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18 May 2020

3 obstacles that prevent you from increasing your digital marketing performance

Let’s go back 10-20 years ago when you decided to get on board the ‘digital- marketing-train'. New platforms like Facebook and Netlog were all set to send your sales skyrocketing. Digital marketing was going to change everything.

How is it going so far? You thought it would be easier, didn’t you? I mean, it started with one channel, now there are so many! Do you know where your money is going, and what you are getting in return? As half of Belgian marketers indicated in a recent study they're facing reviewed or delayed marketing campaigns, or budget cuts during these challenging times, keeping an eye on budgets and ROI are key.

Breathe...We are here to give you a comfort blanket and provide you with some tips to increase your marketing performance. Let’s go!

3 obstacles that prevent you from increasing your digital performance

The 3 obstacles

So why is it sometimes difficult to manage your digital marketing efforts? We see 3 main obstacles that can prevent you from optimizing your digital marketing performance:

  1. Not having a performance-driven mindset
  2. Not having the same knowledge level between your marketing team and your digital agency
  3. Not having an agile organisational structure

Let’s discuss these 3 in more depth.

1. Not having a performance-driven mindset

When you set up your digital campaigns, it is important to get everybody on the same page. You are probably working with an agency, or maybe you have an internal digital team. In both cases you need to make sure that everybody has a performance-driven mindset.

A performance-driven mindset consists of 3 components:

  1. Experiment
  2. Tracking the right KPIs
  3. Adapting in an agile way

First of all, let’s decide on an experiment. You and your marketers, probably in collaboration with your digital agency, decide to conquer a new digital platform. Or you want to carry out a new campaign on an already existing platform. In short, you try something new. Experimenting should be done continuously. Trial and error are your new best friends. The idea is to scale the things that work, and to stop the things that don’t. (We take a more in-depth look at experimentation in obstacle 3.)

In a second step, you are looking for the right KPIs to track. Digital marketing comes with all these new metrics like ROAS (return on advertisement spend), CPM (cost per impression), CPA (cost per acquisition), ... It is easy to get lost in those cool abbreviations and end up choosing the wrong KPI. For instance, if you decide to take CPA as your main KPI, you will probably cancel the digital channels with a high CPA and optimize those with a low CPA. But what if the most expensive channel in the short term brings in customers with the highest customer lifetime value? The thumb rule is: ‘track bottom-line KPIs, KPIs that give a direct view of the impact of digital marketing on your profit. Being performance-drivers is about measuring real impact. Define the metric that really drives your business results.

A little remark we want to share: when you work with an agency, make sure your remuneration model is performance-based. Decide on a performance KPI that you want to see influenced and remunerate your agency accordingly. This will give them the right drivers to set up and optimize your digital campaigns.

In substance, it is easy. You start an experiment, you make sure you track the right KPIs and you closely follow up and adapt where necessary.

Let’s give you a more tangible example. Quora is a new platform for digital marketers that want to try something more exotic. The platform lets users ask questions and other users answer them. I know, the essence of this platform isn’t that exotic, but I promise that advertising on Quora is very much new and exotic. Let’s go back to the example: you decide to advertise on this platform. Step one completed, you’ve decided to experiment. Your main target is getting new customers out of display ads. You will track the views, the clicks and, most importantly, you will follow up on your new acquisitions. Are they more valuable than new clients from other platforms? How much should you spend to get a sale and how big is their purchase? Eventually you will have enough information to decide on your next actions and adapt your strategy accordingly.

2. Not having the same knowledge

Of course, it’s only logical that not everybody has the same knowledge level. If you start working with a digital agency, their digital knowledge will be more advanced than yours. But to make sure you can communicate, everybody should have a certain background in order to be effective sparring partners.

Your marketers should always be able to keep up on your agency on 2 levels:

  1. To challenge their strategies

If you work with an agency, they will often present new strategies. Make sure you understand what they are presenting, as you should be able to challenge them. Always keep in mind that you have the most important knowledge: you know your customers. Together you make magic.

  1. To follow up on daily actions

If you decide on a new strategy, the next step is to carry out that strategy. You start with a certain advertisement and follow the results daily. Daily follow-ups are necessary (again to keep that performance-driven mindset). Besides understanding all the abbreviations (like CPM, CPA,…), you need to know and understand the actions that were taken to get certain results. If you understand what works and what doesn't, you will rule your campaign. Trust me.

Tip: Summarize all your KPIs in a concise dashboard, one you can consult at every moment.

3. Not having an agile organizational structure

The third obstacle we need to conquer, is the way your organization is structured. We mentioned a performance-driven mindset and how important it is for your campaign’s success. An agile organizational structure is closely connected to that. Creating an agile organization is all about experimenting, learning fast and making data-driven decisions fast. Technology can help you in this process by feeding you with the right data.

How do you integrate your agency in this agile way of working? The following 4 components are essential for a successful collaboration:

  1. Feedback loops on business KPIs
  2. Flexible budget
  3. No marketing silos – cross functional teams
  4. Room for experimentation - Sprints

Constant feedback is again linked to the first obstacle (not having a performance-driven mindset). If you work with an agency, this constant feedback isn’t that easy. Key to this is the creation of a dashboard with business KPIs, linking the agency work with the key levers that move the needle on your business 24/7. This way you can challenge your agency to focus on the activities that matter, and you can constantly adapt your strategy in good time.

The second variable for an agile way of working is the allocation of your budget. When you notice one channel outperforms another, it is only logical to allocate more budget towards it. Far too often we see that budgets are fixed and difficult to change during a campaign. So make sure you have a flexible budget that can change during the course of a campaign.

In a next step, you should eliminate the marketing silos. An agile structure is driven by cross-functional teams, where people with different expertise work around one product. But next to that it is important to communicate across these teams. Everyone is responsible for the success of your whole company, not just for one product.

Tip: Organize cross product briefings to inform everyone about the actions taken for every product on each channel and about the results of previous campaigns. It is important to link certain losses to wins during these meetings. For instance, if you tried something new on one channel and the sales increased through this action, it could cause a drop on another channel. In total you did not win or lose anything, you just changed the medium. These reflections are important to make during a cross product briefing. Challenge each other during these meetings to obtain the best results.

Lastly, there should be room for experimentation. Key for good experimentation is identifying the correct experiments – ruthlessly driven by your customer journey and the One Metric That Matters (OMTM) for your business. Integrating fast experimentation tools is also essential to enable speed. In an agile set up, the experiments are managed in sprints, where, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, experiments are identified, set up, run and evaluated with regards to impact on the OMTM.

Successful experiments are scaled, non-successful experiments are killed. Keep in mind that you should evaluate all marketing efforts at the same time while doing a sprint, don’t just look at the efforts on one channel. As said before, you can win some new sales through a new channel, but loose them on an older one. The experiment is only successful and ready for repetition if your complete marketing effort caused an increase in sales.


How can you increase your digital marketing performance? There are many ways to achieve this, we focused on 3 obstacles. First of all, make sure your mindset is right. Everyone in your team and the agency should adopt a performance-driven mindset, where experiments with the right KPIs is key. In a next step, you should work on your communication. Ask the agency to educate you on their expertise, so you can understand and challenge them. Last but certainly not least, create an agile way of working with your agency and within your company.

Are you uncertain about how to tackle these 3 obstacles in your company?

Contact one of our experts, and together we will look for the right strategy.