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Reduce the analytics fog. Try my Activity Summary Report

Activity-based metrics sit in tier 2 of my metrics hierarchy. Check out my article that explains my approach to metric tiers – “Metrics even the CEO may care about”.

I suggested an approach to thinking about metrics as falling into one of three tiers. To recap, tier 1 is for navigation. These steer the marketing ship as a whole. Tier 2 is for controlling activity and allows you to manage the marketing funnel and channels. Tier 3 is diagnostic and used to optimise and troubleshoot individual components.

Activity metrics can span different reports and tools, but in the end, the aim is to have a complete set of indicators that allow you to clearly have a view into what activities are happening, holding them to account and using data to drive the marketing focus.

In this article, I wanted to provide an overview of one of my tier 2 reports – The Activity Summary. This one gives you a set of metrics that span the funnel and channels to give you an end to end picture of everything.

This report is presented in a table format and is shown below (click the image to get a bigger view).

 

 

Columns – The phases through the funnel

Horizontally the table columns are sorted and grouped left to right into phases that are representative of the top to bottom of the marketing funnel. Within each group, are a set of metrics providing a measurement of the performance of that phase. These phases are explained below:

  1. Reach: In its broadest sense, this is anyone within our sphere of outbound communication. Followers on a social channel are technically within reach, although we may not know who they are, or have any contact details. The strongest form of reach is our database of contacts who have opted in to receive email communications. I don’t show total reach itself on the report as I don’t think it adds any useful information at this level. I do include a measurement for Growth of Reach, however (see below).
  2. Outreach: This is any activity that pushes content out to those in our reach. I’ve included the following metrics:
    • Emails Sent – Total number of emails sent to contacts
    • Ad Impressions – Total number of sponsored ad impressions
    • Updates (on social channels) – Number of new social posts
  3. Engagement: We need to identify the level of measurable interaction resulting from our outreach. This includes metrics like:
    • Email Click Rate – The total number of clicks / Number of Emails Sent
    • Ad Click Rate – Total number of Ad Impressions / Number of Ad Clicks
    • Update Clicks – Total number of people who clicked on a social update
  4. Growth of Reach: How much our reach has grown this month.
    • New Contacts – Total number of new contacts added in this period.
    • New Followers – Total number of new followers on our social channels
  5. Qualification: Contacts become qualified as genuine sales leads, either through manual review, or automated scoring based on criteria such as their activity within the marketing platform.
    • New MQLs – Number of new contacts who have qualified as Marketing Qualified Leads
    • New SQLs – Number of new contacts who have qualified as Sales Qualified Leads.
  6. Conversion: Contact converts from a marketing lead to a genuine sales opportunity, and potentially a customer.
  7. Value: This is a useful extension to the report which brings the total cost of marketing into the context of each channel. I’ve only included Cost per Lead here, but could easily be extended to include Cost per SQL, Cost per Opportunity etc.

Rows – Breakdown into the Original Lead Source Channel

The second dimension to the report is the Original Lead Source Channel.

I define this as the original (first touch) marketing channel that brought this contact into reach. By breaking my metrics down this way, I can see at a glance what contribution each channel made through the whole funnel.

How you categorise your original lead source channels will be dependent on your own context, however these ones give you a good starting point:

  1. Website Organic: From free sources like Google searches or direct traffic.
  2. Website Referrals: Referred by another 3rd party site.
  3. Social Media: Referred organically from social media platforms.
  4. PPC – Ad Words: Leads from Google Ad Words
  5. PPC – LinkedIn Sponsored: Sponsored (paid) LinkedIn ads
  6. PPC – Facebook Sponsored: Sponsored (paid) Facebook advertising
  7. Online Events: Online event registration and ticket sales. This could be to both offline and online / webinar style events.
  8. Offline Events: List of attendees captured from an offline event / conference who didn’t register through any of our online channels.
  9. Offline Other: Any contacts captured from any other offline sources, such as mailing lists.

 

Questions that can be answered

An accurate feel for what is working can only really be properly answered within the broader context of the funnel.

Many marketing activities undertaken can, when measured in isolation, be wildly successful at driving new leads into the contacts database. Yet looking from the top of the funnel to the bottom they just don’t convert into sales qualified leads and eventually customers.

It could be a lead quality issue, or you just don’t have the right content or call to actions in place to engage that audience and extract a return on the investment. This report is designed to give you this perspective and answer questions like:

  1. Are leads generated through sponsored ads on LinkedIn continuing to remain engaged?
  2. Our cost per click on sponsored ads seem high, but what’s the real ROI?
  3. Which channels are producing the most SQLs and at lowest cost?
  4. How many social posts did we publish this month? Did they get any engagement?
  5. Are our social channels, driving new leads into our reach and how do their engagement levels compare?
  6. Have we ever received a genuine sales opportunity through a social channel?

