"This sounds great, but what does it all mean?"
A friend of mine was asked the question above following a campaign recap for a big-box consumer electronics brand. The campaign had done well — exceptionally well, in fact — and had nearly doubled the technology vertical's average click-through rate. In fact, her team had even blown a few other media benchmarks out of the water with this campaign.
Still, the client pushed her to actually explain what they had achieved. What traction had they gained by investing "x" amount of dollars in that project? How can she prove that their media successfully affected the client's business goals (i.e. their bottom line)?
My friend and her team had failed to have "the talk" with this client; that is, the conversation where you ask, "What is the primary goal or objective that will determine the success of this campaign?"
A couple examples of campaign objectives include:
Increased site traffic
To make matters worse, as a result of not having "the talk," my friend was surprised by a few things mid-campaign that made it even more difficult to prove that her team's efforts were gaining traction, one of these being:
The client doesn't sell the product on their own website. While all traffic was driving to the brand's landing page(s), any user who actually wanted to buy the product was directed to an online retailer like Best Buy or Tiger Direct. As a result of this discovery, they were never able to tie sales data to paid media efforts
Despite her best attempts, the media-specific performance that she was reporting did not cut it in the eyes of the client. Aside from the fact that the media performance was above average and efficient, she had not convinced them that the campaign had been effective.
Now, how can she improve her approach on the next piece of business she works on?
Well, to avoid being caught by the client in "what-value-did-you-actually-deliver-me land" (and yes, this wild and mysterious land does exist), you need to have "the talk" with the client and address the following items:
Speak to your client in terms of their specific business goals. They don't want to hear about media performance; that is, in fact, why they hired you. They want you to translate strategic digital media planning, buying, and optimizing into results that they can turn around and deliver to their superiors.
Agree to success goals pre-campaign: Do they want to drive sales? Increase brand awareness? Determining success goals in writing pre-campaign helps everybody kick off a project on the same page and ensures that they are optimizing campaigns and reporting the results of the most relevant metrics to the client.
Agree to success metrics: What metrics can you provide that will determine the success/failure of your client's goals? Write these down and only report these results to the client.
Establish a regular reporting schedule: Now that you've determined your success goals and the metrics that will align to prove success/failure, make sure to confirm with the client a reporting schedule so they know when to expect to hear how things are going.
Provide the bare minimum: Report on a minimal set of metrics — in fact, if a metric doesn't directly relate to the success goals, take it out. Media professionals tend to over-provide information, thinking that all these different measurements are useful to the client. In reality, providing too much information will paralyze your client with the sheer volume of content you're providing and they'll miss out on the most important information.