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Have you got a crystal ball?

By JACKIE BARRIE Published 4th Jun 2013
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I wrote recently about Alice in Wonderland asking for directions from the Cheshire Cat, which gave rise to the question: ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know which way to go?’ Of course, the other part of the question is: ‘If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?’

Much marketing activity is about measuring and monitoring. But you have to measure the right things…

I heard that a bus company introduced KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to monitor results. Customers had told them that keeping to the timetable was important, so they decided to reward drivers who returned to the depot on time. Seems reasonable, but drivers who were late drove straight past bus-stops with queues of people, just so they could claim their bonus.

Many marketers cling to performance metrics in order to justify their existence. Yet, according to the 2013 Survey by Forrester Research, ITSMA and VisionEdge Marketing, only 9% of CEOs and 6% of CFOs rely on marketing data to make strategic decisions.

Why? Because it seems that marketing dashboards measure marketing activity rather than business outcomes. The most common metrics that marketers report include:

  • On-time delivery
  • Budget
  • Productivity
  • Campaign performance
  • Lead data

On average, 54% of marketers use such analytics to fine-tune the marketing mix. However, this type of report measures past performance rather than supporting decision-making for the future. From a business perspective, more useful measures would be:

  • Predict customer behavior
  • Make strategic recommendations
  • Drive innovation
  • Impact customer acquisition, retention or growth

It may be easy to count friends, fans and followers on social media, but that doesn’t necessarily help you, your employer or your client to make the right strategic decisions or generate more dosh.

Some typical objectives and measures:

  • Use Twitter to drive traffic to a blog
    • Track results with analytics
  • Provide added value and demonstrate expertise on the blog, to increase stickability and drive traffic to a website
    • Check analytics to see the length of time visitors stay on the page and how many clicked the link/s
  • Use special landing pages on a website with quality content to attract inbound links and get found on search
    • Monitor search engine rankings
  • Direct site visitors to the page/s they want, with clear navigation and calls-to-action
    • See analytics to discover what visitors searched to find you, bounce rate, and their route through the site
  • Convert site visitors into customers so they click the Buy Now button or make an appointment
    • Measure direct sales and bookings from the site
  • Incentivise site visitors to sign up to a tipsheet/newsletter so you can keep in touch (and hopefully convert them later)
    • Count subscribers and unsubscribes

The ultimate measure of success of all marketing activity, of course, is sales – incremental pounds, dollars or euros on the bottom line.

Along with everything else, many marketing budgets were cut when the recession hit. These days, clients and employers increasingly demand a measurable return on their investment. That is, sales. Pounds, dollars or euros on the bottom line. Proving in advance that we can increase sales is a challenge for all suppliers and staff in the marketing sector.

According to the quoted survey, on average, only 35% of marketers use analytics to predict customer behaviour. But if that’s what business decision-makers need from their marketing team, that’s what we ought to provide for them.

But how?

Photo credit: seanmcgrath via photopin cc

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