Foundations of Data Analytics
Digital Marketing Boot Camp, Session 8: Anvil Analytics + Insight’s CEO, Jenny Bristow, shares the six key steps for tracking marketing campaign success.
My name is Jenny Bristow and I am the CEO at Anvil Analytics + Insights. I’ll be covering the foundation of data analytics. This is one of my favorite quotes:
“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”
As small businesses, it’s very difficult to shift from the owner of the business making all the important calls and decisions to actually allowing data and insights to drive your optimization efforts on the marketing side. But that pivot is many times what can allow you to grow and scale much faster than making gut-based decisions. I’m going to share three core things.
- Creating measurement strategies & understanding associated risks
- Understanding analytics VS business intelligence
- Six key steps for tracking marketing campaign success
First, I’m going to do a super high-level capabilities check. Why am I up here and how do I have the background and expertise to tell you about this? Anvil is an agency based out of St. Louis. We were rated the number one fastest-growing company in St. Louis last year by “The Business Journal.” We focus on three core areas, digital marketing and strategy, analytics and decision science, and web design and development. Our analytics and decision science process usually follows three key steps, and I’ll share some of these today.
I’ll also discuss measurement plans and auditing. Do you have a strategy in place to measure your campaign performance? I’ll discuss growth strategy and implementation. Once you have a program going, how do you optimize that campaign? And then, ongoing optimization and growth management also. Over the first year, the second year or the third year of a campaign, how do you keep making sure it works really well?
Measurement plan and auditing
Whenever people talk about the utilization of Google Analytics and they bring myself or a member of my agency in to start looking at the reports and dashboards that are looking at, the vast majority of times, there are simple vanity metrics.
A good quote to know the difference is, “Vanity metrics make you feel good, but they don’t offer clear guidance on what to actually do to optimize your campaigns.”
Some of the vanity metrics that you might be thinking about include things like the total spend for your marketing campaigns or impressions, so how many people actually saw your ad, and how many people clicked on your ad? That’s good to know from a volume perspective, but that’s not how you make money at the end of the day.
Shifting over to more meaningful engagement metrics will allow you to look at things like:
- Customer lifetime value
- Return on investment per campaign
Knowing each new customer you bring in, what’s the total revenue they generally spend with you over the life of the relationship? And really meaningful metrics like return on investment per campaign, which is where you can begin understanding, “Okay, what is LinkedIn driving for me versus Google, and how do I want to optimize that based on total profitability?” By creating a measurement strategy, you can make sure that all the things you’re measuring and tracking roll up to a program that gives you metrics that help you make those key decisions.
What can you measure?
campaigns are designed, though. We actually work with a lot of creative agencies around the country and they come to us and say, “Hey, we have this huge campaign launching next week, and we’re super excited about it. Here’s all the creative. Can you make it trackable?”
We look and there’s no landing page set up for the campaign. There’s no way to be able to track phone calls or form submissions because they created the concept and then trying to figure out how to measure it. I suggest instead, when you’re beginning to come up with a marketing strategy for your business online, is first think about, “What do I want people to do on my website? How do I want people to engage with me?” And then figure out the creative or the way that you’re going to execute that on top of it.
A couple of key questions you need to answer are, what are the business goals you’re trying to achieve with your marketing campaigns? Is it driving in more prospects for your salespeople to talk to? Is it getting people to actually make a transaction if you have an e-commerce website? Figure that out first. Back up and say, what actions on your website reflect what users can do to take steps towards your goals?
Let’s say, for example, you want to generate warm leads for your sales team. A couple of different things you can do is you can have a form where people can submit their contact information, you get a phone number that’s trackable by a tool like CallRail. That can help make sure that all the phone numbers are giving credit to the marketing source. You perhaps can also have live chat. A form, a phone number, and live chat—those are just three simple examples for your website.
Then that goes into the what tools do we have? We’re going to talk a lot about tools in this presentation to make sure that you have access to everything that you need to track it.
