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.

 

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’!


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!

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?

 

 

Planning to Measure


Introduction

Hi there, welcome to my first post of 2014, and best wishes for the new year!

When you develop a marketing plan, it’s easy to focus on the plan itself, and to think of measurement as something you’ll do later after executing the plan. The problem is, you also have to plan to measure and the first step in doing that is to set proper objectives in your marketing plan. Today’s post looks at how to embed measurement in your marketing planning process.

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I’m an advisor to a social enterprise start-up called the Blooms of Joy Project. At our last advisory board meeting, we identified the need for a marketing planning process to help inform some decisions that the founder, Karen, needs to make.

Fortunately, I had recently completed the first draft of a new marketing planning process. I suggested to Karen that working through this process would solve her problem. She’d get a marketing plan out of it, and I’d be able to test my new process with her, get some feedback and learn how to improve my template.

Last week, as we walked through the process together on a Skype call, I found a problem. My new marketing planning process wasn’t making it easy enough to measure properly. Let me explain.

A marketer’s first responsibility requires answering the question “What should we do?” You have a budget and you need to spend it well in your efforts to attract customers, sell products and grow your businesses. That is the focus of a marketing plan, and it was my focus as I developed my process. However, having a good marketing plan isn’t enough.

With the responsibility of spending a marketing budget comes the accountability for spending it wisely. The follow up question to “What should we do?” is “Did it work?” An effective marketing process has to address and connect both questions so that you can continuously improve your effectiveness.

After executing the programs in your plan, you need to measure your results to see whether you achieved the objectives you set in your plan. That last part of that sentence is the key and where I found the problem.

One of the biggest roadblocks to measuring marketing properly is the lack of well-defined objectives. You can’t measure the success of your marketing programs if you don’t first clearly set measurable objectives.

With that in mind, I went back to the drawing board to embed objective setting into key elements of the planning process. Here are the sections of the plan where I did it, and where you should, too.

The Business

A marketing plan should include clearly stated objectives for the key performance indicators in your business, for each source of revenue that you want to affect with your marketing plan. Many of these objectives will roll up into your financial plan for the total business. Examples might include things like revenue, profit, customer counts, transactions, price per transaction and market share.

The Customer

Within this section, there is a Segmentation sub-section that helps you to be clear on who you are targeting. The Profitable Customer Behaviour sub-section is for defining what you want those targeted customers to do and for identifying Characteristics of Ideal Customers. For each product you offer, and for each market segment in which you compete, this section helps you to be clear on whom you want to communicate with through your marketing efforts, and what you want to persuade them to do.

The Plan

When setting objectives for specific marketing programs, it can be very helpful to ask four simple questions:

  1. Who are we targeting? (Target Segments & Ideal Customers)
  2. What exactly do we want them to do or buy? (Ideal Customer Behaviour)
  3. By when do we want them to do that? (To meet your Business Objectives)
  4. How much of that activity do we want them to do? (To meet your Business Objectives)

The Results

This section highlights the need to measure and suggests addressing questions like:

  1. What will your measurement process be?
  2. Who will be responsible?
  3. Where will the data come from?
  4. When will we measure?

The marketing plan is not the place to do all that work, but it is the time to recognize the need for it, to plan for it and to be setting objectives properly so that measurement will even be possible.

This section also addresses Lessons Learned, which is a critical step in optimizing your marketing effectiveness. The lessons you learn from measurement will include identifying the programs that performed best and worst at meeting their specific program objectives, and in helping you to meet your overall business objectives.

We all know that planning and measurement are important, but do we do these things as well as we should? It is equally important to recognize that we need to link them. You can’t measure well without setting proper objectives in the planning process and you can’t improve your next round of planning without measuring how well you did the last time around. Plan to measure, so you can measure your plan!

Running with Flawed Assumptions

Introduction

Have you ever made a flawed assumption? OK, maybe not you, but perhaps that has happened to someone you know.

