Data is now the most valuable resource on the planet.
If you’ve read any of our other recent blog posts, you’re probably aware of the fact that data recently surpassed oil as the most valuable resource on Earth. While that came as a shock to some, to others this has been a long time coming.
Studies show that data-driven businesses are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, 6 times as likely to retain those customers, and 19 times as likely to be profitable.
As businesses have realized the value of data, the demand for more and more consumer data has exploded. Despite the general acknowledgement of the value of data, it’s estimated that 60-73% of data collected isn’t used in decision-making.
In this post I’ll cover a couple of ways that you can leverage data to make better decisions in your ecommerce business.
Understand your customers
Most marketers understand the importance of using data to drive their marketing decisions. The problem that most marketers face is getting accurate data that they can trust in order to make the right decisions. So that’s where we’ll start.
Truly the bane of every marketer’s existence, over-attribution is a constant in today’s marketing landscape. An example of over-attribution would be when you look at Facebook and they claim to have generated $10K in sales, and then you look at Google and they claim to have created $10K in sales, but you only had $15K worth of sales in that period.
Over-attribution occurs for a myriad of reasons. One of the primary reasons that it can occur is that the different ad platforms utilize different conversion reporting. Facebook currently utilizes a 28-day click and 1-day view conversion window. That means that if someone clicked on your Facebook ad and then came back and purchased from you within 28 days, they claim 100% responsibility for that sale. Google, on the other hand, utilizes a last-click attribution model. That means that they award 100% of the credit for the sale to the last click that someone used before purchasing.
There are many solutions to solving over-attribution, but none are perfect. The first solution that we always recommend is UTMs.
UTMs are pieces of tracking information that you can append to a URL in order to improve your tracking. These can help you see exactly what ads, emails, or blog posts people clicked on in order to get to your site.
UTMs are amazing for increasing the granularity of your tracking and allow improved insights into what efforts actually drove people to your site. Unfortunately though, they don’t completely solve the issue of over-attribution. While they will allow you to see exactly what ads drove people to your site, you still have to deal with the different attribution windows in your reporting.
The best solution to the over-attribution problem is, unfortunately, also one of the more complicated ones. Multi-touch attribution most accurately reflects the client journey across platforms. By tracking the clients journey, these models can assign a portion of the total sale revenue to each platform that took part in the client’s journey. The reason that these can get complicated is because you need to model and decide how you want to assign credit to each platform.
Some of the more popular models that people use are: time decay, which allows you to decrease the amount of credit given to each touch point based off how long ago that happened; position based, which assigns 33% of the credit to both the first and last touch points, and then distributes the remaining 33% equally across the other touch points; the final option that we want to cover here is linear, which just assigns equal weight across every touch point.
Both UTMs and multi-touch attribution have their place in a marketers tool chest. We always recommend using UTMs, and multi-touch attribution can help with more advanced marketing initiatives.
Once you know where your customers come from, the next thing that you need to know is what they’re buying from you. Thankfully most ecommerce platforms readily provide this information. The important metrics to look at here are: average order value (AOV), lifetime value (LTV), and repurchase rates. Additionally, you should examine each of these metrics through the lens of how different products affect them.
In the early stages of a business, AOV is extremely important. We’ll cover more on this later, but the important thing to note is that if you can keep your cost per acquisition (CPA) below your AOV then you’ll always drive a profit off your ads. This will allow you to scale your advertising, and your company with it.
As you grow more advanced in your tracking and data, LTV becomes more and more important. As you grow in your understanding of LTV, AOV begins to matter less. Rather than worrying about driving a profit off the initial purchase, you can take a loss up front. Knowing the lifetime value of your clients gives you more freedom and flexibility in the acquisition of clients. This can lead to explosive results, just see what it did for Danette May:
The final important metric that you need to know about your customers ties in with AOV, and that’s repurchase rates. If you know when your clients will come back and repurchase from you, then you can accurately chart how long it will take for you to break even on your ads. Even more importantly, charting this metric over time allows you to see how your post-purchase marketing efforts affect your customers.
Understand your costs
In addition to understanding your customer behavior, you need to understand your operational behavior. We talked a lot about acquisition costs and advertising costs in the previous sections, but another important cost is the cost of goods sold (COGS).
In order to determine an acceptable CPA, you need to know what the costs of your business are.
Every business has their own view on how they calculate this metric. Some choose to include their operational costs in their COGS. Some only roll in the marketing costs, but not the salaries of the team. You need to determine the costs associated with the products that you sell in order to properly decide on acceptable margins.
Once you know the margins that your business needs in order to operate properly, then you can appropriately decide on your allowable CPA.
Tracking these metrics will allow you greater insight into your business and customers. Armed with this data, you can create exponential growth.
In this episode of the Data Rich show, AJ is joined by Kevin Brkal the president and founder of KNB Online Inc.
We talk through attribution models, ad spend, and how to protect your data through data ownership.
Check out our insights and conversation below:
Data- Amazing, but creepy
Kevin’s agency focuses on Facebook ads. The reason that they chose this as their platform is because of the Facebook audience network. Lots of different sites use the Facebook Ads network to sell ad space on their websites.
When it comes to the mobile web, any apps that collect real time data most likely use or sell that data. They can track your location and establish geo-fencing and geo-targeting to hyper target you as a consumer. It often freaks people out when they start to see ads for things that they think shouldn’t have a digital trail, but any number of apps on your phone could theoretically track that information on you.
As people get more and more creeped out by the things about them that are tracked, we see platforms cracking down on the things that can be tracked. The question that we naturally want to answer is how will this affect marketing.
Find a strategy that works for you
Before the internet, marketers still reached their target market. While we may not have access to as much information as before, you can still get mountains of data.
While browsers crack down on the data that marketers can access, no one is looking at location data being shared. Search engines also still sell randomized user data as well, so marketers shouldn’t panic just yet.
The primary victim of the data crackdown
Attribution modeling will get more difficult as browsers cut down on the amount of data that they share. This leaves marketers to rely more heavily on last-click attribution, or just saturate their markets with ads. The business who can afford to spend the most to acquire their customers always wins, but this may become even more important in the future.
Attribution is already a mess, but as browsers continue to limit the amount of data that you can gather on customers, it will only get worse. This change increases the confusion that ecommerce companies will have to deal with. Businesses just need to just gather as much data as possible to make an informed decision.
As we talked about previously, the best way to combat the confusion is to gather as much data as possible.
One of the best way to increase your data is to leverage UTMs. UTMs are free tools that everyone can use to increase the amount of data that you can gather. They allow you to create custom tracking parameters to gain better insights into your customers.
From there, you need to track your data in as many sources as possible. Facebook Pixels, Google Analytics, the back end of your ecommerce store; all of them track data differently. But if you have all of that data tracked, then on the back end a data company can extract the data and figure out the truth for you.
Another thing that you can do is alter the attribution models that you use in your tracking systems. Facebook defaults to a 28-day click window, and a 1-day view-through window. You can alter this window to better match your preferred attribution modeling.
In today’s marketing landscape, there is no limit to the number of touch points that you can have with your customer. The trouble that most businesses run into is deciding how they want to attribute back to the touch points across the journey.
Google Analytics defaults to a last-click attribution model. This means that the thing that drove them to your site the time that they converted gets complete credit for the sale. Facebook has an attribution window, in the which it claims full credit if a sale occurs in that window. The trick that marketers need to use is a blended model.
Adidas recently stopped their branding campaigns in favor of campaigns that seemed to be driving their sales, based off last click attribution models. They quickly discovered that the branding campaigns that they were running warmed their customers enough to click on the direct response campaign and purchase. Based off the data that they looked at, they thought that they made the right choice to cut the branding campaigns.
The most important thing that companies need to do when working with an agency is make sure that you’re owning your data. Whatever agency you work with, you need to make sure that they create the ads under your account and that they track with your pixel. The reason for this is that then you own that data. If you allow them to run the ads under their umbrella or with their pixel, then they own the data. In the event of a dissolution of the partnership, they could sell that data to your competitors.
Regardless of who you work with, it’s extremely important to own your data. Many ecommerce companies have started to move away from Amazon, because Amazon owns all of the data on its platform. As Kevin correctly pointed out, Amazon can take the data that they gather on your customers, and the things that they purchase from you. From there, they can recreate your product under their umbrella and force you out of your own market. It wouldn’t be the first time that they did.
Businesses have finally begun to recognize the value of data, as data has just surpassed oil as the most valuable resource on the planet. Businesses have begun to recognize the value of owning their data from top to bottom.
Take action from your data
Once you own your data, the next important thing to do is take action from it.
