How do you measure success? There's more to it than metrics alone.

With limited marketing dollars, you have to determine how to get the most bang from your buck. What’s going to reap the greatest return on your investment? It’s a fair question. But in order to really answer it, you need to take a number of things into consideration.

What is the objective?

It may seem like an obvious place to start, but it is often simply presumed or overlooked. It’s important not only to have a clear objective, but also to achieve consensus among leadership that you have the right objective in mind. Until you have agreement on what you are trying to accomplish, you cannot actuate an effective plan.

Is the objective realistic?

As brand champions we must envision potential and fuel aspiration. Having a master plan is essential, but the objectives established along the way must be obtainable. This ties directly to having the right resources to influence your audience. It’s okay to dream big, but your effort (and often budget) to accomplish your goals must be proportionate.

Are you being customer centric?

The age-old question applies: “What’s in it for me?” Unless your objective answers this in a compelling manner for your target audience, the likelihood of success is limited. We are no different than those we are targeting. In order to be influenced into action, we must be properly motivated or educated. Your messaging must be credible, relevant and have some sense of urgency if you want to change behavior.

Have you incorporated tracking devices?

From dedicated URLs to unique identifier and QR codes, to dedicated phone lines, you should build in the ability to track the engagement of your outreach. One important word of caution, although metrics like click-through and open rates, or the number of people responding to an offer does provide important insights, it is by no means an all inclusive indicator of whether you have moved the needle on perception. Quite often, increased awareness and attitude changes are not reflected accurately in these types of response rates.

Are you considering time and frequency?

When you take a look at your objective, have you established a realistic timeline for measuring success? Depending on the nature of what you are trying to accomplish, especially if you are trying to influence behavior, time and frequency are factors that must be evaluated. How often are you communicating with your audience? Is it with enough regularity and across enough channels that you’ve reached them, captured their attention, gotten them to stop and consider your proposition and provided them enough reinforcement, assurance and motivation to take action? In the absence of an enormous budget (and sometimes even despite significant funding), this simply takes time.

Have you established a baseline and are you measuring against it?

If you are serious about measuring success, perhaps the most critical step that can be performed is establishing a baseline to measure against. Optimally this is done prior to conducting your outreach. Through market research, gain an understanding of target audience awareness and perceptions tied to key issues. Assess current behavior patterns and levels of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Having this information serves two important purposes. It informs your initial outreach by revealing or confirming market dynamics. And moreover, it provides a true tool to be able to measure the effect of your outreach by conducting follow-up research after the first phase of your campaign. This is how you can accurately detect whether you are making progress toward your goals (well beyond how many people clicked on a banner ad). It is important to neither underestimate the power of exposure over time, nor the time necessary to influence perception (depending on the scope of what you are trying to accomplish). It is also necessary to recognize that there is never a single silver bullet. No one piece of communication is going to be the answer to meeting your objectives, but instead, it is through a diverse set of targeted tactics and channels that you have the best chance of breaking through and reaching your audience in a meaningful manner.

Ultimately, remember why measuring success is so important. It enables us to learn. If marketing were pure science, it would not only be easier, but our collective success rate would be infallible. The reality is that people are complex. Markets are complex. And marketing is not a pure science. We can learn from our experience (both successes and failures). As Scottish author Samuel Smiles wrote, “We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.”

by Jonathan D. Katz