I’ll never forget the look of shock on my bosses face the first time one of the executive team introduced him as “leading the art department”. Mike, my boss, was the Vice President of Marketing for a technology company with a long career and many credentials. While he, like most of my marketing colleagues, is proficient at PowerPoint auto shapes, and can draw a mean stick figure, you could hardly consider us traditional artists.
While the memory brings a smile to my face the general sentiment is dangerous and surprisingly wide spread. I believe that effective marketing is more science than art. And that the most common mistake organizations make when developing their marketing team is to consider it a cost center that can’t be measured effectively. Or worse, they devise the wrong set of metrics.
Instead of focusing on a narrow set of marketing deliverables I advise my team to concentrate on a wide range of measures. Here are the ones I’ve found most important and cost effective to implement.
Brand Reputation – a lot of effort goes into establishing a brand identity for your company/product or service. Just like our personal brands the reputation your company upholds is important to customer acquisition and loyalty goals. Often, organizations think they have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on brand measurement programs. For large organizations this may in fact make sense – after all, you typically have hierarchical management that likes to read long studies. For the rest of us, practical metrics can cost effectively be put in place.
- Talk to your customers – I know shocking, but you can create simply surveys that ask customers how you are doing. Even better, simply pick up the phone. You’d be surprised how much your customers actually want to tell you.
- Track social media conversations – even informal scans of Twitter and LinkedIn can give you a good sense of how people perceive your organization. With just 15 minutes a day Twitter search and LinkedIn discussion groups can be great resource to get a gut check pulse on your reputation. If your audience is more Facebook, Digg or YouTube than Twitter go there instead.
- Ask thought leaders – Industry gurus want to learn about your business and they are willing to exchange a few minutes of their time for more knowledge of your strategies. The biggest mistake marketers make is pitching the whole time, don’t forget to pause and ask questions.
- Meet with internal stakeholders – Once the sales team gets past “I need more leads” what do they tell you about their customer conversations?
Awareness – Does your target audience know who you are? Of course, before you start to measure this you must define who your target audience. Once you’ve established that it’s pretty easy to track.
- Is your website traffic growing? What is your average visit duration? Did a news event trigger a spike in visitors? This and so much more is available for free using tools like Google Analytics.
- Establish a list of search optimization key words and periodically test where you show up on search engine rankings. I’ve found running informal spot checks once every two weeks surprisingly insightful.
- Track the source for in-bound calls & web inquiries – sometimes we just forget to ask!
- Don’t forget to query those internal stakeholders – what are prospects saying when they call them?
- What percentage of articles/blog posts relative to your space are you mentioned in?
- Where do you rank in analyst reports? Are you mentioned at all? Are you positioned correctly? Set goals and measure against them.
Demand Generation – I found it surprising that so few organizations actually track suspect interest all the way to deal closure, and yet this is the most effective way to showcase the value of marketing to your company’s sales efforts.
- Get on the same page with sales – what is your suspect to lead conversion rate? what is marketing programs contribution to pipeline? what is your cost/lead? What sales teams are best at converting leads to pipeline?
- Create the right product/offer – what messages and solutions shorten the sales cycle? Make the deal size go up? Improve maintenance renewal rates?
- Does your database measure up? This is a tricky one. Measuring the sheer volume of contacts is an inefficient strategy. Instead you should match your database to target customer goals? How complete & accurate is your profile information? What are your email opt-out rates?
- How well trained are my sales team? Join them for customer visits – its the best way to tell.
- What is your caller productivity by telesales rep? Number of calls, length of calls, successful conversion to lead?
Once you know how you measure up against yourself, benchmark your performance against your peers.
- Talk to your colleagues and find out what they use for metrics.
- Subscribe to free newsletters like Marketing Sherpa that spotlight industry norms. http://www.marketingsherpa.com/newsletters.html
- Take up agencies who want to give you “free assessments” about your performance. I’ve found this particularly pervasive and valuable for web optimization.
I haven’t even touched upon product delivery measures but I think you get the idea. The creative “art” part is important, but its only a piece of the picture. The science of marketing is not about one measure, but about a context driven mindset that combines short and long term objectives. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot.
How do you rate your marketing efforts?