Measurement Week series: Q&A with Patrick Niersbach, digital marketing and analytics manager

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AMEC Measurement Week presented by Cision and Vocus will be descending on New York City in just 17 days. (Are you registered yet?) In preparation for this free, five-day event, we thought it would be insightful and resourceful to interview some of Cision’s own data and analytics professionals and get you thinking about how measurement applies to your job, campaigns or brand. We kick off our Measurement Week series today with a Q&A with Patrick Niersbach, Cision’s digital marketing and analytics manager who works out of our Chicago office.

Pat, the Marketing Team knows you as our loveable numbers guy. Can you give our readers a rundown of what your role is and what projects you work on?
I’m in charge of optimizing our lead generation efforts. I focus on driving new business leads to the website and specifically optimizing each channel. With that there comes a lot of work on the back end to figure out what the ideal lead looks like and what the correct amount is to pay per lead, and that amount can vary depending on the channel or campaign.

My job is really just about understanding the data we have—what worked, what didn’t and how we can learn and do things more effectively.

Why should every PR or marketing organization measure its efforts?
Measurement is key to make sure you’re learning from each campaign. If you do not measure your efforts you won’t know if you’ve been successful or not and what you should do for future campaigns. If you can’t measure it, it’s going to be hard to ask for more money to do more marketing.

You recently hosted a webinar with Heidi Sullivan [Cision’s SVP of digital content] covering measurement practices that PR pros can borrow from marketers. What is it that makes marketing efforts easier to measure than PR, or what is it that marketers typically do better than PR?
There are a few things: Marketers are in control of most aspects of their campaigns—copy, imagery, links, messaging—versus PR, where you may not always be in control. There also tends to be more clearly defined goals in marketing, like leads, sign-ups and downloads. Advances in ad tech have really helped marketers as well—it is becoming easier to track prospects through the entire marketing funnel.

What are some of the metrics PR professionals should look at when trying to measure their campaigns?
It really comes back of what the goals of the campaign are. If it’s an engagement-type campaign, there are all sorts of engagement metrics we can look at—click-through rate, open rate, percentage of new visitors. But if it’s a lead-focused campaign I would look at more cost-focused metrics, like cost-per-lead or cost-per-action. And obviously return on investment (ROI) is always something you want to keep an eye on.

What advice do you have for someone in communications who wants to use data more effectively to measure their campaign or business efforts? Where do they start?
Goal setting and data standardization. Without having goals set up you don’t know what you’re looking for.  Without data standardization you’ll get data anomalies—you won’t know what you’re looking at or you’ll go mad trying to figure out what happened. You need to understand web analytics is an imperfect science and is meant to be looked at the aggregate level, not individual levels. I recommend setting your own benchmarks. Run your campaigns and see if you can beat those benchmarks.

I know you do a lot of A/B testing in your role. Do you have any testing insights or success stories?
The biggest thing I learned is to test everything. And you can and should test anything—headlines, body, imagery, calls-to-action—just make sure you’re not testing too much at once. You want to make sure you know why that test won or lost and apply that to your next test.

You’d be surprised at the easy wins you can have when you’re testing. For example, we moved the placement of a form higher up on a webpage and we increased conversions by 400 percent. Your test might not always win, but it’s important that you’re learning what may not work for your audience. You are not always going to get a 400 percent win, but you might discover other interesting facts, like if your audience hates the color blue.

How did you get into data?
[Straight out of college] I was in a different marketing communications role and we didn’t really measure anything. We focused on the communications part, and anything that stuck was great, but that resulted in a lot of frustration and wasted time. I started measuring for that organization and it’s been a love affair ever since. That makes me the loveable numbers guy, I guess!

Can you give us an interesting fact about yourself?
I’ve been to 22 different MLB stadiums. It kills me—I don’t think I’m going to make it to the last eight! It’s just so hard to get out to those stadiums these days.

For more data and analytics tips, be sure to check out the sessions we’re hosting during AMEC Measurement Week.

About Teresa Dankowski

Teresa Dankowski is a content marketing manager at Cision and covers best practices in marketing, PR and social media. She enjoys printmaking, wine, TV and dominating at rec league softball.

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