How can you tell if your hard work is paying off? Try these simple yet effective ways to measure your marketing efforts without shelling out the big bucks.By Karen Hazel, Esq. Owner & Principal Hazel Communications LLC
Think of your favorite horror movie. Now fast forward to the scene where the would-be victim comes face-to-face with the storyâ€™s knife-wielding maniac, and displays the look of horror so familiar to this genre.Â Got it? Visualizing it? Picturing the eyes bulging, neck and mouth contorted? Hearing the requisite blood-curdling scream?Â Well, thatâ€™s the reaction most marketing and communications managers have on the inside when their companyâ€™s Chief Marketing Officer asks, â€œSo, how the XYZ campaign paying off?â€
Perhaps that analogy is a bit dramatic. However, if youâ€™re marketing away (translation: spending the companyâ€™s money and resources) without any means or process whatsoever by which to measure the results of your efforts, you should have that reaction when asked to account for your marketing planâ€™s success.
Think about it: When you buy a car, donâ€™t you want to know the estimated mileage-per-gallon the car will deliver, and under various conditions? Why arenâ€™t your shareholders and clients entitled to roughly the same assessment?
Certainly, corporate profitability and gas mileage are not exactly comparable. But the underlying principle applies to both: Accountability.Â To say that you canâ€™t really pinpoint how a certain marketing effort impacted your companyâ€™s profitability is to basically state that you are not accountable for your own decisions, or, that you embarked on a marketing strategy or campaign without thinking of or caring whether it would positively impact the companyâ€™s bottom line.
While you may not be able to correlate down the penny which sales were directly generated by your marketing plan, you should be able to at least report on the general impact, if not effectiveness, that your marketing efforts have driven. If not, why should your company entrust you with a budget?
Fear Not: No Need to Hire an Outside Agency
Before you make the â€œhorror-movie face,â€ letâ€™s make something clear: You do not need to hire an outside agency to learn how to measure your marketing planâ€™s results, impact or effectiveness. Of course, if your Executive Board decides itâ€™s time for a company-wide overhaul of the way your firm markets at-large, enlisting the help of consultants may be appropriate. But here, weâ€™re talking about how you, as a marketing leader, can begin cultivating a culture of accountability within the existing Marketing and Communications framework.
Why does this matter? Or, in short, why bother? To begin, itâ€™s time our profession begins to work collectively, collaboratively and cohesively to move our discipline out of the red and into the black. Put bluntly, arenâ€™t you tired of being viewed as a cost, rather than a thriving source of revenue?
Second, thereâ€™s the comparatively greater potential for career enrichment and increased earning power. Personally, Iâ€™d rather walk into an interview or annual performance review and be able to cite hard results, rather than drone on about the litany of â€œprojectsâ€ I â€œhandledâ€ throughout the previous year. Results speak for themselves, and loudly so.
Finally, a results-driven, measurable approach tells your peers and organizational leaders that you mean businessâ€”theirs. If you endorse and pursue a process or philosophy that emphasizes measurable results, you will position yourself as the marketing professional who operates in his or her in-house position as a business owner. In short, treat your companyâ€™s bottom line as if it were your own, and youâ€™ll stand apart from the masses.
The following guidelines may help clarify why measurable results are possible without depleting even more of your departmentâ€™s budget. While each corporate culture is different, rewarding different types of management and work styles, weâ€™d be hard pressed to find a corporate environment that eschewed a process that could generate measurable, definitive results. (If you are in fact working in such an environment, it may be time to seek employment elsewhereâ€¦)
1. Start With a Plan â€“ My undergrad Management professor, Professor Gibaldi, used to repeat a singular phrase at the start of every class session (and I do mean every class session): Planning increases control. Meaningâ€”if you donâ€™t have a plan, you wonâ€™t have control over your activities and their results. He spoke of it in terms of managing human capital, but the principle arguably applies to marketing effectively as well.
Always start with a marketing plan. While a detailed exploration of marketing plans is beyond the scope of this article, it is important to note here that every marketing plan should contain the following components:
i.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Segmentation — Clearly list and define the segments, or target prospects, you aim to attract. Obviously, this decision should be backed by the proper and reliable research or data. What you are doing at this stage, essentially, is turning raw data into something that is actionable.
ii.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Competitive Summary â€“ Enumerate what competitors offer that is similar to what you are trying to sell. Example: â€œOur Income Booster annuity is similar to XYZâ€™s Income-for-Life Plus product, in that they both offer guaranteed minimum death benefitsâ€¦ etc.â€
iii.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Value Propositions, per Segment â€“ Identify how your offering differs from that of your competitors, whether by feature, benefit, price, availability, access, etc., on a per-segment basis. Using the hypo listed in item above, â€œAlthough XYZ also offers a guaranteed minimum death benefit on its similarly structured product, ours is not tied to a market index, but rather, is predictable and set up-front at the point of sale, based on initial investmentâ€¦â€ and so on.
iv.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Messaging and Positioning â€“ Clarify what your proposed messaging and positioning are for each segment.
v.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Goals & Measurements â€“ Define goals carefully on a per-segment basis. Do you wish to attract new clients? Assuming you already defined who those new clients are (see â€œSegmentationâ€ above), how will you measure success in this endeavor? What types of measurement, or â€œmetrics,â€ will you employ to track your progress? What type of database? Etc.
vi.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Tactics & Timelines â€“ Based on the above, estimate what it will take to execute and drive the desired results within a projected timeframe. Include staff and time, which are almost always omitted, mysteriously, from even the most sophisticated marketing plans. List here actual tasks, if possible, at least in general terms, so as to give your audience some sense of what it will take to achieve results.
