Digital marketers can be our own worst enemies.
After years of touting that we can track everything and derive a precise ROAS from digital marketing, the expectation is that we can continue to do so.
And while it is true that digital marketing offers far greater opportunities for uncovering the ROI of specific tactics and channels, it sometimes feels like this trackability has overshadowed the impact of softer, top-of-the-funnel KPIs.
Don’t get me wrong.
Advertisers should still use metrics like ROAS, ROI and LTV/CAC (lifetime value/customer acquisition cost) as north star metrics when distributing budget across channels and tactics.
But building demand for tomorrow at the top of the funnel requires a different mindset which can make some marketers (and, let’s face it, their CFOs) uncomfortable.
The good news is that higher-funnel initiatives influence conversions down-funnel, and there are a variety of ways to measure it.
In this article, you will learn impression-based KPIs you need to know as well as native and paid tools you can use to measure impression influence.
The buying experience has undergone rapid change over the last decade, and marketers and leadership have not caught up to buying behaviors.
At the root of the problem lies the difference between buyer behavior and attribution.
- Buyers are not on a linear path.
- Buying committees often drive decisions, not individuals (this is especially true for B2B). This means advertising has to reach multiple individuals on the path to a final purchase.
- Users are more savvy, skeptical, and inundated than ever before. Therefore, the frequency of viewing strong creative is critical to building awareness, interest, and consideration.
Meanwhile, company leadership often makes decisions on antiquated attribution models, like the last-click which ignores the very nature of buyer behavior.
So, how do you show the value of top-of-funnel advertising?
Conducting in-depth brand awareness studies is certainly an option for large advertisers.
But for smaller advertisers or those wanting to get a quick understanding of results, impression-based KPIs are a great way to optimize your top-of-funnel advertising.
Impression-Based KPIs To Know
If an impression is on the path to conversion, it has value.
Consider your own experiences.
How many times have you seen an ad influence a future decision?
You may not have clicked the ad.
It may have taken a day for you to act on it, but it clearly influenced your thinking.
Those advertisers weren’t able to precisely quantify the value that impression/view had, but they knew enough to know it was valuable.
Quantifying what that value is can be tricky.
But here are some key KPIs that should be included when evaluating the success of top-of-funnel advertising:
Lift In Brand Search Impression
Top-of-funnel (TOF) initiatives drive brand awareness, which creates search demand.
As a result, this is one of the best proxies of success for TOF initiatives
Brands that have more marketplace awareness who cleverly communicate their value proposition and differentiators see higher click-through rates.
A pre-TOF initiative/post-TOF initiative analysis of CTR will provide insights into whether your efforts are paying off.
Engaged View Conversions
On YouTube and Display (using video in the responsive ad unit), an engaged view conversion is counted when at least 10 seconds of a skippable in-stream ad is watched (or the whole thing if shorter than 10 seconds).
View-through conversions tell you that your ad was seen along the path to conversion, despite it not being clicked.
While not nearly as valuable as a click-based conversion, it still holds value when evaluating the performance of prospecting campaigns where a prospect has not yet engaged with you.
Reach, frequency, and audience saturation can be a great KPI if you have well-defined audiences.
Examples of defined, high-value audiences include customer match lists, pixel-based retargeting lists, Custom audiences using the Searched on Google setting and account-based-marketing (ABM) audiences.
This is less valuable of a metric with ambiguous targeting, such as similar tos and lookalikes or when using “optimized” targeting.
On search, impression share can provide you audience saturation insights.
Native Tools To Help You Measure Impression Influence
Attribution is hard. And messy.
No matter what a salesperson tells you, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for attribution — especially when you are trying to quantify impression-focused KPIs.
Breathe easy though.
Here are five ways to measure impact using native tools:
- Add relevant impression-focused metrics (above) to your platform views, internal dashboards and client reporting. For example, showcase when TOF initiatives lead to brand impressions surging higher.
- Run a geo holdout test activating TOF initiatives in select markets, but not in others. Then, evaluate impact based on market-level lead, pipeline and revenue data (including all traffic sources).
- Create a custom column that combines click-conversions and weighted view-through conversions to better understand the impact a keyword or audience segment has. Then, use that info to set target CPA bids.
