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Manage Your Marketing: Why Opens and Impressions Aren’t The End-Game

3827043121_4925a4c7db_mImagine the following scenario. You are the owner of a small shop that has big windows on the street side. You do a really good job of displaying your products in that window area, and you notice, as you sit at your register, that a lot of people who pass by stop to look awhile at your window display. They might even express some interest in your products as they gleefully examine your creative set-up. However, none of these passers-by actually come into your store. They don’t shop around. They definitely don’t buy anything, at least not in person.

The question is, how much good does the window interest do you? It doesn’t take a wizard to figure out that it’s not doing you much good at all. A little attention is nice, but if you aren’t even getting people to step inside your store, your business is not going to flourish.

Now let’s take this scenario to the online world, particularly to website banner advertising and email marketing. Often times, the metrics used to evaluate these kinds of opportunities are impressions and opens, respectively. Impressions is best explained as “the number of eyeballs that see your ad.” Opens are a little more vague. An open, like an impression, means that eyeballs have seen your email. Sort of. Some email programs count it as an “open” if the email appears in your preview window. This does not mean someone actually reviewed your email, however. Emails can show up in the preview window automatically.

How much do you think it benefits your business if someone simply sees your banner ad on a website? How much do you think it truly benefits your company if someone *perhaps* sees your email? While someone might mention how cool your banner ad was, drawing a line between that kind of reaction and money in your pocket is a tough task indeed. Why are impressions and opens used as key metrics then? They are easy to count, easy to quantify, and the numbers can sound impressive.

The numbers that matter

Instead of focusing on eyeballs, a better thing to focus on is clicks, although this is STILL not the most important thing. A click means that someone has interacted with your email (they actively opened it) or that they clicked on your banner ad and ostensibly went to a key page of your website. That key page, by the way, should not be your homepage. Anyone can find that. Qualifying clicks from a banner ad campaign or an email marketing campaign is best done by driving traffic to a unique, customized URL landing page. In the non-digital world, a click would equate to someone looking at your window display and then proceeding on into your store to do actual shopping.

The real numbers that matter, however, are your sales, particularly when measured against how much money you invested in your marketing campaign. Clicks mean you piqued someone’s interest, but that still doesn’t mean your cash register rung. The best way to measure the success of an online banner ad campaign or an email marketing campaign is to drive traffic to a page with a clear call to action that can help you drive leads to your CRM system. Track the person who clicked your ad, qualify that person who responded to your call to action, and then move on from there.

Be mindful that your ROI on most online banner ad campaigns will not be strong when measured this way. That is another reason why you will often see success measured in numbers of impressions. Branding can be an important reason to invest in opportunities like those described above, but you want to make sure you have enough room in your budget to allow for marketing that will not lead directly to a sale.

So remember, the next time you are asked by your boss to report on how an email campaign performed or how a banner ad campaign performed, do not respond solely with opens or impressions. In an ideal scenario, report with true ROI figures, although products like capital equipment that have a long sales cycle make that difficult. Barring that, at least indicate how many people interacted with your content, clicked to your website, or responded to your call to action. That’s a better way to measure success.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/supernintendo_chalmers/3827043121/ via Creative Commons

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2 comments on “Manage Your Marketing: Why Opens and Impressions Aren’t The End-Game

  1. Interesting, but I wonder how many of the “lookers” file the name away for future shopping? While this obviously can’t be tracked out in the real world, it can be tracked much easier online. I wouldn’t totally discount impressions or opens because that is Branding, getting your name in front of people. I do see what you’re saying about those not being the only numbers though.

  2. I think you use one number to measure your effectiveness at the next stage in the sales process. Gotta get impressions before you get opens…gotta get opens before you get clicks…gotta have a suitable call to action to turn that click into some form of opt-in for more information or direct conversion. Once you’ve established that measly trickle coming out the other end of the funnel, then you start increasing the volume at the top of the funnel.

    Of course the awesome Margie and her readers know this – the key is tinkering with different campaigns/calls-to-action to see what most efficiently produces that all important revenue number at the end of the day.

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