Sometimes squads get so close to the engagement they lose vision of the mission. This can lead us to micro-management thinking and consideration of only the present. Executives, like Generals, must think about the total mission not the tactical battles. Just like it takes many battles to win a war, it takes many contacts to close a sale. Each contact is part of the overall close. We have this conversation with Clients all the time. They do not want to do things that advance the sale they only want to do things that close it. The problem is you cannot get to the end-goal without the journey. Think about the last time you bought something new from someone new, was it one touch and done? Of course not. The only time you see one touch and done is an emergency purchase.
An e-commerce client was examining sales by source and Google Ads did NOT look good. When examined in isolation, Google Ads was losing money on every sale. The client turned off Google Ads and fired us. A perfectly understandable action given that in the marketing business, you earn the right to do business with clients tomorrow by the value you create for them today. After shutting down Google Ads, sales continued to come in and the client was initially happy with their decision. However, after about 30 days sales started to fade and by 60 days, they were downright depressing. That was when our phone rang. We brought Google Ads back online and 60 days later sales were back. What they learned the hard way was the impact and measurement complexity of a multiple touch sale cycle. They came very close to saving themselves out of business.
As it turned out, most of their customers were women. While this is a sexist and a stereotype comment – Women are shoppers and many view shopping as a competitive sport and take their shopping serious. Customers were coming to the site multiple times before they purchased. This resulted in a much longer sales cycle than the business thought it had. Customers visited the site returning multiple times, waiting for deals, checking pricing, and finally after 10 visits, they would buy. This gave the business an average sales cycle of about 60 days, not the 2-3 days they thought they had. This creates reporting issues, especially if reporting is a last attribution model. In this case, the discovery of the product was from Google Ads, but the purchases were in Direct and Organic. This is because they were returning with bookmarks and/or brand searches. Connecting visits together is an imperfect science while Google Analytics supports this reporting, it is flawed but you can learn from the data. Moral of the story is that all sales steps create value and you cannot value just the last visit.
Our advice is that you watch the micro and macro level data and value all the steps in the process. In many cases, it can take 20 or more touches before a sales transaction happens and not all customers require the same path or experience. Some will convert on the first visit but others may need 20 or more steps. At the edges, the 1 and 20 are both outliers with the bulk of sales in the 8-12 touchpoint range. The range from top to bottom varies by company but this type of distribution rule is mostly universal. You will always get some instant gratification sales, but they are not going to represent the typical purchase experience.
You must measure and manage your data, but you have to understand what the data is trying to tell you. Most people are too quick to think they understand things but are only observing. In sales, the data we deal with are clues, not facts. You must be careful about what you think you know. It is common to run identical tests and get very different results. I know nobody likes to hear this, but sales data is not an instant gratification game. Customers do not follow the straight and narrow path to sales that you WANT them to. They drift around, they reevaluate, they change decisions, and act randomly. You must let the data finish its story before you act.