The vital importance of marketing baselining

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When it comes to measuring the impact of social media or any form of digital marketing, one of the most complicated problems you’ll face is the indirect influence. For example, let’s say you run a Facebook campaign. Let’s say that the campaign seems to do reasonably well in terms of likes, shares, and comments, but when you look in your analytics, you see only a modest bump in visits, conversions, and sales from Facebook:

Chart 1

Oh well, looks like social media was a waste, huh? Not so fast. By measuring just the Facebook channel, we’re pretending that people don’t speak to each other, don’t share news outside of Facebook, don’t tell friends and family in real life at the water cooler or dinner table. We’re pretending that sharing on Facebook happens only on Facebook, and that’s simply not true.

That said, how would you know what the impact of your Faceobok campaign was outside of Facebook? There’s no such thing as click tracking across the dinner table. To answer that question, you’d need to know what your web analytics looked like before and after your campaign.

Suppose you had looked at and measured the overall traffic, conversions, and customers to your website for the last 30 days and gotten a reliable baseline of activity, a comprehensive look at everything happening in your digital world:

Chart 2

This is the process of baselining, of getting a reliable sample of what’s already happening on your website and digital properties so that you can tell the difference between normal activities and your campaign.

What if, in the absence of anything else simultaneously new, your web analytics suddenly looked like this after your Facebook campaign?

Chart 3

That delta, that change, is the effect of your Facebook campaign outside of Facebook. Multichannel funnels can account for some of it, but the other aspect that multichannel funnels can’t track is the online to offline (and back again) sharing, which is very real. In the absence of high quality surveying and primary research, baselining is the next best alternative for figuring out what really happened.

There are two important caveats for baselining:

1. Ideally, don’t start anything new during the baselining period. If you’ve got campaigns already running, keep them running, but try not to kick off anything new during the baselining period.

2. Vitally important, don’t start anything else new during the campaign test period. If you launched a Facebook campaign at the same time you kicked off a PPC campaign and an outbound cold calling campaign, how would you know which campaign to attribute the growth to? Isolate one and only one new thing to test in order to get an accurate measurement.

If you’re struggling to account for the impact of any of your marketing campaigns, look at baselining as a way to assess their overall impact to your marketing.

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