Success Metrics and Creative Differentiation

In a business that’s largely driven by right-brained creative minds, a word like “metrics” can be a massive buzz kill. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Metrics should actually be a huge motivator across all disciplines. For an agency and a client/brand to be successful, brilliant creative, effective measurement and positive results need to go hand in hand.

We all have a pretty good idea what great creative looks and feels like, so let’s skip the pretty pictures and dive into metrics and measurement. And let’s start by asking a few simple questions: How do you track and measure your company’s success? How do you measure your client’s success? Is it intuition or analytics? Is it the old “ if everybody’s happy, I’m happy?” approach? Do you benchmark? And presuming that you are measuring efficacy or impact, what metrics do you use?

Okay – so maybe the questions aren’t all that simple. But before you start answering, ask yourself one more: “How do I know how much we are a part of the company’s success if our metrics are not aligned?”

Alignment from the beginning

We work really hard to make sure we’re creating solutions that will drive our client’s business. Every agency says they do, but how can you know? One of the first steps we take is to make sure our metrics are aligned with our clients’ objectives and metrics.

The key metrics of advertising success preferred by 9 out of 10 C-Level executives are revenue, profit and pipeline. Okay, I made up the 9 out of 10 part, but just about every client I have ever worked with uses revenue, profit and pipeline as key measures of success. For these folks, soft metrics like awareness, impressions, GRPs, clicks, search rankings and the like are important but only to the extent that they connect with revenue, profit and growth.

Let me digress for a moment to share a pet peeve. If you’re connected to the ad industry you surely used or heard “Cost Per (fill in the blank)” used as an efficiency measure. Cost? Why cost? Unless your client or company is completely cost-centered, consider not using cost as a metric. We are in the revenue business, or the create a return for the client business.

So where you can, consider using a new metric – “Revenue per (please, now fill in the blank)”. Measure revenue and pipeline. Measure ROI. Yes, it’s harder. You have to know the company inside and out and you have to dig. But when you do, you will be on the same metrics page as the CEO, CFO and CMO. No translation needed. You will be eliminating terminology and complexity, demonstrating continuous refinement and agile optimization while adding the one thing you need to add most: value.

Do what I try to do and step into your clients’ shoes. As CEO, you’d want the CMO and the advertising partner to know the answer to this question: “Do you know what revenues a 20% increase in marketing budget would produce?” If the answer isn’t on the tip of your tongue, find a way to put it there. Now. Conversely, as CMO imagine that your CEO is forced to make budget cuts. The marketing budget won’t be as easy to slash if the CEO knows that a 10% cut would cost the company “X” in revenue – an amount significantly higher than the marketing investment. But you can only get there and stay there when you’ve got the right metrics in place and working.

Differentiate, connect and engage to grow

This leads back around to what we believe is an undeniable truth. For businesses to grow at the new expected rate of 7-9%, you have to out think your competition and differentiate your brand. Outspending may not be requisite for success.

Brands have to demonstrate and articulate a point of difference. Brands have to connect with the customer, building meaningful and enduring bonds by engaging the customer in a unique and compelling way. You have to make waves in the sea of sameness! That’s why we don’t think average creative works – at least not as hard or as well as great creative. And that’s true no matter what your business. If you’re committed to hard metrics like revenue and pipeline, creative work that’s average and doesn’t set your brand apart will not get the job done. It needs to be better than average if you want better than average results.

In a cluttered and chaotic marketplace, brands that don’t stand out will fall out. But you can’t just stand out. You have to be smart – relevant, insightful and solutions-oriented. Your brand has to be perceived as “the right answer” by the target or you are done. Think of it this way: relying on good looks alone will get you nowhere, but brilliant, well-crafted and well-placed solutions will drive response. And response shows up in the metrics. In that way, differentiation and metrics are connected at the hip. The harder one works the harder the other does – and the spiral is upward.

So what do you think? Can creative and metric hold hands? How are you measuring success – and how are you being measured?

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