The Shifting KPIs of Marketers and how to Shift Yours Too

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As all marketers know, different times call for different KPIs. Settling on the right KPIs to target requires a combination of assessing areas of need and understanding consumer mindset.

In March, we surveyed agencies and brands to get an idea of how their priorities were laid out for the year to come. On the cusp of changing times, we’ve seen some originally secondary KPIs bump up to primary, and some originally primary KPIs take more of a backseat.

Representatives from 104 agencies and 106 brands of varying sizes and verticals responded to our survey. We’ll share both the results we found as well as how some of these trends have shifted to meet the ever-changing world of COVID-19.

First things first…who responded?

Before we get into the KPIs we learned about, it’s important to break down who we heard from. Respondents spanned job functions, job levels, company sizes, and verticals.

Responses by job function

Across the 106 on the brand side, we saw media planners, media buyers, account strategists and more.

Participants on the agency side shook out similarly in terms of function.

Brand management and media planning account for a large amount of respondents. Later, we’ll see brand recognition and social media surface in the KPIs, in alignment with these roles.

Of these job functions across both brands and agencies, 15% were VPs, 22.3% managers, 30% executives and 31% directors. Middle management roles are the most heavily represented.

These marketers are working at companies of all sizes, most of which are mid-sized, but some at small brands and agencies, and also enterprise.

Companies on the brand side ranged from 1-4 person operations all the way up to 1000+ employee companies, with every size represented in between.

On the agency side, we heard from smaller to mid-sized companies, with a few representatives coming from much smaller and much larger companies.

The brands and agencies covered a wide span of verticals, with business, technology, and entertainment emerging at the top. For participants who felt their company/role covered more than one vertical, we did allow them to choose as many as they saw fit.

Suffice to say, the 210 combined brand and agency survey participants spanned job functions, job titles, company sizes, and employees, and it made it all the more interesting to see the trends that arose.

Top Brand KPIs: Brand Recognition and Sales Revenue

When we took a look at the data, Agencies originally thought they’d focus mostly on brand recall and social media reach, closely followed by lowering cost per lead (CPL) and customer acquisition cost (CAC).

Brands wanted to focus on brand recognition also ranked high, with those same performance goals following.

Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, less emphasis has been able to be placed on brand awareness goals, and more focus has been placed on performance goals, but we’ll get into that a bit later.

Here’s a deep dive into how brands ranked their priorities.

The two clear frontrunners hit different ends of the funnel—awareness and conversion. We’ve since seen a shift to performance-based goals with the most popular KPIs around customer acquisition and cost per lead.

On the agency side, the goals were similar, with a slightly greater brand awareness lean, followed then by those performance-based goals.

How trends have shifted amidst COVID-19

We conducted this survey in March, just as marketers were beginning to reassess their strategies and adjust their KPIs accordingly.

A look at April’s top marketer KPIs across Taboola’s network paints a clear picture of this shift.

Leads, purchases, and page views are in the lead, indicating that brands have switched into prioritizing sales and efficient lead generation. The original game plan for 2020 has shifted for everybody, and adjusting KPIs accordingly is key to helping businesses stay the course.

Tips for reaching performance KPIs

We’ve established the shift from brand awareness KPIs to performance KPIs, so now how can marketers who are making those fast goal adjustments ensure that they’re on track to reach them? Let’s start with reducing cost per lead.

To lower cost per lead, you have to get granular

Lowering CPL can be a challenging metric to hit, especially if you’re just now pivoting to it without having had ample time to plan.

The key to moving towards this goal lies in taking a really close look at past and current performance, and identifying pain points as well as successes.

  • Break campaigns out by device, geographic location, content type, and more, and trim what is not currently working for you. You might find that mobile specifically isn’t performing for you right now, or that certain locations you’re targeting are having a drastically higher CPL. Normally, you’d continue to test those, but for now, it’s best to leave them out.
  • Give retargeting a try. Retargeting allows you to reach more qualified leads who have already at least demonstrated some type of interest, but they just didn’t act on it. This lands you an opportunity to help them take action this time around.

To lower your customer acquisition cost, you have to be hands on

Lowering your CAC takes time and patience, and knowledge from the start that it may take some time to master, especially if it’s your first time really working towards this KPI.

The key to getting there is smart bidding and careful monitoring.

  • First things first, identify what’s not working. Similar to the above with lowering CPL, getting granular and identifying devices or locations where campaigns simply aren’t performing is important here.
  • Take bidding seriously. Maximizing a campaign to get the most conversions in the most efficient manner possible takes patience and close monitoring. A tool like Taboola’s Smart Bid can take the manual labor out of that process and adjust the baseline bid of every impression based on the likelihood to drive conversions.

Whether your 2020 goals have shifted amidst the COVID-19 crisis, or you’ve had performance KPIs in mind from the start, now is the time to hunker down and really find what works, what doesn’t work, and remember that marketing professionals across all levels, company sizes, and verticals are right there with you.

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