Thursday, October 24, 2002

Marketing by the Numbers

"Conviction is the luxury of those sitting on the sidelines." This is what John Nash's imaginary boss said in the movie "A Beautiful Mind." For those of us who choose to play rather than watch, Measurement is the compass that guides us through our mistakes.

What is your most important marketing tool? I would argue that your spreadsheet application should be high at the top of the list. In this day and age, running your marketing department without constant attention to the numbers is simply irresponsible.

The starting point is clearly defining the goals. What is the market impact goal of the specific activity? Is it the total number of leads? Number of qualified leads? Closed deals? Is it brand awareness? All these goals have to be expressed in quantified, measurable terms, or Measurable Market Impact.

Ignoring the numbers is not just irresponsible, it is also inexcusable. The great thing about electronic marketing using e-mail and the web is that almost everything can be tracked. Making smart use of these vehicles means that you design your marketing campaign results to be measurable, using trackable links, source-specific landing pages, and tracking codes. These are relatively simple to implement, so we'll assume that you've got this part right (let us know if you need any help).

Still, there are plenty of examples where marketing departments don't manage their activities by the numbers, for a variety of reasons. Let's examine some of these more common reasons, and see how you can work around them.

Example #1: "our goal is to create brand awareness, but measuring it is too expensive."

There is hard truth in this statement. Conducting market surveys to measure the impact of specific marketing activities on brand awareness can be cost- prohibitive for most small companies. What you can do is estimate the number of people exposed to your marketing message by each marketing activity. It is not the best or most accurate measurement, but it's still better than not measuring at all. Defining the results in such measurable terms allows you to compare different branding vehicles, such as print advertising and online newsletter sponsorship. Both can generate brand awareness, but which one is more effective?

Example #2: "we don't expect too many leads from this tradeshow, but we have to be there; otherwise, people will think we are in trouble."

Maintaining your company's image is a legitimate and important market impact goal, yet there are many ways to achieve it. This goal can and should be defined in measurable terms, such as the number of people exposed to your presence. In this case, the cost of the tradeshow should be allocated against two market impact goals - lead generation and company image.

Example #3: "we don't know how many people will respond to our e-mail campaign."

It is easy to estimate the results when you have a history of similar activities to rely on. Still, not having such history is not an excuse not to estimate the results or clearly define the goals. Even a wild guess is better than not having one at all; it may help you see that in some cases even your wildest dreams cannot justify the expense. If you have a large list, test a smaller sample of it before you get started (make sure the sample is randomly selected and statistically significant). Once you start generating results, it will be easy for you to go back and adjust your estimates and goals moving forward.

Example #4: "we cannot measure the results of our analyst relationships program."

You bet you can. If you're only looking for advice, the budget should not come from your market impact programs. Market impact goals of an AR program are certainly measurable, such as the number of positive mentions in the analyst reports, media quotes, and customer referrals.

Example #4a: "but we don't necessarily know when a customer was referred by an analyst."

First of all, you should know. A sales person should know how the lead was generated and who influenced the decision. But even if you don't know it in all cases, do you know it in most of them? Half of them? Put a factor on the results based on your estimate of how many you miss. Even if you're wrong on the factor, you should see a trend of improvement when you launch or increase your spending on analyst relationships. If you don't see improvement - it's a good sign to go and check why.

To summarize:

  1. Define clear Measurable Market Impact goals.
  2. Estimate the expected and desired market impact of each activity (some activities may have more than one type of market impact).
  3. Prioritize your budget based on estimated results and Cost per Market Impact.
  4. Diligently measure whatever you can. Direct all traffic to your website and use separate landing pages and tracking codes for each activity and source of market impact.
  5. Estimate whatever you cannot measure directly; imperfect measurements are still better than no measurement at all.

As former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani said when asked how he reduced crime in the city, in reference to the extensive use of metrics and benchmarks exercised by his administration:"If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."

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