There are constant, myriad optimizations made in any well run digital program. With a number of daily small and large decisions hinging on numerous inputs and influences, how do we assess the overall impact and ensure that our decisions are thoughtful and (on the whole) productive?
Budget, targeting, channel mix, priorities, flighting, destinations, creative approach, conversion points and weights, time frames, tracking elements and data repositories all factor overtly or subtly into the daily decisions that shape a campaign.
It’s not just the media or strategy team with a hand in these shifts, either. From minor tweaks to wholesale strategy shifts, rash decisions can result from the misuse or misunderstanding of your data or an outside influence that exerts pressure.
So when is a decision rash?
When It Is Not Supported by the Facts
Bad decisions can result from competitor envy or shiny object syndrome that sends you chasing in directions your data does not support. That’s not the same thing as testing, which is a rational, measured foray into new territory based on something you know or learn about your program or audience. Make sure that new program elements have a clear strategy and rationale with quantified performance goals that justify the expenditure.
Rash decisions are not always about speedy actions, either. Inaction can also qualify as a rash decision. Ignoring what is clearly happening because it is inconvenient, you are locked into it by corporate mandate or contract or because it is the way things have always been done is not a good reason to keep an underperforming element in the mix.
Take a hard look at anything that has been around for more than a couple of rotations and even if it is performing in an acceptable range, ask yourself if that money could be better spent somewhere else. Every placement should have to earn its place in the mix with each new planning season.
When the Facts Are Misleading
No one would launch a display campaign ever again if they based their success solely on click conversion data from banners. Assist reports and other deeper attribution data help to establish the true contribution of certain tactics within a broader mix.
Often, the brand or awareness channels play a key role in later conversions and the overall results would be dramatically impacted if those contributing elements were cut because of misleading data. Make sure you are asking the right questions and are not placing your data in silos that obscure what is really happening.
Data sources will also vary in what they represent and with what veracity. Make sure you are using your various systems and sources to report in areas of authority.
When You Don’t Have Enough Facts
Some campaign elements need time and patience to mature. You have to have enough data to tell a story and enough time across varying circumstances and seasons to make sure you have the full picture. It’s a rash decision if your expected timeframe will not allow for either results or appropriate assessment.
Environmental factors skew the read on data, as well. You can’t, for instance, expect the same results in different economic climates or in a new territory where your brand is lesser known. Comparing apples to oranges won’t help you make smart decisions. You would be better off forecasting using the tools available and adjusting for the variables you know to be different.
When the Risk is Not a Decision Variable
Every decision comes with risk, including the opportunity cost of not making a choice. Make sure your digital program is a balanced portfolio that represents some potentially high return elements, as well as some steady, stalwart elements you know how to predict. It’s important to factor non-financial impacts into your decisions, as well, and not everything is easily summed up on a spreadsheet.
Risk could come in many forms, including a blown budget and the conversions you gave up. Or, it could involve a damaged public image or brand, a compromised reporting structure or a disillusioned or demotivated team. Ouch.
You may be surprised by which elements turn out to be the starring players in your program and their impact. That is why measured risk is a good thing. Not mixing it up or taking a high risk position without a commensurate potential return however, is a rash move.
When It Is Not Grounded in the Highest Level Objectives
Every time a significant decision is made, it should be tested against a few critical questions:
- Does this move have the potential to improve current results against our key objectives?
- What impact would this move have on our other program elements and total results?
- Does this move come at an acceptable cost and risk based on what we expect it to return?
- Does this move have the potential to help us learn something that has long term benefit?
- Do we have the ability and capacity to appropriately execute and assess this move?
Taking the time needed to better assess the moves you make with your campaign may help you take some of the rashness out of the decision process, but facts are a funny thing. They have a stubborn layer of relativity that is not always discernible to the decision makers. A process or format that tests decision criteria is a good idea and a great tool to help avoid rash decisions.
Jason John is Chief Marketing Officer, Digital for Publishers Clearing House, a role in which he is responsible for the development and execution of overall ... read more
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