Build Relationships with R.E.S.P.E.C.T.


However you define success, achieving that success generally requires the ability to build relationships. Talent and hard work can give you a leg up but to achieve high levels of success requires the help, support and cooperation of others.

You’ve heard the adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” When it comes to your success, it’s more about who is willing to help you.

Building relationships means investing in others consistently with a giving attitude unhindered by the expectation of getting something in return. Sow enough seeds and you’ll grow mutually beneficial relationships with the right people.

Consider my R.E.S.P.E.C.T. formula for acting in ways that build the right relationships. More than just an acronym, the overarching theme embedded in this approach is to give respect.

R: Reliability

I have great news for you. One of the most important elements of building relationships also happens to be one of the easiest. Be reliable. Others love it and so do you. The bar is set pretty low in this regard so you can easily stand out simply by responding to communications promptly, doing what you say you’ll do and showing up on time. Reliability builds trust, an essential ingredient in the best relationships.

E: Engagement

Don’t wait for good things to happen, make them happen by reaching out and creating opportunities to move your relationships forward. Be the one who initiates. Just like being reliable, simply keeping in touch is another easy way to stand out.

S: Simplification

There are people who have a knack for simplifying things and making problems go away. Then there are those who make things more complicated and create problems. Whose company would you rather keep? Solve problems and create value. Eliminate sources of irritation, don’t be one!

P: Promotion

Embrace opportunities to do things that promote the interests of others. Make introductions, provide counsel and insights, share useful information, do favours and make yourself available to those who need your help.

E: Enthusiasm

There are two levels of enthusiasm, internal and external. Internal enthusiasm feeds your energy to do the things you need to do. External enthusiasm is about how you express it. Channel that inner enthusiasm towards things that are beneficial to building your relationships and share your enthusiasm so others feel it. Enthusiasm is contagious!

C: Communication

Good communication means clearly expressing perspectives, needs and expectations. Whether speaking or writing, choose unambiguous language and avoid jargon. Great communication requires listening. Don’t deliver a monologue, engage in a dialogue. Listen actively, ask good questions and confirm you’ve reached a shared understanding of your discussion.

T: Thankfulness

Last but not least, be appreciative. Don’t take the time, support and opportunity others give you for granted. Express your thanks in words and in actions by reciprocating when you can. The best relationships are a two-way street.

I haven’t suggested anything you don’t already know. The challenge is to practice these habits consistently and to live up to our own standards. Invest in your success with R.E.S.P.E.C.T., your seven point plan for building relationships!

What do you feel are the key ingredients in building relationships? Would you add anything to the seven elements I’ve suggested?

Where the Rubber Hits the Road

Indy CarWhile walking east along the south side of Bloor Street in mid-town Toronto with my colleague Bob, I saw something quite unusual. Hovering above a large wooden table on the sidewalk in front of William Ashley’s store at 55 Bloor Street West was a full sized Indy race car. I don’t know a lot about racing, but I do know that cars and their tires are supposed to be on the road, so I was intrigued.

On closer inspection, I discovered the 1,400 pound replica car wasn’t hovering but was sitting on four delicate looking bone china tea cups, one under each tire. The tea cups themselves were part of an elegant table setting featuring William Ashley’s finest.

A little online snooping uncovered that William Ashley launched the display in 2011, 25 days before the 25th anniversary of the Honda Indy race in Toronto. The race organizers had approached William Ashley, a long-time sponsor of Toronto’s annual Indy race, with this outdoor display idea to jointly promote the race and the store, along with the superior strength, durability and performance of bone china.

As we discussed the uniqueness of this marketing idea, Bob turned to me and asked the question I get asked the most. “So, how would you measure that marketing program?”

Without flinching, I replied with my favourite answer, “It depends”. Since I didn’t know William Ashley’s actual planned objectives for creating this display, I couldn’t know exactly how to measure whether or not it worked.

Despite that roadblock, we agreed to speculate on what their objectives might generally have been, and I’ve added some measurement thoughts for each:

  • Objective #1: Create a unique and interesting event to generate press coverage.
  • Measurement #1: In its simplest form, this is a matter of tracking the number of impressions through the various stories and mentions about their launch event through various print, broadcast, digital and social media.
  • Objective #2: Communicate the key attributes of bone china.
  • Measurement #2: While the first objective relates to how much coverage, this one relates to more important issues, such as the quality, accuracy and tone of the coverage. It could get into things like media monitoring, text analytics and sentiment analysis of the various forms of coverage. You could supplement that with before and after surveys and by intercepting people on the street to see if they saw the display and understood the message.
  • Objective #3: Increase store traffic.
  • Measurement #3: Count the customers, of course, but you need to compare the count to something, like how many customers they normally get on Wednesdays in June, or when they’ve created similar displays previously.
  • Objective #4: Increase bone china sales.
  • Measurement #4: It’s easy enough to add up the sales, but it would be helpful to compare the total to an average, or baseline, as with the store traffic example. You’d also have to decide how long that display might affect bone china sales. Seeing that display made me think (and write) about the superior strength, durability and performance of William Ashley’s bone china, and maybe now you’re starting to think about it. I’m not in the market for bone china right now, but maybe in the future and perhaps you will be too!