In order to know what actions to take, you need to know what your primary objective is. If you’re an ecommerce company, you likely want to increase sales. B2B companies likely want to increase leads. The important metrics that everyone should track are the cost per acquisition (CPA) or cost per lead (CPL). From there you want to calculate your return on ad spend (ROAS). If you’re looking at generating leads, it’s important to know how much it costs for you to turn a lead into a customer, or your conversion rates from leads to customers. Once you know that, you can find the lifetime value of those customers (LTV). If you have your LTV and your conversion rates, then you can reverse engineer your allowable CPL.
Don’t take too quick of action though
With all data, it’s important to find as many sources of validation as you can. In this hyper-connected world, it’s unfortunately easy to have skewed data; as this commercial points out:
Many analytics systems fail to recognize refreshes on thank you pages, which can dramatically skew your data. At Praxis, we have found that the best way to stop this is by creating a first party cookie that loads into the user’s browser the first time that they visit the thank you page. From there, you can update your tags to only fire in the event that the cookie is not present in the browser. Obviously, this still isn’t a perfect solution to the problem, but it can reduce the negative effects of over-attribution.
The most important metrics
Kevin has found ROAS to be the most important KPI in his business. Anyone who runs ads obviously wants to turn a profit on those ads, so it is very important to make sure that you track your ROAS.
Regardless of the metrics that you measure, the most important thing that you can do with data is validate. Track everything through multiple systems, don’t put your trust in any one. At the end of the day, these platforms want you to spend more money with them, so they will skew the data in their favor.
Data can be overwhelming at first, but it is your friend. Data will help your business scale and grow faster than anything else. AJ pointed out that you need a relationship with your data. The more time you spend with your data, the more in sync you can get with it. The better attuned you are to shifts in the data, the faster you can react to sudden changes or opportunities.
If you need help with Facebook advertising, Kevin is a great resource and can be reached at kevinbrkal.com
We’re down to the wire when it comes to Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2019. Because of the way that Thanksgiving fell this year, the holiday sales cycle is compressed and shortened. This compression has already had tremendous impacts on ecommerce businesses this month. Ecommerce companies across the spectrum are struggling to get traffic and conversions out of their standard ad spends.
In this post, we’ll walk through ways that you can leverage data to help you maximize your ROI and ROAS. While we’re focusing on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, these tips and this information is applicable year-round.
How to make sure that you maximize your ROI this Black Friday-
The first step to maximizing your returns is making sure that you have data.
That means getting your tracking in order. Lots of business owners and marketers put tracking off. It’s a common impulse.
Tracking takes time and it feels tedious to set up triggers and events for everything on your site; but no one can make up historical data. If you don’t set up your tracking until you’ve already been in business for 5 years, you will miss out on 5 years of data and insights.
Even waiting to start until after the holidays will cause you to miss out on potential insights into how you can better capture and serve your customers.
We recommend that everyone do a quick audit of their tracking systems to establish where they are now. Some of the things to check in this audit are:
Do your UTMs all track properly across your customer journey?
Are your UTMs organized in a way that makes sense and actually helps you better understand your customers?
Can you see right now where your traffic is coming from, and which traffic converts the best?
If you can’t answer yes to all of those questions, then you won’t be able to get nearly as much out of your Black Friday data.
As we talked about earlier, you can’t analyze what you don’t have. So if you don’t have your tracking set up before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you won’t be able to know what you can do to improve your results next year.
Moving into UTMs, you NEED to make sure to track all of your marketing efforts with UTMs. They can help you track variations on ads, help with split testing, and give you clarity into what marketing efforts actually drive results for your business.
Step two to maximizing your returns is reviewing your data.
If you already have UTMs in place and feel confident in your tracking, then you can take the next few weeks to review your data. Look at what has worked for you in the past: analyze which emails have the best open and click-through rates, check which ads yield the highest ROAS, what buttons drive the highest cart values, etc.
Too often we get caught up in our plans for the future. We get locked in a cycle of what we want to test next, and we forget to look at what we’ve done in the past that worked. Those that fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. If you don’t go back and review your data, you could potentially miss out on huge, easy wins for your business.
As we talked about earlier, Black Friday being pushed back a week has changed the face of the buying season. Many ecommerce companies are in full-blown panic mode right now because their year-over-year revenues are way down from last year.
We suggest that rather than making month-to-month or day-to-day comparisons, look at your data through the lense of days before Black Friday. So, if today was 5 days before Black Friday, you could compare it to 5 days before Black Friday last year. Then you can start to analyze what your marketing efforts looked like on that day last year, what worked, what KPI’s you saw success in, and how those impacted sales on Black Friday.
We recommend focusing on driving traffic to your site, and getting them browsing your products. Then you can leverage retargeting to reach them during your Black Friday sale and focus on driving them to purchase.
What metrics you can use to get a leg up this Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Now, we want to switch gears and talk about what metrics specifically you should analyze and track to make sure that you have the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday possible.
Average Order Value (AOV)-
This one seems basic, and it is, but we see ecommerce companies forget about this frequently during this time of the year.
Most companies focus on their profitability and the discount rates around this time of the year. That should be a top priority, but you also need to make sure that you have your upsell flows, recommended products, and bundles in order to make sure that your AOV doesn’t tank. While you may want to focus on client acquisition, you still need to make sure that these new customers provide value to your business.
This is one of the primary metrics that you should review from last year. Explore what bundles drove higher cart values, what products drove cross-sales, and what upsell flows performed best for your business.
Promo Code effectiveness-
This seems like a no-brainer, and hopefully you already have examined this data. Looking back at what discounts you ran last year and seeing what worked, what failed, and what fizzled will help inform you as to what you should do this year.
In addition to just looking at the surface-level of this metric, we recommend that you deep-dive into when your customers used your different codes, what time of day they purchased, what the AOV was based off discount code, and what was the average discount per code.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are some of the worst possible times to run out of inventory. Obviously you can’t perfectly predict this year based off last year, but by examining your historical data and comparing that with this year’s demand, you can get a better feel for how much you need to order.
Many ecommerce companies neglect to factor staffing into their costs. During this time of increased demand, lots of businesses need to bring on extra help; but they fail to account for this increased cost in their cost of goods sold.
Not accounting for this can easily turn your sale from an asset to a liability. Typically, as you increase sales, you also increase the amount of customer service tickets that you receive. If you don’t have the bandwidth in place for that you may need to bring on additional support, but they may not get fully trained in time. Additionally, the increased wait time to have issues resolved can cost you sales.
If you don’t have a solid plan in place, issues can sneak up and turn your holiday into a nightmare.
Lifetime Value of Customers (LTV)-
One of the biggest dangers that businesses face during this holiday season is acquiring unprofitable customers. Many businesses run loss-leader deals in order to acquire new customers and think that they’ll make up the loss sometime down the line.
Without tracking the lifetime value of those customers over time, you’re stuck guessing about their profitability. We have dealt with clients who offered discounts in order to acquire new customers, believing that they would make it back over time, only to discover later that they had overestimated the value of those customers. They thought that these new customers drove their profitability, but as it turned out, they dragged down profitability.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of your Black Friday and Cyber Monday marketing efforts, you need to understand what these clients purchase initially, what they come back to purchase, and when they come back to purchase. If you understand those three things, you can tailor your marketing efforts to their natural buying tendencies and dramatically increase your effectiveness.
Going through last year’s data and then looking at this year’s plan and making sure that they align is the key to a successful Black Friday.
How to leverage pre-Black Friday sales to your advantage-
We have found that if you can give your clients a juicy enough discount code, you can entice them to spend their money with you even if they know that they’ll likely get a better discount later. Some of the larger retailers have decided to just launch their official Black Friday deals before the official holiday.
You could also promote your pre-Black Friday sale exclusively to your email list. This provides value to those who have signed up for the list, and could entice others to sign up.
We have also tested the tactic of offering a sale before the holiday by pitching it as a way for the customer to make sure that they got their orders on time. If they took advantage of this sale before the holiday rush, they could get a good deal, and also avoid the hassle of holiday shipping issues.
How real-time reporting can increase your ROI this Black Friday-
Tracking and reviewing your data make up the first two pillars of your data temple. The third pillar is automation.
In today’s world, every system tracks one specific thing, and it refuses to share that information with any other platform. Because nothing communicates, it falls to humans to aggregate and gather all of the data together. It can take days or even weeks for people to pull together the data, get it placed in the right location for analysis, and then take action from it.
Praxis Metrics specializes in automating the process of gathering the data from all of the different systems where it lives, cleaning it so that all of the metrics align properly, and then visualizing it in real-time.
This real-time reporting allows you to adjust and tweak your efforts much faster than if you relied on manual reporting. This decreased time to insights allows you to experiment and improve your marketing much faster, allowing you to drive immediate results, rather than having to wait a full year to improve your strategy.
