Building Benchmarks

Many of our clients work within organizational structures that require them to justify, measure, and defend all of their marketing efforts. Because of this, they rely on us to gauge the success of their online marketing campaigns, often needing to justify their online marketing budgets to their management.

When they (or their agency) launch a traditional (offline) marketing campaign, they rely on benchmarks to let them know it was successful. Every type of measurement they use, whether its a copy test or a mail-based survey, is gauged against established numbers that have been deemed credible by the corporation and often are standard across an industry.

For example, a number of companies we work with use ASI copy testing for every single television ad that might go in front of the public. Their belief is the numbers coming out of those tests can be directly correlated with the ads eventual ability to drive product sales.

Even though the methodologies behind the numbers are flawed, the fact that the testing has been benchmarked over the years means that they have become currency. Currency that offline marketers can take to the bank when measuring the success of their work.

Naturally, when they start to invest online, these same marketers want benchmarks. The problem is, they are few and far between. There are a number of reasons why.

First, apart from direct-action metrics like cost per click or action, much of the effect of online marketing isnt accounted for. Few measure, for example, how a site that extols a products benefits actually influences a customer to purchase that product.

Second, if data is gathered, it is proprietary. And since the web is so young, no company has enough experience to have consistent, reliable, information that can be truly called a benchmark. Finally, the industry hasnt yet “shaken out” competing measurement tools, so there is nothing coming close to Nielsens near-monopoly on TV ratings.

Sure, most of us know what an average click-through rate is. But who can tell you whats an average pass-along rate for a viral marketing campaign? Or a sponsorships impact to drive purchase intent? Or how online sampling should drive sales?

Necessity is the mother of invention. Here are some ways that can help you set benchmarks and measure results against them:

  • Before/After measurement: The status quo is always a good benchmark to start with. If you can survey customers, or simply measure site traffic before a marketing campaign begins, you will be able to quantify the effects of your efforts.

  • Exposed/Unexposed measurement: Using a research methodology that allows you to ask the same questions to people who were exposed to your marketing initiative as those who werent, you can accurately gauge the impact of your efforts. (See: An Online Measurement Success Story)
  • Combining data sets: At NOVO, we use a formula called the Effective Involvement Index, which is the product of unique visitors, frequency and pages viewed, to establish a benchmark for retention and stickiness (visitors X frequency X page views = EII). The result helps measure the success of disparate marketing efforts that might not be, in and of themselves, trackable.
  • Quantify qualitative information: We do online focus groups in the planning stage of our major web initiatives. In them, we ask respondents to rate and rank concepts, competitor web sites, and our clients current efforts. We then are able to use these number rankings as benchmarks in subsequent groups.

The important thing is that if you consistently measure the same data the same way for all your clients, you can begin to develop in-house benchmarks in areas where there arent any. This will help your online marketing organization to leverage past experience and mature.

Benchmarks will help create more confidence in online marketings ability to sell products. Lets start building.

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