"How many impressions can we expect?" "What kind of reach numbers will this get us?"

For any of us who direct marketing campaigns, we hear those questions over and over again as we discuss program tactics with our client partners.

However, if we want to ensure program success and deliver results that really matter to the C-suite, we need to ask an entirely different question: "How can we deliver powerful results that map to brands' business outcomes?"

That question presents a far more relevant discussion point because brands need to focus their time, energy, and marketing dollars on making their concrete business outcomes a reality.

Here are just a few of the business challenges facing today's brand managers:

  • Launching a new product
  • Changing brand perceptions
  •  Driving sales to a particular retailer
  • Generating interest in a no-news cycle
  • Proving out sales at key retailers
  • Expanding sales to a new demographic
  • Stemming customer attrition
  • Answering brand detractors

Traditional Measurement Approaches Present Challenges

Unfortunately, too often, campaigns in the PR, ad, and social space focus on targeting reach numbers rather than demonstrating how they can move the sales needle. For example, a successful PR team may say it has achieved 170 million impressions for a program—but reach numbers don't translate to consumer conversions and typically are just one piece of an integrated marketing mix. As a result, it's hard to tease out the campaign's ultimate impact when it's conducted amidst a sea of tactics.

Overall, the general sense post-campaign centers around "we did a whole universe of marketing tactics and we sold this much stuff—but we can't map one to the other."

Within this vacuum, impressions become a lifeline—a tangible metric, a way to track individual efforts—even if they don't individually demonstrate sales results.

New Standards for Social Media Campaigns

At the same time that PR campaigns haven't been tied to bottom-line results, brands now look at social media programs with a far more specific set of asks about how the tactics layer up to concrete actions taken.

So for those of us who deliver social media or digital campaigns, we know brands may mention impressions, but they also want to implement programs that will allow them to demonstrate business results.

The challenge: How can we forge a closer connection between our campaign tactics and brand teams' business goals?

Online Recommendations and the Consumer Funnel

To start, we need to take a look at the traditional consumer funnel as it moves from awareness to purchase in a linear path.

Consumers initially may become aware of a product or service through traditional media (TV, print, or radio) but soon turn to online research and fact finding as they consider their options. Finally, consumers hit the tipping point of purchase preference when they hear the drumbeat of word-of-mouth and online recommendations (such as blog posts and e-commerce reviews) that influence their final decision.

Moreover, research we've conducted at Influence Central illuminates this path to purchase and demonstrates how online influencers can shape consumer behavior. For example, a study of over 900 influencers in the "Mom space" revealed that 99% of consumers research online before making purchases, and 76% trust social media recommendations for product information prior to purchase. In addition, 67% of consumers are more likely to purchase a product if it receives a high star rating on e-commerce reviews.

Designing Campaigns That Map to Business Goals

This insight gives us the opportunity to craft digital marketing and social media campaigns that deliver results that matter to the C-suite. And because we've focused on impressions for a long time, we can't expect to make an immediate switch from reach numbers.

However, we can begin by challenging ourselves to identify tactics that map to powerful results.

Here are five business outcomes along with strategies that can deliver results.

  1. Increasing online sales: By developing campaigns that place e-commerce reviews at the point of purchase, programs can help drive sales and demonstrate their effectiveness.
  2. Driving brick-and-mortar sales. Incorporating coupon redemption via a unique coupon code allows a brand to connect purchases directly to the redemption.
  3. Launching successful new product sales. With a new product launch, results can be better isolated because implementation activities are just ramping up, offering the opportunity for campaign results to stand out.
  4. Driving sales at a particular retailer. When campaigns focus on one retailer out of many (e.g., one chain or one retailer in a geo-targeted area), a better chance to demonstrate results exists.
  5. Repositioning a brand to increase sales. Strategic repositioning campaigns can help brands broaden their consumer base and jump-start sales by helping new target audiences see the brand in a different light.

Campaign Takeaways

As we move to align campaigns with business results, we need to remember the following:

  • Challenge traditional measurement approaches and concentrate on ways we can change consumer behavior, rather than showcasing impression numbers.
  • Avoid falling into mid-goals (for example, devising a contest in hopes that it will get consumers to sign up).
  • Work in advance with the brand to ensure you can gain access to business measurement tools. If you plan to map your tactics to specific business results, you must be able to obtain the right information.

By keeping our clients' business objectives in mind and implementing tactics that can map to those goals, we can handcraft social media and digital campaigns that change consumer behavior. And when we do that, we can dramatically prove out our value to the C-suite in a far more profound way than through reach numbers.

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Beyond Impressions and Reach: Connecting Campaigns to Conversions

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image of Stacy DeBroff

Stacy DeBroff is founder and CEO of Influence Central. A social media strategist, attorney, author, and speaker, she consults with brands on consumer and social media trends. Reach her via stacy@influence-central.com.

LinkedIn: Stacy DeBroff

Twitter: @stacydebroff