Case Study Example
First, I thought it’d be helpful to take a step back quickly and share an actual case study because it always makes it easier to understand when you’re talking about a real situation. Our client is a small Midwest law firm. Let's say they’re spending about $5,000 a month on paid media online exclusively through Google Ads because that makes it easier.
First, what actions on the website can be measured that show success, that they’re having success and getting new customers or clients into their law firm? Well, if they’re trying to get people to actually raise their hand and say, “I’m interested in talking to you,” it could be something like phone calls, lead submissions, or online chats. Those are three very trackable, easy things to add online.
What actions on the website can be measured that reflect success?
- Phone calls
- Lead submissions
- Online chat
What tools can we use?
Google Analytics + CallRail + Google Ads
- Set up Google Analytics on the website
- Integrate Google Analytics and Google Ads (paid media platform)
- Integrate CallRail tracking into Google Analytics
- Assign monetary value to goals (more on this later…)
- Develop automated reports that show business value driven by campaigns
The three tools sync really beautifully, and here’s how. First, we’ll set up Google Analytics on your website and make sure that all the pages are tagged correctly. We’ll talk more about that later. You will integrate Google Analytics and Google Ads together to make sure they’re sharing data back and forth. Then, you’ll do the same thing with CallRail. Again, make sure any phone calls people make are integrated into your campaign information. Then you can do something like assigning a monetary goal per value. Let’s say, for example, walk them through a full example of that, and then it’s all about that. Then you can actually develop automated reports to send yourself emails once a week to look at how much potential business and revenue your campaigns are driving in on a weekly basis. This is a really streamlined, straightforward way to make your campaigns much more measurable throughout the process versus simply focusing on driving a ton of traffic and then focusing on the number of clicks that you got.
Collecting data isn’t as easy as it sounds
One big caveat that I would have, however, is that Facebook really ruined it for everyone. Up until this point, whenever this happened whenever Facebook was interrogated for the data that they collect on users, most users did not really understand data privacy online. They didn’t understand that people were tracking them and their movements throughout the web. They didn’t understand that Google and Facebook were building up big profiles of individuals to be able to better sell to them. This case, in particular, is really what raised overall awareness in the space of privacy concerns.
Before we get into specifics talking about how to track your campaigns, I need to throw a little caveat in because collecting data really isn’t as easy and straightforward as it sounds. I want to give you a couple of warnings to make sure that you don’t collect something that could end up getting you in trouble. There’s domestic legislation as well as global. We’re going to talk mostly about domestic. GDPR is actually global legislation that came into place last year in Europe and it’s about privacy and making sure that users understand how much data you’re collecting. The California Online Privacy Protection is actually a lot of the same similarities of GDPR as far as notification and data collection rules, so you only if you see something overseas and come over to California and then spread throughout the rest of the U.S.
There are some really specific rules there as far as how you track customers and how you alert them that you’re tracking them. If you’re in healthcare, you also need to think about HIPAA compliance around personally identifiable information or electronic health information and high tech. Those two both go hand in hand. And if you’re involved in healthcare, there should be a whole separate session for you, especially around CallRail because they actually have a HIPAA compliant version that’s absolutely amazing. Make sure you call them for that.
Beyond legislation, there’s also a lot of other trends and changes in the industry that’s going to change how things are tracked, like ITP 2.1, the new Google Analytics web and app tracking beta are both going to change the way analytics works. One thing to always know and keep in mind is that with analytics, what you set up today, you’ll have to keep tweaking in six months, and six months after that, and a year down the road. It’s never a set and forget it situation. Staying on top of these potential legislation issues is definitely a concern for businesses if you’re collecting information.
Understanding the difference between analytics and business intelligence
I see business owners and marketers throwing these terms around all the time, and they never really fully understand what they mean so I’m going to give you just a quick little 101 primer.
- Analytics is tracking usually a specific data source. Like think about Google Analytics that’s tracking the traffic on your website itself. It may pull in and have some additional information from Google Ads or Facebook Ads, but it really is platform-specific.
