As leader of a national marketing advisory and implementation practice (Golden Marketing Inc.) I was interviewed by Association of Accounting Marketing about my thoughts on measuring marketing efforts. An excerpt of the interview was used for an article in AAM's newsletter, but here is the interview in its entirety.
What marketing programs have you chosen to measure?
Just about everything possible! As an outsourced marketer for firms, there is even more scrutiny with regard to cost/benefit for marketing dollars spent. In-house marketers face much the same pressure, though, so similar tactics can be very helpful for marketers employed within their firms.
Expectations on the part of firms can be high. (And sometimes, firms expect their marketers to market "in lieu" of the practitioners!)
But even where the marketer is in pretty full control of an initiative, it is common for marketers to over-sell the benefits of a proposed marketing initiative in order to gain the support needed to try it at all. This is dangerous but happens all the time.
Setting goals and expectations with the partners that are reasonable and realistic, and then quantifying the expected results, are critical to our company staying in business. Mastering this is just as critical to keeping ones job as an in-house marketer.
We measure specific sales/marketing campaigns (mail, phone), all practice area growth initiatives, individual coaching results, sales of ancillary services, referral source activities, surveys, etc
Other projects taken on by marketing are measured against their time line and budgetary expectations as would be expected in any corporate environment with regard to accountability by a department: Web/brochure development, timely PR activities, proposal development, procedural development, internal consulting, practice area support and leadership, and other various functions.
How do you measure results?
The ideal situation is to take a good snap-shot as early as you can upon starting work with your firm. From the beginning, in any firm, I try to measure (easier in some firms than others) a large number of starting-point metrics including:
For top clients (usually anything over $5-10K in revenues for a firm of under $7MM), I’ll determine:
- total revenue of the "client family group" (all related entities)
- total revenue by primary industry sector
- total revenue by service area (or roughly calculated by looking at the team members serving the customer, if necessary)
- work with the primary engagement person to estimate the amount of prior year (PY) revenue that is "annuity" (expected to be recurring) and amount that is "project" (and essentially needs to be "resold" to match PY receipts/customer
- By Practice Area (industry or product/service) we gather: # clients, # people involved, profitability, and total hours dedicated (for those who still track time) :-)
For every specified marketing initiative, expectations should be defined establishing worst-case, average, and above-average results so that, as the initiative progresses, marketing can determine when and how tweaks should be made if results aren’t progressing as expected (e.g. does a mail piece need to be adjusted for clarity?).
Also, reports to management can keep people apprised of where the initiative falls on the success scale. Any effort in which somebody has to ask, "Is this good?" was not well-defined to begin with.
What marketing programs don’t get measured and why?
Most PR, Web and static brochures, requisite community involvement, etc. don't get measured by ROI. These are just things that need to occur in order for the firm to improve or maintain its presence and image.
The only things about these that can really be measured is: do they effectively meet our goals (which should be identified in advance)? Were they done within the timeline expected? If not, why? Were they done within budget? If not, why? Then learn from the "why" and anticipate those problems coming up again (i.e. partners not approving copy on time) building in for them, or improving other processes as needed so that next time, the timeline is met or expectations were altered early-on.
What results do you get from measuring - for you personally and for the programs you manage?
We gain the ability to point to growth/success in almost all initiatives. Important for us or the marketer is the ability to maintain reputation as a "get it done" person. Important for the firm's view of marketing's value is the ability to keep the firm happy with their successes.
Marketing is a funny thing--a few successes (baby-steps) are key to initiating a strong marketing culture. It really begins to be contagious. I've seen some of the most skeptical (anti-marketing) people begin to believe in their ability to systematically grow business once they see progress in black and white.
Also of benefit is learning that opportunities exist where success wasn’t so apparent so that there is a greater chance for success the next time.
Has measuring helped improve programs or increase firm revenue?
Improving programs, yes. Immediately or directly increasing revenue, no. The long-term impact to both is positive IF you are measuring important things.
The awareness of improvements in any of the areas I mentioned in the second question do foster a stepped-up effort to keep the trend rolling. Owners generally don't look at most of these numbers very often and by being made aware of them, they will work harder and lead better to maintain progress once they see it.