When it comes to celebrating achievements and progress, marketing is an odd beast to pin down.
One ill-judged slip of the tongue could unleash a wealth of highly valuable strategy points, which are arguably best left where they’re at their most protected; affixed to the notepads and screens of those in charge of the work.
In the case of performance marketing, its cut and-dry nature produces a negative in the sense that activity draws result and client/brand declares win. In some cases there is little cause for further discussion from the purse-string holder; room for feedback and scope for greater spend in the channel.
On top of this, there is performance’s status as a rapidly-maturing but still fairly youthful entity. The term was borne of the pay-on-results approach offered by activities such affiliate marketing. Sometimes it’s easy for affiliate marketers and others in the space to concentrate on their own work rather than thinking about what else they can do for a client or brand.
It’s a triple-edged sword which has a habit of keeping the celebrations behind closed doors, and arguably at a significant cost.
Like display advertising and social media, performance is part of a wider digital mix. Along with its counterparts, the channel must be able to stake its claim for a fair share of the advertiser’s budget, which comes from being able to prove overall worth.
From the perspective of Genevieve Kunst, VP and managing director for Europe at online news publisher PopSugar, performance marketers are renowned for keeping quiet, and “definitely” need to raise their voice in order to better compete with the channels they operate alongside.
“Ultimately, budget holders want to make the biggest return for their "buck" so to speak,” she says. “It is up to agencies, networks and internal organisations to demonstrate their value in comparison to the other channels.”
But what stands as a far greater issue than a ‘results-driven’ reputation, for instance, is the industry’s own habit of keeping schtum. In some cases it comes down to focusing on a smaller picture than the one that could emerge.
“I would argue that it is more that the industry itself is not thinking bigger about the opportunities that exist and that oftentimes organisations and agencies have structured themselves into the pigeonhole,” Kunst adds, citing her experience of branding fashion site ShopStyle a “marketing partner” as opposed to an “affiliate publisher” as an example of broadening horizons.
Hiding the single customer view
On the flipside, keeping quiet has its clear advantages. Use the example of the small-brand campaign manager, who uses performance to compete with the giants of his or her space. Disclosing winning formulas can only make it easier for the large enterprises to obtain what makes the rival campaign drive results time and time again.
This is especially from the advertiser site, as RetailMeNot’s VP and general manager for France, Anne-Marie Schwab, states.
“Agencies are very keen on shouting about their results, but their clients are more reluctant to share insights on their campaigns.
“With the rise of mobile and omni-channel retail, the consumer journey is changing and everyone is struggling to get a good picture of the consumer, so companies are more and more determined to keep their strategy private and protect their KPIs from their competitors.”
But performance’s lack of a celebratory instinct is nothing new, according to Schwab. It’s something that stems back to the “good old days” when performance as a term did not exist and marketers would do their very best to hide the routes to success from their above-the-line activity.
It’s Schwab’s belief that having a greater range of tools for compiling stats has made the problem worse.
“As the industry evolves, we have now more indicators than ever at hand that we can use to analyse the outcome of our campaigns, while companies are becoming increasingly protective of their data to keep their competitive edge.”
Solutions to silence
Considering the billions of euros that performance marketing has driven for brands over the years, it’s a shame that the industry as a whole cannot and occasionally will not amplify its voice.
After all, performance marketers do wonders for the companies they serve. Whether that’s in bringing down the cost per acquisition, or tapping into a market deemed unreachable by other methods of promotion.
But even with the barriers firmly in place, there are havens where performance marketers can truly savour their victories without repercussions. Industry accolades, voted for by only a select group with no vested interest in the content in front of them, are a good place to start.
“Outstanding work is celebrated through awards, which are a great way to highlight success,” comments Schwab.
“Companies don’t have to give away their strategy for this, but can showcase their innovation.”
At discount hub RetailMeNot, emphasis is placed on celebrating what can’t be published internally, which helps keep teams motivated and to grow and learn as a unit.
Overall, though, as the numbers for digital marketing spend continue to multiply, it appears the industry could be creating a fair few problems for itself by not speaking up.
This feature originally appeared in PerformanceIN's European Performance Marketing supplement. Click here to download a free copy.