Recently I had the pleasure and opportunity to present at the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) / UN LTDDigital Marketing day, with my colleague Alex Munro. We were asked to speak on the topic of Measurement and how to think and apply measurement methodologies to 26 executives and marketers within the charity and Not-for-profit sector.
The simple fact is that the methodologies presented really don’t differ whether you are a charity or not. The same principles apply. Here’s how we tackled the task of explaining how to measure the impact of a charity’s marketing efforts:
Steps to achieve Measurement Bliss in a complex digital world
Building the framework for continuous improvement through measurement
Part 1: Building Your Playbook – Working out what metrics matter to your charity
Step 1. What is your strategy?
Community Engagement Focus?
This is a very important question to ask yourself before starting the journey to measurement. Every charity, organisation and business has different core objectives. By deciding what your focus as a marketing function is, you’ll then be able to develop a model for measuring your charity’s performance.
Step 2. Map out the Lifecycle
Once you’ve understood what your charity’s strategy is, the next step is to map out what the typical lifecycle would be for that particular strategy. In the Figure 1 below and throughout the majority of the presentation, we’ve used donations as the primary objective. The majority of the charities we presented to expressed that their primary focus was not on donations but on creating awareness and measuring the charity’s impact on society – or in marketing terms – Social Return On Investment (SROI).
The main confusion and challenge these charities faced was the understanding of how to measure qualitative achievements (i.e. SROI) versus quantitative achievements (ie. Donations). The challenge is fair, but essentially the process is the same. For donations specifically, the process would start with:
Awareness of your cause – e.g. seeing an ad, word of mouth, etc.
Engaged with your cause – e.g. clicking on the ad, visiting your website, attending an event, etc.
First time donor – e.g. your message has touched and convinced someone to take action and donate money
Repeat donor – e.g. the compassion towards your cause remains strong and the person donated again
Regular donor – e.g. this person has set up a direct debit each month because they are truly loyal to what your charity is all about
Advocate for your cause – e.g. this person has essentially joined your marketing team and actively promotes your charity’s cause to their friends, family and others. These are the people you want to attract because nothing is more powerful and cost-effective.
Step 3. Define what you should measure
Think about what you need to understand by asking the following questions:
What data and insight do I need to make decisions? Donation data, engagement data?
How often do you need to make decisions? Weekly, monthly, quarterly?
Who are we measuring for? What stakeholders are involved and what do they need to see in order to make decisions? Appropriate your reporting for this purpose to avoid working on things that won’t matter.
Now list the questions you ask yourself when planning your marketing, for example:
What is my most effective tactic/channel in generating donations?
Where do I need to allocate my time and resources?
How well are each of my assets/investments performing for me?
Am I on track towards my marketing goals? What do I need to do to get there?
Do I need to decrease or increase my usage of resources?
Step 4. Choosing the right metrics
Defining your metrics is critical in your ability to measure against your objective. Choose the wrong metric(s) and you could end up with data you might not know how to interpret or tie back to your successes or failures.
Good metrics are:
A Ratio or Rate
Affects how you behave (Actionable)
Consider a mix of:
Qualitative and Quantitative metrics – e.g. survey responses vs email metrics
Reporting vs Exploratory metrics – e.g. average value of donations vs finding a more effective donation model
Leading vs Lagging correlated metrics – e.g. negative PR/donor complaints vs donor churn rate
Identify what metrics affect others and document how the calculations are done. For example, we know that Profit is calculated by subtracting an Expenses metric from a Revenue metric – i.e. Profit = Revenue – Expenses.
So, just how you would solve the formula for Profit, you can now apply a similar formula to Donations. For example, the two metrics that define the Total Donation Value involves:
The number of donations received
The value (or average value) of donations received
Now visualise as a flow chart and continue to work backwards towards the channel or source of where your donor first engaged with you and where your marketing efforts originated from. The Donation Performance Model below (Figure 2) is an example of how this might look when comparing three different channels; Facebook, Twitter and Email.
How do you apply this customer journey/conversion path to make decisions?
First, you will need to track your figures across each touch-point as you construct your reports to determine conversion rates.
At this point you might be thinking, “But what conversion rates do I need to measure?”. This again goes back to the questions you should be asking yourself and your stakeholders from the start, so you don’t waste time and energy tracking things that don’t matter to your decision-making.
For the purposes of the Facebook example shown below (Figure 3), I’ve chosen the following:
Facebook Fans to Donations
Engagement to Donations
Touches to Donations
Donation Visits to Donation
In the Email example below (Figure 3.1), the suggested conversion metrics are:
Email Subscriptions to Donations
Emails Sent to Donations
Engagement to Donation
Touches to Donation Visits
Donation Visits to Donation
Now the first time you implement this process you may not have any benchmarks to compare to. That’s fine, don’t stress. Simply decide whether to apply the following:
Apply month-on-month results that will determine your current benchmark, and/or
Apply Industry benchmarks, if they are available
Once you have a couple of reporting period’s worth of results, you now have the ability to apply the success of each conversion rate. Ask yourself things like “Did our Facebook Fans increase or decrease this month?”, “Did our conversion rate from donation page visits to donations increase or decrease this month?”, “Did our donations increase after sending X number of emails?”, etc..
