Methods of Measurement: Don’t Cop Out When It Comes to Measuring Communication Impact

It’s hard to imagine which position would be worse: the small business owner agonizing about the wisdom of spending money on a new marketing campaign with seemingly vague and uncertain results, or the marketing manager struggling to find a way to demonstrate the financial value of her efforts to her boss. Marketing has traditionally been notorious as an expense for which the ROI is hard to measure. And according to a McKinsey & Company study on marketing measurement, many companies aren’t even trying!

That’s unfortunate. Even in an era where no- and low-cost marketing options abound, it pays to know what’s working and what’s not. At Strategic Communications, we use a combination of both process (media placement) and outcome (inquiries, leads, sales) metrics to measure results.

Process measures are easier to get at. We can track media placements through both online search — Google Alerts, etc. — as well as through organic search results to client websites. With process outcomes — the real results we’re looking for — we can track inquiries and leads received, but tracking actual sales, or other business results can be more challenging in terms of identifying a 1:1 correlation between a PR effort and sales results, for instance.

One of the things we do to attempt to get at these metrics is to compare results prior to a campaign to after the campaign. For instance, if a client has historically generated 50 new leads a month, and we find that monthly leads climb to 100 a month after the implementation of a campaign (with no other potential intervening variables), we can surmise that there has been some positive impact. It’s also possible to conduct tests in different markets, using different forms of outreach to compare results. So, for instance, we might use traditional marketing in one geographic region, and social media marketing alone in another, leaving all else the same. Evaluating which effort resulted in the greatest results can provide useful insights.

There are many agencies and PR reps who attempt to separate their work from sales generation or customer acquisition, focusing instead on their ability to achieve placements, exposure and web traffic. We like to take our role further than this. Although, as we said above, it can definitely be challenging to identify 1:1 correlation, we try to do the best we can to demonstrate real, bottom-line results for clients. After all, that’s ultimately the reason they’re using PR in the first place.

We like it when clients have specific results they’re looking for — it helps us to develop a plan/process for what we will do to generate results. For example, there would be a big difference in terms of the actions we would take for clients looking for 10 new customers vs. 100 or 1,000 new customers.

At the same time, though, we want to manage client expectations, so we do tell them that there is a wide range of variables that could impact their success; PR is just one of those variables. Others include:

  • The strength of the product or service
  • Competition
  • Seasonality
  • Type of product
  • Purchase process of potential customers
    • Short process or long process
    • One-, two- or three-step process
    • Simple offer vs. complex offer
  • Responsiveness of their customer service staff to inquiries received

All of these factors impact the ability to generate sales and customers. Yet, these factors can be controlled for to some extent; they represent challenges, but not absolute impediments. So, whether you’re a marketing executive or a small business owner, don’t be intimidated by the seemingly tangential connection between your marketing efforts and the bottom line. The connection is very real and can be measured!

How do you measure your marketing results?

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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