The key lesson in all of this is that you need to set clear measurable objectives when planning your marketing in order to know what to measure and learn whether you’ve succeeded. In other words, measurement should be directly linked to your planning process. Defining how you will assess whether a marketing program is successful should be an integral part of planning.

Good objectives will define the metric(s) that will be used to measure success, and the specific numerical outcome you want to achieve. For example, it can be a percentage change from a comparable period, or a specific outcome that you’ve determined would be worthwhile relative to the cost of the program.

My four speculated objectives above were purposely vague to highlight the challenges presented by the lack of clarity.  When you set your objectives, be very clear about the outcome you’re looking for. Here’s a better version of Objective #4: “Increase bone china (all brands) sales for June and July by 20% vs. June and July of last year”. That, you can measure.

Without proper objectives, how or what to measure becomes an exercise in guessing, much like Bob and I had to do. To take the guesswork out of your marketing measurement, it needs to begin as part of your planning process. That’s where the rubber hits the road.


8 Thoughts on Thought Leadership


This month’s post was inspired by a conversation with my physiotherapist regarding content marketing and what constitutes good thought leadership. I have my point of view; what’s yours?


I have a torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder. Apparently, I’m not alone. I’ve read that by the age of 60, nearly 80% of us will have some degree of a rotator cuff tear. Perhaps our shoulders are not meant to do what we make them do!

At the frequent physio sessions where my ex-rugby playing physiotherapist tortures me to build up my shoulder muscles, we have plenty of time to talk. One recent conversation turned to content marketing and thought leadership, something we both do in support of our business development efforts.

There are many good reasons to create your own content. If you engage in content marketing, it’s likely that you do this primarily to achieve a position of thought leadership in your industry, and ultimately to drive revenue growth.

One reason to create content is to be perceived by your target market as a thought leader, but that doesn’t make it easy to do well. Over the years, I’ve written many thought leadership pieces for my employer, my clients and my own consultancy. That repetitive exercising of my writing muscles has helped me to develop my skills and also a point of view on the principles that underpin good thought leadership content. I’ll share eight of these principles below.

1. Strategy First

Strategy should always lead tactics. Thought leadership, like all marketing communications, should be guided by your marketing plan and content strategy. Identify the differentiating characteristics of your brand, how you wish to position it to your target market segments, and the key messages you will hammer home repeatedly through your thought leadership efforts. Be clear on such things before you start developing content.

2. Stand Somewhere

Take a stand, not just anywhere but somewhere quite deliberate. Stand in a place you know well, with a credible point of view. Stand in alignment with your strategic objectives, with messaging that resonates with your target market.

3. Stand Somewhere Different

Stand somewhere that differentiates you from the pack, like that one bird in the image below standing on two legs. Stand so you can be noticed and remembered for your differences. It is hard to be a thought leader by standing where everybody else is standing. Thought followers get lost in the crowd, in a sea of voices with safe and similar messages. Thought leaders provoke thought and discussion, often by being different.

Can you spot the thought leader? Hint, it's the only one standing on two legs!

Can you spot the thought leader? Hint, it’s the only one standing on two legs!

4. Create, Don’t Regurgitate

One approach to content marketing is to curate and share the thoughts of others. While that is a way to provide useful information to your target market, true thought leadership comes from creating content you own, featuring your unique and valuable perspective and insights. You will add the most value to the conversation and to your target audience when you create rather than regurgitate.

5. Be Yourself, Be Authentic

Be true to yourself and your brand. Your point of view needs to be authentic. Be the type of thought leader that comes naturally. Are you an innovator? Do you challenge conventional thinking? Do you make sense of chaos? Are you humourous, serious or quirky? Speak your truth. Say what you believe, in your own voice. Let your personality shine through to help engage your readers.

6. Be Engaging

Your audience is busy. If you want them to consume your content, you have to engage them. Tell stories and think in terms of a narrative that runs through your content. Try to entertain in a way that comes naturally. Let a bit of yourself into your content. Help your readers to see themselves in your stories and connect to your content. The more they can identify with you and your stories, the more they’ll want to consume and share your content.

7. Help, Don’t Pitch

This is a big one. Your audience wants to learn. They don’t want to hear your pitch. Help them solve their problems. Trust your audience to ask for your pitch once they’ve learned to trust you through the thoughts you share in your content. Focus on helping your audience rather than trying to persuade them to buy from you. Your audience will value and share relevant and helpful content long before they share your pitch.

8. Keep It Coming

Strive to be more of a hit machine than a one hit wonder; more Beatles, Bowie or Beyonce than Brooklyn Bridge, Bobby Bloom or Blues Image. One great piece may get you some attention but before long, you’ll fall off the playlist. Keep cranking out the hits. You’ll reach a wider audience and be harder to forget.

In Closing…

Whether for my shoulder muscles or writing muscles, regular exercise is key. We can do the exercise on our own, or get expert help. Either way, it is important to have and follow a plan. If you don’t want to shoulder the exercise load on your own, seek out help both inside and outside of your organization.

I’ve found it useful to follow the above principles when creating thought leadership content and hope that you will, too. I’ll leave you with three questions and welcome your replies:

  1. Which of these eight principles do you find most important and why?
  2. Which principles would you add to this list?
  3. What are your favourite one-hit wonders?

