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Acanthus insights:Don’t make good ideas the casualty of a marketing metrics war

Posted on 3 April 2016.

At an excellent digital networking event organised by recruitment firm 3Search late last year one of the co-founders of Funding Circle remarked that amongst the lessons he had learned was that however hard they focused on optimising their digital marketing activity, a really good idea from one of their agencies could lift their response rates markedly. 

This might not sound particularly ground breaking but it resonated with me because I have hit the same issue in a variety of client situations in the last couple of years.  I came back to the point this week inspired by a video from Bain. In “The math behind marketing magic” Bain’s Laura Beaudin talks about multi-variant testing saying that marketing has got faster but also a whole lot more effective, but cautions that “creating brand, magic and lifelong loyalty, and those things are much harder to measure with a precise ROI” noting that “some of the best marketers are those that are able to be balanced about what can be measured and what can’t so that they are not losing the magic in what they are doing”.

Don’t make good ideas the casualty of a digital marketing metrics war by Emily Morris Acanthus Consulting

It’s very easy to get stuck in the weeds in the face of the challenge of delivering campaigns over multiple touch points, countries, web platforms and so on.  Martec’s recently updated marketing technology landscape infographic shows just how complex life has become.

The trouble with focusing on excellent tactical execution however is that it can be limiting from the off.  

Put it this way - what’s the point of split testing a weak idea to find out which version of that weak idea performs better?

A periodic audit of how you develop and plan for campaigns is a good idea.  An external perspective can help re-inject some of that missing magic.  Failing that before you look at those metrics again consider the following questions:

  1. Have you actually got an idea? – understanding the difference between ideas and tactics is crucial. Good ideas are hard. They come from an understanding of a firm's business, its market, its clients’ wants, needs and desires.  Ideally an idea will be specific to your brand – something only you can say.
  2. Do you know enough about your audience? I remain amazed at the number of large firms who labour over website metrics  in an effort to identify what content their audience prefers when asking them might yield a better answer and again would get over the fact that content A might just be less boring than content B but that really they don’t care that much about either.
  3. Have you retained some perspective? Too much analysis can dull the brain if you aren’t careful.  I’ve seen a myriad of executions suffer from this.  My favourite being the split test that concluded the audience preferred option A which talked about regulatory change – missing entirely the fact that option A tested better not because of the audiences’ interest in regulation but because it was offering something for free!
  4. Have you moved away from your desk? We all do it.  The working day is long and we have so much to plough through.  But often those that struggle most with ideas are, in my experience, those who have been most silo’d – away from the client or the front line sales team, starved of insight.  Involving other parts of your business, agency suppliers from other projects, other departments (compliance, IT, HR) is rarer than it ought to be as is looking at what works with your customer base in other sectors.  Insularity rarely encourages creativity. 
  5. Have you been just a little bit brave? The pressure to deliver may be ever present but playing it too safe is rarely a winning strategy. According to Adam Grant from Wharton in an excellent piece in Harvard Business Review about building a culture of originality: “Research suggests that organisations often get stuck in a rut because they’re playing defence, trying to stave off the competition. To encourage people to think differently and generate more ideas, put them on offence.”

Get in touch: emily@acanthusconsullting.co.uk| www.acanthusconsulting.co.uk

©Acanthus Consulting 2016

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