How to Win an Effie Next Year.

Last week, I had the honor of judging the final round of the North American Effie Awards for the third straight year. As expected, there were a lot of entries that fell into the familiar traps I outlined in my last post “How Not to Win an Effie.” But there were also some amazing entries where insights, analytics and great creative came together to deliver real business value. Those winners won’t be announced until June (and I’m sworn to secrecy) but I can share some thoughts on how to set yourself up for similar success next year.

Start at the end.
Every great campaign should begin with the ultimate business goals in mind. Start by defining what success looks like, and what KPIs will be measured. Too often clients and agencies set soft goals like “awareness” or “engagement,” and while these may be important steps along the path to success, they are not what really matters in the end. A winning campaign, and a winning Effies case study, clearly establishes the goals upfront.

Think through the customer journey.
Every path to purchase or action is different. There are numerous pain points and decision points along the way. The key is to identify which ones matter, which ones you can influence, and which ones you should measure. Einstein supposedly had a sign in his office that read “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” You’ll need to understand the difference and design your campaign, digital assets and measurement plan accordingly.

Build a dashboard.
Dashboards are a rabbit hole of their own, but the the main thing we look to identify when designing them are ways to find quickly actionable insights. It’s not enough to merely look at media performance and google analytics, you need to be able to tie those numbers to real business metrics. A good dashboard simplifies the sea of data, setting the stage for more in-depth conversations and exploratory deep dives into campaign performance. Much like the dashboard of your car, it should be able to tell you how everything’s working right now, at a glance, but also help guide your future path.

Set baselines.
After journey mapping and building the dashboard, you must baseline current performance while developing new creative and digital assets. We generally choose a baseline period that is two to three times longer than the typical purchase cycle to make sure we’re seeing the whole journey from people who enter at different times. While it’s possible to baseline concurrently, care must go into setting up the control in your experiment. For example, if you’re already running media, you can try new creative with half of your audience, and existing creative with the other half, essentially making your baseline part of an A/B test.

Start small.
There’s always tension when putting out a new campaign. Combat that fear by trying some tests that target specific points along the journey rather than the final destination. Make sure you create trackable opportunities that involve low commitment from your target, since interim steps in the path to purchase will help you make predictions about future conversions more closely tied to your KPIs. Also, make sure you create a system for tracking that you’ll be able to grow with. Name your creative consistently, and make sure you’re using UTM tagging correctly to make reporting later much easier.

Watch the needles.
Start every campaign with an experimental mindset and be open minded while you’re looking at the effects. While it’s possible with modern analytics tools to see what’s happening RIGHT NOW, some experiments need time to bear fruit. If you see something out of the ordinary in the numbers, flip to exploratory analytics mode and ask questions. These abnormalities are where you can find insight for future optimizations. Be disciplined about your reporting and measurement schedule. If you’re tracking very short sales cycles, make a time each day to check up on your progress.

Learn and optimize.
Experiments are meaningless without learning and action. Take what you’re seeing back to the rest of your team and ask yourself, “How might we use this to improve our campaign?” Even when you’ve hit a winning formula, leave space to try new ideas. Google and Amazon are constantly running experiments on tiny segments of their audience and learning from them, you should too. Finally, make sure you’re keeping your measurement plan up-to-date. As you learn new things about your audiences, you’ll find new opportunities to nudge them towards conversion, and new ways to help measure your progress. We revisit our campaigns and their associated measurement plans with our clients at least quarterly, helping to make sure that there’s a regular opportunity to incorporate new insight.

Of course, you need real audience insights, killer creative and the right media plan to bring it all to life and win Effie gold. But in a show where results are king (as they should be) the right approach to measurement can be the secret to success.