How’s Your Marketing Measurement Appetite?


Welcome to summer, finally! Do you have any vacation plans? I took one in May, and not only did I have a great time, I found the inspiration for this post one morning while choosing between two breakfast alternatives.

With any luck, my choice might inspire you in some way, or maybe just make you hungry.


I’m a foodie. In May, I went to China with my partner Marilyn. The food we ate provided many of our vacation highlights, including my first ever bowl of Pu Gai Mian.

On day eleven of our travels, I woke up in Chengdu with a very specific food craving. Having eaten nothing to that point but the outstanding local cuisine at each and every meal, I now wanted a bacon and eggs breakfast, the type served by greasy diners back home.

This seemed a sacrilegious desire in the capital of China’s Sichuan province, whose cuisine I love. It was also unrealistic to expect to find such a diner in Chengdu.

I sheepishly confessed my powerful craving to Marilyn. She suggested a solution to my problem, the hotel next door and its western breakfast buffet. It wasn’t a greasy diner, but it would do, and so we set off for the luxurious five-star Jin Jiang Hotel.

The Jin Jiang’s buffet looked spectacular. Unfortunately, so was the price, which converted to $115 Canadian for the two of us.

I knew that this spectacular solution could solve my problem. I was also pretty sure that, in this city of more than 6,000,000 people and I suppose thousands of eateries, there must be other less spectacularly priced breakfast alternatives.

A Simple Solution

Marilyn proposed a Chengdu breakfast specialty, Pu Gai Mian, which translates to Bedspread Noodle. We soon found a little corner joint serving steaming hot bowls of the broad, multi-folded noodles in a spicy beef broth. We ordered two delicious bowls which together cost $3.20, a mere 2.7% of what the Jin Jiang wanted for their buffet.

Pu Gai Mian - One Bite Missing!

Pu Gai Mian – One Delicious Bite Missing!

Our choice of breakfast options in Chengdu reminded me of the dilemma marketers face when trying to measure their marketing programs. Should they invest in a costly and sophisticated five-star measurement solution, or might a more modest bowl of noodles approach do the trick?

The reality is that there are a lot of options available between the two extremes. Spectacular, high end solutions have their place at breakfast or in marketing, but why spend a lot when a little will suffice?

Sophisticated Marketing Measurement

In some circumstances, marketers should apply a more sophisticated and costly approach to measurement. These include:

Big Marketing Budgets: When there are big budgets to manage and a lot of revenue on the line, it makes sense to invest significantly in measurement to optimize the impact of your marketing.

Complex Marketing & Customer Interactions: The more communication channels, marketing executions, customer touch points and data you have, the more you may need a robust measurement system.

Big Measurement Appetite: This one is critical. If you opt for a pricy high-end solution, then you also need to support that through a substantial and ongoing organizational commitment to make measurement work. It is one thing to load up on the fancy technology and quite another to use it fully and leverage the benefits. In breakfast terms, if you choose the buffet, be sure to eat more than just toast and cereal.

Sophisticated high-end marketing measurement solutions are impressive and may well be the right solution for many marketers, however, they’re not the right solution for all marketers, all the time.

Sophisticated Measurement Might Be Too Much

For a lot of marketers, sophisticated measurement solutions might be overkill and more than they need. Here are three reasons to be wary of overspending at the marketing measurement buffet.

The Attribution Problem: Customer purchase decisions are influenced by multiple factors, many of which are outside of marketers’ control. Such decisions are both rational and emotional and the customers themselves likely don’t entirely understand which combination of marketing messages and incentives impact their purchase decisions, or to what degree.

If customers don’t fully understand their own decisions, how can marketers reliably attribute their customers’ decisions to specific marketing programs? How much do you want to spend on something that is inherently difficult to measure?

Flaws & Assumptions: One of the challenges with any approach to measurement is that there will be flaws in the data and the methodology, and assumptions will need to be made. Many assumptions will likely be flawed, largely due to the attribution problem. Thus, marketing measurement is an imperfect science and all methodologies will have their flaws.

Efforts to make it more scientifically perfect and reliable will tend to add complexity and cost, pushing such a solution out of the reach of any organization who might be short on time, money, people and expertise to throw at marketing measurement. I’m guessing that could be a long list of organizations.

Commitment: Most organizations have a hard time committing resources fully to measurement on an ongoing basis. Organizations can rightfully see measurement as a less urgent need than finding, serving and keeping customers.

It can seem hard to give it the time and attention it needs, especially if the measurement approach is complex. That suggests a more simple and practical approach, requiring less support and involvement, might be a better fit for most organizations, especially those small to mid-sized.

Match the Solution to Your Need

The Jin Jiang’s expansive buffet was awfully tempting, but all I really wanted was a diner breakfast, so it felt excessive. Then, when I compared its price tag to the alternative, it was easy to choose a more modest approach that turned out to be quite delicious and satisfying.

As you contemplate how best to address your marketing measurement needs, keep in mind that you have many alternatives to choose from and none of them will be perfect. You may want what you perceive as the best but something seemingly lesser can give you just what you need. Scale your solution to the magnitude and complexity of your problem, and your appetite for marketing measurement.

How Engaged Is Your Audience?


