Five Meaningless Marketing Metrics

I have a CEO friend who uses the expression the “anxious parade of activity” to describe the way marketing people often present results to him.  I’m sure you have seen this before.  “First we did this tradeshow, then the agency made this pretty brochure, then we ran this ad in Magazine x….”  The entire thread is usually devoid of any connection to the impact these programs have on tangible business results. As 2009 budget season approaches, conversations inevitably shift to “what did we get for all the money we spent on marketing this year”.  These discussions can be much easier with the right marketing metrics in place.  I often find that the trouble with metrics is separating the meaningful from the meaningless.  OK, meaningless is probably too strong a word. For the sake of this post, let’s use the terms “activity-based” and “result-oriented”. I have created this list of five meaningless marketing metrics to illustrate the differences between the activity-based and result-oriented measures. Page views: Web traffic is a leading indicator but it is conversion that really matters.  Google Analytics makes it pretty simple to add conversion tracking to any website or blog so there is no excuse for not tracking web results. Leads: These are also a directional indicator. The challenge is that until you move them along the purchasing cycle this number doesn’t tell you much. Impressions: They are the fuel for our marketing machine but don’t give you any idea of how you are performing. Events attended: This also misses the point.  Did you have specific goals for the event like getting firm commitments from prospects to trial your product? Did your rainmaker sales guy close any big deals?  I was recently accused of being “anti-tradeshow”.  Over the last 10 years, I’ve seen a steep decline in the productivity of events. I reality, I am skeptical of programs that are difficult to measure or have weak ROI. Email open rate: I certainly want people to read my emails but it is more important to get them to take action.  Clickthroughs are a better measure and conversions are the best. This is certainly not an exhaustive list.  As always, I would welcome any...

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Monday Morning Musings

Here are a couple of things that are on my mind this brisk Monday morning. 1. It is interesting to see Kel Kelly asking about partners and spouses who Twitter together.  Personally, I spare my friends and family members from my microdrivel unless they are already a Twitterati or connected via Facebook or Linkedin. 2. I agree with Lynne Harrold that email open rates don’t matter. 3. Looking for blog post inspiration? Copyblogger suggests some ideas of how to overcome writers block. 4. Has anyone tried Yodle, an online service that assists small businesses by purchasing and syndicating niche...

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Real people and social media interview: Kel Kelly

In this interview, I talk with Kel Kelly, Founder and CEO of Kel & Partners.  As you will see Kel is enthusiastic about Web 2.0.  This is no surprise as it is a cornerstone of her practice.  She explains how they are now seeing interest in social media spreading beyond a narrow band of Web 2.0 start-ups and into mainstream corporate America. FM Days: What are the marketing trends affecting your business in 2008? Kel Kelly: Web 2.0 baby! The Web 2.0 KoolAid is finally getting served and consumed by the big guys. Heading into 2008, the bulk of our clients were Web 2.0-based companies. This year along with a continued strong Web 2.0 client base, we have seen a tremendous tsunami of business coming in from big brand companies looking to Kel & Partners to help them build and blend Web 2.0 initiatives into their overall marketing strategies. FMD: How are your clients measuring success with social media? KK: Our clients who are social media-based measure it based on things like # of members, stickiness, etc. Other clients using it measure it against the objective we established prior to defining and executing the strategy. In some cases it’s based on connecting with clients, in other cases it’s based on expanding their brand association, and believe it or not in some cases it’s directly tied to a goal in the CMOs bonus plan. FMD: What do you see as the biggest hype at the moment: KK: “Web 2.0 is dead and it was just hype.” Note to self: remember to tell the 100 million Facebook members, Wikipedia, Slide and the rest of the gang! Seriously. The web as a platform, user-generated content, aggregating the wisdom of crowds, service above a single device and all the other attributes that define Web 2.0 are alive and well. They aren’t going away. What makes me laugh is that most people who are talking about Web 3.0 and Web 4.0 don’t have a Facebook profile, don’t know what Twitter is, and wouldn’t know a blog if they happened to be reading one by accident. FMD: What do you see as the next big thing in online marketing: KK: Since nobody ever could have predicted things like Facebook and all its glory, I never even attempt to answer these types of questions. I feel it would be arrogant for me to even begin to guess. All I can tell you is that if it is Web 2.0-based, I hope to be a part of it. We’re having a blast and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. FMD: Kel, thank you...

