A key finding from the 2020 In-House Creative Management Report shows that the value of creative can be measured throughout the entire funnel.
One of the most exciting findings from the 2020 In-House Creative Management Report is that the business is in full agreement that creative work drives business results. 89% of survey respondents say that creative work is important to driving business objectives, and 87% of creatives report that they are getting the same or more credit for organizational results compared to a year ago.
However, it is interesting to note that even though the value of creative work is clear, it’s not clear how that translate that value into hard numbers. When asked “In what ways does your organization define ‘business impact’ for creative work?” and given the option to multi-select, 2 interesting trends emerged.
Most Creatives Measure the Impact of Creative Work at the Top of the Funnel
First, and not surprisingly, most creatives said that the impact of their work is measured at the top of the funnel, on things like brand recognition (56%) and engagement metrics (51%). That creative work is useful for defining and strengthening a brand and building engagement with the target audience isn’t news. And while no business leader is likely to outright dismiss the value and importance of good branding, its really hard to put a number on that – most business leaders are more interested in results further down the funnel.
Engagement metrics are a good first step for creative teams trying to become more data-driven. These metrics are very easy to track with modern marketing technology, and most modern marketing teams have gotten very good at tracking them. Passing that data back to creatives and starting to do things like A/B tests or putting a tracking code on a specific creative choices is a very accessible way for most creative teams to start telling their story through numbers.
1/3 of Creatives Measure the Impact of Creative Work in Terms of Lead Gen and Revenue
As we move even further down the funnel we see that 31% of creative teams define business impact as either lead generation or direct ROI – essentially tying a revenue number to a creative choice.
While personally I’d like to see more creatives tying their work to lead generation, since that is only one more step from the engagement metrics half of them are already tracking, it’s still very impressive to see that 1/3 of creatives are coming up with an ROI number tied to revenue. Really, that’s the dream. As Kim Conder put it in the 2020 In-House Creative Management Report,
“Ultimately, the best measure of business impact is revenue. That’s why you’re in business, right? However, it can be really difficult or even impossible to directly attribute X dollars to a specific design choice, so you have to think about the entire funnel and show the impact that creative work and design has at each stage.”
And that ties into the second trend we see in the answers to this question: 43% of respondents said that business impact is not clearly defined for them. That means that even some of the respondents that chose one of the other options still said they didn’t know how to measure business impact. What this tells us is that business impact is not a well defined concept in the creative industry, and that even teams that are making concerted efforts to apply analytics to their work are not sure if they are really getting to the metrics that drive the key objectives for the business.
What are creatives to do?
Creative teams find themselves in a mental tug of war. On the one hand they know, and their organization knows, that creative work is valuable. On the other hand, they need to be able so demonstrate that value in numbers – just like every other department in the business, they need to show a direct connection between their work and the key business objectives. But on the other hand, creative work isn’t like other work. Its colorful, and emotional, and all about feelings. Yikes. We know innately that creative work works, but how do we show that to a business obsessed with spreadsheets?
Justin Ahrens lays out the answer in the 2020 In-House Creative Management Report:
“We often want to know what single metric will show the impact of creative, but actually the number one thing that we need to do is continue to educate the value of the entire funnel. You have to understand and set reasonable goals for each level and make sure your stakeholders understand that the entire funnel, the entire customer experience, is important for driving the bottom line.”
What Justin highlights is crucial to understanding the value of creative work: Creative work impacts the entire customer journey. The reason so many teams struggle in their quest to define the value of creative work in one marquee metric is because creative is all-encompassing. Prospects and customers begin interacting with our brand before we are even aware of it. They see an ad, but don’t click, or they encounter our booth at a tradeshow, but don’t engage. They hear other people talking about us, but haven’t yet visited our website. Eventually (hopefully) they’ll start engaging with us in a way that we can track, but getting that engagement depends on inspiring them to reach out with a compelling message delivered in powerful creative. And it doesn’t stop there. Every interaction a prospect or customer has with the brand for the lifetime of that relationship will determine their willingness to spend money with that brand. At every step, creative work is the crucial, differentiating factor.
How to Tell the Story
So how do you do that – educate on the ways that creative impacts the entire customer journey? Ilise Benun of Marketing Mentor advocates for showing your work:
“Creativity is not always tangible. The deliverables are tangible, you can see the website or hold a brochure, but you can’t see everything that went into making it. If you can’t see it, its really difficult to value it. That’s called Absence Blindness. That means it’s the job of the creative team to take the time and find the moments to show your work – go into detail about how you go where you got with a particular project.”
Show your work and tell your story. So many “business people” see creative as a black box – they don’t understand how creativity works. Open up to them and show them your process and how you make decisions because when they can understand what you do, they can start to see the value in it. Sam Harrison illustrates in the 2020 In-House Creative Management Report how data and storytelling can dovetail to create visibility into the myriad ways that creative work impacts the entire customer journey:
“Creative contributions often seem intangible to organizational leaders, so KPI measurements provide analytics directly tied to business outcomes – brand awareness metrics, lead metrics, customer retention metrics. At the same time, it’s critical to balance analytics with a powerful, consistent narrative. After all, storytelling is as important for bolstering the creative team’s value as it is for boosting the organization’s brand. Have a daily mission to become the creative authority and advisor for the organization. Show and tell. Educate and seek buy-in. Involve leaders in the journey of creativity. Develop cross-departmental participation and nurture organizational support. A scoreboard’s numbers are determined by the performance of players on the field but also by support of fans in the stands. Cheer for the team.”
Learn more about how your creative team can partner more effectively with your business by downloading the 2020 In-House Creative Management Report.
Elise Hauser is a product and content marketer with a passion for telling brand stories. She has produced inMotionNow’s annual In-House Creative Management Report for 3 years, webinars, content sessions for major industry events reaching audiences of 1,000+, and of course, countless blog posts. When Elise isn’t writing about the marketing and creative industry at inMotionNow she is teaching economics and hanging out with her cat, Tucker, at her home in Raleigh, NC.