With the proliferation of digital channels, marketing is undergoing a tremendous evolution. As a result, marketers at progressive organizations are redirecting their efforts and concentrating on a more holistic understanding of marketing performance.

To drive response and determine the appropriate marketing mix in this new paradigm, marketers must adopt a fresh approach to understand how to influence prospects and customers. By doing so, marketers can maximize marketing spend and generate stronger return on investment.

Five core strategies are needed to measure marketing effectiveness. Let's look at them, as well as at some key implementation tactics and ways to overcome the most-common challenges marketers face during execution.

1. Plan ahead and design a response-attribution infrastructure to support all channels

Many organizations treat marketing measurement as an afterthought of campaign planning. However, measurement and reporting are critical items on the campaign-planning agenda. Up-front planning ensures the appropriate tracking and testing conditions.

Different channels require different tracking mechanisms, but there are some common questions that should be addressed:

  • What types of campaigns (acquisition, conversion cross-sell, etc.) will be tracked?
  • How do cross-channel communications and campaigns roll up into a single program?
  • What information is available to match a response, and should response metadata be enhanced?
  • How will metadata be managed for direct-marketing and indirect-marketing campaigns?

When a marketing program uses multiple channels, the campaign hierarchy must account for each channel along with the appropriate rollups so that measurement aligns with business goals. Each level within the hierarchy should be well defined and understood by stakeholders prior to campaign implementation. Defining those structures after the launch of the campaign, even if possible to do, greatly increases the effort and frequently equates to inconclusive outcomes.

2. Create control groups for a more-accurate measurement of campaign lift

With the growth of digital media, it is even more important to adequately define control-group criteria across all channels during the planning process. Doing so ensures mutually exclusive and comprehensively exhaustive segments that will result in accurate accounting of the incremental results.

A lack of a centralized planning process frequently hinders a marketer's ability to design and execute cross-channel campaigns without polluting control groups, preventing accurate attribution, and biasing measurement analyses. Defined control groups help to accurately measure true campaign-lift metrics. Organizations that have marketing-planning and campaign-management tools are able to create and manage control groups much more effectively.

3. Define relevant measurement metrics

Organizations must define relevant metrics and measurement criteria, taking care to systematically craft a metrics framework aligned with corporate strategy and provide meaningful data to key stakeholders. The metrics must correlate the marketing activities (cause) with the marketing performance, financial results, and customer impact (effect).

A successful metrics framework is used to understand the correlation of marketing campaigns to defined corporate goals and objectives; moreover, it is not limited to just basic response measurement but extends to true financial results and customer-value metrics.

4. Define specific attribution rules by campaign

Attribution rules are a function of a campaign's goals, the response channels, and the outbound communications. Among the strategies for developing attribution rules are the following:

  • Designing and capturing rules for all channels in a campaign or program
  • Understanding that tracking customer response may require some trial and error
  • Focusing on more-generalized rules, devoting less attention to rules designed to manage a small percentage of responses
  • Testing and validating rules for each campaign because different campaigns may behave differently
  • Applying a waterfall approach for matching responses so that more-accurate rules can be assigned a higher priority

For digital media, defining appropriate attribution tactics that cover the complete spectrum of responses is vital. Different attribution tactics can be applied, because multiple campaigns could be responsible cumulatively for the response:

  • First impression: The first campaign gets the credit for the response.
  • Last impression: The last campaign gets the credit for the response.
  • Equal distribution: All contributing campaigns get equal credit.
  • Weighted distribution: The credit is divided among different campaigns on the basis of a weighted distribution.

5. Automate and use visual reporting and analytic tools

Organizations can use many tools to automate portions of the tracking and reporting process. Those tools can be configured to regularly track selected metrics on a periodic basis and produce reports or graphs, which can be consumed by small or large audiences.

Typically, response processes capture disparate data elements, apply attribution rules, and measure results to determine significant findings. Those steps present a challenge to most organizations because of the sheer volume of information represented across all campaigns, channels, and segments. Accordingly, automation is the only means to achieve the necessary scale.

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Implementing the above-noted essential strategies will allow marketers to gain significant insight into the performance and effectiveness of the different channels and interaction effect among those channels. It will also help guide decisions in marketing spend and investment across the channels.

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Ram Krishnamurthy is director of professional services in the marketing automation practice at Quaero (quaero.csgsystems.com), a CSG Solution.
Brad is a solutions architect in the hosted solutions practice at Quaero ( quaero.csgsystems.com), a CSG Solution.