Marketers – To Measure What Matters, Track Actual Input and Outcomes, Not Possibilities

Last week I spoke on a panel at the 36th Social Media Breakfast in Cambridge, along with Christopher Penn from SHIFT Communications, Christen Gentile of Globalscape, and Tom Webster of Edison Research. The panel covered a lot of topics – everything from traditional PR Measurement, marketing’s impact on sales, tracking online/offline consumer behaviors, internal politics on what to measure, to crisis communications and social media engagement. The audience asked a variety of questions, such as:

  • How can I equate a visitor’s time on our website to success?
  • How do you track a consumer’s online behavior and how it equates to offline purchases?
  • What should we do when a consumer complains on Twitter?
  • How do we measure success across media, our site, events and more?
  • How do we explain our success to internal constituents?
  • Can we really measure marketing’s impact on sales? Should we?

What I realized during a lot of this conversation is that too many marketers are measuring possibilities instead of outcomes. We pump out reports about what our customers and prospects may have done or could do, depending on A, B, and C. And we’re not spending enough time analyzing and capturing formulas of our best performing campaigns.

Part of what we’re doing at SeeDepth is trying to help marketers measure actual value inputs and resulting outputs. What I mean by that is, to identify what you are putting into your highest performing campaigns – keywords, events, location, timing, spokespersons, media type and more – that equal bottom line impact (in our platform, the Campaign Performance Index), so you can repeat winning formulas and change low performing ones. Are you tracking the patterns that happen? Are you thinking about the values that go in, not just what comes out? Are you looking beyond possibilities and instead presenting actual events or results in your measurement reports?


Take, for example, traditional media monitoring tools and PR measurement tactics. Most monitoring tools measure outputs – they tell you where your brand was mentioned, what region the publication was in, what its circulation is, what the impressions are, and yes, many still tell you what the (evil) Ad Value Equivalency would be. A) They don’t measure inputs and B) These are not results, these are possibilities:

  • It’s possible that this region cares more about your news (but hard to tell unless we monitor interactions vs other regions)
  • This publication has this many subscribers – awesome! But – counting that number as a success is assuming that 100 percent of the readers saw the article. Not likely. This number is a possibility.
  • This number of people may have seen your article, heard something on the radio or in a podcast, watched something on television, or read something on a web page or blog
  • Because you were in this large circulation magazine, it seems impressive (although we don’t really know the percent of readers that match your buyer profile)
  • In addition, so many marketers and PR teams keep measuring numbers as the top priority – the number of “hits” each month, the number of fans or followers, the number of awards received or speaking placements in a year. Someone spent 30 minutes on your site … Great! Did they do anything as a result of that time? Hard to know if they didn’t take action at that moment.

Don’t get me wrong, numbers matter. But so do values – understanding what make those numbers increase. And, what are the actual results of those numbers? For example:

  • “Hits” (media placements) only really matter if they reach the right audience (your prospects) and entice them to take action.
  • Awards are nice, but they usually cost money to submit for, so what was the over/under of that cost vs return? Did an award help us win a new client? Is there a correlation between incoming prospect queries and announcement of awards? Do prospects even know that we’ve racked up 25 awards in the last year? Are we asking? Does it help – does it matter? What’s the ROI of the submission fee and time spent?
  • How much did we spend to send our executive to speak? Where was it? Who was the audience? Did it increase social media mentions among influencers or prospects? Did it drive website traffic? Did we meet and gain a new partner?
  • We had an amazing conference! Booth traffic seemed high and our sales exec came home with 50 new business cards! Great! Are you measuring not only what happens with those 50 business cards (assuming you at least put them into your CRM), but what went into making the event such as success? What was our booth placement? Who staffed it at what times? What marketing and sales materials were distributed and at what times to promote our presence? This is all part of measurement and analysis, so if you’re not tracking these elements, you’re missing a big chunk of data.
  • Companies spend thousands of dollars - often every other year or so - on building the right branding and key messaging. Are you testing the performance of those messages? Do social updates and media articles with certain words seem to resonate with prospects - and drive action - more than others?

Doing something is not a result, it’s an action. What comes out of your action is a result. It’s time that marketers start measuring what really matters. Possibilities are great, but with today’s technology and data, we should be measuring and reporting on much more than what could  happen, and focus on what has happened – and the reasons such success happened. Again, to repeat what’s working and pivot from what isn’t (using historical data to improve future strategic decisions and execute predictive planning).

How are you measuring your marketing and PR? Got any tips to share for readers?

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    As I “preach” to my Curry College students day-in and day-out, “Your success is measured by the impact you have on your client’s or employer’s bottom line. “Awareness” is just that…awareness. It doesn’t necessarily translate into “action.” So glad to see I’m not the only one saying this! Great post!

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