- Business intelligence is when you have multiple data sources, again, like Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, your CallRail tracking, you put them all into one database, you can get much deeper and more comprehensive information.
The problem is there’s three steps to this, so most business owners aren’t ready for this yet, but it’s very important to know the difference. You’ll have it in your growth strategy now that maybe three years from now, you’ll start looking into BI.
Pulling data from different places
First, you have to actually pull the data from the different places, put it in a warehouse or a lake, and then you start analyzing it. One thing I hear all the time is, “But I have Tableau. I purchased Tableau. I’m totally doing business intelligence.” Unless you do this stuff with your data, you’re not doing business intelligence. All you’re doing is dashboarding it somewhere else and there are much cheaper options than that. Don’t fall into a trap where you buy a big business intelligence tool like Domo or Tableau until you’re really ready for it. We’ll talk a little bit more about Google Data Studio down the road in this presentation, but it’s truly a much better solution than spending a lot of money as a small business.
What business intelligence can do, however, is give you information like this where you’re actually looking at customer value, based on marketing tactics, and it allows you to get a much better understanding across the board of what’s working and not working from an overall profitability perspective. This is definitely something to aim for down the road.
One thing to think about from a range of tools perspective, we talked about Google Analytics, which is something all small business owners should be using. I’m going to give you six tips to get smarter with your Google Analytics shortly. Google Data Studio is one step up as far as the level of intelligence and the kinds of things you can report on. Then, the most sophisticated when you jump into business intelligence tools is when you get into Power BI, Tableau, and Domo. For most small businesses, you don’t need to worry about that right now. It probably will be more of a waste of energy and effort than a value for the amount of data that you actually receive back to optimize your campaigns, so we’re really going to just focus on Google Analytics right now.
Perfect your marketing strategy steps > Playing around with Google Analytics dashboard
If you had eight hours to chop down a tree, I would suggest you spend six of those hours sharpening your ax, meaning get your Google Analytics and tracking in place. You need to spend much more time on the measurement strategy and making sure that everything is in the right place and set up and tagged correctly than you do on actually being in and playing around with the Google Analytics dashboard. Many people call us and they go in and they implement Google Analytics right away, and they set everything up and they tag everything, and then they jump back to their campaigns and they say, “Well, this doesn’t make sense. This isn’t tracking the way that I thought it would.” And, “Oh, I forgot to put this pixel on this landing page. And this conversion isn’t tracking over here. And I forgot to use a call tracking number over on that side.”
When you’re getting ready to launch a campaign, I highly suggest you go through and first talk about what business goals you are trying to accomplish with your campaign? What steps on your website can the users do in order to take a step towards accomplishing that goal for you? And then third, what tools do you have available to execute that tracking, and how will you do it across the site? Then once you have that in place, you can begin implementing Google Analytics. It’ll be much less overwhelming that way, I promise.
Six key steps for tracking marketing campaign success
We’re going to talk about six key things that you need to think about whenever you’re setting up Google Analytics and digging in. The first is you want to understand who the reports are for and their needs. Big caveat, don’t include everything. I find so many people, especially if you’re a marketer in a small business, the gut instinct is to include everything possible within the report. Of course, they’re going to want to know what headlines drove the most click and which keyword drove the most conversions, and all of these things.
But there’s a big difference between providing that level of insight to somebody who’s optimizing the campaign or they need that information to optimize it versus a manager or an owner of the company that needs more of an executive summary.
1. Create reporting strategies for the right people
What we always suggest is go through and after you implement all of the tracking, start creating reporting strategies and saying, “Okay, here are the three key constituents that I need to report out to, what information do they each need in order to clearly understand how well the campaign is doing, how much revenue we’re driving for the company, and what optimizations we’re going to make in order to move it forward?” Normally, you’ll see that in three separate areas. In most organizations, you’ll have executive level, C-suite, you’ll have marketing leadership, and then you’ll have junior-level employees, whose hands are actually in the campaign optimizing it.