2.Â Emphasize Meaningful Metrics â€“ Repeating once again my professorâ€™s mantra, that â€œplanning increases control,â€ thereâ€™s no area in which this precept is more applicable than metrics. Marketing veeps delight in making this phrase sound exotic and even complicated, but thereâ€™s no need to rush out and earn an MBA to understand what it means. Metrics are simply the criteria, guidelines, and measuring parameters that marketers use to measure the success of their efforts. Itâ€™s that simple.
What you want to do is use meaningful metricsâ€”ones that correlate and are compatible with your goalsâ€”to drive and measure your success. For example, if your goal is to acquire new investors, you may want to include â€œRate of New Business Acquisitionâ€ and â€œMarket Shareâ€ as key metrics to measure progress on meeting this specific goal. In short, make sure the measurement matches the mission. If youâ€™re looking for bigger â€œnumbers,â€ whether in sales, market share or actual raw number of customers, make sure the metric you are using to measure your success can be measured and evaluated consistently, accurately and cost-effectively. If your goal is to increase customer loyalty and cross-selling, then â€œsofterâ€ metrics may be more appropriate, such as â€œBrand Awarenessâ€ or â€œBrand Perception.â€ You get the picture. Integrity of metrics is also key â€“ if you are seeking to measure your marketing strategyâ€™s success by the ad hoc report generated (now and then) by the slacker in the south-facing cubicle who tans through the window while Facebooking through the workday, you are not getting the picture.
3.Â Donâ€™t Forget the Basics â€“ Many marketers, especially those who have dabbled in Marketing Communications, make the mistake of focusing too heavily on â€œmessagingâ€ and not heavily enough on other movable parts, such as delivery systems, packaging or bundling, pricing and design. Sure, a unique positioning or message can sometimes alone drive up sales, but true marketing, per se, involves so much more.Â Talk to key teams internally about what it would take to make more structural changes to a product to render it more appealing to a designated target segment. Letâ€™s say you operate in a universe where pricing can be flexible based on whoâ€™s selling your product. Assuming the applicable laws regulating your industry donâ€™t prohibit differentiated pricing, a change in pricing structure is one of the easiest, most â€œtrackableâ€ changes you can make to ensure clean measurement of your progress. Another is bundling. Rather than tinkering with pricing, you could consider what additional services or benefits clients could enjoy if and when they purchase more than one product or service. This may sound difficult, but it isnâ€™t.
4. Follow the Money â€“ Another â€œhard-to-believeâ€ phenomenon in the world of corporate marketing is the frequency with which marketers donâ€™t really know a) how much budget is truly available to devote to a specific marketing effort; and b) how to report accurately on the return on what is spent. The latter part of this equation is often referred to as â€œROI,â€ or return on investment. Another not-so-complicated concept, ROI shows essentially what you got for your marketing-dollar expenditure, whether greater client retention, new clients, a bigger market share, or, as in some cases, nothing. Start by making sure someone at the helm is clear about the exact budget for your marketing campaign. Along the way, keep track of what dollars are spent on what. For example, how much of the designated budget was spent on surveys and existing-client research? What did that tactic yield? New information that is invaluable to the brand? Or information you already knew? Is it nformation that you can offer to other departments within the company to save company dollars across the organization? And so on.
5. Back to the Beginningâ€¦Sort Of â€“ Measuring your marketing results rests so heavily on how you choose and define your metrics, itâ€™s almost the single most important part of the process. Choose your metrics carefully. Make sure youâ€™re benchmarking your progress off something that is accessible, easily defined and understood, and reliable. If you do, youâ€™ll be much more likely to direct budget dollars wisely, because it will be easy to see which strategies and programs are bringing in the highest return for the money.
If you are unsure how to â€œvalidateâ€ a metric, hit the streets. Well, in reality, hit the cubicles and offices around you. Make sure you talk to key decision-makers and stakeholders inside your organization to get affirmation (or warnings!) as to whether your company is capable of supporting a particular metric, and if it is not, find out what measurable yardsticks the company is capable of supporting on a regular basis. Covering this base can save you invaluable time, much money and the commodity that is nearly impossible to replace or repair once damagedâ€”your reputation.
Marketers can deliver measurable results, but the problem is, even in favorable economic environments, professionals are usually too swamped and overworked to believe that they can take the time to develop a sound marketing plan. Too often, an â€œorderâ€ comes through the pipeline, whether from Product or Relationship Management, and marketersâ€”justifiably wary about questioning anythingâ€”start cooking up a list of tactics and skip the entire planning and measurement part of the process.Â I feel your pain. Iâ€™ve worked on the â€œinsideâ€ in at least two major organizations wherein we marketers and marcomm pros often felt as if weâ€™d been transferred to the local diner, whipping up blue-plate specials like short-order cooks. It simply doesnâ€™t have to be that way. However, the change has to come from the profession itself.
You can make a good argument for allocating at least some time and budget toward creating a sound, concise marketing plan, for one. And before you do, ensure that youâ€™ve pegged at least a few metrics that are supportable and reliable. Keep track of the basis for everything you propose. If someone questions why you chose â€œNew Sales by Salespersons with Company One Year or Less,â€ you should be able to respond with â€œBecause that is the database most frequently updated, scrubbed, and has the largest staff devoted to itâ€¦â€ and so on.
Donâ€™t worry if your plan isnâ€™t perfect, either. After all, Professor Gibaldi didnâ€™t say, â€œPerfect planning increases control.â€ He merely instructed us to â€œplan.â€ Period.
Â© 2012 Hazel Communications LLC. This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as career, legalÂ or investment advice or for advisory purposes. This article may not be reprinted or repurposed without express permission by Hazel Communications.