If the result stands out as a significant increase or decrease, your opportunity is to question why. If your conversion rate from Donation Visits to Donation increased by 2% in the last month, could that have been due to:
Website optimisation? Like, moving to a mobile responsive website or UX redesign.
CTA moved? Is the Call To Action to donate in a more optimal and visible area on your site?
PayPal friendly. Did you recently implement PayPal checkout?
If the conversion from Emails Sent to Donations decreased by 5.54%, could that be due to:
Low email deliverability?
Spam content in your emails?
Bad data? e.g. how many valid email addresses do you have?
Case Study Example 1: Surfers In A Dress 2013
From analysing the donation data from the Surfers In A Dress 2013 campaign, it was found that the number of donations by value (Figure 4) correlated with the recommended donation amounts on the site (Figure 4.1).
If we relate this finding to the Donation Visits to Donation conversion rate outlined in Figure 3 above, then something like optimising your donation path to include hover text to contextualise a donation could be the reason why your conversion rate increases.
This insight allows you to further test methods and optimise the current conversion rate.
Case Study Example 2: Surfers In A Dress 2013
If one of your conversion rates is based on Facebook engagement, like in Figure 3 above (Engagement to Donations), then one of the key factors when optimising this is to understand when Facebook users are most engaged.
In the case of Surfers In A Dress 2013, Facebook was the primary marketing channel. Although I was unable to access Google Analytics reports to track the direct success from Facebook engagement to donations, I was able to make some assumptions on the results:
69% of SIAD donations were made between 12pm – 12am and 31% of donations were made between 12am – 12pm
Donation volume increased around ~9am, after lunch time ~2pm and after work (5pm to 9pm)
These results suggest that if I use leading and lagging correlated metrics, such as posts to Facebook during optimal times, I should expect to see an increase in donations at these times.
However, since this correlation was limited to assumptions, I wanted to back this up with existing research. Interestingly, my results aligned with a study by Vitrue (Figure 5) that showed:
The three biggest usage spikes tend to occur on weekdays at 11am, 3pm and 8pm
The biggest spike occurs at 3pm
In another study by TrackMaven (Figure 5.1) found that:
Weekends attract the highest engagement on Facebook
Sundays – the least popular day for posting – are 25% more effective, in terms of engagement, than posts published on Wednesdays
By understanding the data and combining this with industry research (where possible), you can generate valuable insight that will allow you to make better marketing decisions and improve current results.
Step 6. Establish your benchmarks
Now that you have constructed your conversion paths by channel, you will have a range of metrics that you can report on. The conversion paths are great, but they are often too detailed to use as high-level reporting. Your stakeholders will probably want an overview of the results, like the example in Figure 6 below.
How would you use this report?
Track your progress month to month
Provide an executive view of success
Use your conversion path results to provide insights to increases or decreases
Part 2. Building Your Scoreboard – Getting the data you need in a place you can see and analyse it
Suggested Measurement Tools for Charities
Your website’s CMS (e.g. WordPress) or donation platform (e.g. causevox.com)
MailChimp, Campaign Monitor
Google Analytics – Goals
It’s fairly certain that Google Analytics will soon become your new best friend – especially once you have the Goals feature setup.
Goals are a great way to measure how well your site meets your conversion objectives. It will help you understand things like how many visitors arrive at your site from Facebook and leave after hitting the donation page. The tool will essentially visualise your entire conversion path, similar to the examples explained in Figure 2, 3 and 3.1.
Watch this quick overview to get a better understanding:
To set up Goals, walk through the set up flow in your Google Analytics account. Refer to set up and edit Goals for help with the controls.
Google Analytics – UTMs
Measuring your success is one thing, but measuring your impact can become a bit tricky. Sure, you now know that Facebook drives a certain percentage of traffic to your website, but do you know that your organisation’s Facebook ads were the ones driving those visits and contributing to X% of registrations? Or that the recent blog post by one of your Celebrity ambassadors drove 10% of your donations in the first week? Thankfully, you can prove all of that with a few special parameters appended to your URLs – called UTM parameters.
What are UTM parameters?
UTM parameters are small snippets of text added to the end of your URL to help you track the success of your content on the web. An example of this is shown in Figure 7 below, where the UTM parameters are highlighted in red.
