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‘Crouch, touch, engage’ in digital media buying

Tries and tackles; applying the right KPI’s for the right performance

While the Springboks rose to the occasion beating the All Blacks in their own backyard for the first time since 2009, digital marketers are preparing for the launch of their final Winter Sales’ and upcoming Black Friday’ campaigns. At first the mention of your favorite sports team in an article around digital marketing might be far-fetched but allow me to explain why rugby (or soccer for that matter) and digital media buying have a lot in common. More importantly, why understanding the role of the various players on the pitch might help you in strategising your next digital media campaign.

Since the inception of digital marketing and digital media planning, which in my case started in The Netherlands in 2005 and in South Africa in 2008, when I headed up Habari Media for several years, both advertisers, agencies and publishers have been obsessed with measuring performance. Digital Media seemed to be the holy grail because for the first time we could measure results in what we did. For many years advertisers spent millions of Rands on print ads, radio and television yet the direct relation on the uplift of their sales (or lead generation) was always a bit of a grey area. Digital Marketing solved that. For the very first time we could now track the number of clicks and sales on our websites. The world we lived in changed and all we thought about were the following 3 letter acronyms: CTR, CPC, CPL and CPA. Or ‘Click Through Rate’, ‘Cost per Click’, ‘Cost per Lead’ and ‘Cost per Acquisition’.

Everything we did online and every digital media channel we spent our budgets on had to generate leads, sales or clicks. We became obsessed with clicks, more importantly, the last click. Every channel’s performance was assessed based on that. Why? Because we could and it was an easy to understand concept.


Graphics by Sprout Performance. All rights reserved.

With the limited knowledge about digital customer journeys we had at the time, all we saw and were able to measure were clicks and sales/leads per channel. This is how ‘silo thinking’ and ‘silo strategies’ were born.

Now in 2018 the silo is dead. Consumers are no longer only interacting with one channel or one device. Technology has enabled us to outline the digital customer journey that a consumer goes through from the moment a person is exposed to a campaign for the very first time, all the way through to the point where he or she converts. By understanding this customer journey we can start planning and putting strategies in place accordingly. Very similar to how we used to do this in traditional media as well. When advertisers spent millions of Rands on outdoor billboards (and some still do), nobody expected consumers to ‘click‘ or interact with it. The objective was to generate ‘brand awareness’. This lead to brand consideration at a moment where a consumer was comparing providers to solve a problem or having a need satisfied.

This way of thinking and planning applies to digital marketing as well. There are channels (like digital video, digital audio and display) that play an important role in the introduction and awareness of a brand, service or product to a consumer. Because consumers spend a significant amount of time during their day on digital devices (streaming video, listening to Spotify, browsing the web and using Facebook on their phone) digital marketing allows marketers to apply a similar ‘brand awareness strategy’ to their campaigns. The difference with traditional media is that results and performance are visible and can be assessed in detail.

Multiple phases per campaign

Today we can link the performance of the awareness phase of a campaign to the conversion phase of a campaign. Technology that connects data from awareness channels with data from conversion channels (like paid brand search and display remarketing) allows you to monitor how your efforts in the awareness phase impact the results and performance of your channels in the conversion phase.

This approach highlights a methodology that consists of multiple phases, across various digital media channels, in one campaign. An example of such a model that can be applied is ‘TOUCH – TELL – SELL’. Very similar to a model that Google applies which is called ‘SEE – THINK – DO – CARE’. They both have a similar approach in the way that they believe that a consumer only will change its behavior (and will apply, buy or refer) once he or she is made aware of a solution, that touches on a problem or need that he or she recognizes and is presented with it in the right way.

Right KPI’s per phase

So back to our beloved Springboks. If we all agree that the overall objective of a digital media campaign is to generate as many conversions, leads, sales or app downloads (similar to a rugby team or soccer team wanting to score as many tries or goals), it does not mean that every channel in every phase of the campaign needs to generate such conversions. Similar to certain players on the field will never score a try, simply because their role in the team is a different one. If certain channels in the digital media mix are there to generate awareness for a new brand or product, one can not expect to immediately (after the first exposure) generate conversions. A KPI that would be fitting in that phase (and channel) of the campaign would be reaching the right audience and generate the highest possible (unique) reach for a certain budget in a certain period of time. This example in the world of team sports would be similar to a front row delivering an excellent scrum to take control of the game again or a brilliant tackle from a defender to get the ball back in possession of his soccer team.

Examples of KPI’s in an awareness (or TOUCH) phase would be: highest unique reach, average contact frequency, highest viewability of ads, highest number of assisted conversions and highest engagement with the campaign.

