Rick’s Theory of Relativity


Have you ever noticed how time passes too quickly, and seemingly, much faster than when you were a kid? Well, I’ve noticed and I have a theory why that is. As it turns out, my theory also helps us to measure marketing properly. I know, it doesn’t seem possible for one theory to apply to two such different things, but if you’d like to find out how that can be, please read on!

Last week I spoke by phone with my seven-year-old nephew, Aaron. He was quite excited because he was just a couple of sleeps away from starting his summer vacation in Hilton Head, South Carolina with his mom and dad.

Three summers ago at the age of four, Aaron vacationed in Cape Cod. I flew to Hyannis to join in the fun and to surprise my parents, who were also there. We had a great time and one of the things I enjoyed most was watching Aaron enjoying his vacation.

As I observed and photographed Aaron, I noticed how easily and happily he was able to keep himself occupied. As a four year old with no obvious responsibilities, his main preoccupation was passing the time by entertaining himself, something Aaron did very well.

Do you remember being four years old? I don’t have many specific memories from that age, but I do have some vague recollections of how it felt. I remember how time seemed to stand still and how the summer seemed to last forever.

Now, with a full and busy life, I find that time passes much too quickly. I’ve also noticed how the speed of time’s passing seems to accelerate as I get older. My Theory of Relativity helps to explain why time passes more quickly as we age.

When you’re four years old, one year is 25% of your life. It’s forever. When you’re 50, one year is a mere 2% of your life. Relatively speaking, it’s a blink of an eye.

Whether you are 4 or 50 years old, one year is either 365 or 366 days long. Yet, relative to your current age, a year can seem much shorter or longer than it did or will at other ages.

My Theory of Relativity also informs my approach to marketing measurement. A number on its own is pretty meaningless unless you understand the context in which you’re trying to understand that number.

When you measure marketing, regardless of the specific metric you’re looking at, you want to know exactly how good or bad that number might be. For that, you need context; you need to compare your result to something. That “something” should be an objective.

Setting Good Marketing Objectives

At the risk of stating the obvious, comparing a result to an objective first requires setting an objective. To help you do that well, here are four characteristics of good objectives:

Clear: Well-defined objectives are not easily misunderstood. Identify exactly which key performance indicators (KPI) you are trying to impact with your marketing and by how much. If you want to impact “awareness”, define “who” and “how many” of those you are trying to make aware of “what” about your products or services. If you want to impact “sales”, define “who” you want to buy “how many” units or dollars, of “which” products or services, at “which” price, over “what” period of time.

Measurable: You need to be able to put a precise number to the magnitude of impact you are trying to make on each KPI. Also, make sure you can get the data you need reliably and affordably.

Meaningful: To be meaningful, the KPI you are trying to impact with your marketing should be important to the organization. Success at impacting that KPI should help to create value for the organization. To help identify KPIs, focus on profitable customer behaviour.

Reasonable: This generally means attainable, somewhere between overly conservative (too easy to attain) and overly aggressive (too hard to attain). The level of aggression in your marketing objective setting should be in synch with how aggressive your organization is in setting its overall objectives, as well as with the performance objectives and incentive payment thresholds for its employees and executives.

To measure marketing properly, you need to begin by setting good objectives. Having clear objectives gives you context and a number against which to measure your success. After all, if you’re not clear on where you’re trying to go with your marketing, how will you know when you get there?

Measuring marketing without having clear objectives might be a bit like planning a vacation without a clear destination in mind. Of course, if you do happen to get somewhere and aren’t sure how to pass the time, I know a young consultant who would be happy to advise you!

About Rick Shea
Rick Shea is President of Optiv8 Consulting, a marketing consultancy that helps small to mid-sized organizations improve their marketing impact and business outcomes through customer insights, strategic discipline and effective content. Copyright ©2007-2023 Optiv8 Consulting, a brand operating under Rick Shea Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved. You may reproduce this article by including this copyright and, if reproducing electronically, including a link to: http://www.optiv8.com/

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