It’s 2001: Resolve to Measure Everything

It’s no secret — 2001 hasn’t arrived with the surge of optimism of Y2K, when the money was flowing and accountability was low. For a few months in 2000, overvaluations were still feeding the dot-com world with serious bucks that appeared to be anything but.

Enter January 2001, when the market is cautious and demands high accountability. Even the most successful companies to date cannot obtain their second or third round of financing simply because they share a common last name with a bad reputation. Although the fourth quarter of 2000 was a little disappointing for some, many e-tailers showed strong sales over the holiday season. But because of the current market trends, the negatives are overshadowing the positives.

Over the next few weeks, watch for the odd success-story case study from Q4 2000. Yes, there were a few. We had one brand-new start-up e-merchant that posted excellent sales-conversion numbers after its recent launch, and I’m hoping to get permission to be able to share some numbers and strategy with you in upcoming weeks. Unfortunately for agencies, clients are (for good reason) reluctant to make their numbers public.

However, I encourage everyone to point to the success stories amid all the pessimism in the industry as proof that strategic web advertising drives conversions, whether that means sales, registrations, or just good old brand awareness.

Time to Measure

Now, although ad-serving technologies deliver more valuable information than ever and are highly accessible, many advertisers still ignore the true benefits of implementing a third-party server and don’t measure their ad campaigns to their fullest potential.

It’s incredible that many advertisers are still accepting the return on an entire online ad campaign rather than evaluating the performance of each individual placement and creative that contributes to the whole package.

Advertisers (or in the case of an agency, clients) choose not to implement full reporting for several reasons. Very often, the advertiser is still making changes to the site right up to the moment the campaign begins, and so there’s no time to tag key pages. Many also prefer to avoid incurring any additional costs, even though they are usually fairly minimal.

Whenever I hear advertisers say they cannot afford to incur the extra costs, I generally wonder how they can afford not to. In the case of an online retailer, for example, it usually takes a few months to find the advertiser’s optimal budget allocation, or “formula.” The fastest way to optimize a campaign is to study ROI from every placement: Maintain and/or beef up placements that are yielding sales, eliminate those that are not, and continue trying new ones. Before too long, an advertiser’s unique formula will become apparent.

Once everyone involved is confident that the optimal spending point has been reached, then it might make sense to eliminate additional costs for the more sophisticated data — since by this point we’re confident in the strategy.

An Example

I recently met with some colleagues to evaluate a client’s account. We began discussing the value of the client’s postclick data to its overall success. At start-up, on the client’s behalf, we initially purchased ad placements that had performed well for some other clients; we also tried a number of sample placements that we had never used before. Everything was measured. It turned out that our setup strategy as a whole was fairly strong (in terms of conversions), but some placements outperformed others, as usual.

Most important, though, we learned that one of our test placements was the third strongest in terms of ROI. Had we not measured, that placement — along with other successful ones — would not have been renewed.

We had a hard time determining the exact dollar amount that the serving technology had been worth to this client, but all of us concurred that we would not likely still be around had the measuring system not been implemented.

Accountability Counts

Since accountability is the name of the game these days, make it your resolution for 2001 to measure, measure, measure — and continue promoting the measurability of our work. We in the industry have already seen that online media truly works, and it is up to us to continue to prove its value as we help the industry recover. We have the necessary resources, and we should take full advantage of them.

There’s no better way to sell online media, or anything for that matter, than to show results — with the numbers to back it all up.

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