Simplest marketing question may be the most difficult

marketing question

By Jeffrey Slater, {grow} Community Member

There is a simple question I ask almost every day about any new marketing project I work on with my team. It seems so simple but in reality it can be an organization’s most critical struggle:

How will we measure success?

Not only will I ask my marketing team this question but I also check in with other departments such as sales, finance, and IT.  I want to know what it would look like to them if a marketing effort worked. How will we know to do more or stop doing it at the end of a certain period of time? How would they judge this as worthwhile? Before jumping into tactics, we need to have a very clear agreement on success.

Gary Vaynerchuk the social media guru and owner of Wine Library spoke at a conference I organized in Napa Valley about two years ago for the wine marketing industry. He was asked by a winery owner to answer the question, how do you measure success online with Facebook or Twitter? He chided the crowd by answering “What’s the ROI of your Mom?”

Now, I think his point was that some things are difficult to calculate as you try and measure time and money spent versus the return on that activity. And he was making the argument that investing in relationships can’t easily be described by an equation. Although Gary is quite a thought leader, he obviously doesn’t live in the corporate world of marketing.

Today’s marketer better be prepared with some metrics.


I like this question I use about measuring success because it forces a marketing team to think through where we are investing time, money and energy. And since all three of those are often in short supply, you better make sure you are focused on meeting your company’s larger strategic goals. And bringing along others from outside the department can be helpful in building consensus on what success might look like for your work.

Here are five examples of how I have measured success during the last year.

EVENT MARKETING: To make our conference successful, we need to have at least 10 senior brand executives from our top strategic customer accounts attend our forum and be activity engaged with us for five hours each. So success is 50 hours of time spent with senior leadership.

EMAIL CAMPAIGN: Our conversion rate on our email campaign must generate 4 times gross revenue as the program cost. Simple math: the campaign cost $10,000 and we must generate $40,000 within 8 months from the start of the project.

PUBLIC RELATIONS OUTREACH: In the coming three months, at least 25 articles online or in print must appear mentioning our new product launch from targeted publications with a reach exceeding 1,000,000 readers in total.

WEB ANALYTICS: Traffic to our new website must increase 15% year over year and with a 25% increase in the time spent on the site by new visitors.

LEAD GENERATION: We must generate at least 50 news leads each at the two new trade shows and those leads, over six months will create at least twice the revenue as the cost of attending the events.

Note that each metric or KPI (key performance indicator) includes a specific number that we can measure.  And, these goals were established by marketing with input from sales, finance and other engaged colleagues.  I do this for several reasons but when I report out our progress at the end of the quarter to our general management team, everyone has already agreed what success looks like and I can share if we achieved our goal.

Not everything can be quantified but often that is because we get lazy and we just say, “I know what it will feel like if we are successful.”  That just doesn’t cut it.  Well-defined success parameters help build marketing credibility internally which boosts confidence on those riskier activities.

How do you measure success? 

Jeffrey Slater HeadShotJeffrey Slater is the Global Director of Marketing for Nomacorc. His blog, MomentSlater unravels the mysteries of marketing based on his 30 years as a professional marketing executive and entrepreneur. Follow Jeffrey at @Moments_Later.

Illustration courtesy NASA free photo site.

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