Inbound marketing has taken center stage with social media, blogging, social media marketing, PPC advertising, and so on, and we all can agree that it is hard to measure.
Measuring is time-consuming, overwhelming, and often left out of the equation. Most are satisfied to form a value judgment based on gut. That worked, this didn’t, and so forth. But without measuring, you don’t know if things are moving in the right direction, not moving at all, or worse—if you are losing ground. Your money and your efforts are yielding… what, exactly?
Another fallacy is that unless you are willing to pay the really big bucks for a heavily staffed marketing agency, chances are you won’t get offered this level of data collection and analysis, anyway. Companies with deep marketing budgets and big agencies have a lot of manpower and tools to measure and re-measure everything. But for the small-to-average business owner hiring an average marketing firm, you’ll probably have to be satisfied with data from Google Analytics and maybe a few other tools.
You can get some amazing data from Google and there are other moderately priced services where you can gather great data. You should be demanding and monitoring, but first, don’t commit the all-time biggest marketing sin of engaging in marketing campaigns or outsourced services without being clear about desired outcomes—also known as goals.
Being clear about what your marketing should achieve will help you, your team, and vendors focus on the job at hand. This will also make measuring and reporting requirements clear.
There are soft goals, such as awareness, that are hard to measure and so awareness is more of a by-product of the marketing efforts. Increased traffic to your website might also be a by-product of your efforts, but if that increased traffic doesn’t have a business outcome, then it is not a relevant measurement.
Examples of business outcomes are: leads, clients, client retention, customer referrals, reduced support calls, and the like.
So here is the bottom line: If you can’t measure it then you didn’t plan it.
Here’s how to achieve your marketing goals:
1. Start with a set of specific goals that are business outcomes.
2. Establish what can be measured and gather the baseline data to measure against.
3. Define the marketing strategy.
4. Identify the channels where you will be marketing.
5. Identify the metrics that will be used for each channel.
6. Identify how and where you will collect the data.
7. Set a realistic timeframe to run your campaigns and programs.
8. Establish regular reporting intervals to review progress and ascertain if adjustments are needed.
9. With PPC, there are more data points beyond views and clicks. You can track and measure conversions. With simple code snippets from Google AdWords, you can track if visitors from your ads either made a purchase or filled out a form.
I started the post with the headline that measuring marketing is maddening. Personally, I am not great with numbers and statistics, but like most business owners, I read my cash flow and profitability reports on a regular basis. I run comparisons month over month and year over year to form projections. Most businesses rely on numbers in our financial realms, so numbers should be in our marketing realms as well. After all, it is the investment in marketing that should be generating the revenue that makes those financials grow stronger.
And now for the question at hand—how are you measuring your marketing efforts? I hope you will share your experience since it is a topic we are all looking to learn about more.
Mardy Sitzer is a certified inbound marketing professional and president of Bumblebee Design & Marketing. Since 1993, Mardy has been delivering creative and innovative marketing solutions. An avid reader of all things internet and marketing, she also writes blogs, articles, and web content for industry magazines as well as for Bumblebee’s clients. She is an adjunct professor at Fordham University and instructor at Rutgers University teaching social media for business. Follow her on Twitter or email her at email@example.com.