What we suggest doing normally is focusing on five to six key data points, visualizations per report for the executive level, and the marketing management level. Then you can always provide additional information in the appendix if they insist upon it.
One of the things that we see often is death of the campaign because of too much information.
If you share too much information, then they get really granular into the weeds, and they begin often trying to optimize it with you versus letting the people who are the experts of the campaigns optimize it. Like, I know some of the team members or individuals who are in here talking about PPC management before, they should be the ones developing the optimization strategies, not the marketing leaders within the organizations. It will make it so much more effective. And really finding the urge to include everything in your Google Analytics account will be super helpful and make it much easier to pull every month as well.
2. Become Google Analytics certified
A huge recommendation is to get Google Analytics certified. I’d also include Google Tag Manager certification. With Google Analytics, they have an awesome academy where you can go through and actually have courses that teach you how to use Google Analytics. The same thing with Google Tag Manager and Google Ads. All of these courses are free online and I believe it’s actually free to take the certification test now also.
It is so worth your time to spend a couple of hours every Friday for a few weeks doing all of the training lessons and getting certified. Even if you are not the person on the team that’s going to be the one implementing Google Analytics, creating the dashboards, or pulling them every month, being able to understand the structure of how the technology works and how all the data pieces pull together will help you be a much better manager of your team members, and help make sure you’re getting the depth and granularity of the content and measurement that is available in the platform.
One thing that I’ll say is that at Anvil, every single team member of ours, even if they’re a designer or a sales team member, business development, go through Google Analytics training and certification. We think it is extremely important for everybody to understand how the tool works. Again, even if you’re not the one using it every day. I’ll say, I am even Google Analytics certified as the owner of the business. It’s wonderful to make sure that you stay up with the tool and how it’s progressing.
3. Audit your Google Analytics setup before campaigns launch
One of the recommendations that we have is before a campaign launches, especially if you think you already implemented Google Analytics before, you need to step back and audit all of your measurement tools and their setup before you turn the campaign on. We’ve had quite a few brands and agencies call us and they would say, “Well, we’re freaking out over here. We launched a campaign two weeks ago, and we just logged in, and nothing’s tracking correctly.” That’s because the Facebook pixel they thought was set up might have been from another account, or maybe they had the wrong one synced and nobody did an audit before they turned the account on and the campaign on to make sure that everything would track correctly. It is very laborious and not the most fun task in the world.
But before every single campaign launches, you should have an internal checklist that has you go through and ask yourself:
- What platform is this campaign touching?
- What tags are available from third-party tools like Facebook or Google to implement to our website to make sure we’re measuring it correctly?
- How are we tracking conversions on our site?
Then going in and make sure everything is set up correctly.
Setting basic filters
Another thing that we would suggest, too, is a couple of basic filters within your Google Analytics account. First, you always want to have one filter that just says, “All,” where you aren’t changing anything, and then create a copy of that or a second one in order to make any of your tweaks. And I’ll give you a couple of tweaks in a moment.
But we found that what’s clearly important to remember that Google Analytics only processes your data one time. So, if you make filters on your Google Analytics view or profile, you can never go back and see what would have happened with the data and traffic otherwise.
We always recommend having one that’s free and clear of any filters and then, for the next one, start adding some filters. One filter you always want to add is to make sure that you exclude your own IP addresses, and IP addresses of any agencies or people that are working and contributing to the campaign because that can skew your numbers, especially for small businesses. If you have 10 or 15 employees at your own office and it’s a small campaign, that really could skew your numbers quite a bit. You want to make sure they’re not included in Google Analytics, they don’t mess your numbers up at all, and then you’ll have clean data to look at.
Ensuring goals & events correctly
Another thing in making sure your setup is correct is going through and ensuring that your goals and events are tracked correctly. Let me walk through the difference of goals versus events. Goals are firm things on your website that people do such as submitting a form submission. That could be considered a goal. And with those goals, you can actually assign a monetary value.