- Utilize lift studies with Google and Facebook for a more automated way to learn more about the incremental impact of ads.
- Using Google Analytics user groups, create an “exposed” and “unexposed” group and serve retargeting ads to one group. Then, measure downstream KPIs to identify the impact of retargeting impressions.
Paid Tools To Measure Impression Influence
While other tools exist, I can directly speak to the Google Marketing Platform products. Both Google Analytics and Google Analytics 360 (GA360) provide buyer journey reporting under Attribution > Conversions > Top Conversion Paths.
However, GA360 includes Google-based impression activity in these paths.
Another GMP product, Campaign Manager 360 (CM360), provides impression data beyond the Google ecosystem.
Here, you can place impression tags on non-Google vendor URLs (eg. Twitter and Reddit) to get a more comprehensive look at how impressions influence the buying process.
This can be valuable information when media planning, because a TOF initiative may not get credit by solely examining click-based KPIs.
For example, we recently had a client observing poor lead performance on Reddit.
We were considering cutting it, but we looked at our CM360-fueled Tableau dashboard and saw that Reddit was actually the first brand exposure (without click) 41 times.
This data showed that while on the surface, there was no conversion activity associated with the channel, it was introducing people to the brand, who were later clicking on another CM360-tagged link, then converting.
An impression to the right audience has value.
If you want to build a future-proof marketing program, demand must be generated through TOF initiatives that value non-click conversion points.
While it is hard to quantify sometimes, there are multiple indicators you can use to help you determine whether the channel or tactic is effective.
In summary, you should:
- Determine your impression-centric KPIs and their values.
- Communicate (and align) with stakeholders on what success looks like throughout the funnel.
- Ensure your media mix, strategies and tactics are informed by said KPIs.
Featured Image: H12/Shutterstock
How upskilling your paid advertising skills will tackle economic downturns
- Marketing budgets are often the first to be slashed in a downturn – upskilling your existing team with digital marketing techniques can provide huge efficiencies and minimize the impact of cuts
- Creating an upskilling program does not need to be expensive or time-consuming if a well-thought-out strategy is adopted and results are constantly measured
- Nurturing your own in-house talent pool also increases business resilience, improves marketing innovation and creativity, and reduces reliance on third-party operators
- Choosing the right skills for your team to acquire depends both on your immediate goals and long-term business strategy – done right you can steal a march on your competitors
- Sarah Gilchriest, Global COO of Circus Street, discusses the key skills brands need to cultivate to stay competitive during an economic downturn
We’re entering what is likely to be a pretty tough global recession. As consumer sentiment worsens, brands will increasingly look at ways they can cut costs to protect their bottom line. Unfortunately, we all know that marketing is usually one of the first budgets to be slashed.
It is seemingly much easier to stop a campaign or give an agency notice than it is to sack a developer or reduce infrastructure costs. However, more often than not, cutting marketing is a false economy that worsens the impact of a downturn by slowing a company’s growth. So, is there a way for brands to instead maximize their digital marketing output while also freezing or reducing costs?
The answer may be found in upskilling.
Training while cutting costs?
Now, your first reaction may be that training programs are expensive luxuries that make little sense if your goal is to cut costs. There are a few things to unpack here –
- Size and scope of training matter. You can make an outsized impact by training one or two individuals who then share their knowledge with their wider team. The right strategy (which I’ll discuss further below) can lead to a highly targeted program that gives the most critical skills to those who will be best placed to use them immediately.
- Next, there are a lot of freely available supporting resources that can significantly reduce costs and help to embed learning.
- Finally, let’s put costs in perspective. The ROI on a well-executed training scheme pays for itself and the initial outlay pales in comparison to most other business functions. Put simply, you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Why paid advertising skills?
Paid advertising makes a lot of sense to focus on for a number of reasons. Generally, compared to other marketing fields, paid advertising is characterized by the sheer diversity of skills and techniques needed to fully execute a campaign. It is incredibly fast-moving and often requires you to leverage a number of different tech platforms. Consequently, many brands outsource this functionality to a network of agencies and freelancers. Those that don’t usually rely on one or two individual ‘power users’ or worse, skills are haphazardly spread among a range of departments leading to bottlenecks and single points of failure.