As content marketing grows in importance, it is worth questioning and measuring how engaged your audience is by your content, and whether they are engaging in the way you would like. This post outlines a practical approach to answering this question.

In the foreground, an engaged macaque. In the background, not so much...

In the foreground, an engaged macaque. In the background, not so much…

First words are magical moments. You may not remember the exact moment when you spoke your first word, but I expect your parents remembered and told you what you said. What was your first word?

My parents happily told me many times that my first word was “light”, although I suspect they secretly would have preferred something closer to “mom” or “dad”.

Can you imagine a more engaged audience than parents listening to their child’s first words? They engage fully in the whole experience; from their encouragement in the lead up to the first word, to the excitement of the moment  and the pride that follows. That’s an engaged audience. That’s why they remember your first word.

Of course, the relationship between a business and its customers is rather different, and customers will tend to be considerably less engaged than parents. Still, as content marketing grows in importance, the question you need to ask is: “How engaged is your audience by your content?”

On the continuum of engaged audiences, on a scale from 0 to 100, most parental audiences are 100% engaged. When I develop marketing content, for myself or for my clients, I hope to engage my audience on the higher end of the scale, and so should you. It’s a lofty ambition, and I expect to fall a little short, but it’s better than the other end where no one reads, cares or reacts.

So, how do you measure where your audience is on the engagement scale? Well, it helps to have a scale to answer that question. Here are four steps to developing your scale, with the first step being:

1. Define Your Engagement Continuum

Start by defining a general continuum for outcomes related to your content marketing activities, keeping in mind their relevance to your overall business objectives. There isn’t necessarily one right way to do this and you don’t need to assign numerical values to everything between 0 and 100%.

Engagement ContiuumThe main point is to think about the engagement objectives of your content marketing in ascending order of importance. What do you want your audience to do? Which outcomes are most helpful in meeting your business objectives? Defining your engagement continuum will help you to have greater clarity about what you are trying to achieve with your content and how you define success.

Thinking about how your prospects engage with your content is similar to how we might think about how prospects engage with us in a sales funnel, with Opens and Views being top-of-funnel activities, leading down through to the preferred conversions at the bottom of the funnel, such as Subscribes or Orders.

Then, you can adjust your continuum for each specific content marketing program or initiative. For some programs, the hoped for conversion might be a sale to an existing customer, or to a new customer. In others, the program objectives might relate more to building an audience or moving prospective customers along the path to purchase, and generating quality leads.

Defining your Engagement Continuum ties directly to the second step:

2. Define Your Metrics

Your metrics are the units of measurement on the engagement continuum. As I’ve written about previously here, I like to organize metrics into three groups, Activity, Engagement and Conversion, which also fit logically along the engagement continuum.


The simplest activity metrics, such as opens and views, can lead to early signs of engagement, through counts of likes, fans and followers. The more engaged audience goes beyond those activities to share, forward and comment on your content.

The very engaged might convert to requesting more information or downloading something. Ideally, they will purchase something, or refer a new customer to you. For some content, your objectives might be to gain more subscribers or registrations for something.

Let’s consider metrics for this post, as an example. LinkedIn provides data on three metrics related to each post: Views, Likes and Comments. I track how many Followers I add as a result of each post. I also note the number of emails or phone calls I receive from prospective clients, triggered by each post.

To those five metrics, I add two engagement ratios, which normalize my data and give me a sense of which pieces of content have been most effective at engaging the audience that actually saw my content. In this case, I’ll create ratios for Likes as a % of Views, and Comments as a % of Views.

That gives me a total of seven metrics that help me to understand if my content is engaging my audience. The third step involves scoring my results for those metrics.

3. Score Your Results

To give meaning to your metrics, you need to be able to answer the question “How good is that number?” Scoring your result takes you from merely counting, to measuring.

Continuing with my example above, now that I have seven previous LinkedIn posts under my belt, I can compare each of my seven engagement metrics for this post to my averages for those same metrics on my previous posts. I could also compare it to the averages of similar posts by other publishers on LinkedIn.

Ideally, the results of any marketing initiative should be compared to a corresponding set of objectives. I could use my averages as my objectives, but I’ll generally put a bit of stretch into the objective by aiming higher than my averages. I score my results by expressing them as a percentage of the objective.

For example, I’ve averaged around 250 views for each of my first seven posts. Rather than set an objective of 250 for this one, I’ll set it at 300. If I end up getting 350 views, then my score on that metric will be 350/300 X 100 = 117%.

Now it’s time to put all seven of my scores on a scale.

4. Create Your Scale

Given that your metrics will likely vary from program to program, you will need a flexible way to score and total your results for the range of metrics associated with each program.

For that, I advocate using a standardized scorecard that will accommodate the diverse audience engagement data that you’ll collect for each program. Using a consistent scorecard methodology for measuring audience engagement for each post gives me a way to rank my posts. That ranking helps me to learn what type of content seems most relevant to my audience, and the ability to act on that knowledge and hopefully create more engaging content.

Some metrics are more important than others. So, weight the metrics on your scorecard according to the importance you’ve assigned them by where you placed them on the engagement continuum. Conversion metrics should be weighted higher than Engagement metrics, with Activity metrics weighted lower than the others.