Again, going back to that example of the law firm, and each case being worth $150, if they convert 1 out of 10, you could assign each goal submission $150 and be able to see how much potential revenue you’re driving with your campaign. An event is more of a click on a website, so it’s more an action or engagement point that somebody is taking that shows they’re engaging with your content, they’re moving forward, but they aren’t actually submitting contact information. It can be really helpful to measure that beforehand to make sure that you can have a view of your visitors going through your website to the ultimate conversion point. That way, you know what you need to tweak or modify on your website can be really helpful and important.
4. Track traditional campaigns
This is one that everybody loves thinking isn’t possible, but it is fun to find ways to track your traditional marketing campaign. Most small businesses are not only doing digital marketing, they’re also doing some sort of traditional marketing, whether it’s flyers or mailers or billboards or TV commercials. What we always suggest is stepping back a little bit, outside of only thinking about your digital campaigns and think, “How can I implement tracking methodology with my more traditional campaigns?” And so a couple of easy things. Of course, you want to have tracking phone numbers. So, within CallRail, you can create new phone numbers for each of your campaigns that you send out and it will redirect to your main number. Tracking URLs that are shorter URLs, people can type it in and you can track the traffic source. Those are two easy ones.
But what about things like billboards or TV commercials? Cohort analysis is one good example if you’re at a trade show. For example, I spoke at a big healthcare marketing conference last year in November, and we had a booth with a really nice display - we could create a cohort analysis for anybody who came to our website during the days of the conference from that city where the conference was held is a cohort, and Google Analytics will create it as a cohort. Then you can track the performance of that cohort through your website over time to see if they act and perform differently than normal people that visited your website. Even if they did not submit a form on your website, or call you as a result of seeing you at the tradeshow or the booth, you still can track the behavior to get a general understanding if it was worthwhile to go to the trade show or not because maybe those visitors 30 days later came back to submit a form. The only way you could tie them back together is if they were part of that original cohort.
Another example is dayparting match-up. This is a good one for TV commercials. With TV commercials, one of the things that we like to do is actually get the schedule of airtime. If you know what DNAs and what the airtime for all of your commercials are, you can actually create a dayparting schedule where you can actually track bumps in your analytics during those windows.
Pro tip: You can also create bumps within your Google Ads campaign to be able to match that because a lot of studies show if they google your name right when they see a commercial, they’re much more likely to convert then versus later. I would do it on two sides. I would track it on the analytic side, and I would also track it and bump it a little bit on the Google AdWords side.
It’s very difficult though to do attribution overall for traditional campaigns. It’s much easier to do attribution for digital campaigns. And what do I mean by attribution? Attribution just means knowing where a sale came from. It’s really easy to know if somebody clicked on a Google ad, filled the form out, you called them and they bought. That came from Google, but attributions can be more difficult. When you get more sophisticated, you can look into things like mixed-media modeling, where you start going through and modeling some of the different behaviors that people do on your site based off of the things that they engage with and start assigning monetary values to your different tactics. But that’s down the road for most small businesses, and focusing on the foundations is good for now. However, knowing it’s possible down the road is definitely something that’s valuable.
5. Make sure everyone is using the same data
This is a big one, work with your agency partners and your internal team to make sure you’re using the same data. We’ve seen time and time again that agency partners love to use their own dashboards that show how amazing they are doing. The problem is you maybe can’t duplicate that data using your Google Analytics account, so where are they getting this information? Now, it’s very true that Google and Facebook and even Google Ads will never match, ever. They’ll never match because their tracking methodology is different.
For example, Facebook is a hog. They will take credit for every single lead that’s submitted if they’ve ever clicked through with a Google Pixel, whereas Google Analytics does last-click attribution, so they will say, if they go through and they maybe find you on Facebook first, then they sign up for your email newsletter, and then they finally google you, click on a Google ad and call, the Google ad is what will get credit. Facebook will also take that credit, too, so it will be double counting if you don’t set an attribution strategy with your agency partners.