Further down the sales funnel or customer journey (or on the rugby pitch) campaigns should be optimized towards consumers visiting a company’s website and requesting more information and educate, by highlighting the brand or product’s USP’s, the consumer about the service or brand.

Examples of KPI’s in the information (or TELL) phase are: assisted conversions (mid term), attributed conversions (conversions that are generated later on in the same channel), clicks to site and filling the funnel with new consumers.

If done correctly, a consistent flow of interested, well-matched profiled consumers is reached in the final phase of the customer journey (conversion phase) where channels like paid (brand) search and display remarketing play the powerful role of optimizing the campaign towards the highest number of conversions at the lowest cost per conversion. This is the phase where the wing is brought into position to score the try.

When one understands this concept it helps to apply the right KPI’s to the right phase and channel in the campaign. It will help not to make the mistake of assessing the performance of an awareness channel by looking at the number of sales it generated. Similar to assuming that Tendai Mtawarira or Eben Etzebeth (respective Springboks’ most capped Prop and Lock for this current Championship Tour) must have played a bad match if they don’t score any tries in the current matches.

Role of creative

There is so much more we could discuss here on this methodology that will help you understand the power to your digital marketing and digital media campaigns when applied correctly. The use of 1st and 3rd party data for targeting in your digital media campaigns. Simply put; how your own CRM database can help you targeting the right audiences online (similar audiences). How data that can be collected and purchased online can assist you with further targeting and reducing waste in your online campaigns. Or the use of specific custom attribution models that can be used based on the type of campaign, product or audience you are targeting. But one thing we should touch on is the role of creative per phase.

When a brand or service is introduced, and a consumer is exposed to it for the very first time (this definitely applies to new brands or products in the market) it is important to understand that the image should be appealing and refrain from any call to action. More importantly, the customer should be approached with a relevant image that he or she can relate to. Lifestyle images and a brand name, while prompting the brand proposition or brand promise, would often do the trick.

In the second phase where a targeted audience should be presented with more information or details why the product or service is unique or better than its competition, images of the actual product or services can be included. Also more contact details or how a customer can find out more information can be provided.


Creative used is an example. All rights reserved

The final (conversion) phase should include a clear call to action which should be aligned with the campaign main objective or business objective.

The next step in this is Customer First Marketing where your own CRM data is linked to campaign creatives. This could for example mean that a customer in Bloemfontein sees the creative of a national display campaign with only the Bloemfontein name in it and his exact storage unit details (size) and when his contract is up for renewal.

Technology enables

The difference between this methodology remaining just a way of thinking (which in itself is a massive step already) and it becoming daily practice and something you use to evaluate your campaign performance, is the use of the right technology and the ability to apply this technology correctly. As a business owner or (digital) marketer it is of utmost importance that you start tracking and thus, tagging all your digital media channels (organic search, paid search, paid social ads, display ads, video ads, digital audio ads, email newsletters and affiliate channels), including your own website, as soon as possible. This will allow you to start mapping your client’s digital customer journey and build audience data pools that you can use for targeting certain audiences.

Just think about the benefit and reduction in waste if you can separate existing clients (browsers that have visited a page behind the login part of your site) from browsers that have never engaged with your brand before. The possibilities are endless: different creative, different copy, different (bid) strategy and different targeting. Or the possibility for a brand to re-engage with a consumer who did not convert on product or brand A with product or brand B?

Like our Springboks for the current Championship tour we wish advertisers in SA good luck with their upcoming digital media campaigns!

Sprout Performance Partners, founded in 2013, is a growth partner that delivers performance through partnerships. Its 40 people team of (inter)national digital media specialists, operates from its head office in Cape Town, with a client servicing office in Johannesburg. It services e-commerce advertisers, capital backed startups and large multinationals across various African regions. Sprout Performance Partners offers services across paid search, performance display, paid social, offers SEO consultancy services and has its own inhouse design & development creative team. It currently services about 25 advertisers in South Africa. Some of Sprout Performance Partners’ employees have outstanding track records in UK, The Netherlands, German and USA Programmatic markets for over 15 years.

Stijn Smolders, who joined Sprout Performance in November 2014, graduated a BCom in Marketing and Media from the University of Eindhoven (The Netherlands) in 2002. Before joining Sprout Performance Partners he held the position of MD Benelux at DQ&A Media Group in The Netherlands (2011-2013). He came to South Africa first in 2008 where he headed up Habari Media as a GM Media Sales until 2010. He is married to his South African wife and is father of 2 sons. Lives in Claremont, Cape Town. Passionate about anything digital and road cycling.