There’s an old expression that goes like this: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don't know which half."Anyone who's taken a marketing course has probably heard this expression. It was coined by John Wanamaker, who founded a chain of department stores around the start of the 1900s that eventually became part of Macy's.
So why, 100 years later, is this quote from John Wanamaker so famous?
Because it was so apt, for so long.
When Mr. Wanamaker was running his business, it was incredibly difficult to figure out where customers heard his message. Did they read it in the newspaper? Did they see it on a poster in the city? Did they attend his holiday light show? Did it come some other way?
Like many retailers, Mr. Wanamaker spent a lot of money to advertise his business and bring in customers. But he didn't have many useful options when it came to accurately measuring the success of the individual components of his advertising.
Things have changed
Fast forward 100 years and things have changed. I wonder if John Wanamaker's famous quote will be learned by students taking marketing courses today. I imagine they'd find it amusing or upsetting that marketers and advertisers of the past operated with such limited information.
That's not to say that measuring marketing performance today is simple or easy.
It's still difficult. The vast majority of small and mid-sized companies, especially in B2B, don't measure their marketing performance. Let's be honest - in most cases they aren't really sure what they spend in marketing in a year, so knowing what the results are is pushing things.
But that need not be the case - and that should not be the case. Marketers are increasingly called on to demonstrate the impact of their work. And being accountable makes them better at their jobs. Forbes recently found that marketers who invest in higher levels of accountability achieve 8% higher growth.
The road to marketing measurement
If you're a B2B marketer who's interested in measuring marketing performance, where do you start? Sure, there are hundreds of marketing metrics you can track and analyze. You could spend your entire workday setting up ways to measure and analyze your marketing activities and results. Let alone reporting those results and making decisions about what you'll change to improve performance.
The thought of all of that is enough to stop most marketers in their tracks. So they don't even get on the road to marketing measurement.
Instead, it's better to start small. Here are two easy steps to begin measuring your marketing.
Step One: Put a measurement system in place
The first step on the road to measuring your marketing performance is to have a way to measure performance. Without a quantifiable way to see what's happening in your marketing, you can't go anywhere.
There are many facets of marketing. Some are easier to quantify than others. The best place to start is your website. It's highly trackable and is the central-pillar of marketing for most companies.
The baby step in measuring your website is Google Analytics.
Google Analytics allows you to place small snippets of code on your website, which enables you to see how many visitors come to your site, how long they stay on it, which pages they visit - and many other things. Google Analytics is the essential starting point for measuring your marketing performance.
If you're ready to take the next step in measuring marketing performance, you'll want to implement a marketing automation system. There are many versions to choose from, and many price tags to consider. A popular system with an even-more-popular price tag (free) is Hubspot.
Marketing automation opens up the world of marketing measurement. Some of the things you'll be able to track with a marketing automation system in place:
- how many people read your blogs
- how many people click on a call to action
- how many people read and share your social media posts
- how many people open your emails and click on a link
- how many people convert on a landing page
The trick with marketing automation software is not to get overwhelmed. These systems are vast. Don't try to use all the functionality all at once. Start with one facet, say the email marketing module, and use that. It takes most companies 6 - 12 months to get fully operational on marketing automation.
The key here is to get a marketing measurement system in place. Without it, you can't take step 2.
Step 2: Take action with your marketing measurement data
Congratulations, you now have data to evaluate what's happening in your marketing, and to improve performance over time.
Unfortunately, it's easy for a couple of things to happen that will derail your marketing journey. In one situation, you can get overwhelmed by the amount of data and succumb to analysis-paralysis. In the second, you can be so scared of what you'll find in the data that you don't look at it.
Either way, the result of both situations is that nothing happens. Road closed.
You don't want that. Instead, start easy.
We find that the best option is to start with a monthly or bi-monthly marketing review session in which you evaluate the data from the previous period, and make decisions about what to do next period.
Here's a suggested agenda for your regular marketing performance review:
- Review marketing data from the previous period (this is your Google Analytics or marketing automation data). Many systems auto-generate a scorecard to make this step easy.
- Focus on 3 - 5 metrics each quarter. These should relate to your marketing priorities (which might be 'increase awareness', 'generate leads', 'improve sales conversion' or others. Don't choose too many metrics, it will be overwhelming.
- Quantitative evaluation: WHAT happened (according to the data)? Did your performance go up or down?
- Qualitative evaluation: WHY did that happen? Discuss your analysis and hypotheses for why performance went up or down.
- Determine actions for the month ahead. Based on steps 1 - 4, what projects and activities are you going to undertake in the month ahead to improve performance? Assign projects, deadlines and budgets.
- Celebrate success!
Now that you have these simple two steps to getting started with marketing measurement, there's no excuse. To recap:
a) Implement Google Analytics
b) Optional: Implement a marketing automation system like Hubspot
c) Hold a marketing review session on a regular basis. In the review session, evaluate the data from the previous period and make decisions about what you'll do in the next period.
That's it. By following this simple two-step formula, you'll be on the road to marketing measurement success.
Looking for a little help closer to the starting-line of your marketing journey? Download our comprehensive - and free - guide on how to create a strategic marketing plan below.
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