The goal this Black Friday and Cyber Monday-
The goal of this entire process is to help you have the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday possible. If you have set up your tracking properly, you should know where your best customers come from and what efforts drove those customers to your ecommerce site. These insights will allow you to double down on the things that actually drive results, and cut the things that didn’t work for you. You can reallocate your budget from the things that didn’t drive results to the things that do drive results, allowing you to increase your ROI, and bringing in more money that you can then reinvest into the marketing efforts that are actually working.
How can you assess your data maturity to understand next steps?
We always start with an audit of where you stand. In order to understand your next step, you need to understand where you are.
Even if you have set up your tracking previously, we recommend an audit. As your website grows and you make additions and changes to it, you can easily break your tracking, or miss out on tracking valuable insights.
If you fall into stage one, your entire goal is to gather as much information as possible. You can do this through Google Analytics, UTMs, defining your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and above all else, create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). If you can standardize your naming conventions for UTMs, SKUs, etc., you can save yourself hours of cleanup down the line.
If you fall into stage two, your focus is on automation. What compound interest is to your money, automation is to your time. We have had clients cut the number of man-hours required to complete a data project from 10 hours per month to 1. Automation allows you to scale your efficiency and effectiveness across the board.
The focus of stage three is optimization. Everything before this point deals with historical data. Optimization leverages the wisdom and knowledge gained from the previous stages and applies it to your future endeavors. This allows you to predict outcomes from your actions. This stage is where the magic truly happens. Your efforts yield predictable, exponential results, allowing you to rapidly scale your business.
Stage four is the buzzword stage. This stage focuses on leveraging AI, machine learning, etc. These technologies allow you to improve your business at scale through incremental adjustments.
No matter where you fall on the data maturity spectrum, Praxis Metrics is here to help. We offer free data roadmaps and coaching, analytics audits, dashboarding solutions, etc. If you want to learn more about Praxis Metris, visit praxismetrics.com or drop a line here.
Meaghan was recently interviewed on Lena Elkin’s podcast, Unfiltered.
Check out the full episode below along with our insights on the most important points.
How did Meaghan get her start?
Meaghan grew up in a home that was not entrepreneurial at all. No one in her family had ever gone to college, so she was taught that management was the goal. If you could reach management, you had arrived.
She had her first taste of entrepreneurship in college selling encyclopedias door to door. This experience allowed her to become her own boss and manager her own “company”. This opened her eyes to how her own individual contributions affected her income. Through this experience, she learned the value of being 100% responsible for herself and her outcomes.
After that, she became a sales consultant, but still under an organization. During this time, she met AJ. AJ is an entrepreneur through and through. He started creating companies at age 10, so he opened her eyes to the possibilities of entrepreneurship.
One of the biggest transitions that she had to make was to shift her mindset from individual contributor to growing a company.
Luckily, her journey with data started much earlier.
Meaghan was the math nerd from an early age. She jokes that she had more math books than friends. Meaghan loved math and numbers because everything had a correct response. Everything was either right or wrong, and it was clear why.
She had planned to become a math teacher, but upon discovering her gift for sales, she decided to focus on hustling while she could and teach later in life.
The sales bottleneck
In all of Meaghan’s sales experience, she relied on her inputs to create outputs. She either knocked doors to get sales, or she cold-called businesses to get sales. Enter AJ.
AJ worked in marketing, and Meaghan wanted to learn more about what that meant. So she shadowed him working on a client. The client had set up a course that he wanted to sell, so AJ set up a sales funnel and landing pages, and then sent out an email to his list. They had 500,000 on that list, so they sat back and waited to see the responses. Within 8 hours, the campaign had cleared $1.2 million.
Upon seeing this, Meaghan knew that she needed to make the jump from sales to marketing. Because of her background in sales, she helped with copy and closing clients. Upon spending some time in the agency, she began to notice patterns in the data.
In her time working in sales, she would split test approaches and different scripts. Over time, she perfected her sales pitch. Upon making the switch to marketing, she realized that they did the exact same thing, just on a larger scale, and with more automation.
The marketing bottleneck
While running the agency with AJ, they had to report back to their clients on the progress of their campaigns. So they had a marketer who had to run reports for clients all day, every day. He wasn’t able to do anything else because they had to get this data to their clients.
So Meaghan started researching ways to automate their reporting. She found the solution in the world of data analytics and business intelligence. She found that many of these programs could automatically do what they had someone doing by hand. The programs could extract the data from all of the different sources, aggregate it, and even display it in an easy to interpret format.
Once they rolled out these reporting solutions to their clients, they naturally wanted more. They wanted more information on their business and wanted that same powerful reporting for everything. Ultimately, everything that Meaghan worked on led her down the path to Praxis.
AJ and Meaghan pivoted their marketing agency into a data analytics agency, and now help business owners and marketers understand their businesses better through data.
How to take advantage of your data
The first thing that you need to do to truly take advantage of your data is set your ego and emotions aside. As Meaghan talked about earlier, numbers allow you to see in black and white. Rather than focusing on how they make you feel, you can use that information to help you grow forward and progress.
The next thing that you need to do in order to truly take advantage of your data is a process called “ETL”. ETL stands for Extract, Transform, and Load. Essentially, you need to extract raw data from the back ends of your systems, then transform it to make sure that it accurately reflects what you want to measure, and then load it into a business intelligence or visualization tool.
Lots of solopreneurs and early stage entrepreneurs end up needing to learn sales and marketing in order to get their company off the ground. Learning data as well would likely push anyone over the edge.
That’s a big reason why Praxis shifted down-market. We used to work with larger companies, but we found that they needed answers to the same questions that the little guys did. Everyone wanted to know what worked, what didn’t work, where to spend more money, and where to cut spending in order to better optimize.
The best time to start thinking about integrating a BI or dashboarding tool is after you’ve already hit $250,000 in revenue. For businesses pre-$250,000 it’s best to focus on tracking. Too many businesses wait until they get big in order to worry about their data; but you can’t leverage data that you don’t have. Every business needs to set up tracking, and the earlier you set it up, the better.
Most businesses spend all of their time worrying about their copy and their look and feel, but they neglect their tracking. Google Analytics is one of the most underutilized and error-prone tools on the market.
We see lots of big companies that come to us with very little or no data available to them, looking for answers to their business questions, but they don’t have any data. We have to take them back to the beginning and help them set up their tracking, and then we can help them analyze the data as it comes in.
Data is sexy.
Lots of people view data as something that happened in the past, and therefore not something that can help them in their current situation; however, the true power of data is that it can help you see the patterns in the past, and then predict and shape the future.
As we covered earlier, it’s very important to get started as early as possible with this process. So now we want to cover how you can get started:
UTMs are a free tool that every business can and should use for all of their marketing. UTMs allow you to pass information through URLs in order to better track where your traffic comes from. Adding UTMs to your external links allows you to understand how your customers found you and what content they interacted with.
UTMs allow you to see much cleaner, more granular data about the performance of your marketing efforts. This allows you to get better insights, allowing you to decrease waste and double down on what works.
If you want to learn more about UTMs, we have a course that walks through how to build them and gives you tools to help you automate the creation of your UTMs. Here is the link to that course.
In this guest appearance on the Perpetual Traffic podcast, AJ and Meaghan talk about how to use your data to optimize your ad spend, and rapidly scale your business.
They cover everything from getting your tracking in order, all the way up to creating customized dashboards and leveraging complex machine learning and AI.
Enjoy the episode and our insights below.
The struggle today-
Many marketers feel that they aren’t getting the most accurate data inside of the ad platforms. Unfortunately, they are completely correct. Some marketers go so far as to purchase a cheap dashboarding tool in order to help them bring all of their metrics together into one platform in order to help them with this issue. Unfortunately, this will not solve the problem for them at all.
Why do we suddenly have this struggle with data? What drove us to this point?
In our opinion, the problem stems from an overabundance of data. Never in the history of the world has so much data been available to us. Even in the last 20-30 years, large-scale data projects were reserved exclusively for enterprise-level companies. But now, every company has access to “big data”; despite this, many still have the mentality that their business doesn’t have the same access to data, and therefore the same opportunities and responsibilities, as the larger organizations.
Because these smaller businesses fail to leverage the data available to them, they often find themselves utilizing incomplete or dirty data. If they utilized all of the tools and tracking options available to them, they would have a much more complete and accurate picture of what’s happening.
The opportunity today-
Similar to the dot-com boom of the late 90’s, we’re seeing a “data boom” today. Those that have embraced data and created strategic initiatives around data are already separating themselves from their competition. Taking action from data is the new competitive advantage.
Those who capitalize on data have the opportunity to outpace and out-scale their competitors. John Wanamaker said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”. Those who eliminate waste in their budget open themselves to amazing opportunities. By doubling or quadrupling down on the things that work, they can drive exponential growth.
