Keep your KPEyes open

June 20, 2018 by

You’ve built your datasheet, consulted channel owners, memorized the plan of record, and picked out your favorite shade of carmine (it’s #D70040). You’ve launched your campaign. Now the data is rolling in, but there’s one problem: your KPIs aren’t lining up with last year’s numbers. But don’t panic, let’s trace your steps.

Try to avoid small snags

As the clock winds down on your campaign, a variety of reporting issues can make themselves apparent. But what was the root cause? Maybe an attribution channel was misaligned. Or your analytics servers were overwhelmed. Did you miss a decimal? Some technical mishaps can be abated by planning ahead. For instance, arranging for additional servers to process extraordinary traffic to a page. Other times you just have to shift around subsets in your spreadsheet to better fit your channel taxonomy. Some issues might need a little detective work—like that piece of creative with a wild-card UTM tag that caused missing traffic.

Dig into the bad baselines

Sometimes it’s none of those things. Your process was bulletproof, but the figures from previous campaigns are the culprit. Ask yourself: Were the KPIs from your previous campaign built from the exact same data components? Were they reported within a comparable timeline? What exactly was behind the calculation of these de-granularized, cleaned up, figures?

Give your plan of record some love

When comparing against campaign results that have been condensed into a short and simple after-action report, the resulting KPIs can be stunning but shallow. Without more detail on how these highlights came to be, it’s impossible to draw accurate campaign-to-campaign comparisons. That’s why your campaign brief or plan of record should include a detailed explanation of not only your high-level KPIs, but also the constituent subsets (and, yes, omissions). 

Break the cycle of inadequate KPIs

We fall victim to unreliable KPIs because, as marketers, we always want to distill a campaign’s best story. Whether it’s an unexpected highlight or a sought-after KPI, the competing pressures of brevity and business impact push us to showcase the most impressive milestone achieved. This is perfectly acceptable for a high-level narrative, but when project managers and analysts reference highlights, it can lead to incorrect assumptions about your next campaign.

So next time, consult the raw data of your campaign series and take in reporting factors such as timeframes and the subsets that make up your impact figures—the data behind the data. It’s a simple concept that can spare you and your team headaches down the road.