Everyone wants to know how to measure a campaign’s success—and your bosses want to know how successful your efforts were. But showing a campaign’s or initiative’s true return on investment (ROI) is often a little more difficult than it sounds. Different campaigns have different goals. And target audiences are likely to be influenced by other variables outside of a marketer’s control. So, what is the best way to arrive at your campaign’s ROI? PM360 asked 10 experts in the space:
- What are the most important keys to consider when it comes to actually measuring the effectiveness or success of your campaign? What have you found to be the best calculation or methodology for measuring ROI?
- In your experience, what numbers, measurements, or metrics do most executives or higher-ups look for to determine if a campaign is successful? Are there numbers beyond what executives typically ask for that can better demonstrate a campaign’s ROI?
- How has ROI measurement changed over the past few years? What metrics have become more important for marketers to look at? Which have become less important? How has new technology and/or new channels changed ROI analysis?
- What channels or methods of promotion are the most difficult for marketers to measure and demonstrate ROI? How can marketers better capture their campaign’s ROI in these channels?
- What are the biggest problem areas marketers encounter when it comes to measuring ROI? What advice would you give them to overcome these issues?
The ROI of a promotional campaign (e.g., detailing, patient CRM) can be measured as the comparison, along a success metric such as brand growth, between the campaign’s outcome and that of a similar “control” group. In detailing, for example, we typically want to quantify the impact of representatives’ visits on HCPs’ total prescriptions filled for the advertised brand. A widely used method for this measurement is the randomized experiment, which would “isolate” the effect of the campaign. In our example, the random assignment of reps to physicians ensures that doctors who were visited (the “campaign” group) and those who were not (“control” group) are similar along demographics, script writing history, specialty, and other attributes. Any observed difference in metrics between the campaign and control groups can therefore be directly attributed to the reps’ visits. This results in, so to speak, an apples-to-apples-type comparison. We call this process of effect isolation the “causal analysis” of visits on prescriptions filled.
When Experiments are Impractical
Despite being widely regarded as the gold standard, randomized experiments are not always practical, or even feasible. They can be difficult to implement (especially as omni-channel marketing initiatives increase the number of promotional tactics that need to be measured), prohibitively expensive, unethical, and/or take significant time to yield results. In the absence of experiments, analysts can use observational causal inference methods. These methods/algorithms, such as propensity score matching, mimic a randomized experiment by finding subsets or pairs in the data within which the campaign and control groups are comparable. They can be used to effectively measure the ROI of a campaign, without the need to implement an experiment and have the additional advantage of being able to be applied to retrospective data, which means executives can apply these methods to their current campaigns.
In the quest for maximizing ROI for the most discerning executive, we often provide just part of the picture. ROI is only one number that often rises through the ranks. However, we should be adding essential companion values for context:
- Contribution is the total volume driven by a tactic considering both ROI and the overall amount invested. It is far easier to drive ROI when we strip out over-duplicated reach, unnecessary targets, and expensive keywords; however, in each case you inevitably decrease overall reach and subsequent sales by chasing ROI versus total contribution. For example, you can likely get a higher ROI from a targeted digital effort; however, volume driven by TV is often still highest for a brand and reducing this essential tactic could impede total sales if you pursue ROI in isolation.
- Marginal ROI helps determine where we fall on a media response curve. For example, have we maxed out ROI (diminishing returns), or are we at the brink of a breakout (perhaps too low execution to breakthrough)? Marginal ROI gives an important predictor of how modifying execution may change ROI in upcoming plans. Ignoring this can devastate ROI if you expand beyond optimal levels of execution.
- Long-term effects provide return on equity (ROE). Industry knowledge suggests video may have longer effects, but if we constantly pursue opportunities in near-term digital arbitrage (finding that best case ROI from aligning our brand to the perfect digital touchpoint), we may be driving a quick sale, but eroding equity.
- Norms: Big brands often have higher ROI, while innovation often delivers lower returns than your flagship brand. By focusing only on top ROIs, your strategic ventures will take second place and inevitably fail without support. Always provide context so that executives know how ROI compares versus the expected landscape.
Rx lift and market share shift are gold standards for ROI measurement in pharma marketing. Every brand manager and team is striving towards an ever clearer picture of ROI. But there are inherent challenges to achieving this ultimate measure of success. Three of the largest issues at hand are:
- Audience Identification. A consistent user identifier available across all marketing tactics has long been the vision of digital marketing. This unique identifier is essential for accurate Rx lift measurement. Today, audience identity management technology can authenticate the name, NPI number, medical specialty, and browsing behavior of opted-in, tagged HCPs who engage with marketing tactics, which allows you to track real digital engagement and make your digital spend accountable.
