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Tracking: A Double Edged Sword

  |  June 26, 2007   |  Comments

You have to take the bad with the good -- and start optimizing.

The good thing about online is you can measure everything. The bad thing about online is you can measure everything.

When your campaign's performing, you can tell right away and share the great news with your client. When your campaign isn't performing, however, it can be a really hard, especially when you're the one who has to report it. Of course, if you're lucky enough to work on a campaign that has no tracking of meaningful actions and you're simply reporting on impressions and clicks, you don't have to worry about this.

But let's get back to reality, shall we?

Breaking the Bad News

Even the best media professional has had the unpleasant task of reporting less than good results to clients: high CPCs (define), high CPAs (define), and low ROI (define). In many ways, it's unfair. Have you ever heard of an outdoor media buyer having to report results of a campaign a week after it launches? Do print buyers have to report how many leads their ads create to a bunch of people in a big conference room every month? Often, it's not the media plan or the sites you're on that are the problem -- it's the creative.

But it's not like we can sit there and bash the creative our colleagues developed, right? So in addition, online media planners and buyers must be masters of tact.

What Does This Mean, and What's Next?

What's the first thing you should do in this situation? Remind the client why we track in the first place: optimization. The key to turning client frowns into smiles is to highlight exactly what about the campaign isn't working, what is working, what you've learned, and what you're going to do next to improve results. As many clients forget, this is, of course, the process of optimization.

This can be hard when people are spending lots of money. Patience is often limited, and in many ways your client's career is in your hands, particularly if it chose you to be its agency. People get very nervous, clients and media buyers alike.

If people can focus on the optimization process rather than the momentary snapshot you're reporting on, you can look forward to fruitful results that generally lay not too far ahead.

The process is simple. Summarize your campaign's results, report on what's working and why, and report on what's not working and why. Then, proceed to the all-important step of what's next.

As long as you communicate what's next, you apply the energy of the moment and your skills to why the client hired you in the first place: to use the process of buying, testing, tracking, and reporting to open the online branding, lead, and revenue channel. Make sure you have aggressive cancellation clauses in as many of your insertion orders as possible. Cancellation clauses are, in fact, what make the whole optimization process possible.

Creating the Channel and Cracking the Code

If you're on the client side, know that this column is not an excuse for an underperforming campaign; it's the remedy and the process that most companies have gone through to open and widen their online marketing channels. Even though online media professionals are often successful right off the bat based on best practices and experience, the most successful clients understand their online media and creative teams may not get it 100 percent right on the first try. However, a good agency has the expertise, methodology, and technology to quickly figure out what combination of Web properties, placements, creative units, targeting, and timing generates the highest ROI.

If you want miracles, start praying. If you want a partner who's going to help you crack the success code and figure out what works online, find an online media team that has the right set of skills and tools to take an online campaign through an ongoing, evolving optimization process.

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Harry Gold

As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.

Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.

Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.

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