We’ll get onto the list of marketing metrics, but first, here’s a story that’ll convince you that Daily Checks are not a chore, but actually a secret weapon.
I failed my math entrance exam.
I was just about to start a Master’s Degree in Economics. They wanted to test us to make sure we all had a basic understanding of the concepts we’d be building on in our degree.
I got a big fat zero.
My Bachelor’s Degree was in Business Economics… and it was heavier on the ‘Business’ than it was on the ‘Economics’.
Unlike the rest of my class, I hadn’t really done anything done anything majorly mathematical since high school (and I was only a B student back then).
I had a decision to make.
The deadline to pay tuition for the year was tomorrow. I could drop out now and not incur any cost, other than losing the deposit on the place I had rented.
So I walked out of class and walked straight into the nearest pub.
After nursing a pint for an hour, I had decided.
I walked straight from the pub to the admissions office and paid my tuition.
Now I was in trouble.
Having put so much money on the line, I had to get good at math. But I had always hated it and found it boring. I was so far behind I didn’t even understand enough to know where to start. Reading math books was just too difficult and gave me a headache. I even skipped some of the first classes because I was embarrassed to go.
So I decided on a strategy; I’m going to learn it through Osmosis.
Just like the spontaneous net movement of solvent particles through a semipermeable membrane (thanks Wikipedia!), I just figured that if I surrounded myself with Math, I’d eventually start to absorb some of it.
Every day I put on audiobooks and listened to math concepts being explained. I forced myself to sit through every math class, even if I didn’t understand anything. I invited people from my class over for a free dinner that I cooked for them, in exchange for them talking to me about math.
…and it worked.
I started connecting concepts in my head. I was suddenly noticing my mistakes – they actually began to feel wrong. Getting the right answer filled me with the type of satisfaction someone with OCD gets when they straighten a crooked painting. The solution to math problems started to jump out at me and become, if not obvious, more familiar and less intimidating.
I got my Master’s Degree. Not only that, but I got a Merit (B+). In fact, in Macroeconomics (a pretty math-heavy subject) I got an 83% – the highest score in the class!
So what was going on here?
Sources of Power is about decision-making. Except it’s not one of these MBA pseudo science self-help books written as a PR exercise for whatever consulting firm the author just started. It’s also not a dry, college students in a laboratory who will confirm any hypothesis if they think they’ll get paid kind of study either.
Klein actually studied how people make decisions in real life, high-intensity situations. He observed firefighters, critical care nurses, pilots, nuclear power plant operators, battle planners, and chess masters, to figure out how they actually decided what to do next.
He found that they didn’t do a cost-benefit analysis, or really ‘think’ about their decisions at all. They used their subconscious to pattern-match the situation they were in, to past situations they’ve been, then rapidly executed the first ‘good enough’ plan that came to them.
So the difference between an expert and a novice is really just that the expert has experienced a larger depth and variety of patterns that they can match the current situation to.
Kahneman provides the scientific muscle to back up this insight. In his research he labelled this subconscious decision-making ‘System 1’ thinking, as opposed to ‘System 2’ which is our conscious mind; what we’re using when we’re aware of what we’re thinking. The first is emotional, mysterious, easy to trick but blindingly fast; the second is our deliberate, logical, sensible but painfully slow. Malcolm Gladwell also touched on this in his popular book “Blink”, showing just how powerful ‘gut’ decisions can be.
So in a high-pressure situation, the Novice is stuck trying to think through everything logically, whereas the Expert is making rapid decisions based on their ‘intuition’ or ‘gut’.
That’s the major difference.
Experts make decisions comfortably with very little data while Novices can’t decide without the numbers to back it up. It doesn’t have to be a novice; the formal education system (perhaps wrongly) trains people to always make deliberate, conscious, logical decisions. That probably explains the phenomenon we call ‘analysis paralysis’. If you’re one of these ‘Tortured Brain People’, reading this post by Tim Urban (Wait But Why) should help you get over yourself.
So my Osmosis strategy worked because I was essentially ‘training’ my ‘gut’. Exposing my subconscious to concepts, patterns and language even when my conscious mind protested.
Over time I had been purposefully building up my intuition and sharpening my subconscious, and it was starting to do the work for me.