How you can capitalize on this opportunity-
Ask the right questions-
We firmly believe in the Socratic method. Asking questions helps you find deeper truths. The trick is finding the right questions to ask that will propel your business forward.
We found that the best way to find these questions is through a process called “metrics mapping”. The diagram below walks through an example:
Metrics Mapping starts with the big goals of your organization. This could include doubling your revenue year over year, increasing sales of a certain product by 30%, etc. From there, we want to drill down to the questions that you need to answer in order to meet that goal. If you want to double your revenue, then why don’t you? What questions do you need to answer in order to hit your goal?
Once you have the questions that you need to answer, it’s time to figure out what numbers can help you answer that question. In the example above, we need to know how to increase conversions and revenue from the website. In order to figure out how to do that, we need to figure out conversion rates, LTV, CPA, and profitability.
Once we have asked the right questions and gathered the necessary data, we need to:
Get granular with it-
Averages are inherently evil. Averages by definition mash together your highs and your lows and give you one number to work with. In order to properly scale your business, you need to know what creates the highs and what creates the lows. Once you know that, you can scrap the things that bring in the lows and double down on the highs.
Going back to the previous example; once we’ve gathered the numbers, we can strategize our next move. Perhaps we need to update our nurture sequence to increase return purchases. We may have a funnel step that causes dramatic drop-off that we can eliminate.
By getting granular in our analysis, we can discover a myriad of opportunities.
What metrics should every business look at?
Every business suffers from “terminal uniqueness”. While every business has certain things that they specifically need to track, there are a host of metrics that every business should know.
The obvious metrics that fall into this category are ad spend, return on ad spend, etc. In addition to these, businesses should also look at cost of goods sold (COGS), shipping expenses, and overhead. Many businesses forget to factor these costs when they look at what their allowable cost per acquisition can be.
This allows you to look at your return on ad spend through the lens of profitability, rather than just revenue generated.
What is the biggest problem businesses have with reporting?
Over-attribution. We see this issue with almost every client that we work with. Facebook, Google, and every other ad platform utilizes different attribution models. Generally, the platform will leverage an attribution model that favors them, and makes them look the best.
So Facebook utilizes an attribution window, meaning that if someone clicks on your ad, and then returns to your site within 28 days, they will claim that they produced 100% of the revenue from that client. Google defaults to last-touch attribution modeling, meaning that wherever that user came from when they made the purchase receives 100% credit for the revenue of that client. Other platforms count view-through conversions combined with an attribution window, meaning that if they saw your ad and then purchased within a certain time frame, that platform claims credit for that sale.
This scenario can lead to multiple ad platforms claiming that they are responsible for the exact same sale.
How do we combat this issue?
If you’re interested in learning more on this subject, we have a separate blog post on ways that every business can work through the over-attribution problem here.
In addition to those tips, our biggest suggestion for fixing this issue is getting a multi-source business intelligence tool. By extracting data from the back end of each of the ad systems, you can piece together a client’s journey and create your own attribution models. This allows you to see your true customer journey, rather than just a simple metric provided to you by a biased platform.
Unfortunately, even that solution relies heavily on the tracking that you have in place. If your tracking hasn’t been set up properly, then you have to rely on the data reported by these platforms, rather than leveraging and creating your own.
Your output is only as good as your inputs-
It doesn’t matter how much you spend on your powerful tools, they still rely on the data that you give to them. If your tracking isn’t set up properly, it’s impossible for a dashboard to correct that for you.
Powerful insights require great data. And unfortunately, good data requires great tracking.
Good news though, if you can get your tracking nailed down properly, then everything else glides into place. The old adage of “measure twice, cut once” applies to data as much as carpentry.
Going back to the metrics mapping process, we want to help you find the “source of truth” for every metric that you measure.
The “source of truth”-
Every metric should have a place where the definitive answer lives. If you want to know how much revenue you’ve brought in over the last month, you can check your bank account, or Stripe, or Paypal. If you want to know how long visitors from Instagram stay on your website, Google Analytics could help you find that answer.
Each data platform specializes in different data points, and we want to get the best data from the best sources.
Where to begin?
We recommend that every business start with the projects that will move the needle for the business. This generally means starting with sales and marketing initiatives, as they generate revenue for the rest of the business.
We have been shocked at how many issues businesses solve by getting their data set up properly for sales and marketing. Also, by leading with these departments, we can generally start to uncover holes in other parts of the business. If we see a spike in cancellations that coincides with customer survey emails, we know that we clearly have something to fix there.
It’s important to remember with every data initiative that it’s a journey. As much as we wish that we could fix every data problem overnight, it takes time to solve these issues and answer these questions. From there, we need to take action from the insights that we gained, and then we can see the results.
Leverage your uniqueness into growth-
As we stated earlier, every business suffers from terminal uniqueness. While this can complicate projects, that is also the place where you can see the greatest results.
By leveraging your uniqueness in the things that you track, you can get extremely granular, and explode your business in ways that others can’t.
One of our clients, Fancy Sprinkles, found amazing insights by tracking what no one else bothered to track.
Fancy Sprinkles, which does exactly what their name sounds like, gets most of their leads from Instagram. They decided to go back through every post that they had ever done and manually put into a spreadsheet the variables of the post. They tracked whether the product was shot indoors or outdoors, close or at a distance, color palettes, everything.
When they overlaid this data with their social media engagement rates over time, they found amazing insights. During October, they assumed that they should post something orange and black to capitalize on the holiday. But after consulting their data, they quickly realized that those colors got the worst engagement in October. The data told them that they should use purple and green, outdoors, and close-up. Their engagement skyrocketed because of these insights.
Tracking may require an up-front investment. Fancy Sprinkles needed interns to work for hours to catalog all of that data, but once they had the historical data, it became much easier to simply input those data points on every post that they made.
When should people seek help with their data?
As soon as it gets annoying or frustrating.
This may seem simplistic, but it doesn’t make sense for you to abandon your superpowers only to beat your head against a wall.
Your company hired you because of your skillset, and if data doesn’t fall into that skillset, it’s better to outsource that than to take away time and energy from the things that you do best.
What should businesses have in place before consulting with Praxis?
We built Praxis to meet companies wherever they are on the data maturity spectrum.
If you already have your tracking in order and want to move on to scaling your business and gleaning better insights, then we offer pre-built dashboards that can help you start leveraging your data into growth.
In this guest appearance on Mike Dillard’s Self Made Man podcast, AJ and Meaghan talk about how to rapidly scale your business using data and dashboards.
They cover everything from the data maturity spectrum to metrics mapping, tracking, UTMs, and how to combine these things for rapid growth in your business.
Check out the full episode below along with our summary of key takeaways.
How did Praxis get started?
Prior to starting Praxis, AJ and Meaghan created a data-driven digital marketing agency. They quickly found though that reporting on their marketing efforts was taking more time that actually implementing their strategies. Because of this, they began researching automated solutions to the reporting problem. Once they finally created a solution, they found that more people needed that solution than needed marketing help.
They decided to pivot and become an outsourced data agency, and Praxis Metrics was born.
Initially they courted enterprise-level clients because those clients were they only ones seeking out “big data” at the time. However, as time passed, they realized that they gained more satisfaction from helping SMBs achieve their potential through data. So they began to provide the same powerful insights and dashboards that they had built for the enterprise clients to smaller businesses.
What are the biggest takeaways from working with such a diverse group of clients?
SMB business owners need the same questions answered as the enterprise companies. While they may look at them through different lenses and different granularity, the questions remain the same.
The number one question that every client asks is, “how much can I spend to acquire my customers?”. Generally, the next questions asked are: “how much are those customers worth over time?” and “where and what do they purchase from me?”.
These questions all stem from the same desire: understanding your core customers, and how to best serve them.
It all boils down to what is and isn’t working in your business right now.
What are some of the biggest differences in SMBs and enterprise companies?
Enterprise companies recognize how much data they have, and the value of that data. SMBs often downplay the amount and value of the data that they already have.
Most SMBs don’t realize that even just having timestamps of when your customers purchase provides valuable insights to the business. This lets you know the times when your purchasers will be most receptive to your messages and most likely to purchase your products.
What difficulties do businesses face with their data?
Trusting your data is the key to gaining good insights. If you don’t trust your data, then the prettiest dashboard in the world will not help you.
You need to have the confidence to take action from your data; otherwise it’s like having gasoline but no car. You won’t get anywhere with that.
We’ve seen a multitude of dashboard companies that sell businesses on the visuals of their dashboards alone, but without fixing the underlying data issues, they end up providing very little value to their customers.