Have a meeting of the minds
What I like to do whenever we’re brought into a situation where there are multiple agencies…and this happens all the time, maybe you have an agency that you love for branding and design work, but you want a different agency for digital, and maybe even a different agency for your analytics work. Totally normal to not have one shop that can service all of your needs. But have a meeting of the minds.
Host a working session one morning or afternoon and sit them down and say, “Here’s how my analytics accounts are structured. Here’s my measurement plan for my campaigns. Here’s the way we’re going to report on our campaigns. And agencies, I love that you’re trying to use your own data sources, but we need to stick to mine to make sure that we’re all looking at the same data.” It really will make sure that everybody collaborates much more heavily than fighting over who gets credit over different ad sources.
Assign a monetary value to your goals in Google Analytics
I talked about this one briefly, but assign a monetary value to your goals in Google Analytics. This is a really easy one that provides a lot of gut reaction help as far as if campaigns are working or not working. Once you create a goal, which again, could be a form submission, going back to that law firm example. Let’s say that the lifetime value of a customer for this small law firm is $10,000, only 1 out of 10 leads convert. Then I would actually assign each form submission goal a value of $1,000 because once you get 10, you’ll have $10,000, and if 1 out of 10 commits, that’s how the math works.
And so, it’s a really wonderful way to be able to see, is this working the way that I think it will work from a campaign optimization perspective? Then the big thing here is you have to go back and actually check the math. After the campaign has been running for a couple of months, go back and look at the actuals. How much money did you actually drive with the campaign? Then go back and fix your monetary value goals and make sure that it’s as close to reality as possible. You have to do some guessing at the beginning. That’s the only way you can get started.
6. Develop automated reports to save time
You can spend your time on insights versus report pulling. For small businesses, this is one of the number one tips I can give you. After, of course, auditing your campaign setup is automating your reports. Going through and making sure that your reports are pulled automatically by the system and emailed to yourself and other key constituents within your business can save you hours. We actually are working with a couple of clients right now because they have team members spending eight hours a week pulling reports to email out to people and they are using a business intelligence tool like Power BI, so it’s not as easy as Google Analytics, but we’re working with them right now to automate all of those reports. That way, they can actually free up a massive amount of hours from an employee’s plate on a weekly and monthly basis to focus on more important tasks, such as actually looking at that report and then figuring out how to optimize the campaign off of it. That is where your time really should be spent.
Again, if you go through and create your measurement strategy at the beginning, you can audit and make sure that you’re actually tracking those actions on the website that show the prospect or potential client is moving in the direction that we want. Then you spend time going through and making sure you’re optimizing your campaign to improve the performance, you will be leap years ahead of other small businesses as far as really understanding what’s working with your marketing and having a data-driven approach.
If you have any questions, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love talking to small business owners. I actually met CallRail because we were doing a joint webinar with them on a different topic around call tracking. And we love doing education and making sure that not only are people getting tracking that works for them for their business, but they understand it. I would love to talk to you if you have any questions about my presentation today. Feel free to reach out.
Digital Marketing Boot Camp Schedule:
- Session 1: Digital Marketing Landscape for SMBs | Bill Hauser
- Session 2: SEO, Local Search & Google my Business | Jordan Polhemus
- Session 3: 5 Critical Components for Facebook Dominance | Adam Arkfield
- Session 4: The Basics of Email Marketing | Margaret Hamner
- Session 5: 5 Steps for Social Success | Megan McMullin
- Session 6: 5 Google Ads Concepts for PPC Success | Adam Arkfield
- Session 7: Optimize Your Lead Generation Strategy | Jonathan Naccache
- Session 8: Foundations of Data Analytics | Jenny Bristow
- Session 9: Understanding Marketing Performance with Comprehensive Reporting | Tony Lael