Working with clients since my agency days and for a few years on my own, there’s one topic where I continue to gain clarity: the difference in how I think about marketing data vs. how my clients think about it. It’s a tough discrepancy to describe, but an important one for any marketing manager to understand. We’ll start by reviewing each side’s perspective on a PPC report. While I focus on PPC, this difference relates to any paid marketing effort.

The Client Perspective on PPC

It’s no surprise that a client is focused on end results. If PPC is their major (or only) paid marketing effort, then success of the overall program (or the lack thereof) is often attributed to PPC. As long as the program is seeing a good return on ad spend (ROAS) using the overall revenue and overall ad spend, the client is satisfied. Likewise, if the ROAS is missing the mark (using those top level metrics), the client feels there need to be significant changes made in the PPC program to get the program back to profitable. From this top-level perspective, it’s often as simple as “How much did we spend on marketing this week and how much money did we make over the week?” (The latter half of that statement is quite relevant to the example I’ll provide shortly.)

The Marketing Manager Perspective on PPC

We (marketing managers) spend a lot of time and effort at the launch of paid marketing efforts to ensure tracking is set up correctly. For us, this is essential for success. If there’s revenue coming in, we need to understand what led to that revenue – keyword, campaign, device, geographic area and more. It’s this granular understanding that helps us to build on successful areas of the program and eliminate waste (or ‘trim the fat’ as I often say to my clients).

A marketing manager’s perspective is also heavily impacted by attribution. In the ideal world, any revenue (or conversions) that a paid marketing channel was involved in would receive the appropriate amount of credit. For example, even if Google AdWords only played a minor role in driving a sale, the appropriate campaign/keyword/etc. would receive the appropriate amount of credit. However, there’s a number of reasons that this might not occur. As a result of this and our narrow (tunnel-vision) focus on what we can attribute to the marketing efforts we manage, we tend to focus only on what we can directly tie to our marketing.

The Conflict Between Two Perspectives

While the two perspectives often align, there are times where there will be discrepancy between the two. I’ll cite a recent example of this from my own work (making changes to protect my client and perhaps being a little dramatic):

In preparing the weekly report for a service-based client, I notice that our ROAS is lower than over our recent weeks (where we’ve recently seen strong performance). In analyzing the data, I notice we had several days of no revenue and other days of strong revenue attributed to the Google AdWords program I manage. I comment on both features and, because the issues appear to be an outlier, I comment that we had an ‘off week’, but mention that I’ll be keeping an eye on some key areas of the program to make sure the program bounces back to normal. My best hope to recover for the week is that there were some backend issues on those off days that led to issues in reporting or users converting. I’m also hoping that there was revenue coming in through other channels so my client’s business wasn’t impacted as much as the PPC program.

My client unexpectedly responds back to me that they’re experiencing some of the strongest performance they’ve ever seen, including the week in the PPC report. They provide business level data on marketing spend (where the Google AdWords program is the primary driver and spender) and their revenue/ROAS numbers and, as they said, it’s one of the best weeks they’ve ever seen. They couldn’t be happier with how the program is going!

So, what led to this discrepancy? Well, in this specific case, it was a number of things. For the report in question, much of the revenue generated over this particular week came from latent conversions. In Google AdWords, if a click happened over a previous week but they actually bought this week, the credit for the sale goes back to when the click occurred (that’s a topic for another post). As a result, in my weekly report, that revenue isn’t apparent to me (though it’ll help numbers in the monthly report). There was also some revenue that didn’t tie back directly to AdWords clicks (though AdWords may have played a role).

Resolving the Difference in Perspective

For the Marketing Manager: Always keep in mind that your client is primarily focused on their overall business objectives. Be careful to avoid being so myopic that you miss the big picture. While your primary goal might be ensuring that the paid marketing efforts you manage deliver amazing results, it’s also important to keep an eye on the top-level business perspective as well. One thing that can help is the Model Comparison Tool in Google Analytics. This tool can help you understand how your marketing efforts might assist in revenue generated by other areas of their online program.

Your task doesn’t change – you still need to optimize with the available data and consistently strive to improve your data to minimize these discrepancies. In my case (and because my client kindly provides the appropriate access), I provide an overview of the top-level numbers in additional to the performance of the paid marketing program. This helps to ensure that both parties are considering both perspectives when analyzing overall performance.

For the Client: Please understand that, for a marketing manager, data is our lifeblood. Based on how different areas of your program are performing, we’re constantly looking to adjust to continue improving your program over time. Data is critical to this process. We can only (confidently) make changes to the program when we have visibility into where there is strong and weak performance. While we understand that top-level performance is important, if we can’t attribute strong or weak performance to factors we can control in your marketing program, it’s difficult to take action based on the high-level numbers. This occasionally means that we might appear a little shortsighted and unable to see the big picture. Don’t hold that against us and help us to see the big picture when needed. Help us discover opportunities to gain more detailed and valuable data so we have better insights to continue improving your marketing efforts.