Adding these parameters after a question mark (?) won’t affect your URL’s destination or what appears on the page. What it does do is tells your analytics program, like Google Analytics, that someone arrived from a certain source or overall marketing channel, as part of a certain campaign.
Figure 7.1 below shows 5 of the main parameters you can use to track campaigns:
It’s best to at least track campaign, source and medium with UTM parameters, but you can really use any combination you like – whatever will help you measure your success in the best way.
If you’re lost for ways in which you can leverage UTM parameters in your campaigns, here are a few examples:
Individually track the success of marketing campaigns
Track the same piece of content across multiple channels
Measure how well your social channels promote your content
Capture UTM parameters as hidden fields on your website’s acquisition forms and push that data into your CRM, to gain a clearer picture of your customer profiles
SumAll is a nifty tool that works on the premise of connecting your data sources in one place and providing visibility of the past, present and future as you identify any correlations. It connects with a huge range of services, such as:
This tool is particularly useful to assess leading and lagging indicators in your data. For example, does an increase in Facebook posts correlate with an increase in donations? With SumAll, you can assess whether this is true or whether it’s actually an increase in Twitter posts that make the connection better.
The best part about this tool is that it’s FREE to connect 42 services (more than most will ever use). There’s also an option to get a bit more service for just $9 p/mth, which is super cheap still.
Hootsuite is essentially a social profile aggregator. It connects with a huge range of services and allows you to:
Schedule posts (across multiple channels at the same time, if you like)
View trending topics and respond to messages across all your social channels
Customise visually appealing reports from each source
Delegate tasks and set permissions within your team – perfect for customer service management
Share content from anywhere on the web
MailChimp is a very cost-effective way to manage your email communications. It’s also a remarkably advanced tool from a user-friendly perspective.
Manage lists and subscriber profiles
Automate triggered emails based on your subscribers’ website activity
Connect with Google Analytics to view revenue reports
Part 3. Running your Plays – How to use the data to make better decisions
Test and Learn
By now you know what levers you have to manipulate and where to look to see if the changes are working.
Now its a matter of learning what the best way to pull these levers is.
One of the test and learn methodologies I recommend is splitting your time up in the following ways (Figure 11):
Spend 70% of your time on “Business as usual” marketing activities. Keep working on the things that you know work and that keep the organisation functioning.
Spend 20% of your time on Optimising Existing Tactics. This could be A/B testing emails, landing pages, or maybe tightening your Facebook ad segmentations.
Spend 10% of your time on Blue Sky Ideas. This could be trialling an Instagram account for your organisation, or maybe you want to trial Facebook Custom Audiences.
It’s easy enough to say “DO IT!” and expect that you are going to get back to your charity or not-for-profit tomorrow and start implementing everything mentioned in this blog post. If you do, great! I’ve done a good job :). If not, the one thing I would urge you to do next is start asking ‘Why?’.
If I were a Marketing Manager of a charity or not-for-profit, the first thing I would do is ask the question: What is our strategy? What are our objectives? Ask several people in the organisation of different hierarchy and see if everyone is aligned, and then write down a few succinct sentences that answer these questions.
Once you have these questions understood, then you are now setup to ask the next set of questions about what data do you need to meet the objective and where does that data currently exist.
Find out what your stakeholders absolutely must know from a reporting standpoint and then figure out what that report would look like if you had all the data you needed already. If there are gaps, simply identify them and find out how quickly those gaps can be closed. You’ll no doubt come across some gaps that will be too big to fix in the short-term (such as system integrations), but as long as you identify that as a constraint in your ability to deliver success, then you should be able to agree on an alternative approach.
Now start mapping out a customer lifecycle, so you can understand where marketing fits and what your logical conversation would be with a new visitor vs new donor vs an advocate etc.
Based on the reporting requirements, you should then prioritise what to deliver on first to give you the quickest return on investment. For example, if you don’t have analytics on your website, make sure Google Analytics is your first project to get up and running. Invest some time in learning how to set up Goals, campaigns, and how to generate the reports you need for conversion paths and other required metrics.
Continue to work through your list of priorities and if you aren’t sure how to understand the data you’re collecting, reference one of the tools listed in this blog post, or simply do a quick Google search for some options. You might be surprised with what you find. Once you find a potential solution, research on any alternatives and weigh up their features and costs to what benefits you expect to get out of them.
By this stage you should have most of your core tools and systems in place. Next is to reflect on the strategy and customer lifecycle you mapped out earlier to ensure everything is aligned, tools are in place, a calendar of events and communications are in the works and you can start developing some testing and optimisation methods with your marketing efforts.
Don’t forget to leverage the talents of the people around you to pull all of this together. In the end, it should be a team effort so you can all enjoy the successes – whether that’s generating enough donations to send a 57 girls to school in Sierra Leone or growing a community of advocates. It’s all good.
My last words are to say good luck and make sure you have fun with it!