Taking a Measured Approach to Marketing

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"True marketing value lies not only in who you reach, but also in how they respond," Traci Gere told me this morning when we discussed trends and challenges in marketing measurement. "This is the 'so what' of reach. What did customers do with what they heard and learned?"

"True marketing value lies not only in who you reach, but also in how they respond," Traci Gere told me this morning when we discussed trends and challenges in marketing measurement. "This is the 'so what' of reach. What did customers do with what they heard and learned?"Gere, managing director of ExpM, explained that marketers need to know in advance exactly what they want to accomplish through marketing to be able to measure results. She cited as an example the goal of raising awareness. "What does that mean, specifically," she asked. "Do customers understand the message? How did they respond? Did they make a purchase or recommendation? What part of the message resonated with them?"

It isn't always easy to find out, so Gere recommends weaving seamless feedback mechanisms into marketing campaign elements whenever possible. This might be a live interview; email, paper, SMS, Web, or survey; even a contest or promotion that asks additional questions during registration.

Another measurement issue some marketers face is selling top executives on a new marketing program, because it can be difficult to accurately predict results. Many marketers lack the tools or background necessary to do so, Gere said. Others might have an internal analytics group they can tap, but don't have time to wait for the analysts to fit their project in to their schedule. "Many companies are facing a resource crunch," she said.

Interestingly, even some positives in marketing measurement can become obstacles. Gere cited marketing mix analysis as one example. When companies have mastered analyzing their marketing mix, it can be extremely difficult to get approval to add a new channel or measure because big investments have already been made to achieve the current level of success. This situation could potentially cause silos, especially in the case of new approaches like social media marketing.

Regarding social media, Gere noted that it's is helping companies to "get over the hurdle of being comfortable in a conversation with customers, instead of just talking at them." According to Gere, it's easy to see the synergies between traditional and social marketing. "It's time to see how they can work together and complement each other," she said, adding that marketers should create a measurement strategy that includes a participatory element. Eighty to 90 percent of conversations are still happening offline, she noted; how do you blend online and offline conversations to build word of mouth even further?

This relates directly to the difficulty in measuring cross-channel or multichannel campaigns. One issue is that many marketing teams lack the ability to attribute results to each of the unique aspects of a program. Gere suggested starting by drawing a step-by-step path. "You have to identify each element within the process," she said. Doing so often allows marketers to translate the success measures of each element into financial outcomes, which, of course, adds credibility.

Another issue regarding multichannel is silos. "Many organizations are remarkably fragmented," Gere said, referring not only to internal groups, but also to agency partners. "It requires a strong commitment to collaboration." One solution is information. "How can you get enough information to understand the contribution of each channel?" she asked. "It's difficult, but you have to do it; you have to try to get a sense of what prompts customers' behaviors." Gere suggests two things: 1) asking customers for feedback; 2) looking for proxies until you can get accurate information. For example, it's possible to measure intention prior to a marketing campaign and then measure actualization after it. In other words, did customers do what they said they were going to do? "The only way to get smart about [multichannel marketing measurement] is to do it over and over and over," Gere said. "You have to try it and learn over time."

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