What is a measurement framework?

Not all metrics were created equal. While the number of pages viewed by users could be considered critically important for a publisher generating revenue from ad impressions, the very same metric is relatively meaningless for a lead generation website.

Unless you can consistently pin down the numbers that matter to your business, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. When this happens, it becomes impossible to determine the effectiveness of marketing spend. If this sounds like a familiar story, you are certainly in need of a measurement framework.

A measurement framework defines what success looks like for your business. By connecting objectives to metrics, it becomes easy to understand how digital marketing is driving your business forward.

Defining a robust measurement framework is the first step on the road to accountable and data-driven performance marketing.

1. Identify your business objectives

A good measurement framework begins with identifying the top priorities and ambitions of your business.

All businesses have objectives, such as to maximise net profit or to increase the number of high quality leads. Alternatively, objectives might look to solve a problem, like reducing the load on a call centre or to improve the public perception of a product or brand. Digital marketing is simply one of the tools required to achieve these objectives.

2. Link objectives to key performance indicators (KPIs)

With your objectives in mind, think carefully and identify the two or three metrics at your disposal that most directly relate to each of your objectives.

For example, a retailer looking to maximise revenue might measure revenue from online sales, average order value and average value per session. This is something a good web analytics setup can measure with ease.

More subjective goals, such as improving sentiment, must first be distilled into measurable numbers that can be used to at least indirectly assess progress. Data analysis techniques such as natural language processing can be used to create new metrics or regression can be used to identify those that are statistically most related to your business targets.

3. Identify your micro-transactions

Taking this concept one step further, take the time to identify metrics that indicate a user’s intent to complete your on-site goals and ultimately contribute to you hitting your objectives. These might include a user adding a product to the basket, a social share or perhaps making use of a tool your website offers.

These are micro-transactions. By adding this extra level of granularity, we gain the ability to create a hierarchy of user actions that contribute towards our KPIs and business goals. They are also fantastic at proving the value of commonly misunderstood social signals and engagement metrics by connecting them directly to the numbers that the rest of the business understands.

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As much as possible, the link between the micro-transaction and your objective should be proven by data. Scatter plots and histograms are your friend here.

As an example, imagine a business looking to maximise gross revenue. Revenue from online sales would certainly be a key performance indicator here. Intuitively we can tell that the number of product pages viewed per session seems likely to be linked with revenue. We can prove this with data by creating a histogram showing the number of product pages viewed by users and the revenue they generated.

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The histogram clearly shows 5+ product views per session is where majority of the revenue is being generated, therefore we can define our micro-transaction as any session in which a user views 5 or more products. By increasing the number of users who view 5+ product pages per session, we can be confident that we are indirectly having a positive impact of our ultimate goal to increase the businesses’ gross revenue.

4. Benchmark seasonality and current performance

Having shortlisted the metrics that accurately reflect the status of your business goals and identified the micro-transactions, it is important to take the time to understand your historic progress.

Progress can be broken down into two simple components: seasonality and trend. Seasonality measures predictable fluctuations over a cyclical period e.g. a year. Trend measures the underlying direction, up or down, in which you are headed.

Although statistical programming languages such as R can be of great use here. With enough expertise, Excel is sufficient to provide the information you need.

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5. Set realistic targets for your Key Performance Indicators

Armed with the knowledge of seasonality and trend, it becomes relatively easy to understand how the metric is likely to develop in the future. You will be able to plan for peak periods and know when to expect drops.

Use this information to set achievable data-driven goals for your marketing activity. For example, it may be a great accomplishment to merely maintain a steady conversion rate if the trend is declining rapidly, or an already strong upwards trend may warrant a more optimistic forecast.

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The dashed yellow line in the graph above shows the prediction for a KPI. Consistent performance above the yellow line would strongly indicate good performance. Furthermore, because we have already established in our measurement framework that the KPI is closely linked to our business objectives, we can be confident that marketing activity is having a positive impact on the business.

Conclusion

The end result of a carefully considered measurement framework is a simple table against which all marketing activity can be held accountable. In the table, we can list our business objectives and link them to measurable key performance indicators. Our micro-transactions keep track of the number of users who show intent to contribute towards the KPIs. Finally, we can benchmark current performance, predict future performance and set suitable targets against which we can measure success.

Any work undertaken that does not contribute positively towards the KPIs can be considered secondary to achieving the business objectives. Businesses grow and evolve over time and unexpected events can occur. Therefore, all good measurement frameworks should be reviewed and adjusted periodically.