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54 Pages of Nothing

A number of years ago I started a new job as the CMO of a fast-growing software company.  As I was rummaging through my new desk and the charred remains of my predecessor, I discover something something shocking that explained his untimely demise – his 54 page marketing plan.  I’ve never been one to create those elegant, buzzword laden plans that delight the masses.  To me, plans are always a work in progress. This has often created friction between my more control-oriented bosses and me but they would eventually give up after I found a way to squeeze 30% more productivity our of marketing budget. Upon further reflection, this comes back to the agile vs. waterfall marketer question I raised a month ago.  How can you honestly create a marketing plan for 12 or 24 months when things change so quickly?  Also, according Spencer Stuart the average CMO lasts only 22.9 months. With that in mind, here is my ideal agile marketing plan. Is a living document less than 2 page long (ideally less than one) Looks no more than a six month into the future (one to three months if you can get away with it) Clearly articulates target markets and customers States specific, measurable goals (none of that generic “build a brand” stuff without measurable goals) Allocates a majority of the budget to proven programs (if you know them) Invests some resources to testing new, speculative media Is based on learnings from prior experiences (ie busted programs) In recent years I’ve seen more progressive types avoiding the document altogether and using a Mindmap.  In the end, the plan is a helpful guide but results matter more.  What you deliver will speak louder than a well written document about your cheerful parade of activities, so keep your eyes on what you...

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Real people and social media: PJA Advertising

With all the hype surrounding social media these days, I decided I would find some “real people” using Web 2.0 to improve the way they do business.  Over the next few weeks, I will be interviewing a series of marketers and agency people to better understand what it all means to “the rest of us”. In my first installment, I interviewed Mike O’Toole, Partner and SVP of Strategy at PJA Advertising + Marketing in Cambridge Massachusetts. Tangyslice: What marketing trends are affecting your business in 2008? Mike O’Toole: A renewed focus on demand generation, based on the shaky economy and declining marketing budgets. An accelerated emphasis on analytics and accountability. Online channels moving to the center of marketing spends. TS: How are people measuring success with social media? MO: We have a couple of clients who have hired firms (specifically, Nielsen Buzz Metrics and Cymphony, now part of TNS Media Intelligence) who specialize in monitoring and analyzing the social media conversation relevant to their brand and products. These firms combine software and professional services to measure volume and (more interestingly) tonality of blogs, bulletin boards, consumer reviews, etc. We encourage investment in these tools because it gives our clients a finger on the pulse of market opinion, and also gives them an additional yardstick for measuring the success of marketing campaigns (i.e. does a campaign help increase the positive buzz among key audience segments?). TS: What do you think is over-hyped at the moment? MO: Social media-as-marketing-strategy is over-hyped. This will sound obvious, but social media is by definition user-generated and user-controlled. Corporate marketing can’t exert control, and this makes a lot of marketers nervous. We counsel our clients to be careful, not to mention courageous. The best strategy is to participate in relevant communities and conversation, and to create interesting content that might be share-worthy. And to have appropriate expectations. You will be bashed at times, and measuring the return is tricky at best. It is critical to participate, though. PJA has done three waves of research with ITToolbox (an online community of more than a million technology professionals), and we have found that social media content and communities are top influences on purchase decisions. And when companies participate in the right way, we have seen their efforts make a real difference in brand and product perceptions. TS: What do you see as the next big thing online marketing? MO: Creating moderated, online communities of customers, prospects, and other key influencers. Web 2.0 tools and technologies have made it much easier for companies to tap into virtual audience segments to get feedback about products, customer satisfaction, and brand...

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