Marketing: if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it

The ultimate goal of any marketing strategy is to produce a return on investment in terms of increased sales for your business. Reporting on marketing, then interpreting and applying that data to achieve real results for businesses should be at the heart of any business.

What is measurable marketing?

Broadly speaking, digital marketing, which can be defined as marketing activities centred around the internet and other digital channels, is the easiest to measure. Here are the reporting areas to consider:

  • Website performance
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • Social media
  • Email marketing
  • Digital advertising

However, traditional marketing can still be measured as long as the right systems are in place, such as coupon codes for print advertising, brand name mentions online for PR and asking new leads where they have seen you and filing this information in a company CRM.

Measure what benefits you directly

Google Analytics is often the first thing that springs to mind when people think of measuring digital marketing. It is certainly true that Google Analytics provides a wealth of data about who is visiting your website and what they are doing on it. However, in most cases when reviewing the data in Google Analytics, it can seem overwhelming and difficult to decipher. And bear in mind that often this new information at your disposal is just surface level ‘vanity metrics’.

This is because no matter how much data is available to you, it can only ever be of value if (a) you know how to interpret it and (b) your key performance indicators (KPIs) are in place. So, although it can be tempting to get distracted by the data provided by tools like Google Analytics and social media analytics, it’s important to go through the following process before you try to delve into the data:  

  • As a business, establish a clear idea of what you need your marketing to achieve.
  • Once these specific business goals are established, you are in a position to develop a marketing strategy designed to achieve these goals.
  • Agree measurements which reflect the success of marketing activities based on the goal they aim to achieve.
  • Schedule times to produce and review reports on these measurements; find out what’s working and if things aren’t working, why this is the case.
  • Recalibrate what you’re doing to reflect the outcome of your analysis and recommendations – there is no point taking the time to produce these measurements if you don’t adjust your marketing activities to reflect the feedback.

When marketing activities are based on achieving business goals, it’s much easier to establish meaningful measurements and get systems set up to monitor marketing success.

At all times it’s important to remember that to succeed and to gain the approval of your financial director, your marketing must have a positive impact on your business, not just your website. After all, what does it matter if your website has seen a marked increase in traffic recently if that hasn’t translated into more enquiries and sales?

Establishing measurable objectives

Of course, identifying the measurements that matter by establishing the business goal the marketing strategy is intended to achieve, is not always straightforward. The Digital Marketing & Measurement Model produced by Avinash Kaushik is a 5-step process that helps you plan your marketing to support your business goals and include measurements to reflect those goals as follows:

  1. Identify business objectives (e.g. become more profitable in the next 2 years)
  2. Define goals (e.g. increase profitability by targeting a particular audience)
  3. Agree key performance indicators (e.g. profitability)
  4. Agree targets for the KPIs (e.g. increase profitability by 5%)
  5. Identify the segments or people, outcomes and behaviour to analyse.

Point 5 may be covered in point 2 – however, it is worth revisiting as marketing to everyone with skin isn’t really marketing – and doubling your website traffic with the wrong audience isn’t success.

If you base your marketing strategy on the outcome of point 2, then the rest of the points should follow naturally. Often, marketing strategies fail because points 1 and 2 are not in place.

Managing the bigger picture

Ultimately the ideal marketing measurements are those that track marketing activities and how they’re performing against agreed KPIs. It is easiest to manage this with digital marketing, firstly because it is measurable and secondly, because these measurements provide the information needed to tweak and adapt the strategy accordingly in a cost-effective way.

Other more traditional forms of marketing such as PR can also form of the marketing mix. This is because the decision to click on a digital advertising link can be the endpoint of a long and/or complex brand building process involving many steps such as reading an article, listening to a friend’s recommendation or following a brand on social media.

Digital marketing is more of a science than an art and as such it’s important to get an expert on board who understands the difference between vanity metrics and clarity metrics. That’s when you’ll see real results that your entire company can get on board with and be a part of.

Jessica Shailes
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Jessica Shailes

Jess Shailes is MD of The Ideal Marketing Company, a full-service marketing agency which offers digital marketing services as well as PR, direct mail, copywriting and design. She has specialised in digital marketing for over 10 years and in that time has watched it evolve from an experimental marketing option to an essential tool for the majority of businesses. Jess’s interest in strategy and passion for delving into the numbers means she is driven to help businesses achieve their objectives with a bespoke approach using the best marketing resources available. Jess is constantly learning about the ever-evolving area of digital marketing in order to stay ahead of the trends for clients.