As marketers, most of us spend our time focusing on the positive. When a campaign delivers results (more clicks, leads, sales, etc.), we want to try to optimize the campaign and make it even more successful. We are constantly on the lookout for new strategies, tactics and channels to test that will perform even better than our current programs. Call it a marketer’s optimism.
However, this constant focus on optimizing those positive marketing outcomes can also lead to marketers wearing their own figurative blinders when it comes to all of the performance metrics created by their campaigns. While click rate, conversion rate and, of course, return on investment (ROI) or return on ad spend (ROAS) are vital metrics to measure and optimize toward, there are just as many metrics that measure negative outcomes that should be given more attention than they typically receive.
Marketers, especially those in the performance marketing arena, are always looking at campaign performance metrics. They are the keys to determining if a campaign is successful and essential in making decisions on marketing budget allocation. Largely, those metrics can be split into positive (views, opens, clicks, conversions, etc.) and negative (unsubscribes, spam reports or simply nonengagement) signals.
Many marketers spend most of their time focusing on the positives, but there is actually a wealth of information and insight that can be gathered by taking a closer look at those negative signals, which can be used to optimize future campaigns. Here are just a few examples of negative marketing metrics that can be used to improve campaign performance, often in conjunction with other marketing data.
If you’re using email or text message (SMS) marketing, an unsubscribe request is definitely on the negative side of the marketing signal spectrum. These requests represent members of your audience who actively don’t want to hear from you anymore. Because of this, some marketers treat the metric itself as a request not to interact with it.
However, there are plenty of positive insights to gather if you examine your opt-outs more closely. The first place to look is what those unsubscribe requestors have in common. Are they more likely to come from a certain audience segment? Are recipients from a certain geographic region overly represented? Does one campaign generate a higher-than-normal opt-out rate? In any of these cases, look for reasons your campaigns may have failed to engage with these recipients by identifying these patterns.
One way to use these learnings is to identify opportunities to develop more relevant content specific to these audiences. Segment and deliver different content in future campaigns to similar audiences to see if this leads to stronger performance and lower unsubscribe rates.
Much like unsubscribes, recipients who flag your ad or email as spam are giving you incredibly valuable information: Your marketing efforts simply aren’t relevant or engaging to them. Look for similarities in those complaints. Do they tend to come in during particular times of day or days of the week? Do certain campaigns create a higher percentage of complaints? Are campaigns on certain sites or sent to certain audience segments more likely to drive spam complaints?
You can use this information to evaluate your media buys and email campaigns, and either create more compelling content or consider changing your audience targeting in the future.
In just about any typical marketing campaign, the single biggest email metric is the number or percentage of nonresponders — people who received the email, but either didn’t see it or ignored it. While you can gain insights from this group after a single ad or mailing, it is after a period of time that this group begins to truly provide important information.
While not responding to a single email or video ad isn’t really sending a strong signal, once members of your audience are exposed to a larger number of ads or emails and still haven’t responded, they are letting you know that your ad isn’t grabbing their attention. Or if they have seen the ad, it isn’t convincing them to take any action from it. You may choose to either revise your messaging to these recipients or look to remove them from future campaigns entirely. In either case, this can lead to performance gains in your marketing program.
Once you start exploring the value of negative marketing signals on your campaigns, you will find plenty of other ways to leverage this data to continuously enhance marketing performance in the future.
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