Your scorecard gives you an easy way to total up the weighted scores for each metric as you compare each result to its objective. Below is a simplified example of a scorecard that I use to score each post.

Audience Engagement Scorecard


It’s nice to think that your audience is parentally engaged, waiting for your next piece of content with great anticipation and hanging on your every word as they read, listen or watch. While that is highly unlikely, it is worth trying to understand which pieces of content come closest to that ideal, so you can focus on creating more of that kind of content.

Creating good content takes time and effort, so you might as well put in a little additional effort towards measuring and understanding whether you’ve succeeded at engaging your audience.

As with most marketing measurement exercises, your science will be inexact. However, if you apply your measurement efforts in a consistent and disciplined manner, your measurement results will be directional enough to help steer you towards better decisions that focus and improve your content marketing activities.

If I’ve engaged you enough that you’d like me to send you an excel file with the above example of an Audience Engagement Scorecard that you can customize for your own use, please email me and I’ll happily send it to you. Of course, I’d appreciate it if you could share this post with any individuals or audiences you feel might also like to be engaged!

A Note of Caution


I had an interesting experience at the bank the other day so I thought I’d tell you about it. I was a little worried about what might happen at the bank, just as you might worry about deciding which marketing programs to execute.

It turned out that I had nothing to worry about and if you measure your marketing, and follow my five measurement principles, you can ease your worries, too!



As I handed the bank teller my carefully crafted note, I worried about how things were going to turn out. I had taken a cautious approach with my note, but I couldn’t control or anticipate the teller’s reaction.

Normally, notes handed to bank tellers might say something like “This is a hold-up” or “Put all the money in a bag” or in Woody Allen’s case, “Abt natural, I’m pointing a gub at you”. My circumstances were different, so I needed a different approach.

For one thing, I actually wanted to GIVE the bank some money. Well, not exactly “give”. I wanted to deposit a cheque from one of my clients into my business account. The other circumstance at play was that I couldn’t speak, not one word.

Before you start thinking that I bank at one of those new all silent branches, allow me to explain by sharing the content of my note:

“I’m sorry; I can’t speak temporarily while I recover from vocal cord surgery. I’d like to deposit this cheque into my account.”

Thankfully, the teller didn’t panic, the deposit went smoothly and I escaped the bank silently, without speaking a word to anyone.

It is natural to worry about taking actions or making decisions with uncertain outcomes. It is also natural to want better information to help us make better choices.

Marketers face difficult decisions and a lot of uncertainty every time they have to choose which programs to fund in their efforts to attract and acquire customers. In the absence of data or evidence of how similar programs might have performed in the past, such spending decisions become significantly more difficult.

To improve your ability to make good marketing spending decisions, you need good data about the performance of past marketing programs. The purpose of marketing measurement is to support making better marketing spending decisions.

There are many ways to approach marketing measurement. Whatever approach you take, be sure to follow these:

Five Marketing Measurement Principles

1. Pick & Stick: Choose one measurement methodology, apply it consistently across all programs and stick with it. Without measurement consistency, you end up with silos of data around each program that are difficult to analyze and compare.

2. Set Good Objectives: You’ll need to measure your results against your objectives. Integrate measurement into your marketing planning to force setting well-defined and measurable marketing objectives, for the overall organization, the brand and for each program.

3. Involve the Right People: Measurement works best when you have input and support from other parts of the organization. You will need other key individuals to agree that your approach is sound and that the results of your measurement efforts are meaningful. You may also need them to provide you with good data.

4. Use Good Data: Whether you use a complex and sophisticated methodology, or a scorecard, it won’t matter how good your approach is if your data is garbage. Be hard on the quality and reliability of your data to properly support your measurement methodology.

5. Compare & Learn: To learn what works and what doesn’t, and to find the best ways to spend your budget, you need to compare results to objectives and programs to each other. Seek answers to questions like:

  • Did we get the results we wanted for the company, for the brand and for the program?
  • Which of our programs, and in general which types of programs, seem to be the most and least effective at delivering the results we need to meet our business objectives?

When I handed my note to the teller, I was worried about startling or upsetting her and hoped I wouldn’t need to engage in any further communication beyond a nod, a smile or a thumbs up. When you have to decide how to allocate your marketing budget, your worries relate to serious things like meeting business objectives, achieving personal performance goals and advancing your career.

To worry less and to improve your marketing decisions, make sure you have a solid approach to measuring your marketing. It will give you better information about what works and what doesn’t, your decisions will improve and the business results will follow.

As for me, I’m glad I didn’t end up like Woody Allen’s character Virgil Starkwell in ‘Take the Money and Run’!

When I Paint My Masterpiece


Have you ever procrastinated? That’s what I thought. Me neither. Well, this post is about how one of the reasons for procrastinating really isn’t a good one (the others are fine) and how a simple strategy to deal with that reason will help you take on that project you’ve been putting off, like painting your house, or measuring your marketing.


In last month’s post, I joked about how I was going to need to steal time from one “fun” project, painting my front porch, so I could take on another marginally work-related project that was really more about me having fun. Well, guess what? Since I last wrote you, I found time to paint the porch!