Many SMBs say that they simply don’t have the time to get their data in order; but we preach the opposite. The best time to set up your tracking and make sure that you gather clean, accurate data is before you have too much of it. As your organization scales and grows, the amount of clean-up required in order to get your data in order scales as well. If you make a concerted effort in the beginning to get clean, accurate data that you can trust, your business will scale faster. And when the time comes to transition into dashboards and advanced analytics, your data will be ready and actionable, saving you valuable time and money.
Every business has the time to sit down and set up standard operating procedures (SOPs) for their business. Setting down SOPs is especially important when it comes to UTMs. If you can lay down the groundwork early on for standardized tracking, you can gain amazing insights on how to communicate effectively with your clients.
UTMs will tell you what types of content your customers like to engage with, it will tell you the specific mediums that they like to engage with your business on, and it will help you eliminate the issue of over-attribution in your tracking. If you want to learn more about over-attribution, and how that affects businesses, visit Praxis Metrics – How to win the attribution war to read more.
How do we lay the foundation for the future?
Even if you don’t have the time to analyze the data yet, it’s imperative that you begin tracking your customers and their behavior. You can’t retroactively gather data from your customers. When it gets to the point that you want to begin retargeting campaigns, or analyzing your customer behaviors, if you didn’t set up your tracking you won’t have any information to go off.
When they begin advertising, many businesses start with a shotgun approach. They distribute their spend equally across the most popular platforms without knowing which one will drive the best results for their business. If you track your customer behaviors over time, they will show you where they like to engage with you. You can know whether you get the highest traffic from Facebook or Instagram or Linkedin.
What are some of the data success stories that Praxis has seen?
Danette May wanted to see the true lifetime value of their customers to see if they could scale a funnel. They knew that the funnel converted well with retargeting, but they had a hard time getting the same response from cold traffic. They had an idea of the LTV of their customers, but they wanted to verify.
We found that their customers actually had a much higher LTV than they thought. This allowed them to increase their allowable cost per acquisition (CPA) by $5. This change caused them to take an initial loss on the first product sold, but they also knew that within 30 days, these clients would return and spend much more on other products.
This change drove them from 15 sales per day on this product to more than 350 sales per day in less than two weeks. Within a month, they were selling more than 600 units per day.
If you’d like to learn more about Danette May’s journey and how this information helped them transform their business, we have an entire case study on them here.
We built a social media dashboard for Fancy Sprinkles that allowed them to drill down to see what kinds of posts received the most engagements over time. By tagging all of their posts with series of metadata: I.E. indoor vs outdoor shot, colors used, theme, etc.
Because of this metadata, they found that during Halloween the top performing posts contained purple or green, were shot outdoors, and had close-ups of the products. Naturally, this ran completely counter to everyone’s instincts, but it allowed them to provide their audience with content that they actually wanted to engage with. Because they had this data, they outpaced their competitors in engagement and attention.
What are some of the data failure stories that Praxis has seen?
We’ve had clients who utilized free shipping discounts in order to better compete with Amazon. These clients assumed that this would inspire higher customer loyalty, and create repeat customers. Unfortunately, when we cleaned and examined their data, we found that this wasn’t the case at all.
This assumption was costing them dearly over time, preventing them from properly scaling, and could have driven them out of business if it had gone on for too long.
The key to success is listening to your data.
The most viewed person on Facebook was a magician who simply did magic tricks in front of his webcam in a coffee shop. He managed to scale his brand and following by tracking the videos that performed best and then replicating the factors in those posts over time.
Data doesn’t have to include machine learning, or advanced AI algorithms. A simple excel sheet that analyzes data points can drive more success than multi-million dollar solutions.
If you don’t analyze your data to see what works and what doesn’t; your competitors will analyze that data, and eventually overtake you because of your failure to capitalize. Data has the power to topple huge organizations like Barnes and Nobles or Blockbuster, and the pace of change is only accelerating.
Who does Praxis work with, and how can they prepare?
We have historically worked with enterprise companies; so we can work with larger organizations, but our passion is working with SMBs and helping them rapidly scale their businesses.
We have brought the “big data” insights to the SMB market by finding the common threads between every implementation that we have done for these enterprise companies. By finding the common questions that everyone has, we have built out plug-and-play dashboards that can help answer those questions. Because these dashboards require very little ramp-up or custom coding, we can offer them for a much lower price than normal, and roll them out much faster.
These dashboards answer some of the fundamental business questions that every business needs to know: what is the LTV of my customers, how are my subscription services trending over time, what products drive the most revenue and value, etc. We extract this data from multiple sources, ensuring that you get the most accurate and valuable data.
Our pricing ranges from $500-$1500 per month for platform costs, and then we just charge hourly for any work to build out the dashboards and connect to data sources.
We meet our clients wherever they are on the data maturity spectrum. A lot of our clients come to us and they need help getting their tracking in order before they move onto dashboards. We offer services to help with that. No matter what your data needs are, we can help you get from where you currently are to where you want to be.
Everyone talks about it, but nobody really knows how to do it. Everyone thinks that everybody else is doing it though, so they pretend that they are doing it too.
– Dan Ariely
Now that we have your attention, we can get into the meat of the content. This lecture was initially presented to a group of financial marketers, but it’s applicable to businesses in any sector.
Why do I need to know the lifetime value of my customers?
Lifetime Value (LTV) may be one of the most important metrics that a business can measure. Everything from cash-flow to ad spend relies almost exclusively on this number. If you know the lifetime value of your customers by source, and you know the amount of margin that you need to make off that customer, then finding the maximum acceptable Cost per Acquisition (CPA) is a simple equation. Likewise, with cash-flow calculations. If you know when customers who purchase item A will likely return to purchase item B, then you can forecast your revenues pretty accurately.
Our client Danette May has the perfect example of these pieces coming together. They had a funnel that wasn’t converting to the level that they needed it to, and they were about to cut it. They came to Praxis Metrics to find out what their average LTV was for customers who came through the funnel. We supplied them with that data, and armed with that new information, they found that they could afford to spend more on acquiring those customers than they previously thought.
By increasing their acceptable CPA by just $5, they increased from 15 sales per day to 350 sales per day within two weeks. The trend continued upward to hit 615 units per day off this single funnel. With an average value per order of roughly $97, they now make more than $30,000 per day in sales. Across the year this funnel alone accounts for more than $10,000,000. If you would like to hear more about their story, you can see more of what they have to say here: https://praxismetrics.com/success-stories/danette-may/
How can you get a leg up in your business?
There is more noise and competition for clients than ever before. Anyone with a laptop and an internet connection can now start a business and possibly disrupt entire industries. How do you compete in a landscape like this? Information.
Information is at the heart of most of the problems faced by businesses today. Either you wander around blindly because you have too little information; or you have too much information stored in information silos. These silos may contain valuable insights, but since they don’t communicate with the other systems, you have to rely on humans to extract the valuable information and make it usable.
Taking action from data is the new competitive advantage.
The only difference between a successful online marketer and a failure is that the successful marketer knows why they were successful and can replicate that success.
Data does not solve problems.
Data is never the solution to a problem, data merely guides you to information. Information leads to knowledge. Knowledge transforms into wisdom, and wisdom when applied to your actions, creates Praxis.
The major dividing line in this system is the transition from knowledge to wisdom. Everything that comes before wisdom is based off past observations, and makes no statements on the future. Wisdom allows you to make predictions about things to come. Praxis requires taking those predictions and then doing something about it to better your life.
Not taking action from data is like owning a race car, but then never putting fuel into it.
Data contains the what. Information tells you the when or the where. Knowledge teaches you how. Wisdom guides you to why. Praxis is the actions that you take based off the data, information, knowledge, and wisdom that you gain.
Where do I begin?
Your outputs are only as good as your inputs.
Therefore, you need to begin by tracking your data. This forms the base of everything that you build later, so you need to make sure that your tracking is in order.
Meaghan and AJ provide a personal example of taking data all the way through Praxis beginning at 19:10 if you are interested in hearing more about that.
The initial phase of your journey is all about getting clean, accurate data. The number one mistake that small to medium businesses make is that they are not using UTM’s in all of their marketing efforts, and they don’t have their Google Analytics set up properly.
What the devil is a UTM, and why does it matter?
You can track your marketing campaigns uniformly across most analytics tools utilizing UTM parameters. UTMs work with Google Analytics and many other tracking tools.
UTM is an abbreviation for “Urchin Tracking Module”. “Urchin” came from one of the very best website analytics tools that used on-page scripts to collect visitor data.
Like a lot of great web software, Google eventually acquired Urchin.
A UTM has five variants of URL parameters used by marketers to track the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns across traffic sources and publishing media. UTMs contain an encoded suffix that you append to a URL (A URL being a website link). The suffix is generally quite long and is made up of various ‘parameters.’
