To Convert or To Engage: That is the Question
We get it, marketers are under immense pressure to prove results with their digital marketing efforts. We’ve seen the buyer journey quickly shift to almost entirely online where nearly everything is measurable. Marketers are often led to over report on marketing results like vanity metrics while also over-valuing the business results such as ROI, which can hurt digital marketing performance over time.
Any digital marketer will know what these “vanity metrics” are because they’ve had to report on results days into a campaign. These are the impressions, likes, shares, open rates, and clicks on an ad, email or landing page. They are are also considered engagement metrics and while they can be impressive, they can leave executives wanting something more substantive. All this is not to say marketers shouldn’t be reporting on the million or so impressions one ad received. Engaging ads tell a promising story - it’s just that marketers are going to be pressed to tie those metrics back to a business objective like a membership sold or an event registration - for most associations.
Anyone can post engaging ads on social media and receive free clicks, shares, and impressions. Even paid ad impressions are free to a certain point, until someone clicks. The value in engaging recruitable members online is brand awareness, customer lifetime value (CLTV), and share of voice. It can’t all be engagement and it will never all be sales. There is value in finding a balance and strategically choosing a business goal for your message.
In the short term, engagement metrics may be all you have. Here is where smart decisions, A/B testing ads and subject lines, and optimization of free valuable content and landing pages can be informed by engagement metrics. Business metrics like ROI (Return on Investment), and CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) - take time.
Associations know new members take time, nurturing, and multiple touch points online (preach!). How they should balance the marketing spend in the short term on “hollow” impressions without the longer term goals of conversions is often a deterrent to going down the path of paid ads in the first place.
Here’s the thing though, if you are not taking the plunge like other associations dedicating their marketing dollars for digital, than your peers and competitors will surpass you in greater understanding of audience, performance data, and greater brand awareness.
Having a team of dedicated digital marketers testing, budgeting, and optimizing your ads can help ensure you are getting both insightful vanity metrics (greater knowledge of your possible recruitable members) and conversions (that you can bring home to your boss). They can do all this while consulting with your unique case and building a strategy around your specific set of goals to ensure you get the greatest return.
That process over time will build towards meatier metrics such as custom lifetime value (CLTV), which can help inform future budgets and spends. It’s not an easy feat to accomplish, which is why tried and true mass email send seems more appealing; however, a dedicated team can put in the time to get you there. Look beyond the quick metrics you are being pressured to share and hold out for greater value of those metrics and what they are telling you. These will lead to greater impact.
About Emily Nash
With a unique background in start-ups-to-studios, and consulting-to-corporate settings, Emily specializes in solving for unknowns, pioneering new services, and collaborating with marketers and strategists. In her community, she served on the board of American Institute for Graphic Arts as their Communications Director to help promote networking and mentorship opportunities for area designers and creatives. She’s also a co-producer for Rethink Association, a podcast for associations.