Tracking Un-Trackable Campaigns
Newsletter #79 5/2007
Drilling Down - Turning Customer
Data into Profits with a Spreadsheet
Customer Valuation, Retention,
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Hi again folks, Jim Novo here.
Tracking the performance of direct marketing campaigns is typically
relatively simple - you pretty much know who you are targeting.
But what do you do when the campaigns are not distributed to
known targets, the marketing culture is not particularly fond of
measuring performance, and you're given the mandate to track Marketing
Productivity? That's what we face in this month's newsletter
We also have a couple of great article links on what's going on in
the Brand Marketing world, and a blog post on how our old friend
Pareto might be messing with your analysis.
Let's get with the Drillin'...
Best Marketing Productivity Articles
Great Brands Never Rest (5/25)
From Target Marketing Magazine, this article embodies what I (and many customer-centric Marketers, I believe) think about when the subject of Brand and authentic Brand Advertising comes up.
The six disciplines of a Great Brand are outlined.
RockStar CMO's Out (5/4)
According to AdWeek, CMOs with agency backgrounds (code for Brand-ing folks? As opposed to real
Managers) are being replaced by those with a broader career experience across several disciplines.
To access these and other reviews of recent articles on
Marketing Productivity with links to the original articles click
Sample Marketing Productivity Blog Post
May 13th, 2007
Many folks look at the world through the lens of the Gaussian Bell Curve when the real model they should be looking at is Pareto Power Law.
In English, that means when you are “optimizing”, you could be driving towards a suboptimal result if you’re not paying attention to
the difference between the two.
on Waiting for Pareto...
You can subscribe to the Blog by e-mail if you want to, just go to
the Blog home page.
Questions from Fellow Drillers
Tracking Un-Trackable Campaigns
Q: I have a background in direct marketing and the
measurement of campaigns using defined sources. Now I am working at a technical or 2 year college and I'm trying to use
my previous knowledge and experience to measure our return on marketing
efforts in recruiting new students and converting them from prospects to
I'm looking to measure events and all of the advertising and promotion
used to communicate those events as well as other campaigns.
It's difficult to measure since it may include newspaper ads, direct mail,
posters, etc. - not just direct mail with a measurable list to refer to.
Plus, trying to get the admissions folks to track leads can be
difficult. They also want to track return on publications (brochures,
flyers, etc.)....not sure how one would do that if they are not mailed
to a given measurable list?
I'm looking to track ROI based on the whole equation....from the # of inquiries who came to an event or
responded to whatever all the way to whether they matriculated and enrolled in courses.
A: I can feel your pain!
I don't think there are any easy answers to this. You could simply measure
what you can measure through the traditional direct methods you are familiar
with, and let the rest "ride". Or, you can try to selectively determine, as
best you can, what the value of all these other activities is by engaging in
some kind of testing. This will take some institutional willpower and is
probably something you can't do on your own. In other words, I encourage
you to start evangelizing the next generation of marketing measurement at
From your title, I perceive you don't "report to" marketing, but some higher
institutional level responsible for Quality and perhaps Productivity /
Accountability for funds that are spent. It sounds to me like your unit
might perhaps report into the Financial area of the school at a higher
level, and if so, that's good!
I think I would simply start the conversation with folks in the financial
area about some of these issues, and see if you can create some simple tests
to get some "direction" on the contribution of the various marketing outlets.
For example, every publication should contain some kind of tracking device.
Sometimes you have to be creative with this idea and it won't always be
accurate, but it's better than nothing at all. If response is generally by
phone, then try to get a unique phone number for newspaper ads, brochures, etc.
If response is driven to the web site, get unique URL's put on each document.
If response is filling out a sheet or card at an event, have them numbered or coded in some way.
Then of course, you need to get the response information - number of phone calls to each
number, number of visits to each unique web site URL, number of response cards mailed or
turned in for follow-up.
Implementing a program like this, then finding and getting access to the
response info may not be easy, and that's why it would help to have a "higher power", particularly a financial
one, backing this effort. It's pretty amazing what people will do when, for example, the
people who control the budget for an area say, "You will participate in this
Alternatively, you could go with a test / control kind of scenario
where during a quarter, you leave out one particular marketing effort
and see if there is an impact on overall Marketing Productivity.
This is more of a "marketing mix" kind of approach and not
without some problems, including proving the missing marketing effort
was responsible or not for changes in Productivity. You have to
think about how you might pin these issues down in advance - for
example, do you have good baselines for "normal" activity?
