I’ve always had a tendency to agonize over major decisions – college, jobs, moving, buying a house, etc. I become an information hoarder, trying to gather as much detail as possible to weigh my options. Working at an agency – or working in PR for that matter – you’re often forced to make decisions based on limited information. There are no certainties. And it’s difficult to find direct connections between PR results and sales.
I guess that’s why I get both excited and flustered when it comes to identifying ways to better measure the impact of marketing/PR/social media efforts. For B2B public relations professionals – especially those at agencies – metrics are challenging because we typically have small, disjointed pieces of the full picture. I work with a number of complex B2B organizations, and find that conversations about metrics can become very circular very quickly. Everyone recognizes the need to get better about metrics, but there a million reasons why those conversations break down as fast as they begin:
- The right people aren’t involved in the discussion
- Business objectives are unclear
- Limited or no access to the right analytics
- Reluctance to start pulling metrics when no one is asking
- Unwillingness to be the decision-maker (and take responsibility for the associated outcome)
I’ve heard plenty of speakers discuss measuring the impact of various marketing activities. They make complete sense…until you go to apply them to your own organization. You either get bogged down in trying to find information that doesn’t exist or isn’t connected, or start using random tools that may not make sense at all for your situation. Basically, there aren’t any easy answers or copy/paste approaches when it comes to metrics.
It’s why I found Matt Riding’s presentation about social media metrics at the last IABC St. Louis chapter meeting so refreshing. While his focus was social media, his comments could apply to marketing metrics more broadly. He didn’t attempt to prescribe a magic metrics formula or tout particular tools. Instead, he focused on the approach and how to think about metrics. A few key points he made:
- Don’t talk about ROI. ROI is a trailing metric and usually doesn’t have a positive meaning. Instead, focus on how you are helping to achieve business objectives.
- Measure results, not activities.
- Establish benchmarks and talk to people outside of the marketing department to get the numbers you need to start correlating your activities to business results.
- Don’t over-complicate things. You can hit a point at which the amount of time/resources you’re spending tracking results isn’t worth it; when that happens, back up a level. It’s OK to use your gut to correlate marketing/social media activities to results.
The last point in particular hit home with the information hoarder in me. It’s easy to get paralyzed by making your metrics effort too big, or striving for an impossible ideal. I’ve had many conversations with clients that involved every excuse on the list above. And, almost every time, we push past that initial decision-making hurdle by forcing a decision to measure something…anything, even if it’s simply a guess that isn’t vetted by anyone else. Start small. The first attempt is never perfect. Information may be scattered. You may not find the results you want. And you may not get anyone else’s attention the first time or two. But, if you keep testing, tweaking, asking questions and measuring – you start crawling, and eventually it will take you somewhere and will get noticed, especially if no one is asking you for it.
How have you pushed through challenges in your organization to better measure the impact of marketing activities?
Photo by Alesa Dam
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