“OK fine,” you’re thinking, “But what the **** does this have to do with checking Marketing Metrics?”
Bear with me, we’re almost there.
When I graduated my Master’s Degree, I landed right in the middle of the 2009 recession. The two main employers of economists – banks and the government – had a hiring freeze on. So over 100 applications later I ended up, to my dismay, in a marketing job.
Again, I had no idea what I was doing. Again, I didn’t like the subject (I had skipped all the marketing classes in my bachelor degree, ironically to make way for more Economics). I had no idea what was causing performance to increase or decrease, or what makes a good ad, landing page or target audience.
I needed to get good, fast. Déjà vu.
But this time I was prepared. I turned to my tried and trusted osmosis strategy.
As well as listening to podcasts, reading blog posts, and taking marketers out for lunch, I started waking up an hour early every day and just staring at data. I’d click around and look at anything that looked interesting with no aim in sight. If something looked like it had changed, I’d look back to see what it was previously.
Over time, checking the data every single day started to pay off.
It become like Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain” productivity technique for me. I got addicted to making performance trend upwards, and did everything I could to stop it trending downwards.
I started connecting concepts in my head. I was suddenly noticing when things were going wrong – it actually began to feel wrong. I was spotting trends and patterns.
When the clients would say “Tell me what’s happening with marketing.” I started to have convincing answers for them.
I got that sinking feeling when they requested changes that would hurt performance.
I started noticing opportunities that everyone else was missing.
A chore for some, Daily Checks became my secret weapon.
$25 million dollars in marketing budget and 100 companies later, I look back on this as the key to my success.
It’s simple, it’s effective, and it works.
I made sure the habit of daily checks a key part of our process and training at Ladder. And now I’m finally going to walk you through that process, so you can build your own habit.
With all that said, let’s get to the checklist!
Note: Make sure you have conversion tracking installed; makes this a whole lot faster and easier!
How to use this checklist:
TODAY – What is the metric looking like so far today?
TREND – Which way is it trending?
SEGMENT – What segments drive this metric?
SIMILARITY – Any similarities among campaigns?
DIFFERENCE – Does this differ from the other metrics?
1. CPA – Cost per Acquisition (cost / conversions)
2. CPC – Cost per Click (cost / traffic)
3. CVR – Conversion Rate (conversions / traffic)
4. CTR – Clickthrough Rate (clicks / impressions)
5. CPM – Cost per Mille (cost / impressions * 1000)
6. ROI – Return on Investment (revenue / cost * 100)
7. MSC✳️ – Maximum Spend Cap (add up all your campaign budget caps)
8. CCI✳️ – Cost Change Interval (daily spend * 7 / weekly spend)
✳️ Note: I may have made some of these acronyms up, but using the full name got tiring long ago.
As you go through these metrics and checks, write down anything you didn’t expect to see, whether that’s positive or negative. What doesn’t fit with your mental model of how things work? Are you more confident about a hunch that you had, or less? Have any of your key assumptions changed? Asking yourself these questions will help you absorb the information quicker.
Don’t worry! I’m not asking you to write a report, send anything to your client / boss, or even do further analysis (unless you find something has gone wrong).
Daily Checks are for your benefit and your learning.
Like in medicine, regular marketing metric checks can help you diagnose a problem early and maximize your chances of fixing it before it’s too late.
At the very least you should be checking these top-line stats twice a week, but I’d suggest going all out and checking every day. Recording your numbers in a simple daily report gives you context of how things are trending and whether this is just a random fluctuation.
Here’s how it helps:
Regularly checking top level performance across all of the above metrics can quickly help you figure out which work to prioritize.
Just keep your eyes open and wander somewhat aimlessly through the following checklist. Like you would in a museum, stop wherever you find something interesting (even if you don’t know why it’s interesting).
The goal here is just to soak it all up to train your ‘gut’ on the patterns and what’s ‘normal’ fluctuation vs cause for concern. If a metric or segment is boring, just skip it and come back to it tomorrow.
Eventually you’ll develop a sense for what to dig deeper into and what to skip.
To make things easier on myself I usually just dig around directly within the ad platform itself; even if there are some inconsistencies vs your analytics reporting, it still gives you a directional idea of what’s working (or not).
As a prize for making it this far, here’s a handy metric table to look at every day and remind yourself what to check.
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