Whether or not you decide to pursue all of this is somewhat of a personal choice.
Some analysts simply don't think it is their "job" to help create measurable
structures - they only measure what can be measured. Others see the
difficulty as a challenge, and want to help build out the structure.
Clearly, if you are going to eventually be responsible for
measurement, being a part of the team constructing the measurement paths is a real
advantage to you. It will involve some politics, but analytics always
involves politics at some level. I encourage you to seek out the support you need to make this work.
If there is "pressure" for measurement, someone wants it to happen. Start
by finding these people and having a conversation about how it could happen,
the strengths and weaknesses of the measurements, the internal
challenges you will face.
When taking on something like this, it's usually best not to try to change
the world all at once, but one step at a time. So, for example, looking at
the overall "unmeasurable budget", what is the largest line item?
If it's "newspaper", that's a place you probably have the largest leverage.
Implement there first, keeping in mind that this single implementation
might help you down the road. For example, getting a unique phone number and
results tracking for newspaper may teach you a lot about how to get this done
for other marketing devices.
The finance people should be able to provide you with some idea of the net
"margin" of a course and any other financial ideas that come into play.
Then it's a matter of asking if the spend on the media generated positive
results. If the margin on a course is $500, a newspaper ad costing $1000
that only generates 1 student is not a great investment - but it might be
the best one relative to other vehicles. This part is not really your call.
Your job is to bring the data to life so that people can understand what
they are spending and what they are getting.
There could be plenty of reasons why "losing $500" on a newspaper ad is OK -
there is "brand exposure", for example. In this case, the brand exposure
only costs $500 versus a perception that it costs $1000, if the
student generated is included in the formula. This may be a very positive result of
the measurement for many folks in the institution. That judgment is really
for someone else to make. Now at least they are making it on a full set of
facts as opposed to perceptions.
Q: However, how long do you keep measuring enrollments?...they may not enroll
based on one campaign...might take a few hits before they actually become students.
A: Sure. What seems reasonable? Given an annual budget cycle, let's say
reasonable is 12 months. One benefit from your tracking is you will be able to probably
put some numbers against this eventually. If you get calls to a brochure number
2 years after it was issued, then the number is 2 years for a brochure.
Newspaper calls stop coming in at 4 weeks, it's 4 weeks for newspaper.
Q: The other issue: the marketing folks only want to measure up to
inquiries--what they have control over. What's the best way to only
measure the return on that...it's before a "sale" or "enrollment" even occurs.
A: Well, sometimes you simply have to decide what is "best available".
You certainly can start by measuring inquiries, especially since it's pretty
clear in this case marketing lacks some control over key conversion
elements - financial aid, student abilities, and so forth. Down the road,
it's possible that certain types of media generate lower quality inquiries
with lower conversion rates. You'll get there.
For now, you could apply the "average conversion" to any lead to get down to the
financial part of the game. If all leads on average convert at 25%, then just use that.
Then when tracking gets a wider reach, try to drill into it more deeply.
To do this, you'd have to get access to enrollment data, of course.
But you don't have to get "all the data, all the time". You could do a sample of a
couple of months and go through it by hand to match back to inquiries, if
you have to. You certainly would not be the first to do something like this - it happens all the time.
Whether you want to do something like a "by hand count" or see it as part of
your job is really more of a personal choice. You can certainly - and
analysts often do - blame a lack of knowledge on system problems, politics,
whatever. Just can't get the data. For some people "don't know" is not
acceptable - they have to find the answer, whatever way they have to do it -
even if it is by hand!
Q: Does your book give an education example? We're not "selling" a product
and "sales" deals with # of credits taken by students & price per credit
plus funding we receive from the state gov't based on the number of FTEs
generated. It seems like such a different animal so I'm struggling to
figure how to do ROI for an educational services provider. I have created
an Excel template based on how I calculated ROI for other industries but
haven't tried it yet.
A: Sounds like the "profit" side of it is a bit complex with the outside
funding, but I'm sure you can get to a "value per FTE" somehow. Just start
with something, and make it better as you move along. If you have to,
simply take "all revenue" divided by number of FTE's and you at least have a
place to start.
The book doesn't have extensive educational examples but there are several
related discussions in past newsletters, see:
I have a lot of interest in these educational measurement scenarios for a
variety of reasons. Keep me posted on how you are getting along and ask any
questions you might have as you make your way through. If I can be of help
let me know!
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That's it for this month's edition of the Drilling Down newsletter.
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'Til next time, keep Drilling Down!
- Jim Novo
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