As such, digital advertising is usually the prime area where efficiencies, greater innovation, and marketing effectiveness can occur via upskilling. It is where your business can do much more for less.
Identifying the right skills
Getting the right skill mix is where the rubber meets the road. A mixture of creativity, data analysis, platform knowledge, development techniques, and marketing expertise are all needed. To get started the best approach is to fully understand what capability your team has in-house. The crucial element is to remember that a lot of ability might be hidden because it is not used on a day-to-day basis. You would be surprised at how quickly a business ‘forgets’ about the previous experiences of team members after they have been hired.
Auditing team skills should expand beyond the marketing department
You don’t know what gems are lurking in other areas of your business until you start to look. This is also the perfect opportunity to identify both the potential of your employees to acquire new skills and also their individual aspirations. It is much easier to upskill someone who has a professional and personal investment in learning that particular expertise. The audit itself does not need to be complex – a simple matrix that enables people to categorize their proficiency and outline the areas where they would like to develop will suffice.
When you know what you have to work with, then it’ll become much easier to define the best way forward. Deciding the best skill mix comes down to first working out how to fulfill your most immediate needs. For example, taking a costly service in-house, plugging a weakness – where a team member’s departure would severely hamper your ability to function, or obvious gaps in ability that prevent you from undertaking certain digital advertising activities.
Build on the compatibility between your employee’s aspirations and your commercial objectives
This is then overlaid by areas where your marketing output can most obviously be improved and your future aspirations in line with your commercial objectives. For example, if in the future you want to more heavily target users on particular social media platforms or ‘exotic’ platforms like IoT devices and digital boards. Perhaps you can see the financial benefits of adopting headless CMS tech and would like to put in place the skills needed to make that transition after the recession. Maybe you want your team to have the insight to tell you whether the Metaverse has any potential for your business.
This may sound complex but once you get started the hierarchy of skills you need more often than not becomes very obvious. Remember, one of upskilling’s great strengths is its flexibility – if your needs change or you feel you have chosen the wrong skills – it’s very easy to change track.
Getting started in a cost-efficient way
How you train your team is very much up to individual preferences – everyone learns in different ways. Speaking to your employees and specialists will enable you to build a tailored teaching structure. It can be a combination of in-house learning, online tutorials, accredited programs, or book learning. You do not have to go all in on a full program straight away. Piloting can remove a lot of the risk. Start small – one team or a handful of individuals from across your company – and continually assess the impact.
A mistake to avoid
A common mistake businesses make is they wait too long to get their team to use their new knowledge. This can hold up the process and damage ROI. The best way to embed new skills is to apply them. Ensure that your team has an opportunity to practice their newfound expertise on real initiatives. Then keep a close eye on your business metrics – including team and customer feedback – to determine the impact. Unlike many other departments, digital marketing can have very clear outputs. This will let you know quite quickly if it is working. From there, you can decide on how to roll out your training scheme.
Marketing doesn’t end with the marketers
As I’ve mentioned, diversifying the skillset of your team builds resilience and promotes more innovation. The reason is simple, if you only have marketing skills in your marketing department, you are naturally limiting the number of people who can provide useful insights that fuel innovation. You reduce oversight and feedback loops, and your marketing output will suffer from a lack of outside perspectives.
By making your teams multidisciplinary and cross-functional you can spread useful skills throughout your business. Customer service teams can learn the fundamentals of digital marketing, marketers know how to do the basic dev and data work to enable their day-to-day, and your data teams can think like marketers if they need to.
Preparing for the worst doesn’t mean losing capabilities
If the worst does happen and you do need to make cuts to your team, having key skills shared across your business means that the damage to core functions will be limited.
To finish – I should highlight that much of what I’ve discussed applies equally to business owners as it does to individual freelancers. A downturn can be a daunting prospect if you are a sole trader. Upskilling can be one of the best ways to increase your value to clients now and future-proof your business.
If you have seen business drop off, the time you now have available could be best dedicated to more training. This may sound obvious, but a mistake many people make in their careers is failing to adapt to how demand for skills can quickly change or technology can come along that makes them obsolete. Adding more skill strings to you and your company’s bow is never a bad thing.
How upskilling your paid advertising skills will tackle economic downturns
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