Traditional marketing metrics are broken. Here’s what to look at instead.

digital marketing metrics

The metrics that digital marketers have to deal with are bad.

There, we said it.

Open rates. CTR. Impressions. While offering bits and pieces of the story, none of these metrics actually tell you if a real person saw your message, engaged with it, and bought your product. Sure, old-school metrics serve a purpose — it’s nice to know when one email outperforms another, so you can take note of its subject line, for instance — but in the grand scheme of things, these metrics are less important than the KPIs that matter (like sales, for instance).

In general, marketers don’t always feel well-informed about their campaigns. According to Digiday, a “sizable” 38% of marketers don’t feel aligned with their brands and agency partners when it comes to getting consistent and accurate metrics.

You might feel this frustration yourself. Perhaps you feel like these metrics are smoke screens, that they’re given artificial import, that they obfuscate the big picture.

Further muddying things is the fact that your ads might not be hitting real people at all (hello, bots).

Marketers need to know they’re hitting REAL people with their messages.

And they need straightforward reporting that tells them if these living, breathing humans are engaging with their message and buying their product.

Let’s break this down.

There are 250 million adults in the United States. A people-based marketing platform knows information about these people individually and deterministically. They know everything from their mobile IDs to their demographics to what apps they have on their phones. They can target individual people. They can deliver media to those people, and, along with it, straightforward metrics that tell the whole story.

A very important note: “people-based marketing” is a term that gets thrown around too much in this industry. If your potential marketing partner says they’re people-based, press them for specifics. They need to be able to connect a person’s digital self (mobile IDs, desktop cookies, Connected TV info, etc.) with their real self (ethically-sourced PII data). If they sound fuzzy on these specifics, it’s time to be skeptical.

The right partner knows that Rick is a person you want to talk to. Not Rick’s spouse, not his brother, not his friends. They don’t target on an IP level in his house, because they don’t want to deliver ads to the people he lives with. When he’s working on his laptop at Starbucks, they don’t want to target everyone else in that Starbucks. They want Rick.

Because they know he’s a 20-something with these characteristics, they traffic things like visits and locations until they’re sure he’s the exact person they want to target (i.e., that he’s actually Rick).

When you’re dealing with REAL people, with diverse interests and personalities and devices, they need to be treated as such.

Rick needs media delivered to him across the different devices he uses, and needs to be marketed to the right way if he’s interested in your message and likely to engage. You can’t find out who Rick is by only looking at desktop cookies, and you can’t find out if he’s interested in your product by only looking at CTRs and open rates.

Traditional metrics serve a purpose. But in the end, it only matters that Rick gets the message you want to deliver, that he engages with it, and acts on it. It doesn’t matter how. On email? Great. Facebook? Great. Connected TV? Amazing. If Rick, the REAL person you wanted to target, gets the message, engages with it, and acts on it, that’s the only KPI that matters.

Rick matters, not the channel.

Why doesn’t everyone deliver straightforward metrics?

Because they can’t.

They don’t have access to PII data that’s ethically-sourced, so they can’t connect people’s real selves to their digital selves. They’re not true people-based marketing platforms, thus, they can’t deliver true people-based metrics.

Facebook is an example of a company that can, but they only deliver reporting on campaigns that marketers run on Facebook. So the trick is to find a company that can deliver you the types of insights Facebook can, but across channels: desktop, mobile, display, social, Connected TV, etc.

In the end, the actual people who responded, engaged, and acted on your message is what matters.

It’s good to know they opened an email of yours or were served an impression through a display ad, but those things are a (small) part of the story.

You need to know exactly who you’re talking to, and to validate them across channels. You need to find point-of-sale matchbacks and deliver foot traffic attribution. You need to see the whole picture, from the time the message was delivered to the actual sale itself. You need to market to REAL people and then see real, people-based reporting.

Not all companies are equipped to do this, and there’s a standard for the pricing of media and campaigns where people pay on a CPM basis. There should still be an allowance for that, but there’s room to do so much more — like truly validating the efficacy of a marketers’ work, and affording them an intimate view of response and engagement.

To learn more about the metrics that matter, sign up for our free webinar on September 12th.

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