If you’re like me, you often figure out ways to work smarter on your marketing campaigns in the time allotted. In fact, you secretly suspect that you can actually be more successful if you reject some of your more conscientious habits and just get the job done. As the saying goes, perfection is the enemy of good. (This Godinism may conflict with another one, which is that “very” good is the enemy of great, but never mind.)
We’ve all heard the story about (or gone to school with) Joey Metallica (let’s call him), that kid who dropped out in Grade 10 to sell aluminum siding and became a world-famous, filthy-rich silver baron—or aluminum siding manufacturer, or possibly waste management consultant. One of the reasons he dropped out was he kept taking shortcuts, not following the “best practices” the teachers wanted him to follow. The result of this—detention, low grades—was perverse, in his mind. He left and went to get what he needed more directly. Shortsighted? Perhaps, if you were already born into it. But Joey had to eat.
There’s actually some fairly decent research backing the idea that blowing through bureaucracy and endorsing radically “fast feedback loops” in companies—using available data to make material decisions, and doing so more quickly than your more ponderous competitors—can help you move ahead of the pack. You can start with Godin’s book Survival is Not Enough: Zooming, Evolution, and the Future of Your Company (I’d love Godin’s take on what Joey had to go through in high school!).
Think about what you’re feeling like you would probably do if you were a “conscientious” analyst of your “web metrics.” You’d probably look at a wide variety of indicators of customer behavior, their subtleties, etc. You’d convene meetings and conduct research. Eventually, something might get done that would somehow influence how you were spending your ad dollars, and the creative approach taken to the campaign. That’s all well and good if you’re a massive organization looking to defend a franchise of some sort.
Many organizations today realize they need to be more aggressive.
While this might seem almost childish at first glance, playing the role of Joey Metallica would have you zeroing in on the single Key Performance Indicator that your paid search campaign should be measured by, and ignoring the rest. Throw in a few things you “like to look at” that “give the client or colleagues a really good sense,” and get back to work, making rapid adjustments (using appropriate technology where appropriate). Spend spare time waterskiing and coming up with big ideas that will actually create value.
The rationale here is this: a cautious, ad-group-by-ad-group and ad-by-ad assessment of a single key performance indicator (cost per order; cost per lead; pages visited; whatever you like) is actually far less simplistic than it sounds. Most companies don’t even manage their campaigns effectively to these metrics, because not only to you have to measure it, you have to figure out how to improve it! Doing this involves a morass of bid calculations, ad copy tests, marketing communications strategy, landing page tests, site architecture and usability considerations, and more.
Joey is actually making extremely complex calculations in some cases, farming others out to computers, and making snap recommendations that are more often than not correct (like Malcolm Gladwell talks about in Blink.) If he attempted even more complexity, he’d create a seven-dimensional world that would be mathematically unsolvable and unsliceable. So … who’s the dumb one again?
Beyond the key performance indicators that chronicle how Joey and his client or colleagues are fast-tracking to riches, what else does he like to look at in his compressed, no-nonsense world?
- Ad position and what it tells you
- Quality score
- Trend graphs on spend, clicks, CPM rates, and of course, ROI. Unreadable trend graphs: bad. Easy-to-read: good. Generate by campaign or even by ad group
- Spikes in content targeting volume; other volume spikes
I wish I had time to share all sorts of interesting Joeyisms. Here’s just one. Imagine a choice between:
- You know your conversion rates on keywords to email inquiries, and have a roughly reliable ratio of email inquiries to phone order revenues, but you hold off campaign expansion and planning until you get a perfect system in place to track phone order revenues exactly.
- You know your conversion rates on keywords to email inquiries, and have a roughly reliable ratio of email inquiries to phone order revenues, so you keep hitting it hard, trusting the numbers. You work on the planning / implementation of the “perfect phone tracking system” in the background, but realize that in your large phone-centric organization, the off the shelf systems overpromise and major behavioral changes will be needed in your phone sales staff’s behavior. In addition, some relatively minor but inelegant data coordination functions will need to be taken on by an analyst, to better factor in phone revenue data into the overall conversion rate picture. You’ll get that system in place eventually, but you don’t let a lack of perfection stop you from campaign expansion.
If you picked #2, you’re like Joey. He never stopped zooming.
Joey’s approach isn’t subtle. But it might be what many companies need to light a fire under them. Fast feedback. Occam’s Razor. You have nothing to fear but fear itself.
Editor’s note: You can catch Joey’s (Andrew’s) act in full at Jim Sterne’s e-metrics summit, Washington, DC, Oct. 16, 2007.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.