I have to admit that I had been procrastinating (just this one time) about my hellish little chore. I knew it was going to be ugly. I’d look at the front of my house and all I could see was the toil and sweat awaiting me. I also knew that I would need a big block of time that I could never seem to find.

Then one day, a simple insight about that big block of time got me unstuck and into motion on my dreaded painting project. I realized that I could break down this miserable undertaking into manageable bite-sized pieces. I identified all the steps involved and did them, one at a time, in smaller chunks of time, as my schedule permitted. Looking at the problem this way made it easier for me to get started, and easier to see the path to the end.

One of the reasons that some marketers don’t measure at all, or not as well as they’d like, is that the whole project seems like too much to take on. Like my house-painting project, you can make implementing a measurement system seem less daunting by breaking it down into smaller steps. In short, it requires a plan, and here’s an approach to get you moving.

8-Step Plan to Measure Marketing

  1. Assemble Your Measurement Team: It is generally wise to create a small and diverse team that pulls members from some combination of marketing, sales, operations, finance, accounting, IT, customer service, and perhaps some external resources. Marketing exists to incent profitable customer behaviour. People from each of these areas will either have a perspective on what that means and what you should measure, or can provide the data you’ll need to measure whether marketing is achieving its objectives.

  2. Decide What to Measure: This key step requires having clarity about your overall business and marketing objectives, as well as each individual marketing program’s objectives. Well-defined objectives from your marketing planning process will help you to identify the metrics that you’ll use to assess how well your marketing is working. You’ll also identify the data you’ll need to collect, along with where, when and how you’ll collect it.

  3. Pick a Methodology: You need a measurement methodology that you can apply consistently across a diverse range of programs. The methodology needs to accommodate differences due to programs of varying complexity, targeting different customers, with different objectives and that require different metrics to assess performance. A consistent methodology across programs makes it possible to rank programs by a common overall program performance metric.

  4. Assign Responsibilities, Set Deadlines & Expectations: Make sure each team member clearly understands their role and responsibilities, what they’re supposed to do and when, and who else on the team they need to work with on specific tasks. Like any project, your success will depend on how well people perform.

  5. Test: Start small. Measure one program while you develop and work out the kinks in your process. Pick a program that will involve everyone on the team and that will test all aspects of your process.

  6. Review & Adjust Your Process: Things may not go entirely smoothly on your first attempt. Check back in with the team, fix what needs fixing, and prepare to roll out your process.

  7. Roll Out: You may need to do this in phases, perhaps to other brands, other program types, other divisions and other locations. Do it in manageable steps and be sure to pause between phases to review and adjust, as needed, until you’ve fully rolled out.

  8. Review & Adjust Your Marketing: Hold a measurement review session before starting your next round of marketing planning. Take the time to see what you’ve learned about which programs have been the most and least effective at meeting their objectives, so you can optimize your next wave of strategies, tactics and outcomes.

With all the hard work behind me, I find it interesting how the disdain I felt for this project before and while doing it has somehow vanished. All I feel now is the pride and satisfaction of a well-painted front porch. The key was finding a way to look at the project that made it seem doable and enabled me to get started.

If developing and implementing a marketing measurement process in your organization is something you’ve been dreading, a step-by-step plan will make it easier for you to start and finish. Now that I’ve finished painting my masterpiece, let me know if you need help with your project!

A Chapter About Bruce


Are the objectives for your marketing programs really just reasons without numbers? Well, with some inspiration from a seed planted by a song I first heard in 1975, I’ll try to help you to fix that problem.


I’m a long-time Bruce Springsteen fan. My affliction set in the first time I heard Born to Run played on my local FM station. I remember it well. It was the fall of 1975 and I was sitting in the basement of our family home, pretending to do homework.

When I decided several years ago to learn about blogging, I wanted to do so outside of my work world. I chose to blog about Bruce as I had studied him more diligently.

The blog was fun, I learned what I needed to know, but after five years of weekly posts, I lost the enthusiasm to keep going. I stopped posting at the end of 2012, although I have kept the blog site up. I’m happy I did it and the blog opened doors for me that I never anticipated.

Recently, a new door cracked open. I’ve been asked to consider writing a chapter in a book about Bruce that one day will hopefully be published. The asker found me through my blog.

I haven’t made my decision yet but I’m thinking about it and why I might like to do this. That leads me to the point of this story. I want to illustrate the difference between having reasons for doing something and setting proper objectives for doing that something.

Reasons may give you purpose, but proper objectives give you the ability to measure whether you achieved what you set out to accomplish. To measure whether marketing programs achieve their purpose, you need to be able to compare results to objectives.

I have to decide whether to commit my resources to writing this chapter, in the hopes it will be accepted and published. Similarly, you have to decide whether to support and run specific marketing programs, in the hopes they will move your business forward.

Setting Clear Objectives Will Help Us Both

My Decision

Let’s start by looking at my reasons for wanting to do this:

  • Become a published author
  • Improve my writing skills
  • Reach a new audience
  • Have some fun

I think these are good reasons to do it, but they are just that, reasons. To convert them to measurable objectives, I need to challenge them as much as your boss (not that Springsteen guy) would challenge any of your marketing program objectives with some of those “what do you mean by that?” type of questions. More on that later.

