Nine years ago, on a winter evening in downtown Toronto, a conversation in a bar with a complete stranger changed my life. I was at the Reservoir Lounge for some live jazz, leaning against a pillar that offered a perfect vantage point to the stage, and I was talking to a woman standing to my left.
We had established that while we both appreciated musical talent, neither of us played an instrument. I asked a hypothetical question, “If you could play any instrument, which one would it be?” to which she responded “the saxophone” and explained why she loved it so much.
After explaining, she turned my question around on me and asked which instrument I’d most like to play. I said “the piano” and explained how I always found myself watching and listening to the piano players. Then she followed up with the question that changed my life, “What’s stopping you?”
I was stumped. I had no answer, or more to the point, no good answer. I knew that playing the piano was a good idea and that I would find it rewarding, but I had serious doubts that I could ever learn to play well enough for my investments (time, money, effort) to be worthwhile.
Realizing that I didn’t have a good answer to her question, I made peace with my doubts and got started. I found a great teacher, started taking lessons and never looked back.
I say this changed my life because of all the fun I’ve had, the amazing people I’ve met and the great experiences that followed, including recording a four song CD. It was an investment in my creative side that has paid off in many ways, including some I never anticipated.
So, here’s my question to you. If you’re not already measuring your marketing, what’s stopping you? While you’re thinking about that, here are the most common reasons I’ve heard for not measuring and some related thoughts.
- Measurement is too complicated. As marketers, we know that customers make very complex buying decisions for reasons that are difficult to isolate. Knowing that, it’s easy to believe that measurement must also be pretty complicated and just might be too big a challenge to take on. Fortunately, measurement is not an all or nothing proposition. Your choice is not between doing no measurement whatsoever and a laboratory full of supercomputers and marketing scientists in white coats. There are a whole range of options between those two extremes, and by measuring the things that matter through a simple process you can learn a lot that will help improve your marketing. Yes, customer decisions are complicated, but measurement doesn’t have to be.
- Marketing can’t be measured. It can be, just not perfectly, meaning you’ll never be able to conclusively tie every dollar spent on marketing to the incremental profit generated. Luckily, you don’t need to measure perfectly in order to perfect your marketing. All you have to do is focus on measuring whether your marketing achieved its objectives and created value for your business.
- We don’t have the resources (time, money, expertise, people). This is related to the first two reasons. Don’t create that measurement laboratory or try to measure marketing perfectly. Instead, have more modest measurement ambitions that align with the resources you have available. Set out to learn what you need to know to make better decisions, such as which marketing tactics work best for you.
If the only possible reason for me to play the piano had been to try to become the world’s greatest pianist, I never would have started. That objective would have seemed unattainable, and not worth pursuing. Thankfully, I had the option to learn how to play just well enough to have fun. With that attainable objective, I was able to get started with my limited resources (time and especially skill), which opened the door to all the benefits of playing piano.
Marketing measurement is much the same. The most important thing to do is to start. That will open the door to the benefits that lead to improved marketing effectiveness. Later, once you’ve built your measurement skills, you can set more ambitious goals for your measurement efforts.
To become the world’s greatest measurer of marketing would require a massive investment of time and resources. That’s something very few companies can undertake and the payoff from that effort will likely suffer from the law of diminishing marginal returns.
For the rest of us, with more modest budgets and resources, we can set more modest goals. You can make great strides (piano pun intended) with relatively small investments. Start measuring and you will learn something that helps you to make better decisions, which is the whole point of measuring. Now, tell me, what’s stopping you?