- Attribution. Isolating the impact of promotional tactics on individual HCPs has long been a challenge in ROI models. Which combination of multiple touchpoints drove the most lift? How to isolate the impact of individual tactics? Once a brand knows who they are reaching, when, how, and at what frequency they can take a holistic approach to multi-touch attribution.
- Accountable Media. Email is lauded as the most accountable medium with one-to-one communication and tracking, and for good reason: Email lists can be authenticated, consent-based, and privacy safe, guaranteeing delivery to your targets. The principles of email accountability can—and should—be extended to the digital environment. Email addresses are the key to identifying and reaching your target audiences across social and programmatic targeting.
Start with quality validated and authenticated HCP data, including email addresses, and track engagement and actions by these verified HCPs across the digital ecosystem in real time. Take on the hard work of attributing all touchpoints against authenticated HCPs in your analysis, and you will have an ROI measurement you can rely on.
Because pharma and medical device are sales-focused organizations, executives are most eager to know how any campaign (or any marketing activity) affects sales. The reality is not every campaign will have an immediate impact on sales, and every campaign will have a different measurement framework, meaning the measure of success will be different and not always quantifiable.
Here are three things to consider when measuring a campaign’s success:
- Understand and align with the campaign’s marketing objective. Before you launch any campaign, ensure a campaign’s objectives and measurement framework are determined at the planning stage and the right stakeholders are involved. For example, awareness campaign versus action-oriented campaign (i.e., order a demo, event sign-up) produce different results and need to be counted accordingly.
- Look beyond the numbers. Campaigns on social media allow us to assess the product or brand sentiment, find [product] advocates or opponents, and much more—information that’s valuable and telling more than any number can provide. It can be further used to tailor marketing and sales strategies.
- View your marketing campaigns as a long-term investment—effect, or your true ROI, takes time to be reflected in sales. Look at every campaign through the lens of the “customer nurturing funnel,” meaning the so-called ROI or success metric at each stage of the funnel is different. However, if you follow and nurture the funnel stages correctly, you will see the change in sales numbers.
The most critical element of assessing ROI is to have clarity of business objectives upfront. For social media solutions, which is what we specialize in, the range of ROI models includes:
- Customer acquisition and engagement: We don’t recommend using number of fans or impressions as the measure. These can include fake numbers or even real people who stop by once and never pay attention again. A business is looking for real people and to hold their attention over time. Instead, look at unique visitors who deeply engage with conversation and sharing, how often they return, and information you can collect for better understanding about them.
- Customer service: Increasing customer satisfaction while reducing service costs. This is measured with post-interaction surveys, along with cost-per-inquiry comparisons to other support venues. Generally, social media is two to 10 times as cost effective as phone or in-person support.
- Education, diagnosis, and adherence: A huge impediment to sales and quality health outcomes in pharma is that consumers simply lack the knowledge to understand what illness they have and what to do about it. With that key insight, develop programs to educate people about disease states, and provide coaching and support to improve adherence. ROI includes participation, diagnosis, and actual adherence improvement.
- Sales: Today’s social media venues can manage the entire customer journey straight through to ecommerce transactions, coupon redemptions, or surveys on changes in intent to buy or actual purchase.
Other ROI models include awareness, positioning, loyalty, costs, and health outcomes, among others. In each case, the best practice is to decide upfront what aspect of the business you intend to impact, and then designate your ROI and measures accordingly.
When it comes to actually measuring the effectiveness of your campaign, it’s important that you are gaining insights that inform short-term tactical decisions but also year-over-year learning that can dramatically enhance ROI and customer relationships. Short-term decision-making includes testing current messaging impact, segment-specific engagement, most impactful calls-to-action, and optimized digital media spend month-over-month, among others.
Uncovering Long-term Value for Your Campaign
Year-over-year, a savvy marketer learns which marketing insights will lead to a bigger impact. It’s important to move beyond marketing mix models which quantify effectiveness of different tactics in terms of sales lift and ROI to a test-control research design in which target groups can be compared. This allows data scientists to identify direct causal relationships between marketing methods and ROI that can be applied reliably to future marketing campaigns.
Year-over-year insights occur when clear business questions are defined that align to the brand’s strategic imperatives. Year-over-year insights are aligned to specific targets and inform preferences in messaging content, cadence, channel type, and more. These insights inform tiered spend levels that are executable in size and level of customization within the pharma environment.
We see three areas that marketers struggle with when it comes to measuring ROI.
The first is that proper measurement requires the same level of disciplined planning that marketers put into planning a campaign. That planning is one part establishing campaign objectives, one part establishing specific KPIs, one part understanding the technical requirements to measure ROI, and one part how the physical reporting will be delivered and used.