By quantifying the outcomes I’d like for each reason, we can begin to find the semblance of a measurable objective:

Become a published author: This is the easiest one. If the book is published and my chapter makes the cut, then mission accomplished. I have to admit, this is my number one objective, and the one I’d weight highest on my scorecard.

Improve my writing skills: Now it gets tougher. How do I measure the change in my writing skills from before until after I write that chapter? I could assemble a panel of writing experts and have them develop a scoring methodology to evaluate my before writing, perhaps a few of my newsletters. They would then have to use the same methodology to evaluate my completed chapter. The difference between the two scores would be my improvement. I could set my objective at a 10% improvement.

Reach a new audience: I need to start by being more specific about who I’m trying to reach. If I want to reach Springsteen fanatics to draw traffic to my dormant blog, my objective could be to increase average weekly unique site visitors by 20%.

If I want my chapter about Bruce to attract prospective clients for Optiv8 Consulting, then I need to define how much new business I’d like to acquire this way. I’ll set the bar for number of clients at one, which is likely overly optimistic. The dollar value objective for that one engagement will remain a confidential matter between my new Springsteen-loving marketer friend and myself. I’ve met many Springsteen-loving marketers over the years so, who knows, this might work!

Have some fun: This one is tough. I’ll know if I’m having fun when I’m doing it, but what could I possibly use as a Key Performance Indicator for my fun? I’m open to any suggestions you’d like to make but I know one thing. I’ll be wearing a massive grin the day my copy of that book arrives and I see my name in the book.

Your Decisions

Since I don’t know which program(s) you’re contemplating running, or what your objectives might be, I’ll suggest a few things for you to consider.

Start by asking if your objectives are just reasons without numbers. If you haven’t done the harder work of quantifying the results you want related to those reasons, you’ve yet to set objectives, and you won’t be able to measure properly when the program is over.

For each objective you set, challenge yourself with a few questions, before your boss hits you with those “What do you mean by that?” questions. These will get you started:

Who are you targeting? Examples: Current customers, prospects, specific market segments, a specific audience.

What do you want them to do? Examples: Follow/like you, subscribe, download, buy or buy more of specific products or services.

When do you want them to do it? Specify a period or a deadline.

How much of that do you need them to do for you to be happy? Pick a number or a percentage growth vs. a benchmark, like same period last year, and don’t sandbag it or your boss will challenge you some more!

The first three of the above questions help you to define the behaviour you want. In the last one, you quantify that behaviour.

In addition to making it possible to measure your marketing, setting proper objectives also sets expectations and defines success. That makes it easier to decide whether to allocate limited resources to a given initiative.

In truth, my decision isn’t too hard and I’ll probably go for it, assuming I can come up with an angle for my chapter. So my consulting work won’t suffer, I’ll re-allocate non-work time that I’ve allocated to other fun things, like to paint my front porch.

As a business executive or owner of a marketing budget, you must optimize your resources and budget by making good choices about which programs to fund. You’ll have your reasons for wanting to support each program, but be sure to challenge your reasons and objectives with some good questions before The Boss beats you to it.

For you Springsteen lovers, the blog is Your Friday Bruce Fix. I couldn’t tell you sooner as I worried you might never come back!

Better Than Nothing


Perhaps it’s just human nature. We don’t always do the things we know are good for us, like eating oatmeal or measuring marketing. Those who don’t currently do either can be much further ahead, just by doing a little, which is certainly better than nothing.

If you don’t currently measure your marketing, please grab a bowl of oatmeal and read on for four reasons why you should start measuring!


Last week, my sister Dianne emailed to share her discovery that Bob’s Red Mill makes a quick cooking steel cut oats. We’re both fans of steel cut oats but don’t love how long they take to cook, so this came as good news.

In my reply, I wondered whether they deliver the same health benefits as regular steel cut oats. I recalled reading something about how oats that take longer to cook also take longer to digest, which is somehow more beneficial to your health, although I’m not sure why.

When I raised this health related issue to my sister, her reply was “any steel cut oats is better than none…which is how much I’ve been having lately”. You see, Dianne has a young son who I’ve written about before, and he keeps her pretty busy. Quick, healthy breakfasts are a good thing!

I think Dianne is right. Any steel cut oats is better than none. If you don’t eat steel cut oats, you don’t get the health benefits. Marketing measurement is the same. If you don’t measure, you don’t learn anything that helps you to improve your marketing.

Like mothers of young children, marketers have a lot on their plates. They know measurement is good for them, but many don’t measure as much or as well as they would like. Many others don’t measure at all.

As much as they might like to measure, a full-on approach often isn’t practical, usually due to a shortage of some combination of time, resource and expertise. Still, they need to find a way to get something done, as the benefits of marketing measurement make it worthwhile.

If you don’t already measure your marketing, here are some reasons you should.


4 Reasons to Measure Marketing

1. You Will Learn Something Useful: The main problem with not doing any measurement is that you don’t get to learn anything that helps you to make better marketing decisions. If you could measure something, and learn something that helps improve your marketing, that would certainly be better than learning nothing.

2. You Will Set Clear Objectives: Measuring your marketing brings an additional layer of discipline to your marketing decision making. Committing to measurement requires that you to set clear and measurable objectives when planning your marketing programs. It will force you to ask the right questions about each proposed program. Those questions will help you filter out bad ideas and reduce ineffective spending of your limited marketing budget. That alone is worth the price of admission.