Each parameter provides specific information about the link in question. And by stringing parameters together, you can track your online marketing campaigns with a tremendous amount of detail and granularity.
UTM’s are one of the most powerful tools that you have in your analytics arsenal, but they can also be very daunting to get started with. We have written several blog posts on the subject matter, which can help you understand them much better. You can read more of those here:
and we even set up a course that will teach you from start to finish how to create UTM’s and even has a spreadsheet that will automatically create them for you here: https://datarich.thinkific.com/
After UTM’s, what’s next?
Once you have control of your UTM parameters, you need to start a process called Metrics Mapping. Metrics Mapping allows you to gain clarity on what metrics you should track, and what those metrics do for your business.
Metrics Mapping starts with your business goals. You need to know where you want to go before you can create a map to get there.
From there, you need to figure out what questions you have to answer in order to accomplish that goal. You could ask questions like, “Where do my sales come from?”, or “How many sales have I averaged over the last 30 days?”.
Once you have the questions that you need to answer, you need to find the metrics that answer those questions for you. You need to hunt down where the most accurate information on the topic lives, and then work to connect all of the most accurate data sources together.
Once we have pulled all of the data together, you have to validate the data to make sure that it is accurate.
After you have all of your accurate data in one place, you can apply formulas and filters to make sure that it’s showing you just what you’re looking for, and then it’s time to plug that data into a data-visualization tool.
OK, I am done with tracking, everything looks good. What now?
Congratulations on making it through the tracking stage! You’re now ready to move into the fun stage: automation.
What compound interest is to your money, automation is to your time.
Automation takes your business to the next level, it allows you to scale your business in ways that most people don’t even imagine. By removing manual reporting and human errors, you not only save your company money, but time. Automation allows you to free up some of the smartest people in your organization to do what they do best rather than fetching data and compiling reports.
The automation stage allows your team to no longer have to look at raw data, but now they can look at actionable KPI’s that they can easily glean insights from. The automation stage rapidly progresses people out of the information and knowledge stages and allows you to begin to focus on the wisdom and Praxis stages exclusively. That is one of the primary reasons that companies who get to this point are able to rapidly scale and expand their business.
Businesses that reach automation can focus on what they do best and let machines do the rest.
That covers the first two steps of data maturity.
The action steps that you need to take in order to get past these stages are:
If you are doing business online and want to know how to accurately track return on investment from your online marketing efforts, then you are in the right place!
Whether you are a seasoned pro or just getting started this training is for you. I am going to show you how to overcome the #1 Mistake 90% of Companies Make When Tracking Revenue and the best part is you can get started right away!
I am AJ Yager, Chief Growth Officer and Co-founder of PraxisMetrics, a business intelligence agency that helps you escape spreadsheet hell, eliminate wasted resources, and get you accurate data you can trust to make better decisions! From tracking to dashboards, we help you scale faster.
We have worked with companies from e-commerce to retail, digital publishing, SAAS, manufacturers, VC Firms, mega churches and investment firms.
I am really excited to share this content with you today but first I want to kick this off with a quote you may or may not have heard before:
This is a very famous saying in business by the one and only Peter Drucker.
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure!” – this is very important to understand, especially when marketing online.
Tracking or “measuring” is the foundation of everything in your business and will allow you to make better accurate decisions. My intention here is to help make sure that you understand this and avoid becoming part of the 90% of companies that keep making this mistake. I want you to grow exponentially from your data and tracking efforts.
So remember, Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.
Ok, let’s dig in.
What you’ll learn-
By the time this video is done, you’ll understand:
The biggest mistakes when it comes to tracking
Removing the guesswork from ROI (Return on Investment)
Exactly what UTM’s are and how they can take your marketing data to the next level
Where (and how) to get Started
Why proper data tracking is critical to your business (and what valuable insights that data can provide)
How to build a UTM link and the most effective way to utilize them
The biggest mistakes when it comes to tracking-
One of the biggest mistakes we see too often is assuming that everything is tracking properly.
What I mean is that most companies and you may be included in this, think that everything is tracking correctly in all of the different tech systems that run their business; this is NOT TRUE.
Here is why: Simply put, many technologies have software limitations. Out of the box software set-up isn’t complete or isn’t robust enough. and many times there is such a learning curve that the person in charge of it didn’t finish setting up to track everything properly.
SOPs not established or practiced by all team members and you may be missing platforms in your tech stack.
Finally, you may be lacking cross platform UIDs , which are Unique Identifiers that help connect pieces of information in one system to another.
The point is, you simply can’t afford to invest in these technologies, if you don’t take the time to make sure they are set up to track the right data/information for your business.
The #1 most under-utilized and error prone tool we see is Google Analytics; it is very powerful when set up correctly and best of all a FREE tool that should be in your arsenal.
When it comes to Google analytics, most marketing teams don’t set it up correctly to begin with because it takes a google professional or lots of time to research; or they do get it set up but then forget about it; or worst of all, they don’t validate or test to make sure everything is tracking correctly.
They may try to use Google Analytics as a dashboard to visualize their data. There are some cool reports in GA, but it really isn’t an easy way to digest information.
Last but not least, most people simply think GA is too complicated so they don’t even try… which is totally understandable.
Now this video training isn’t focused on teaching you how to set these tools up, there are plenty of free resources out on the web for that or you can contact our team at praxismetrics.com and they can help you out.
Removing the guesswork from ROI (Return on Investment)-
Ok so now that we have covered that mistake and had a quick overview of Google Analytics, let’s talk about ROI…
The best way to start off is to reminisce back to 2005 when Google Adwords was launched. it completely changed marketing and advertising as we know it.
Google Adwords had conversion tracking which removed the guesswork from ROI. It allowed marketers and business owners to pay for online advertisements, know the exact cost of each ad click, AND know whether or not a particular ad click resulted in a sale.
It was game changing … From that moment forward began the demise of most traditional forms of advertising. And it wasn’t that online ads with conversion tracking were better marketing, it was just the simple fact that you could calculate your exact ROI that mattered.
But if you could track your ROI accurately with AdWords, why not other online marketing activities?
Social media posts?
These are all digital forms of marketing you SHOULD be tracking.
The reality is most marketers either don’t know how to do it or are too lazy to set up the systems required to do the tracking correctly. Fortunately, there’s just one tactic you need to know about to track most of your online marketing activities and own your niche.
We’ll also look at how you can apply this approach to a variety of marketing channels and how you can use various analytics tools to drive insights from your data.
As I mentioned earlier, after watching this video you’ll know how to calculate the ROI of an online marketing campaign with precision, so that you can double down on your wins and quickly cut your losses.
Now let’s talk about Why Modern Marketing Makes ROI Calculations Difficult. You’d think it’d be easy to track the ROI of an online marketing campaign, there’s a digital “paper trail” for every click, tap, and dollar earned…right? You would think that Advertisers and online marketers already have this stuff figured by now, right?
It turns out, that’s not exactly the case. And when you dig deeper, you quickly learn that calculating ROI isn’t as easy as it seems; which is a shame, because ROI used to be really easy to calculate.
But Let’s take a minute to make sure we understand the basic ROI calculation: If I spend $100,000 and I make $300,000, I can calculate easily, that I’ve made a 200% return.
Money out minus money in. That’s your typical ROI calculation. But ROI equations just aren’t that simple anymore. Especially when you consider all the marketing channels offered these days.
You’re not just going to do one form of online marketing, like just content marketing. You’re probably already doing SEO, video marketing, and affiliate marketing. You may even throw in some Facebook advertising as well. You’ll likely even give influencer marketing a try. And you should!
With modern online marketing, we have to be able to prove a return on investment for each one of those individual channels, you can’t just bundle everything into one neat figure.
If you’re spending $100 across 3 different marketing channels and you’re generating $200 – it doesn’t mean all marketing channels are ROI positive.
It could just be that one of them is dramatically over delivering, while the rest are losing you money. But if you’re not tracking marketing channels individually, you won’t be able to work out whether this is the case or not. You won’t know which steps you need to take to improve your marketing ROI.
This brings us to the #1 Mistake 90% of Companies Make When Tracking Revenue : Not using UTMs for all online marketing efforts.
Exactly what UTM’s are and how they can take your marketing data to the next level-
With all that being said, now we’re going to focus on a specific tracking model that’ll work with any number of marketing channels and analytics tools: Content marketing, social media, Instagram campaigns, emails, newsletters, drip campaigns, etc. whatever it is.
No matter what channel you’re focusing on and what analytics tool you’re using, this tactic will help you work out how people are reaching your website.
This approach works with every single analytics tool, which means that all of your analytics tools will be able to use this approach to collect data. Just remember, we MUST be able to prove an ROI from all of our channels.