The second issue that we see marketers struggle with is relying on a single KPI to rule them all. With all apologies to the Lord of the Rings fans reading this post, there are specific metrics that help marketers evaluate success by channel, specific metrics that help determine whether the campaign overall was a success, and specific metrics that help marketers optimize while the campaign is in flight. Identifying all three is critical.
Lastly, marketers should focus more on what they are going to do with the data they collect as opposed to treating measuring ROI as a check box activity. There is more value in what you have learned with this campaign that can be applied to the next campaign versus pure evaluation in the moment. The marketing ecosystem contains a lot of misinformation by those who are afraid of the three letters R-O-I. In reality, though, the marketers who spend the time to properly plan and measure ROI, and then focus on how those learnings could be applied are the marketers who will win.
The point of care (POC) industry has experienced exponential growth over the past few years, averaging 15% to 20% annually. Programs that were once an afterthought for brands are now central to their strategies and budget. With this growth comes the need for a reliable way to evaluate POC programs. Amid its dynamic metrics and tactics POC can be difficult to measure, and evaluation is often performed incorrectly.
The following are four opportunities I see in POC measurement:
- Allow adequate time. Most POC programs are educational—not promotional—and require continued efforts over longer periods of time (minimum six months) to see effectiveness.
- Challenge traditional marketing mix models. POC programs are typically a sustained effort with little change from day to day, making it difficult to evaluate in traditional marketing models. Spending variance from month to month is required for marketing mix models.
- Remember that not all tactics are created equal. Too often POC programs are evaluated together as a group. POC tactics vary from paper brochures to touchscreens and from posters to mobile videos. It is critical to look at each POC tactic individually and recognize that success or failure in one does not necessarily apply to another.
- Leverage HCP-level data for overall performance. In-office POC programs touch all patients and HCPs in a given office. Because patient-level data tends to be a “sample” of patients, it is important to measure the overall performance where virtually ALL data is available: At an HCP level.
The appropriate way to evaluate overall performance of programs in the POC channel is to measure programs over the long term using rigid pre-post/test-control analysis and HCP-level data. Media mix models and patient-level data can provide valuable insights into segmentation and how certain tactics are working to optimize spending allocation by channel.
The impact of the sales force can be one of the more difficult aspects to measure when it comes to ROI. Because this function is long-term and based on relationships, it often doesn’t produce a significant short-term bump in sales or scripts. So the best approaches look to the variables that have changed and factor in business drivers comprehensively, going beyond the one tactic we are seeking to analyze.
For example, if a region has seen a recent decrease in reps or a drop in visit frequency, this should be measured alongside other changes that are occurring and analysis should not assume all else remains constant. Essentially, what is needed is holistic business measurement and advanced analytics to accurately measure ROI.
This is also indicative of the difficulty of measuring the broader group of HCP marketing. When tracking sales or scripts, the activities directed toward those professionals may not be tied closely enough to sales to see that impact. Looking into intermediate KPIs at the professional level can help reveal the impact of those marketing efforts or, lacking intermediate KPIs, marketing mix modeling (MMM) can help to isolate the impacts of marketing toward HCPs.
Getting More Accurate Measurements
Another aspect that makes accurately measuring ROI challenging in healthcare is the complex distribution channels and marketing focuses (both Direct-to-Consumer and HCP marketing).
To best capture a campaign’s ROI, marketers should track data meticulously, both internally and with partners, and work to create variation among variables such as time, geography, and tier when planning and executing marketing. Additionally, partnering with a vendor that specializes in advanced analytics and, in particular, MMM with experience in healthcare can help isolate the impacts of specific marketing efforts and provide more accurate ROI measurement.
A misconception in ROI measurement is that any given media placement can be ascribed a discrete “contribution value” relative to a desired outcome for a campaign. This is because any well-constructed campaign will employ several touchpoints across multiple media, each progressing the prospect down the marketing funnel—from brand awareness, consideration, and finally to action.
The Whole is Greater Than the Parts
Typically, top-of-the-funnel tactics require hyper-targeted media investments in endemic media, which provide a precise content adjacency. These investments themselves are not tangibly tied to specific outcomes, such as prescription lift—but are an essential component of enabling awareness, and thereafter consideration and action. Meanwhile, bottom-of-the-funnel tactics, designed to drive action, are often measured on a performance basis and are managed discretely based on an expected action rate to media investment ratio (e.g., CPA). However, these tactics may not be profitable if not enabled by previous investments in awareness and consideration.
Taken holistically, the total campaign investment across all points along the funnel can be used to measure ROI relative to the campaign objective. In fact, the most progressive of our agency partners are using holistic campaign engagement data not only to measure ROI, but also to change the messaging strategy mid-flight during a campaign in order to drive outcomes and improve ROI in real time.