Regular readers know I’m a fan of the work of Edward Tufte, who the New York Times once described as The da Vinci of Data. The unifying theme of his many books and papers is finding ways to make complicated data simple and immediately understandable.
This is rarely easy. That’s why there is so much data presented in less than ideal graphical formats. Difficult-to-process-tables are one of the contributors to the Death By Powerpoint syndrome.
Is boring your audience a crime? No. But especially in an era where so much is changing so fast, the need for nearly instant understanding is even more important. There must be understanding of the facts before the right decisions can be made. Obviously, companies whose people make decisions based on what’s really happening have a significant competitive advantage.
Consider this the “Before” example, to be compared with the image below.
I found the insights in these survey results interesting and occasionally downright provocative. (You can click on the link above to read the observations that I thought were worth discussing.)
My problem: For me, at least, pulling insights from a table of percentages alone was nothing short of agonizing.
My solution was to convert it into this:
The Same Data Made More Understandable
Below is what I came up with (click for a slightly clearer version). After looking for other types of charting, I realized that the benefits of the table (many different comparisons can be made) could be combined with the benefits of a bubble graph (intuitive comparison of visual “volume”).
I don’t pretend to be a charting innovator, but instead present this as encouragement. If I can improve data using a simple graphics program (I used Visio), so can you.
A recent study reported in eMarketer (results graphic below) shows a surprising boost in organic searches when consumers are exposed to an online display ad.
What is especially interesting is the variation by industry:
(Could it be that display ads in certain industries are more effective than others? I’m guessing that’s at least part of it.)
Obviously, the real test of a display ad is not its effectiveness at spurring interest (i.e., a search), but at making a sale. It turns out the lift in coversions of combining display ads with paid search is significant as well. In a prior study by Microsoft and Atlas DMT, reported in this Clickz article, it was found that overall conversions when search and display ads were used simultaneously was 22%.
What is significant about this study, however, is for some categories of business there was no lift in conversions whatsoever.
The fact that conversion rates improve at all is good news for online advertising. In fact, the eMarketer piece concludes with a prediction for this harrowing new year:
Search and display ads will retain the highest share of online ad spending formats through 2013, and will be the only formats to maintain double-digit share through that period.
Yesterday I sent a results report to a client for a pay-per-click (PPC) searchÂ lead generation campaign that my team managed. It showed a performance that was five times higher, in terms of cost-per-lead, than a traditional direct mail campaign. That’s pretty cool. But as I sent the report, I was reminded of this recent report from eMarketer:
It shows how a majority of marketers favor direct mail for lead generation versus search marketing. Scott Brinker was rightly puzzled by this, in a recent post. I agree with Scott that a chief reason for this strong preference for direct mail over search engine marketing (34% versus 8%), when it comes to customer acquisition, is the difficulty many marketers face in getting search prospects to convert.
Indeed, if the lead acquisition campaign my team was leading was instead a customer acquisition campaign, the results would likely have been closer to a dead heat with direct mail in terms of ROI.
But what does that mean? Just that we’re not trying hard enough. As marketers, I feel we cannot allow so many opportunities for conversion to click away from landing pages. There are many tested techniques for improving conversions (new offers, testimonials, guarantees, Web 2.0 landing page design). There are also spectacular new tools to do multivariate testing of these techniques.
Let’s take direct mail for what it should be. It is (usually) the customer acquisition benchmark. Now let’s shift more resources online, but apply them where it really counts: To create campaigns that actually surpass the mail in delivering a strong ROI.
A recent survey has shed light on what one breed of marketing professionals are perceiving as good bets in terms of measurable return on investment (ROI). The tactic leading the pack is email, sent to an internal — or “house” — list. This is hardly surprising, since it is a relatively low-cost way to announce new products and deals to customers and prospects. What is more interested is seeing how both organic search marketing (i.e., search engine optimization) and pay-per-click (PPC) search marketing are viewed by these same executives compared to other tactics. Here is the full run-down:
Considering the search-centric executives surveyed (these were 3,186 “in-house search marketers or agency executives,” as reported in eMarketer.com‘s ROI for Select Marketing Tactics according to US Search Marketers), it’s not surprising both are regarded highly. Both are deemed as “Good” investments in respect to the return they typically provide by one out of every three respondents, and another third (34% total) considered one of these two tactics “Strongest” in terms of ROI.
This would be a glowing assessment of search when compared with other tactics, if only PPC weren’t also deemed as “highly variable” by 28% of respondents. Considering how much control one has on the risks and rewards of PPC, this makes me wonder if that measurement isn’t the voice of a minority who either hasn’t conducted a PPC campaign or hasn’t done it properly.
The booby prize goes to online advertising (“banners, etc.”), deemed “Low Value” by 43% of the group. With opinions of online ads being this negative, is it any wonder ad networks are scrambling to sweeten the kitty with more behaviorally-focused targeting?