UTMs – The Tracking Tweak That’ll Work for Anything and Everything-
UTM parameters (or UTMs for short) are the only way that you can track your marketing campaigns uniformly across most analytics tools. UTMs work with Google Analytics and many other tracking tools.
UTM is an abbreviation for “Urchin Tracking Module”. And “Urchin” happened to be one of the very best website analytics tools that used on-page scripts to collect visitor data.
Like a lot of great web software, Urchin was eventually acquired by Google.
A UTM is made up of five variants of URL parameters used by marketers to track the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns across traffic sources and publishing media. It is simply an encoded suffix that you append to a URL (A URL being a website link). The suffix can be quite long and is made up of various ‘parameters.’
Each parameter provides specific information about the link in question. And by stringing parameters together, you can track your online marketing campaigns with a tremendous amount of detail and granularity.
This might not seem like a big deal, but it’s one of the most powerful ways to track your marketing, your sales, or any activity you’re doing online.
For a real life example, I have an email campaign from an affiliate of ours named Justin Goff. All the links within that email used specific UTM parameters so that we could measure the effectiveness of that email campaign once the traffic from that email hits the website.
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how UTMs work by examining our example URL that has a UTM appended to it.
Initially, this URL might look really complicated, but once you understand the various parts, you’ll find it’s not too difficult to understand. All in all, this example URL tells us 6 different things:
The campaign source
The campaign medium
The campaign name
The campaign content
The campaign term
Let’s drill down into more detail:
URL – The website that’s running the campaign
Campaign Source – Where the clicks come from (ex: search engine, specific website, newsletter #202, etc.)
Campaign Medium – How the link was presented to them (in a search engine result, pay-per-click ad, email, etc.)
Campaign Name – The marketing campaign the link belongs to (traditionally, marketing is done in a succession of campaigns, “Black Friday 2018” would be a campaign)
Campaign Content – The specific part of a marketing campaign got them to take action (Optional. Good for testing different ad copy or A/B testing two different emails.)
Campaign Term – The keyword used in a pay-per-click advertisement that generated the click and subsequent visit or what specific words were clicked on in an email (also optional)
This breakdown could possibly make your eyes glaze over the first time around. So stick with me.
This example URL tells us 5 different things.
The campaign source: JustinGoff
The campaign medium: email+send+LTVdashboard
The campaign name: JustinGoff
The campaign content: JustinGoffEmail
The campaign term: N/A
And honestly, there are many ways to design a system of parameters that work for your organization. The trick is sitting down and designing it – and sticking to that design from here on out. We’ll get into more on that later.
The Website URL-
The Website URL is simply the site we’re tracking.
A word of caution: The above URL is an ‘HTTPS’ URL. Before you start creating UTMs, determine whether or not your website is secure. If it’s secure, then all your URLs will be “HTTPS” by default. If they are not, then your website is not secure (HTTP). Whether your website should be secure or not is a whole other discussion for a different video.
The important thing is whether or not your website redirects from HTTP to HTTPS. If it does, that’s a good thing, but you’re going to want to make sure that you build all your URLs and respective UTMs as secure links. Otherwise, when the redirect happens, the URL might be stripped of the UTMs and this can have a negative impact on your ability to track data.
The Source Parameter-
This parameter is identifying the traffic source sending clicks your way. In the case of the example URL shown, the source is JustinGoff. The parameter happens to be designed for an affiliate of ours, but the source website is the same whether it’s organic traffic, affiliate or paid traffic.
In the particular case of Google AdWords, we sometimes recommend making the source “AdWords” because it will make it easier for you to analyze your analytics reporting later on. If you’re just going to stick to using AdWords as your only online marketing channel, then setting your source to “Google” is fine.
If I posted this link to Facebook, the URL would have Facebook (facebook.com) as the source.
Here’s an example of the different ‘source’ parameters you can use.
The Medium Parameter-
This, in essence, is how the person got to the website in question. Or in what medium the link was presented to them.
Let’s say you’re spending money on cost-per-click ads (CPC for short). The CPC ad then becomes the medium. In our example here it is email.
Here are some more examples of mediums:
The Campaign Parameter-
Campaign name generally refers to your overall marketing focus that day, week, month, season, etc. This nomenclature is derived from the fact that traditional marketing is thought of in terms of campaigns. – something that the world should know about or even an idea your marketing team would like to test.
Let’s say you’re having a summer sale. Every link you create related to that campaign should have the campaign name “summer-sale-2019.” If you have a new product release, the campaign name could be something like ‘vitamin-drink-special-2019.’
A slight word of caution: There are two routes to go down when naming your campaigns. For seasonal campaigns, you might want to be somewhat specific and use a date based format like “summer-sale-2019”.
However, for a webinar series, you might want to keep it simple like “praxis-webinar-series” and not use a date based convention.
The reason why is because when you go back to review your data in your analytics tools, it can be helpful to see ongoing campaigns in one reporting batch instead of having them spliced up into smaller campaigns.
Going back to the Summer Sale example, you could be posting the summer sale on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and even on LinkedIn. You might send out emails promoting this sale. You may even publish different pieces of blog content for it as well.
Any method you use to promote this sale online, it will all be grouped under the same campaign.
Having strict campaign names is important because it allows you to segment your data in Google Analytics via campaign names (and in other analytics tools). You can then easily assess the success of a specific campaign and gather insights for future campaigns. Most importantly, you can begin to understand the ROI of your marketing campaigns!
The Content Parameter-
This parameter identifies the specific content or written copy used in a campaign that led to someone clicking on your link and engaging with your brand.
The obvious benefit here is that it allows you to identify which copy is performing best for an individual campaign. Any conversion rate expert will tell you that testing copy alone can have the biggest performance insights when it comes to improving future marketing campaigns.
Additionally, the content parameter is helpful if you’re running a webpage A/B test. If you’re sending out multiple emails for a specific campaign, the content parameter can help you figure out which email converted better.
Suppose you send out two different emails, for the same campaign, each of which has a unique subject line. We could use the parameter ‘utm_content=a’ for all links within one email and the parameter ‘utm_content=b’ for all the links in the other email. In doing so, we can see which one of those subject lines drove the most conversions for a particular campaign. In my case here we just used JustinGoffEmail which was repetitive but it our own system.
Here are some examples of ‘content’ parameters.
Email subject lines
control or variation
It’s worth mentioning that this parameter isn’t mandatory, but in certain circumstances, it’s definitely worth using. The above example, representing such a circumstance.
The Term Parameter-
The term parameter, again, isn’t mandatory. But it can be helpful in a number of circumstances – notably PPC (pay-per-click / cost-per-click) campaigns. This parameter can help you understand the word somebody queried which in turned served your online ad to them. In most cases, it relates to the keyword used for a specific advertising campaign.
This is helpful if you’re running a advertising campaign. When people click an ad and come back to your website, you can actually see which keywords are driving the most conversions. This scenario is probably the purest and most ideal tracking process when it comes calculating accurate online marketing ROI there is – so use them!
As mentioned, using utm_term isn’t mandatory. But by having it there, you can make use of even more segmentation and be even more specific with the marketing campaigns you’re running.
For example, you may have several links within an email that you’re promoting. By identifying each link within the email with its own unique utm_term parameter, you can know which link received the most click-throughs. You’d simply make the utm_term parameter the specific link text you’re tracking.
In our situation we didn’t use the TERM parameter so I left it blank.
Important Note regarding Revenue vs. Vanity Metrics-
There are a lot of marketers in charge of email marketing campaigns that’ll say — “hey, I got a 34 percent open rate. I got a 52 percent click-through rate. This email did amazing!!”
If one of my team members in the marketing department said that in my business – I’d look at them and be extremely concerned.
Yes, I do want to know how many people opened the email and I do want to know how many people clicked on the email… but let’s be real, we are in business to make money and deliver great value to our customers, so we MOSTLY care about how many people purchased. How effective was this campaign!?
If I can’t connect email clicks back to actual purchases, that’s a problem. If I can’t connect email clicks back to monthly recurring revenue, I’m even more concerned.
If you take one thing from this video, let it be this: Make sure you’re using UTMs to measure important business metrics so you can know the actual return on investment from your online marketing activities. Don’t get caught up in vanity metrics.
How to build a UTM link and the most effective way to utilize them-
At a quick glance, UTMs look really complicated; so complicated in fact, that you might be worried about how you’re going to go about creating them. Fortunately, they’re not that hard to create.
For starters, Google has their own built in tool you can use. There are also some other tools we suggest which you can go check out at praxismetrics.com/tracking-tools
Back to the Google URL builder…. This tool is really easy to use and all you have to do is put your chosen parameters in the relevant fields. Notice all the elements that we talked about are all here ready for you to fill out.
