. We’re so busy doing the stuff that we don’t really have time for a battle, and challenging the requests we receive is sometimes a bit scary, especially when these requests come from senior colleagues.
But following on from a Comms Camp conversation about whether we are good enough to land jobs in the private sector, it seems that if we keep up the cycle of doing without measuring then the answer is probably no. We need to raise our measurement game. Here are some ideas about how we can do this.
Understand our goals
It’s important to take the time to really understand what we want to achieve. Many communications and marketing plans separate the organisation or service goals from the communications goals. For example, the service goal might be to generate more sign-ups from new landlords, but the comms goals are to increase media coverage, social media likes and engagement. Often these are measured separately without the link being made between the two. Because of this, there’s no emphasis on one channel over another, no understanding of where current sign-ups are coming from or how many people we’d need to reach to achieve a single sign-up. So we spread our efforts evenly across the marketing mix and our content directs people to the website home page.
If we were looking at this more smartly we could achieve real results with less input. Take a look at this snapshot from Google analytics. It shows which social media channels people are coming from to visit a website. You can see that so many more people are clicking through from Instagram than Facebook. You can see how many people go to the page we’ve directed them to and how many people drop off before they get any further. Look how many people drop off before they get to the sign up page.
Straight away from this snapshot we know two things. Firstly, we can now see that we need to prioritise Instagram as a channel for this campaign. We can see that 80 per cent of our social media referrals are from Instagram. We can work back from this to see how many people we reached on Insta to get those 38 clicks. If it’s 1,000 people, then we know if we reach 2,000 more people we should get another 76 clicks. We can scale up to get the results we need to see.
Secondly, we now know that we need to direct our audience to the web page we want them to see, because so many people are dropping off before they get to the sign up page. We can’t rely on people finding their way from the home page, so we need to either take them straight to the sign up page or adapt the page we’re sending them to so that it’s easy for them to sign up instantly.
This is wonderful. It’s beautiful insight that we all dream of. It’s even more amazing because it only takes two minutes to get to data like this once your access to the analytics is unlocked.
Understand our audience
By using data and analysis to measure our impact, we can use it to understand our audience. Most of us work in large organisations and we have access to prime sources of data. We have JSNAs, census data, MOSAIC or ACORN demographic data and in most cases, we have people who know this data inside out and can help us to use and understand it. Google analytics has a new demographics plug-in that knows a great deal about your current website visitors. Your social analytics can tell you a lot about demographics too.
Services tend to make assumptions about their current and prospective customers and pass these assumptions onto us. When we’re beginning a campaign we should always ask ourselves ’do we know for sure, or is it an assumption?’ As Simon Sinek would say: ‘start with why’.
We still do a lot of spray and pray communications, where we try to target everybody with all our messages. The rise of social media makes this very tempting, but taking time to determine and understand our customer segments is worthwhile if we want to achieve and prove a return on investment.
If we move away from the belief that the more people we target, the more customers we can attract, and take on the smarter approach of working smartly within well-defined segments, we can achieve so much more value in our communications and marketing work.
While you’re reflecting on your last few working days and looking ahead to the coming week, ask yourself how you can incorporate metrics into your work, and how you can use these to shape and improve what you do.
image via NASA on the Commons