Mar 30, 2023

Measure What Matters, Vol. 1: Five Questions Brands Should Ask Their Agencies

By Brian Cameron, EVP, Marketing, Acosta Group

In today’s uncertain economy, it’s more important than ever for brands to know that their investments in outsourced work are driving significant return on investment. But are the KPIs you’re scrutinizing the right ones? Do your agency partners measure what matters to them, or to you? Most importantly, are you measuring what matters to your consumers, capturing actionable insights everywhere they shop? 

More than ever, brands seeking to grow awareness, drive sales, and create consumer loyalty realize the need to invest in a partner that understands their business and what to measure. A great agency will help brands nail the fundamentals while pushing them to innovate and focus not just on today’s consumers, but also on the consumer of tomorrow. In the words of Wayne Gretzky, winning brands will “skate to where the puck will be, not where it has been.” 

Research in the Fifth Edition of the Salesforce State of the Connected Customer study of nearly 17,000 consumers and business buyers found that 68% of customers have purchased products in new ways over the past two years. Meanwhile, 73% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations.  

Clearly, the strategies, tactics and tools behind the ecosystem are changing, and those changes are accelerating faster than ever. 

Today, the fabled “marketing funnel” has evolved into a series of guideposts along a branching journey that ushers consumers through physical and digital buying choices on personalized purchasing paths.

Emerging channels and technologies like social commerce and AI are making today’s marketing funnel more like a Choose Your Own Adventure book that many of us grew up reading. Consumers are choosing unique and often diverging journeys on their terms, all in real time.   

In this nonlinear and often unpredictable buying journey, traditional models for calculating the ROI of sales and marketing agency investments are flawed. For instance, agency calculations of ROI for in-store execution are riddled with fuzzy math and manipulations. ROI doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Accurate measurement must give due credit to a brand’s own impact on the broader channels, pricing, promotions and partners that influenced the consumer’s ultimate purchase decision.  

Make no mistake, measuring return on integrated marketing and sales investment is challenging. There’s no universally perfect way to do it. For instance, a common approach used in-store is equivalent to “Last Touch Attribution,” with sales impact often attributed to investments and the limited tactics employed within traditional retail. While winning in the traditional retail environment is critical to sales and share growth as well as positive ROI, consumers today are – once again – influenced to make purchase decisions anywhere and everywhere. If you’re not capturing a holistic view of your brand’s touchpoints, you’re not capturing accurate ROI. 

To drive the greatest return on integrated sales and marketing investments, in-store and out-of-store tactics must be combined in the optimal mix to cost-effectively drive top-of-mind awareness, raise consideration, and convert to purchase. 

The measurement challenge in this integrated omnichannel environment is twofold.   

The first challenge is to ground the planning and design of integrated sales and marketing programs in factual data. Acosta Group’s pillar agencies – Acosta, CORE, Mosaic and Premium – each have the tools to help brands size and define target audiences, uncover the marketing problem (awareness, consideration, conversion), quantify the “size of the prize,” and determine consumption behaviors. Measurement requires those tools to establish the optimal mix of investments, based on expected performance, that will most cost-effectively influence consumer behavior at every out-of-store, near-store and in-store touchpoint.

Measurement’s second challenge is to track and measure the effectiveness of each of those touchpoints and the holistic ROI. Again, this task is much easier when integrated programs are grounded in data. The measures of success for each tactic and expectations for sales performance are established collaboratively in advance. Through purposeful, data-driven planning, measuring impact becomes significantly more precise. 

So how do you start to realize the true value of your agency partners?  

You focus on measuring what matters, starting with your partner. The right one won’t know everything out of the gate and won’t promise flawless execution. But they’ll lock arms with you to help guide the way. They will learn the nuances of your business, iterate and refine. They will be comfortable with accountability and transparency. And the best of them will push you to think bigger.  

At Acosta Group, our most successful partners ask us some version of these five questions and then hold us accountable to help them devise actionable KPIs within our solutions mix to help them truly measure what matters: 

  1. How can you help influence my consumers at every point in the buying journey?
  2. How do you tailor your mix of solutions to reflect my brand’s unique needs?
  3. How can you help me measure the effectiveness of my pricing, promotions and assortment?
  4. How well do you understand the verticals and channels that are most important to my consumers?
  5. What makes your agency different, better, and special? 

Acosta Group’s Measure What Matters series will help demystify the tools your brand needs to meet your shoppers at every point in the journey. Throughout 2023, we’ll answer these five questions and more, and we’ll arm you with the confidence to challenge long-held beliefs about what ROI should look like for your brands, both today and tomorrow.