The world demands accountability, so marketers feel compelled to measure everything. But measurement technology is dramatically imperfect. The result is that, more often than not, we measure what's easy to measure instead of what's right to measure.
Digital appears to be the "promised land" because its count-ability gives us the accountability we crave. The truth, however, is that digital leads many marketers to reverse-engineer their goals to fit their metrics. Goals are determined by what we can put a tracking pixel on, rather than by asking what needs to be done to move our businesses forward.
Putting the customer journey at the center of your planning can change this dynamic. It can help you be confident that the results you drive are results that are actually meaningful to your business.
Here are some best practices to help you do this:
1. Map the journey. Effective strategic planning connects the dots between what you're going to do and why you're going to do it. It's the plumbing that sits between goals and tactics.
Your planning should start with mapping out the customer journey in relation to what you are selling. Do customers know you exist? Do you have unique obstacles to overcome? How much of a role does word-of-mouth play? Once you understand the path your customer takes, you will have a clear understanding of the business objectives that will drive long-term revenue growth, brand health and customer advocacy. Once you determine the right business goals, then you can make sure your tactical KPIs (key performance indicators) ladder up to them.
2. The funnel is not dead. There are 38,900 results for "funnel is dead" on Google. It's not. The purchase funnel has evolved because of the proliferation of media channels, the ability to research anything at any time, and the increased weight of social endorsement, but it's not dead by any means. You just need to customize it to meet the needs of your business.
This is nothing new. The "funnel" represents a turnkey model of the customer journey. Yet how people buy a car, a Snicker's bar, a $300 pair of blue jeans or a multi-million dollar enterprise software implementation has always been different. The concept is still the same. Understand the behaviors you need to elicit and then you can you can identify strategies and tactics to achieve them.
3. Don't skip the middle. I recently spoke on a panel with Kristi Karens, director of media and agency partnerships at Mondelez. She made the point that "marketers are completely ignoring the middle of the funnel."
Kristi is right. Brands understandably keep a close eye on media budgets. Spending on commerce is a no-brainer. Marketers spend on brand because they know they have to. But driving consideration and preference has become a thing of the past.
Why? Your brand lives in your customer's mind -- but there is a gap in her mind between knowing your brand exists and opening her wallet to buy your box of soap. This gap is only getting greater. A study last year from GE Capital showed that 81% of consumers do research online before they go out to the store. Ignore the middle at your peril.
4. Cover all bases -- paid, owned and earned media. Businesses are structured in silos. Customers aren't. They just go through their lives and experience the world and the brands that live within it. They don't distinguish between paid, owned and earned channels and neither should you.
Paid media will play a heavier role in driving awareness and engagement. Owned channels (like your website) may do more to impact consideration and purchase. What's important is that you have all your bases covered and connect the dots between them.
5. Accept the un-measurable. Here's some tough love -- you can't measure everything. While it's easy to export a nifty little chart of your "likes" on Facebook, it's not so easy to measure love in people's hearts. But while the former borders on meaningless, the latter is the most valuable thing your brand can achieve.
That's ok. John Wanamaker's famous quote, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half," has been more than rectified in the digital era. Today he'd say, "None of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't do half the things I should because they're not predictably quantifiable."
Doing something awesome will always have an impact that is an order of magnitude higher than something turnkey and predictable that fits nicely into a spreadsheet. Advertising used to be about persuasion -- we used emotion to magically create desire. It still can be.
You just need to ask, "Where in my customer's journey does magic belong?"