How do we measure the impact of marketing efforts?

Knowing whether an appeal is successful and understanding why it worked are essential to replicating that success – and avoiding wasting valuable staff time on low-impact efforts. 

Marketing success means you’re growing the size of your membership program and its associated revenue at a steady clip year over year. Getting there will require knowing which marketing channels and messages work best, and doubling down on them to get there. It also requires having big-picture, realistic growth goals. Jump to “Developing membership metrics” for more on setting objectives for your membership program.

This starts and ends with tracking. Use a distinct, trackable URL every time you promote membership across your products—website, newsletters, standalone email appeals, social media, text messages, etc. You can create your URLs by hand or you can use a URL generator (News Revenue Hub uses Salesforce campaign IDs). 

One of the most important metrics to watch is conversions (i.e. how many donors are attributable to each channel and promotion effort). Keep track of this performance data in a spreadsheet so you can get a grip on your baselines. After doing this for a few months, you should be able to glean actionable answers to questions like:

  • Which channels should we focus on? In other words, of all the places where we’re publishing a call to action and inviting readers to become members, which one is converting best?
  • Which of my onsite calls-to-action are converting best? Should we consider testing different copy, colors, and imagery? 
  • How many conversions can we expect from an email appeal, on average? Are there any patterns among highest- and lowest-performing emails in terms of subject matter (“Save journalism!” versus “Help fund our coverage of this issue!”), send day/time, subject line, etc?  

This Membership Puzzle Project resource on data-informed decision making offers simple advice for how newsrooms can better track member acquisition. It includes a spreadsheet template and other low-cost, low labor advice on collecting the data you need. Check out the Daily Maverick’s marketing roadmap to see how one newsroom tracks their marketing success.