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.

 

How’s Your Marketing Measurement Appetite?

Introduction

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.

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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.

A Note of Caution


Introduction

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!

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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


Introduction

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.

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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


Introduction

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.

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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


Introduction

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!

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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!

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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:  http://www.optiv8.com/

Big Data, Small Data


Introduction

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.

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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.

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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:  http://www.optiv8.com/

The Long and Short of It


Introduction

Are you a short-term thinker or a long-term thinker? Both? Neither? Maybe you’d like to think about it and get back to me?

Well, today’s post has a little something for both of you, or all of you. However you think, marketing measurement has benefits for you!

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Early in my career, I worked for a guy who believed that one of the biggest problems facing the country was an epidemic of short-term thinking. At the time, given my youth and inexperience, I didn’t give this epidemic of his a lot of thought. Over the years, though, I’ve come to realize that he was onto something.

Consider these common examples of short-term thinking:

  • Politicians who seem primarily motivated by getting elected or re-elected, rather than by doing the right thing in the long run for the citizens whose interests they supposedly represent.
  • General managers of professional sports teams who trade away young talent for veteran players. They sometimes make the playoffs and a little extra money for their owners, but rarely do they go on to build championship teams without investing in the long-term development of their young players.
  • Business executives might want to invest in the future but will tend to favour taking actions that contribute to meeting shorter term objectives. Missing those objectives can disappoint financial markets and can cost those executives their bonuses and maybe their jobs.

Short-term thinking can also cause companies to be reluctant to make marketing measurement a priority. It can be difficult to allocate scarce marketing resources towards something they perceive as having a longer-term payback.

Marketers will tend to allocate their resources and budgets towards activities that deliver customers and revenue today. They might think, “Why spend money on measurement, something that will help me next year, when I could spend that money on programs to find more customers this year?”

The pressure to think and behave that way is real, but the perception that marketing measurement’s benefits are exclusively long-term isn’t quite right. The long-term benefits from measurement are significant, but there are also important short-term benefits. Let’s look at both.

 

Long-Term Benefits of Measurement

Better Decisions, Better Results: This is the main and most obvious reason to measure marketing. What you learn will make your marketing more effective.

Optimize Spending, Reduce Waste: Measurement helps you to learn which marketing programs are the most and least effective, so you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Organize the Chaos: We live in very data rich times. As technology evolves and as the ways marketers interact with customers become more diverse, you’ll have even more data and it will be harder to make sense of it all. A good measurement system will keep your data from becoming a chaotic mess and will support making the decisions you need to make.


Short-Term Benefits of Measurement

Clear and Measurable Objectives: To commit to measurement, you must also commit to setting objectives for your programs. Proper objectives clearly define success and set expectations. This makes it easier for organizations to initially determine which activities to fund and afterwards, to measure whether they met expectations.

More Scrutiny = Better Marketing: Having to define success and set objectives will require that you examine why you want to do each program before you commit budget to them, and that scrutiny will help prevent bad programs from seeing the light of day. By merely planning to measure, the cream will already start to rise to the top.

Get on the Same Page: To do measurement well, you have to involve people from key functional areas of your business in the development and implementation of your process. The discussions you’ll have will help get everyone on the same page about the intent of your marketing programs and the impact across the organization of the resulting customer behaviour.

Understand the Drivers of Value: Marketing’s purpose is to incent customer behaviour that creates the most value for the organization. Measurement helps you to learn how various types of customer behaviour either create or erode value across your business. That understanding also helps to ensure alignment between your marketing and corporate objectives.

 

We may well live in a world plagued by an epidemic of short-term thinking, but that statement is probably a bit too dramatic, and anyway it’s always best to focus on what you can control.

If it’s short term benefits you need, then marketing measurement will deliver. As a great bonus, you will simultaneously be investing in your long-term marketing effectiveness. Those long-term investments will also help you to meet future short-term objectives.

The long and short of it is that measurement will improve your marketing effectiveness, today and in the future. If you’re not already measuring, what’s stopping you?

 

 

Rick’s Theory of Relativity

Introduction

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!
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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.