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Mission Control / Digital Marketing

Is Your Digital Marketing Plan Really Working?

From social media and email to digital ad campaigns and SEO, here’s how to move beyond meaningless metrics and focus on what’s really impacting your organization’s success.

By Tina Kelly

At its best, digital marketing helps to broaden your brand’s reach and connect with the audiences most likely to purchase your product, sign up for your services or support your cause. And while it can be exciting to see your follower counts grow on social media or your email open rates soar off the charts, these numbers on their own don’t always reflect the bigger picture.

Telling a Story with Data

Without the right context, social, web and digital marketing metrics lack any real meaning, especially when it comes to conveying outcomes to key stakeholders. A holistic narrative that demonstrates the actual value of the data can help bridge the gap. Here’s how to examine key metrics through a high-level lens.

  1. Combine the qualitative with the quantitative. When it comes to digital marketing, the data doesn’t always speak for itself. For example, an increase in engagement on your social media content may seem like a good thing, but if it was driven by negative feedback and customer complaints, it likely isn’t something you want to replicate.
  2. Explain the why behind your year-over-year metrics. It isn’t enough to know that your ads’ click-through-rate increased — you should also be able to explain what drove that increase, from both an internal and external standpoint. For most marketers, this became apparent in 2020 (and beyond) as data was viewed through a pre- or post-COVID lens. Keep that contextual view in mind moving forward.
  3. Identify trends through attribution modeling. Rather than crediting each conversion only to the last interaction, aim to account for any prior engagements that led to the conversion. This is especially important for industries with longer consumer journeys, as it can provide valuable insight into where you’re most likely to acquire qualified leads.

Benchmarks that Matter — and Ones that Might Not

Once you have a deeper understanding of the channels, strategies and messaging tactics that are resonating with your target audience, you may want to reevaluate how you’re measuring overall digital marketing success. Here’s what to consider:

  1. How important is website traffic? If a million people visit your site, but only a handful of them ever convert, you’re likely casting too wide a net with your digital campaigns and ad buys. When it comes to acquiring traffic and leads, aim for quality over quantity.
  2. What do you consider a conversion? For nonprofits, destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and healthcare organizations, conversions aren’t as easily measurable as they are for e-commerce businesses. Rather than focus on a single transaction as your primary conversion point, think in terms of relationship-building — which engagements allow the consumer to become more connected to your organization? How did you first connect with your most engaged users? How can you illustrate intent through web engagements?
  3. Where are you losing site visitors? Pay special attention to where previously engaged users drop off. If visitors spend some time reading and exploring your website, but then leave before converting, dig into that. It could be an indicator of a web page or piece of content that is clunky, slow-to-load or unhelpful. This same tactic can be applied to email, as well — keep an eye out for emails that trigger a flood of unsubscribes.
  4. Do your actual social media followers align with your target audience? While it is great to build a robust community of followers on social media, numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. A local healthcare system with a goal of increasing its patient base, for example, should target people who live in the service area. If the bulk of your audience is unlikely to ever convert, you may be better off investing creative and marketing dollars elsewhere.
  5. Is your content compelling users to take action? While it may be unlikely that a single piece of content will drive a user to become a customer right away, you can measure top of the funnel success by tracking smaller goal completions. If users are driven to read more, sign up for emails or download an app, that’s a good indicator that they are engaged and interested.

Reach the Right People

We can help you create a strategic digital marketing plan with your specific target audience in mind.


Tina Kelly
Tina Kelly Chief Marketing Officer

Tina brings more than 10 years of experience to C/A, where she partners with companies to develop digital marketing campaigns that leverage content, encouraging audiences to consume, engage, share and convert. Tina’s experience spans industries, having led digital marketing strategy development and execution for several global and national brands, including The Children’s Place, Nationwide Insurance, Delta Faucet and many more.

Tina has presented at a number of industry conferences and events, including SXSW Interactive and Content Marketing World. Outside of work, Tina and her husband can usually be found on a sports field somewhere, cheering on their two kids.

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