Those of us who are more fallible than you sometimes make such mistakes. This month’s newsletter relates a story that reminded me of the importance of testing our assumptions to see if they are right, and also how the metrics we use to measure marketing need to be focused on our objectives.

I have to run, but please read on!
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I had lunch with my friend Charlotte the other day. In addition to being a lovely person, Charlotte is an avid runner and cyclist, and is one of several fit friends whose examples inspire me to get exercise.

Earlier this summer, I decided to take my morning walks in Monarch Park to the next level. First, I relocated my walks to the nice new running track at Monarch Park Stadium. Then, I slowly began injecting one-minute intervals of running into my 45-minute walks. I topped that off with a bit of stair climbing in the grandstand, and presto, I was doing interval training!

The first day I ran just four one-minute intervals, with a one minute walk in between. Each day I added a one-minute running interval until I was up to 15 one-minute runs. Then I started the process again but with two-minute running intervals, working up to 10 of those. The idea is to gradually work my way up to a longer total run featuring fewer but longer intervals, perhaps until I can run a marathon, or failing that, at least to the Beer Store and back.

Between bites of my tuna salad sandwich, I bragged to Charlotte about how by that morning I had built up to four 5-minute runs and two 4-minute runs. Charlotte congratulated me and then, I suspect inadvertently, inspired this newsletter by asking me how many minutes in total I was running most days. I guessed around 20 to 25 minutes even though that morning’s math (4 X 5 minutes, plus 2 X 4 minutes) suggested 28 minutes. I guessed low because I suspected my calculation was flawed. Here’s why.

When I started running, I found that the easiest way to keep track of my intervals was to split the track into 4 quarters; run 1/4, walk 1/4, and then repeat. My unit of measurement for how long I ran or walked quickly became track quarters rather than minutes.

Still, I wondered how many minutes I was running. I don’t wear a watch but it felt like each quarter took me about one minute to cover, and so I assumed one full lap took about four minutes.

I’m sure you can see the problem. I run a quarter lap faster than I can walk the same distance, and my internal clock that guessed at one minute is not likely accurate. But, I wasn’t too concerned about that. I don’t really care about my speed or lap times; I’m just trying to get some exercise to improve my overall health.

Without realizing it, while I had chosen a useful metric for keeping track of my intervals (quarters of laps), I was basing all my running time calculations on two casually made but flawed assumptions, namely that:

  • 1/4 lap = 1 minute
  • I run and walk at the same speed

Here are three simple lessons from this about metrics that apply equally to my interval training and marketing measurement.

1) Test Your Assumptions

It’s good to know if your assumptions are wrong. Using the timer on my cell phone the other day, I discovered that my five minute runs (1 1/4 laps) were actually about three minutes long. With that new information, I will probably adjust my training plan a little.

If any of your marketing measurement assumptions are based on poorly gathered or perhaps old data, such as research or analysis done under different market conditions, it may be time to revisit your assumptions.

2) Choose Metrics with Your Objectives in Mind

My specific training objective is to push myself, bit by bit, to work out a little harder each day. I measure my progress by tracking and increasing my distance-based intervals. I also check my heart rate when I’m done.

Make sure you’re clear about the specific objectives for each marketing program and pick metrics that measure the right things. Challenge your choice of metrics by asking yourself if knowing that number will help you to know whether your marketing programs are successful.

3) Align Program Objectives with Overall Objectives

Getting good results against my interval and heart rate objectives should lead to success against my overall objective of better health. One metric for that is my weight. So, I hop on the scale now and then to ensure my weight is heading in the right direction.

Your marketing program objectives should relate to customer activity that leads to better results against overall corporate objectives, such as revenue and profit. Strong results against the right program objectives should translate into hitting your company’s financial objectives.

Running around with flawed assumptions in my head really wasn’t a problem in this case because those assumptions were about an unimportant metric relative to my objectives.

If you’re running a marketing department or managing a marketing budget, a clear focus on your objectives will help you identify the right metrics for your measurement efforts. It’s also healthy to challenge any assumptions about your data and to test those assumptions to help keep your marketing on track.

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.

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!