Measuring: What Matters to Enterprise Business

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I have the pleasure of knowing Sean McGinnis, Director, Marketing for Sears Parts Direct and Search Lead for Sears Home Appliance & Services; every now and then I piss him off. On a Facebook exchange discussing what is and is not possible to measure, I was the happy recipient of a long and knowledgeable rant about how far we still have to go when it comes to measurement.

Performance (Measurement) is an essential part of what we do here at ARCOMPANY; we gather insights from social, blogs, forums and search. Sean was talking about his dissatisfaction with measurement due to the complexity of how people use the Internet.

There are three different vectors that make marketing measurement more complex than you might think.

  1. Channel Mix: You may be exposed to various different marketing events prior to purchase. Measuring the interaction between those channels (paid search, display, email, SEO etc) is complex, and deciding which fractional attribution model to apply to your business is very difficult.
  2. Omni-channel Mix: You may be exposed to a variety of digital marketing channels only to walk into a store to make a purchase. Similarly, you may be exposed to offline marketing events (TV, terrestrial Radio, Billboards etc) and hop online to complete a transaction.
  3. Device Mix: You may do research on your phone and be exposed to various different marketing messages in different channels, only to switch to your tablet or laptop to make the purchase.

The interplay between these three distinctly different challenges makes precise measurement exceptionally difficult – especially for enterprise ecommerce sites with scale.

That discussion inspired this interview with McGinnis:

Amy Tobin: My partner, Hessie Jones, bemoans the fact that too many large corporations aren’t measuring the right things – the things that happen before and after the sale. Tell me what your biggest concerns are.

Sean McGinnis: When you spend money on a channel, your first demand is that you maximize the opportunity of that channel. The whole point of any business is to spend as little money as possible and make as much as possible.

Take a step back and imagine for a minute how we got from the promise of the web 15 years ago to where we are today form a digital marketing perspective.  We used tools like Overture, set smart marketing budgets, and could determine exactly what we were spending money on – what worked and what didn’t work.

It works… and it keeps growing.  5 years later, we have migrated to Google and Bing and have a multimillion dollar paid search (SEM) channel, but business doesn’t ever stop. Your boss wants more.

AM: We’ve discussed paid search as a key channel; why is enterprise so committed to it versus social?

SM: The reason big companies like paid search is because big companies hate risk. We like the Return on our Investment (ROI) to be as close as possible to the Investment (I)  We also like an element of certainty to our investments. We want to KNOW that when we invest X dollars, that we can reasonably expect Y return on that investment.  That avoidance of risk, generally, means that big companies lean toward marketing activities that are (by their nature) more bottom of the funnel. Because the further down the marketing funnel you operate, the greater the certainty of the ROI to I relationship and the closer the two get together.

You know, there’s a great quote that Guy Kawasaki had on the dust cover of Brian Halligan & Dharmesh Shah’s book “Inbound Marketing”

“If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing.” – Guy Kawasaki

Most people take that quote to mean that outbound marketers are idiots. I prefer to think of it as providing guidance to both large and small businesses alike.

It is an absolute truism. If you have a giant budget you can out spend the little guys; they just can’t keep up.

Small companies are forced to make inroads in content marketing, SEO, video etc.  –   it’s a lot less expensive, but it’s also a lot more uncertain. ROI happens weeks or months down the line from your inbound marketing activities. SEO takes time to take full effect (said the guy with a deep, rich SEO background). It doesn’t happen overnight. Whereas paid search can be an immediate return.

AM: How does an enterprise measure for success?

SG: I won’t speak for every enterprise, and I won’t even speak for my “whole” enterprise, but for the businesses I am responsible for, we look at every channel individually, and optimize each, while also keeping an eye on how they interplay with each other.  Spend and revenue are the two key measures.

AM: Tell me about your social strategy at Parts Direct.

SG: Up until now, we’ve had no social program at all at PartsDirect.

Sears itself has a massive social program, and we value it, but the PartsDirect team had a lot of ground work to lay before launching a social program (which we’re about to do).

AM: So, are you ready to tackle social?

SG: The first thing I did when I arrived 2 years ago was bring our paid search channel in-house from an agency, and we’ve made huge strides in growing that channel. My job is to find every place where we can efficiently grow revenue within our various marketing channels.

One of my frustrations has been that we create great content every day, but we have no way to share that with our customers or others who could benefit from it other than an email blast.

Now that we’ve grown and matured our other marketing channels, we are going to launch a social program which will help fix that, but we’re in the early stages.

AM: How are you going to measure social success?

Well, right now we have no audience; we won’t start measuring until that gets built up. I fully understand that our new social team won’t be able to build that audience in a few short months. We won’t, however, wait a year for revenue measurement; that’s not how we’re wired. We try to balance our expectations of revenue generation with the knowledge that it will take time to get there.

AM: HOW do you optimize all of those channels together?

SM: Like we measure everything else; we tag our assets so that we can understand the true role each channel plays and how they are moving people through the funnel. We can look at the multiple steps in the path to purchase, and then try to optimize them both individually as well as an overall system.

AM: Are you going to target Millennials, as they are aging and beginning to settle down, buy homes etc.?

SG: Are young people going online and buying appliances and parts? I’m not sure we know exactly at what rate that is happening. At this point, we are marketing to all homeowners, not a specific demographic at the exclusion of others.

Because we know that young people like websites that let them trouble shoot, we’ve created dozens of how to videos, but they’re targeted at the DIY homeowner of any age, not just GenY.

One strength of ours is that we have over a hundred parts stores across the country, and when there is a sense of urgency for a repair, those stores help us win business over our online – only competitors; and we’re opening new stores to satisfy DIY minded homeowners.

AM: So, measuring is fundamental to your success, we agree.

SG:  It is crucial that we measure every single step of the funnel and understand where the consumer came from, what they did, and if they backed out, when?

The complexity of our multiple marketing channels, our online and offline presences and the various devices consumers use to find our information and buy our products makes precise measurement and attribution very. In the end, our goal is to grow the business and serve even more DIY minded consumers who are brave enough to try to repair their own appliances and lawn and garden equipment. We’ll keep spending time and money to ensure our customers have all the resources they need to complete their repairs with confidence.

At ARCOMPANY we  analyze data gathered from social media, websites, forums and search. This research helps inform and guide the communication efforts of many brands. If you want to learn more about implementing meaningful insights, we’re here to help.

Photo credit: Test tubes and other recipients in chemistry lab via photopin (license).

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