Links that use UTM codes can look pretty messy. UTM links also reveal a lot of information about your marketing, this can mean competitors have access to vital campaign data. Some customers can also be wary of links that are long and complicated. Because of this, it’s a good idea to hide the UTM parameters.
We can do this using a link shortener like Bit.ly. And goo.gl
This is a really simple tool you can use to shorten your URLs. Bit.ly also provides click tracking, which provides further data on your campaigns. Here’s a simple example of how Bit.ly works:
Once you put a link through Bit.ly, you’ll notice that the links a lot shorter and neater. This is all possible without harming the UTM parameters and your ability to track UTM data within analytics tools.
One of the most often asked questions is… How do you make sure to stay organized so everyone uses the same UTM tagging system?
This is a common problem. Especially if you’re on a team of several people and everyone is working on a specific campaign.
Let’s look at a classic example of where this becomes a problem: Valentines campaigns. Valentines campaigns are wonderful at driving marketing managers insane. It’s an annual marketing campaign and of course you’re going to want to use UTMs to track your ROI and performance.
Then the inevitable happens: One team member spells the full word “valentines” out for the campaign parameter. Another team member spells it “Valentines”. Another team member spells it “vday”. So you’d have:
utm_campaign=valentines utm_campaign=Valentines utm_campaign=vday All of these would appear as separate UTMs. Meaning the campaign data would be segmented into three different campaigns by your analytics tools. Don’t let this happen.
How do you prevent this?-
What we recommend is to build out an organized spreadsheet that your team uses and follows carefully!
Remember, your output is only as good as your input! – this is where your tracking SOPs really matters!
The end result is reporting or seeing your data in dashboards: Your dashboards and reporting will NOT BE ACCURATE Your dashboards and reporting will NOT BE CLEAR
When you shouldn’t use UTMs-
There’s one specific case where you should never, EVER use UTMs: when creating internal links on your website.
Most website analytic tools like Google Analytics are designed to help you understand what’s happening on your website by default. There is no need for you to code up unique UTMs to help you understand what’s going on.
If you start using UTMs to link to various parts of your website, you can artificially multiply session counts and trigger all kinds of negative elements that will corrupt your analytics reporting.
Alright well we have covered a lot of ground so far, now it’s time to wrap up and give you actions to go and do!
UTMs are the only way you can know the true ROI of your online marketing activities. If you’re doing business online, you have no choice but to use them.
And you should be really grateful that UTMs exist! It’s a blessing to be able to finally get this critical information. It doesn’t cost anything really, it’s just a matter of taking the time to create a UTM system that works for you. It can be challenging to design a perfect UTM system that will work for your organization right out of the box. It’s an iterative process.
You may make some mistakes along the way in order to figure out a system that works well for you. It may take hours looking over your analytics reports and dashboards for you to finally see what conventions make sense for your monthly reporting.
There’s no way around this reality other than getting your hands dirty. So go do it!
We recommend getting a whiteboard and begin mapping out your UTM system with your team. Determine your sources, mediums, how you want to use the content and term parameters.
Ask yourself, how do you want to incorporate UTMs for running A/B tests? Do you want to use utm_term for specific text within emails?
This will help collaboration will help you chisel out a great ROI tracking system that you can use for years to come.
Get started now and use a UTM link with your next post or in your next email and test it out!
UTMs Can Take Your Marketing to the Next Level-
All channels and all analytics tools work with UTMs.
When you start doing this you’ll have better data on your marketing campaigns. You can then use this data to track the return on investment for any of your marketing campaigns.
Without UTMs, it’s going to be a lot harder to make definitive claims about your marketing campaigns, I know that for a fact.
Sure, you’ll make some mistakes at first, but once you get the hang of things, you’ll wonder what the heck you were doing before using UTMs.
If you’re interested in learning more about UTM’s and how to build them, we have a wonderful course (https://datarich.thinkific.com/) that will teach you exactly how to create and utilize UTM’s in your marketing efforts.
Again my name is AJ Yager at PraxisMetrics.com and thank you for investing your time here with me today. Please connect with me on Linkedin and Facebook for more resources to help you scale. We love to help companies like yours grow and achieve their goals faster, so please reach out to me at my email as well if you have any specific questions.
Want to know the #1 reason most companies can’t attribute where revenue is coming from accurately?
Spoiler alert: It’s all about UTM’s.
Are you using UTM’s for all your marketing efforts? Have no idea what a UTM is?
No matter where you are in your tracking journey, this video can help you learn how to improve your tracking skills. We have also included a transcript of some of the best insights from our conversation below:
How can I make sure that I am being data driven in my business?
You need to take emotion out of your decision making process if you really want to become a data-driven company. Often the climate of the business has a huge impact on our lives, so it’s often difficult to separate your emotions from the decisions that you make, especially during the hard times. When the times are the toughest are generally when you need to be the most data-driven, and those are the hardest times to take emotion out of the equation; but if you do, it will help you to trust your decision-making process much more.
Your data will always tell you a story; it just sometimes tells a story that you don’t want to hear. Often we find that people stop listening to their data when it gets hard, or right when the details are becoming the most important; but those are the times when you need to listen to the story that it’s telling you even more.
What are lead indicators vs lag indicators?
What does lead indicator or lag indicator mean? A lead indicator drives a lag indicator. In sales, a lag indicator would be their revenue, or number of sales made. Sales people really don’t have direct control over how many sales that they make in a day, but they do have control over their lead indicator: how many calls they make that day. Content marketers don’t have direct control over how many website visits they get in a day, but they do have control over how many blog posts or emails they write.
Control what you can control. You almost always have direct control over your lead indicators. Focusing your efforts on improving the things that you have control over will always yield better results than focusing on the things that you have no control over. Everyone wants more leads and more revenue, but you need to drill down and find the things that drive that success.
In order to understand what drives your success, you need to have tracking in place. Once you know that your data is trustworthy, you can drill into it and find exactly what yields results in your business, and those become your lead indicators. By replicating your successes and holding yourself accountable to your lead indicators, you will drive success on your lag indicators. It’s all about accountability. If you hold yourself accountable to your lead indicators, you will drive that success on the lag indicators.
How do I make sure that I am tracking my lead indicators properly?
Your output is only as good as your input. Every business wants to know how they can be more effective. We have found that most of them don’t even have the right tracking in place in order to even find their lead indicators though. Most businesses have several systems in place that aggregate data, but then those systems don’t talk to one another, and the company isn’t sure where to go to get answers to their questions. Facebook will tell you that they are getting X number of conversions per day, Adwords will claim that they produced Y result, and Google Analytics will tell you something totally different from each of those.
The best place to start with tracking is at the very beginning. Before you ever create a piece of content, you need to know the intent of that content. Once you know the job of that content, you can hold it accountable to how well it performed the task. If the goal of your ad was to promote awareness, then you don’t need to look at how many conversions it produced. If the goal of the ad was to drive form submissions, then the number of likes on the post isn’t really important.
How does Metrics Mapping help my tracking efforts?
We here at Praxis like to go through a thought experiment known as Metrics Mapping. Metrics Mapping is a process designed to answer fundamental business questions with very specific, actionable data.
We start by asking ourselves a business question, such as, “How do we increase conversions on our site?” or “How do we get more qualified traffic to our site?”.
Once we know the questions that we want to answer, we decide on 3 key performance indicators that help answer that business question.
Then we ask: “Where does that data live?”. For every KPI, we need a source of truth, or a place where we can pull that data from.
From there, we validate the data. As much as we would love to just trust what Facebook or Google tells us, there are a million and one ways that your data can be skewed, lost, or misreported along the journey.
After that, we apply formulas, set up reporting, and visualize the data.
This process may seem tedious and difficult, but it makes all of the difference in making sure that you don’t waste your time on vanity metrics or tracking things that don’t really matter.
What are UTM’s and what do they have to do with everything that we have talked about?
As we talked about earlier, you don’t have direct control over lag indicators; you can only influence lag indicators through your lead indicators. On the other hand, you have complete control over your lead indicators; but most people don’t know which lead indicators have the most influence on the outcomes of the lag indicators. That’s where UTM’s come in. UTM’s allow you to trace your lag indicators all the way back to the initial lead indicators that generated the result.
UTM’s pass through specific information to help you attribute exactly where traffic came from. Not only do UTM’s help you create accurate source data, they can also contain information such as if it was a paid ad or an organic post that drove the user to your page. They can also contain campaign information, so you can know the effectiveness of your campaigns; they can even help you track your A/B testing efforts within the campaign.
This granularity on the data unleashes the true power of your lead indicators. By knowing exactly what influences your customers to come to you, you can focus on the things that will actually drive the lag indicators, rather than blindly guessing at the most effective use of your time and money.
It all comes down to what works, and tracking is the only way to know what truly works best.