Marketing Feedback Loop: Making Sense of Marketing Data

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Among the many downsides of being a marketing professional is that your work is often subjected to scrutiny. Everybody from the company’s CEO to the building’s watchman can have an opinion about your work.

The earliest form of marketing feedback that I could remember is holding multiple copies of a print ad to an internal audience. We would often cover the logo to understand whether the messaging was perceived to be different from the competition. 

At times the expertise of market research organization was used to answer difficult questions. A long-drawn survey questionnaire was supposed to find answers to problems that people already knew. People often had answers, but the management would often trust an external expert’s expertise over yours, among many mysteries of marketing that you should never try to understand.

When a marketing feedback loop works, you see a brand that spins out one effective campaign after another. It’s like a golden thread that holds marketing fabric together. But often, marketing feedback loops are broken by design or default. 

What is Marketing Feedback Loop?

A marketing feedback loop is a process of analyzing results and using it to feed into your future behaviors. In a nutshell, the marketing feedback loop looks at the cause and effect to see how you can improve your marketing outcomes.

The most common form of marketing feedback is customer feedback. When you receive feedback from the customer, whether positive or negative, how you act on that information matters. 

Marketing feedback loops are loops for a reason; they need to run a few circles before they start to make a difference. A closed-loop ensures that your marketing efforts get better with time.

Here is an example to understand how a closed marketing loop works: Your team creates short-form content for social media that gets published every week. At the end of every week, your team pulls out data to understand what worked and what needs improvement. Based on how the audience reacts, you fine-tune your content. 

But the challenge with marketing feedback loops is that it has to run a few circles, which doesn’t always work out as per your plan. Most marketing teams are chasing short-term priorities, which means they have to realign to a new set of expectations every six months. Even when the priorities and expectations remain the same, marketing campaigns have a long feedback loop.

Let take an example to explain the complexity involved. It takes an average of 3-6 months to put a marketing campaign out in the market for a large organization. Then another couple of months before they localize the campaign for different markets. By the time the feedback reaches the source, it is at least a year into the time that the campaign was first conceived. 

Today organizations are trying to solve this problem with business intelligence solutions like Domo, Looker, and Power BI. But deploying a business intelligence platform is only solving a part of the problem.

How to Build a Feedback Loop into your Marketing Campaigns?

With so much data being captured, one would assume that marketing campaigns are getting better. But that has not always been the case.

Much of the information that is captured is tactical and only helps in improving execution level metrics. Our obsession with vanity metrics also means that we are not always focused on business-level metrics.

1. Move Beyond the Campaign Mindset

It all started in the late ’80s and ’90s, where you had the one big idea, and what followed is a series of assets, and a media plan to propel it. Don’t get me wrong, it still works, but until it doesn’t. Take the year 2020; for instance, did things go as per your plan?

Most marketers are guilty of getting so used to the campaign mindset. Context and timing are critical to delivering your desired marketing outcome. When you approach things from a campaign mindset, feedback is long-drawn, which means your loop can’t make a few circles, making it difficult to know whether it is working.

2. Shorter Loops

It wouldn’t come as a surprise, but software engineers are familiar with the concept of shorter feedback loops. The whole act of writing a software code is a feedback loop. Shorter loops also mean you complete more circles in a shorter time frame allowing the process to get better.

In the video gaming industry, they do this by providing early access to gaming titles. This allows gaming developers to incorporate feedback from real users into design decisions. The value of a shorter feedback loop is apparent. 

If you want your marketing to have the desired outcome, consider a mix of technology and people-based interventions to make the feedback loop shorter.

  • Will the copy work with my target audience? Copy testing helps you get your copy screened and verified by people within hours.
  • Will the creative be perceived the way we expect it to? Feng Gui is a useful tool to get feedback on your designs and costs a fraction of traditional eye-tracking techniques.
  • Will the users behave the way we wanted them to on the website? HotJar helps to understand how users behave on your website using session recordings, heatmaps, and surveys.
  • How do you design personalized experiences using behavioral insights? Google Optimize helps you to design personalized experiences and conduct powerful A/B split testing to understand what really works with your audience.

For shorter feedback loops to work, you have to combine technology with actionable insights that people can execute.

3. Separating Signal from Noise

Off late, there has been a lot of talk about using Power BI and Tableau for C-Suite reporting. Dashboards have been build to showcase a range of business and marketing-level metrics. But when your dashboard is overloaded with data, the signal can become diluted by random noise generated by superfluous or irrelevant data.

To improve your signal-to-noise ratio, you must understand what decisions and actions are needed and only select the relevant data points. The marketing dashboard should, at a minimum, should include data that can help the leadership to know:

  • Which business outcomes did the marketing team impact, and to what degree?
  • Whether the marketing team met the performance targets set?
  • What is and isn’t working, and what tactical course adjustments need to be made?

Final Thoughts

If you have worked in the product marketing or marketing department, it is unlikely you wouldn’t have heard the Sumant Moolgaokar story. Sumant was the Managing Director of Tata Motors during the early ’90s. 

The story goes like every day, the top executives of Tata Motors would have lunch together except Sumant, who would disappear during lunch hours. This led to a whisper campaign within the company that he was allegedly being treated for lunch by some Tata dealers at some nearby five star hotels.

One day to confirm the suspicion, a few of his employees decided to follow him during lunch break. They were surprised to find his car parked outside a highway Dhaba, Sumant had not only paid for his lunch, but he had kept himself busy talking to truck drivers at the Dhaba.

That is when they realized how Sumant was getting his feedback from, he was taking notes that he could share with his engineering team from a driver’s point of view. 

Two decades later, the way we capture feedback has evolved. Practically every technology platform that we use today captures feedback, or so they claim, yet the marketing feedback loop is broken. Even with a state-of-the-art marketing technology stack deployed, the onus of acting on feedback always lies with a human being.

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