I sat there like a ghost in the meeting. Told by one of my clients to be a fly on the wall as a marketing review meeting interrupted our planning.  So I sat and I listened.

On the other end of the phone, one of the largest digital agencies in the world was sharing the outcomes of their latest paid campaign on one of the major social networks.

The goal of the campaign was (as the agency stated) to increase awareness of the brands (to be left unnamed) offerings to a specific vertical market. (I don’t think I could be more vague if I tried).

But in order to protect the innocent and the guilty, I will share only what is pertinent and it is this.

I listened to this “Big Agency” run through the results of the campaign. Pulling up a cross matrix with the following on it:

  • Name of the Article
  • Number of Impressions
  • Number of Clicks
  • Clicks Per Thousand
  • Cost Per Click

The results of the campaign were interesting, but probably not in the way the agency or the brand had hoped for.  With certain articles driving very low click thru rates and extraordinarily high cost per click. So I explored further…

2 Million impressions, .6% click-thru and just over ten dollars per click.  I did the quick math. No calculator required and came to realize that this campaign generated 12 thousand clicks and cost the big brand over 120 thousand dollar for just the one article.  In this case they did paid campaigns on 6 different articles.  Now you do that math…and for what?  What were they getting for this massive spend?

When the CMO of the global brand asked what he should be looking at and what was most important the big agency account lead spouted out that the most important things to look at were Impressions and number of clicks.




It Is A Huge Lie and We Are All Conspirators

As the call and the non-sense continued I couldn’t help but feel for the client.  They were spending a fortune on a campaign that was by all intents and purposes immeasurable.

But here is the kicker. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Marketers have been lying to clients and perhaps more problematically to themselves for the past several years each and every time they sell the idea of vanity metrics like impressions.

And unfortunately it has spanned quickly beyond just impressions into other metrics that have no value.

  • Likes on Facebook
  • Followers on Twitters
  • Pins on Pinterest

Heck, a lot of marketers give a hard time to Google Plus but at least a +1 has some hard value in terms of driving improved search results.

Nevertheless, one marketer after another promote these self-serving statistics and the biggest issue may not be the fact that they are doing this, but the reason they continue to do so.  Summed up in a few words…

Because it is easy

Not only is it easy to identify these numbers but it is easy to report on these number and sadly to the busy marketing chief it is easy to pull the rug over their eyes by building campaigns chuck full of great results across all of these metrics.

What marketing leader isn’t going to like their big, expensive (or small boutique) agency coming back with results like these…

  • Campaign received “X” million Impressions
  • Improved number of likes on your Facebook page by “Triple digit percent”
  • Added “X” Thousand followers to your Twitter account

But here is the problem. In all of the cases where I have seen these glorious improvement in metrics there are no answers to the following questions.

  • “How many of those “Impressions” have moved to the next step in the buying cycle?”
  • “Among those likes, did anyone buy anything?”
  • “Which of those followers are real prospects?”


It All Could Be Measured, If We Did The Work

Reflecting on the campaign discussion that we started with. The big agency, the six pieces of content and the tremendous impressions that meant nothing.

I thought to myself, when people clicked on the page what type of engagement opportunities existed. Was there an inbound form or some type of “Fill the funnel” method for capturing the interested visitor?

While we all know there are certain risks in pop-ups, what about a less invasive signup or some type of premium content offer to capture the email or other pertinent of the more than 10,000 “Targeted” viewers that clicked on the content?

Never a perfect science, this type of top of funnel activity could have provided a much better insight as to how many of the readers are really interested in the content and potentially interested in moving to the next step of the sale.

I surmise that many marketers don’t want to put that type of capture on a campaign because for highly profitable paid campaigns such as this they would find themselves showing staggering low numbers of people that engage with the content.  It wouldn’t be as impressive to say we got 32 email subscribers from the 2 million impressions; but maybe it should be.

Measuring What Matters

The only reason the theoretical 32 email subscribers wouldn’t be impressive goes back to the theory of incessant over-hyping of vanity metrics. How is a CMO or entrepreneur supposed to get excited about 32 subscribers when they are given impression numbers in the millions.

Those millions are a rouse, a modern day smoke and mirrors. Where did the magician go? Yep, he disappeared.

But he didn’t, he was never there. It was all in your head and the magician (marketer) put it there.

However it all can be measured. It is up to you the marketer to choose agency partners that think beyond the campaign and can deliver results that really matter.

In the high tech and services space where I do most of my work, 32 real genuine leads for even the worlds biggest companies can be an incredibly meaningful numbers. If you were a technology company and you were able to convert just 1 or 2 of the 32 leads it could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions.

The only challenge is it takes more time, more work and more willingness to see the whole picture to attain these more meaningful results.

Trust me when I say that I will focus there, where the results are and let’s let them, you know those other guys keep falling for the same old tricks of marketing yesteryear.

Even the “Madmen” with all of their vice and sin would be mad if they saw the crap we were pulling today. Which says more than enough about the changes that marketers need to make starting today.