3. You Will Have Data: A manager with the responsibility for a marketing budget has two main organizational battles to fight. The first is to fight for budget to fund upcoming marketing programs. The second comes later when it’s time to prove that budget was well spent. If you measure marketing, you will have data with which to fight your battles. Having data is way better than having none and going into battle unarmed.

4. You Will Rank Your Programs by Results: However you choose to measure, make sure you apply one approach consistently across your diverse range of marketing programs. That consistency will give you the ability to rate, rank and compare programs according to their effectiveness at meeting their objectives. You will be able to identify the winners and losers, and you will have a basis on which to make decisions about which types of programs to run in the future.

My sister is right to focus on getting the health benefits from steel cut oats, and if it takes a bit of a short cut to get her there, than that is what she should do. Marketers who don’t measure also need to find a way to get there. I believe in a practical approach to a complex problem as a reasonable and effective way for time-starved marketers to get some measurement done and get the benefits of improved marketing health.

If you measure your marketing, you will learn what works and doesn’t work, so you can optimize your strategies and get better results. Measure… Learn… Optimize… In my books, that’s way better than nothing!


About the Author: Rick Shea is President of Optiv8 Consulting, a marketing effectiveness consultancy with a focus on helping small to mid-sized organizations measure their marketing so they can stop wasting money.

Copyright ©2014 Optiv8 Consulting.  All rights reserved.

You may reproduce this article by including this copyright and, if reproducing electronically, including a link to:

Big Data, Small Data


Marketing measurement is a big problem, but the solution to the problem doesn’t also have to be big. In fact, it can be small.

This month’s post is about taking a small data approach to a big marketing problem.


On Monday afternoon, I met my friend Reuben to get caught up over a coffee. I always enjoy our chats as they usually cover a wide range of interesting topics. Reuben also tends to ask great questions and make insightful comments. Monday was no exception.

While discussing how pervasive technology, analytics and big data are in marketing, we concluded that in contrast to all of that complexity and big data, I come at marketing measurement from a different angle; with something we might call a small data approach.

There is an emerging definition of small data as the few key pieces of meaningful, actionable information that we can uncover by analyzing big data. Those insights you extract from your big data become the last steps along the way to making better marketing decisions.

Actually, neither one of us had that definition of small data in mind during our discussion. Rather, we spoke of my “small data” approach to marketing measurement as small relative to other approaches and to the complexity of the problem.

My approach does align with the above definition of small data in the sense that I am very focused on organizing the chaos of all that data, uncovering insights and helping marketers to learn what they need to know so they can make better decisions. That is the reason to measure marketing and it needs to be the focus of any approach to measuring marketing.

Where my scorecard-based approach might also seem a bit contrarian is in its emphasis on measuring results vs. objectives and in not trying to calculate a financial return on investment (ROI). Although it would be ideal to accurately measure the financial ROI of marketing programs, as I have written about in the past, I think there are too many problems with doing financial ROI calculations for individual marketing programs.

I’ve always thought of my approach as a practical approach to a complex problem. As of Monday afternoon, I’m also starting to think about it as a small data approach to a big data problem. To explain what I mean by a small data approach, let me start with some thoughts on big data.

Big Data

Big data flows out of a set of circumstances that will tend to occur at bigger companies, and might include some combination of the following:

  • Big marketing budgets
  • Many marketing programs
  • Many products and/or services
  • Many communications channels
  • Many and diverse customers and customer segments
  • Many touch points on the customer path-to-purchase
  • Many transactions

These circumstances lead to a whole lot of data to analyze and understand which in turn leads to big data measurement solutions that will also tend to be big, complex, sophisticated and expensive.

With all the buzz around big data, it is easy for small and mid-sized companies to conclude that a high-science, big data solution must be the only legitimate way to approach marketing measurement. For many of these companies, a big, costly sophisticated approach isn’t needed or practical under their circumstances. A smaller, more practical approach can do the trick.

Small Data

Most small to mid-sized companies don’t operate under the same set of circumstances. Their budgets aren’t as big, their marketing activity is much less involved, their world is much less complex and they generate and collect a smaller amount of data. They also have fewer resources with which to take on the problem that all marketers must solve, which is to determine the best ways to invest their budgets.

A small data approach can be a great fit under these smaller circumstances. Yet, given the range of company size and marketing activity within the small to medium sized businesses segment, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Any approach needs to have some built in flexibility so you can scale up or down to be appropriate for the size of the marketing budget being measured.

That’s really where I stand on marketing measurement. Right size your approach to your circumstances, and don’t overspend on measurement by bringing an over-sized solution to your problem.

Don’t over allocate resources to measuring something that you can’t measure perfectly, as the law of diminishing marginal returns will ensure you waste some of those precious resources. This is not about measuring perfectly; it’s about perfecting your marketing.


About the Author: Rick Shea is President of Optiv8 Consulting, a marketing effectiveness consultancy with a focus on helping small to mid-sized organizations measure their marketing so they can stop wasting money.

Copyright ©2014 Optiv8 Consulting.  All rights reserved.

You may reproduce this article by including this copyright and, if reproducing electronically, including a link to: