Event Recap

Event Recap: A Customer-First Approach to Measuring Digital Marketing Success with Dale Nitschke

MIMA Event: Unlocking the Potential of Your Digital Marketing Investments was held April 18, 2018, in the Schultz Hall Auditorium at the University of St. Thomas Minneapolis campus.

As marketers, our jobs are increasingly complex. There are more devices. More channels. More platforms. And, with that, there are more questions about arguably the three most important letters in our industry: ROI.

Organizations can take an inordinate number of paths to answer the question of return on digital marketing investments. Regardless of the approach, though, Dale Nitschke, CEO of Ovative/group, says it’s critical to narrow your focus on what—rather, who—matters most in all we do.

“If you center things around the customer, everything becomes more clear,” he says.

For Nitschke, there are four core areas organizations can focus on related to unlocking the potential of their digital marketing investments:

  1. Challenge your current metrics
  2. Identify the measurement gaps
  3. Build awareness and trust
  4. Test, learn, share, repeat

Just as traditional marketing approaches have been disrupted by technology advancements, so has the business of acquiring customers for most companies. Historically, brick-and-mortar-centric retailers would take the approach of, if you build it (a new store), they (the customers) will come.

Today, with e-commerce and other retail changes, companies are less reliant on capital outlays to acquire new customers. They also aren’t as focused on geographies and store locations as they may have been in the past. Simply put, the business model has changed. That change brings opportunities for marketers to demonstrate how their work drives true business goals and objectives.

“Marketing now owns a legitimate seat the table,” Nitschke says. “They are responsible for levers that drive business outcomes.”

To begin making their impact, marketers can focus on helping tell the success story to leadership and help organizations challenge current measurement models to one that puts customer data first.

Nitschke acknowledges that most leaders’ success DNA is not digital or data-driven. When things go awry, traditional-minded C-suites resort to cutting expenses and promoting new products. They are falling back on what they know and what makes them comfortable. For marketers, it’s imperative to build a new trust and comfort level with leadership teams. When they’re comfortable, they lean in and become part of the solution, Nitschke says.

“When they have comfort, it creates a platform for discussion,” he says. “That conversation typically can lead to change. Then, they’re part of the solution.”

Putting executives in that comfort zone does require marketers to bring real data and real results to the table. And that only happens with some old-fashioned testing and learning, something Nitschke implores all marketers to remember and practice.

“When you’re in a change situation [like in marketing], it’s so important to do things,” he says. “Test and do. ‘Do’ is the big unlocking to drive the change.”

Any “doing” has to keep the customer top of mind, at all times. Nitschke shares a hypothetical example about vacuum cleaners and why thinking about results in terms of the channel—versus a holistic, enterprise viewpoint—does not tell the full story around digital marketing investments.

In this example, consider vacuum cleaners within the channel of e-commerce. Vacuums are big and bulky to ship, resulting in high costs. They’re not cheap to make and don’t generate high margins. And, people don’t tend to buy them frequently. So, to measure the digital investment of marketing vacuum cleaners in the context of sales alone is not an accurate picture.

Instead, consider the insight that says consumers are conducting vacuum-cleaner research digitally and then much more likely to purchase within a brick-and-mortar. If you don’t evaluate the digital channel as a research tool that helps drive the sale in store, the customer’s journey is not driving the measurement story.

This example, and others shared by Nitschke, emphasizes the importance of an organization’s customer database and its impact on business goals. A healthy customer file is fundamental to achieving business goals and driving profitable growth. Despite that fact, many CEOs can’t answer the question of how strong their customer database is, Nitschke says.

That’s where marketers can come into play. Through testing and learning and putting the customer first, you can bring tangible insights to leadership that build comfort and trust, and help unlock the potential of current and future digital marketing investments.

“It’s a shifting world where your customer database is lifting itself in the decision-making processes,” Nitschke says. “You have to know what drives all parts of your customer file.”


Written by MIMA Marketing Committee volunteer Chris Matt


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