When I talk to clients about marketing challenges, there’s one topic I know I’ll be asked about. Call it what you want—analytics, ROI, measurement—how to track and report marketing performance almost always comes up.
Over time, I’ve noticed marketers trying to measure all digital marketing the same way. I’ve heard things like, “Since everything online is trackable, we’ll know exactly what impact every ad has on our bottom line.”
Sure, you can track a lot on the Internet. And you can track even more if your sales occur online. But there are two distinct categories of marketing, as well as two distinct ways of tracking.
Direct Marketing vs. Awareness Marketing
Because I’m great at titles and subheads, you have probably already figured out the two types of marketing I’m talking about are direct marketing and awareness marketing.
The difference can pretty much be boiled down to whether or not there is a single, distinct action you want the user to take, often including some sort of offer—for example, save 10%.
Simply having a call to action like “learn more” or “click here” in your ad doesn’t make it a direct marketing tactic, though. It must be a tangible, focused action the user is taking after clicking the ad.
Direct marketing consists of tactics and messaging that drive users to take a particular, measurable action. It includes online marketing that meets these criteria, as well as traditional marketing tactics like direct mail that includes a coupon.
An example of a direct online marketing tactic would be a free download. There’s an ad that drives the user to a landing page. The single, clear call to action is “download.” We can track exactly how many users clicked on the ad and how many downloaded the free resource.
Direct marketing can be focused on direct sales—mostly for e-commerce businesses—or just direct action. For the purpose of this post, I’m grouping them together, but below are examples of both.
This Runscope ad is a direct ad trying to get me to sign up for their product using a free t-shirt as a carrot. By offering a free t-shirt, they’re asking me to take a direct action, which is easily measured. Also easily measured is how many of those who sign up for the shirt fall down the funnel and convert to sales.
This Southwest Airlines ad is most definitely a direct marketing piece. The desired action? Book a flight. They’ll know exactly how much money was made from this ad.
Awareness marketing encompasses pretty much everything else. It includes traditional mass media like TV and print, but also online marketing that doesn’t have a direct component to it.
Take this Facebook ad, for example. Yes, an ad for Facebook on Facebook—we’ve all seen them. While it has a call to action, its purpose is to educate—or, more specifically, to increase awareness.
Even though these examples are all from Facebook, this concept applies to any marketing. Most tactics can be either direct or awareness, depending on the messaging. For example, retargeting is a direct advertising technique when used to promote a specific product purchase, but is an awareness technique when used to stay top-of-mind with customers.
Now that you understand the difference between the two types, let’s dive into measurement.
Why Measure Differently
The difference in goals between these types of ads leads to an inherent difference in how they need to be tracked. If you track direct marketing tactics using awareness marketing measurement, you’re missing out on important data. More commonly, if you try to track awareness marketing using direct marketing measurement, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Most marketers want to tie every tactic to the bottom line, which is becoming increasingly possible as technology advances. But not all marketing is about direct sales. Awareness marketing is just that—marketing that reaches your audience, so when they need you, they know you.
The biggest danger of trying to measure awareness marketing using direct marketing tracking is you’ll stop tactics that are actually working. You can’t expect to see direct conversions when you’re doing awareness marketing, and that’s sometimes a tough concept to grasp in today’s trackable world.
How to Measure Direct & Awareness Marketing
For direct marketing tactics, we can measure all sorts of fun things—click-through rates, landing page views, and all the other analytics available. But it all comes down to conversions. How many people took the action you wanted them to? That’s what ultimately determines the success of direct marketing.
With awareness marketing, measurement is much more vague. After all, how do you measure “awareness”? This is where you have to be purposeful about setting goals, tracking what you care about, and interpreting your analytics with your metaphorical awareness filter on.
You’ll want to track the important data like reach, frequency, and engagement. Beyond that, what you measure and what you consider success depend on your goals.
My Challenge to You
I challenge you to take a look at your marketing, determine what’s direct and what’s awareness marketing—and whether you’re using the correct tracking.