 

An alternative to using the Original Lead Source Channel is to use the Original Lead Source Campaign.

In content marketing, a campaign can include ongoing activities to create and use content to attract a target audience.

The activity report structured around campaigns instead of channels gives you the chance to rephrase those same questions but from a campaign focus instead.

 

How does this all work in practice?

While the information presented in the report is simple enough to comprehend, pulling it together isn’t straightforward.

In this example, data is pulled in from Adwords, Facebook and LinkedIn platforms (Followers, Campaign Analytics and Costs). This has to be cross-matched against contacts that have been tagged against the corresponding original lead source channel. Email data is aggregated and allocated against the correct contacts, so it shows against the proper channels.

All of this is possible but takes planning, processes, and some IT skills to make it work.

 

You need a plan, process, conventions, and consistency

Each tool or platform is typically great at giving you the analytics just for the data they control. Seeing the analytics across the funnel isn’t so easy unless you have a plan for how data will be aggregated to form this view – it’s unlikely to happen for you automatically since no one tool or platform has access to the full scope of data required.

There are tools that do a better job of this than most.

A platform like Hubspot, for example, can span everything from website analytics, social media, email metrics, landing page conversions etc. all tied by back to a contact in the contacts database. Still, there are many key pieces of information that come from outside of Hubspot’s scope so key pieces of data still remain missing.

No matter which platforms you use, the key to tying everything together involves three things – Structuring for reporting, naming conventions and consistency.

Structuring for reporting

By structuring for reporting I mean organising marketing assets to make reporting and data collection easier. How you organise everything from setting up ad accounts, campaign groups, landing pages, contact lists etc. can make segmenting data much easier.

Keeping traffic sources segmented as much as practical will help simplify reporting as you won’t have to manually separate the data down the track (if that is even possible). In addition, setting up assets like landing pages that are associated with a single lead source channel makes it easier to correlate against other data in that channel.

Think carefully about what data you need, how you are going to collect it and use this to guide your planning.

Naming Conventions

Naming conventions can help you give semantic meaning to components of your marketing platform. I’ll name landing pages, for example, to identify which campaign they are associated with and what lead source they relate to.

Not only do naming conventions make it easier to manage, but they also allow reporting rules to be set up to automatically group assets by campaigns and lead source channels.

Consistency

For structuring and naming conventions to work correctly, they have to be applied consistently every time.

It’s worth taking the time to document standardised codes and naming conventions. Define standard rules for setting up landing pages, publishing and naming ads on social platforms.

This way you start to move from an ad hoc approach to a repeatable and structured process that others can follow.

 

Don’t expect it to be easy, but it’s all in reach

There are no tools to do all the work for you. Even those that have extensive reporting available, they never seem to hit the mark in terms of giving me this integrated reporting I’m after.

To achieve the result, here’s the things you’ll need to do:

  1. You’ll likely need to take your data outside your marketing platforms and into a reporting tool.Use the exporting capabilities in different platforms to get the data out.
  2. Prepare the data into a format that makes it easy to generate into a report.Expect to aggregate multiple sets of data often from different platforms. This is where consistent naming conventions will come in handy to match up disparate datasets.There will likely be some summarising of data, calculations to be performed and then loaded into a dataset that makes the production of the report seamless.
  3. The data transformation and report generation should all be automated. Work with someone who has strong IT skills that can set this all up, so it becomes an easy process. Ideally, all you should have to do is export the datasets from each platform to generate the report.

Recommended tools

There are many online dashboard tools available. I find these tools to be effective if the there isn’t much data manipulation involved. The most popular dashboard tools are great for visualising data that already exists in other platforms and just needs to be brought into one place.

For achieving the kind of results I’ve talked about in this article, you’ll need to look to tools that do data transformation and visualisation. I’ve had good success with Microsoft Power BI which also has the advantage that it’s free until you actually start publishing reports for distribution.

One of the strengths of Power BI is that all the importing and transformation of the exported data can all be performed and automated within Power BI itself.

Once set up correctly, I just export specific datasets out of my CRM, marketing automation tool, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Analytics and place in a set folder. Power BI imports it, does all the heavy lifting and applies some fairly sophisticated transformation and number crunching, as it turns it into powerful visualisations that brings your entire marketing activity into focus.

My advice… just start the journey. This is a capability that needs to mature into your marketing capability. Having a clear idea of where you want to end up, gives you a target to aim for. Over time more pieces of the puzzle will come together, and you’ll become far more effective and efficient as a result.

 

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