So your campaign didn't deliver the right result? Not enough sales, leads or engagement (or whatever the magic success metric was)? Poor ROI perhaps? I'm not surprised!

The reason is that, in general, we use really simple measures and record binary outcomes; ‘hit/miss’, ‘sale/no sale’ or ‘open/did not open’ metrics.

Typically we use one or maybe two such metrics per campaign. This simple methodology is the default across the industry but in reality it is now a hindrance to really optimising campaigns.

Consider this campaign that generated 100 visits to a website, and two people bought. At least that is what our tracking tells us, it’s not a great result but at least some sales were made.

On this basis the campaign would be declared a failure and not repeated. 

However consider some other factors:

1. 35 people spent more than two minutes engaged with the proposition being promoted. An unbelievable result, fantastic news but your binary tracking system regards this as failure as no conversion was tracked.

Is this time wasted or will these people come back and buy at a later time? The data tells you that some will and this research activity is great news for future sales. 

2. Four people abandoned their shopping carts. This is also great news! Sounds mad? Well in reality many abandoned baskets are not lost sales they are simply deferred to another time so it is likely that another two sales will come from this group.

3. 15 of the campaign respondents were existing customers, they came back to simply have a look around.

A great result, you have reconnected with people who have spent money with you in the past, but your binary tracking system regards this as failure as no conversion was tracked.

4. 11 people liked what they saw and decided to register for your email programme. Again a great result but your binary tracking system regards this as failure as no conversion was tracked.

Would you run this campaign again, if you *knew* that these other outcomes all drove future sales? Of course you would!

All of the outcomes described above show that the campaign had a big impact but the tracking system missed it. The simplicity of the systems we use means we do not see all the value we create, and if we cannot see the full value, how can we know the impact of our campaigns?

If you are still employing binary tracking it is time you looked again because a poor measurement strategy will lead you towards the wrong decisions. It's time to start tracking properly.

Matthew Tod

Published 24 February, 2011 by Matthew Tod

Matthew Tod is CEO at Logan Tod & Co and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (5)


Peter O'Neill

Agree Matthew, micro conversions actions such as the ones you have described above are as important as the macro conversions actions such as making a purchase or submitting a form.

It is important though that the desired visitor actions are defined in advance of the campaign or website feature launch to ensure the relevant data is being captured and that the level which signifies success is agreed. Otherwise you can find yourself in the situation where people are cherry picking numbers to justify their work/spend when results aren't as good as expected/hoped for.


over 7 years ago


rhc marketing

I agree with Peter. You should clearly define your business goals from the very start. They are often considered a ‘nice to haves’, an optional part of the planning process, or perhaps a bonus presuming time and budget allow us to think about such things.

over 7 years ago


Matthew Tod

Thank you both for that, you make a really good point. Cherry picking factoids to prove a point is exactly not what to do!

It does take preparation to work out which micro conversions or events are aligned with the objective and what the value is of those events. Ideally you need the previous campaign to analyse to create a model for future campaigns.

Binary measurement is so much easier, but so much less valuable.

over 7 years ago


Tim Leighton-Boyce

I reckon thinking about the fundamental principle here - getting away from the artificial and crude "conversions" mentality and thinking about the complex reality of human interactions -- is much more fruitful than agonising over something nice and techie like multi-touch attribution tracking.

A couple of thoughts occur to me.

1. Many of us approach email campaigns in a way which could provide lessons for other channels. There is, by definition, a strong element of retention work going on. So we tend to at least consider the benefits of including some less 'hard-sell' examples in the mix which are not expected to generate the same kind of return and where simply getting engagement via an open and possibly a click-through is deemed a succesful investment.

2. Meanwhile, from the #measure perspective, aggregating a series of micro-conversion goals could be worth considering to produce some overall score. These could include time or page-view based goals as well as specifics like 'viewed a detail page', 'read review', 'added to basket' or even 'Liked.' In GA, those curious overview combined goal conversion rates and totals could actually be useful for once. Create a profile dedicated to this and see what it looks like.

But that last point risks going off down the rabbit-hole of extremely complex 'engagement' formulae when I think the key point is the simple one. We need to think in terms of real people interacting with our sites and accept that we're optimising for fuzzy flesh and blood reality, not binary zeros (mostly!) and ones.

over 7 years ago


Chris Reynolds, Online Marketing Engagement Manager at Adecco management & consulting

Agree with the posts above that you need to define success in advance.

Otherwise it's a case of "DR campaign didn't work out? Errr... it was always mailnly intended to create brand awareness anyway, honest." :-)

over 7 years ago

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