Planning, Startups, Stories

Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

Do You Undervalue Marketing You Can’t Measure? 5

Measurability and accountability in marketing is a luxury we pretty much have now but we didn’t always have. Before the Web, we often guessed what would work, then spent the money to place the advertising or do the event or distribute the collateral. Then we waited, and hoped it was working. Then we’d guess again afterwards about whether it had worked or not.

Sure, we’d ask customers where or how they’d heard of us, but most of them didn’t know. Less than a third would even be able to answer that question. Of those, half would answer wrong (like mentioning a publication that we’d never advertised in).

That was pretty much it in the 1980s and early 1990s. We didn’t have clicks, click-through, search terms, conversion rates, and all that. Metrics. Direct mail, which is used so much less these days, was the best for measurability and accountability; some companies used it more than other marketing tools because of that advantage.

But nowadays, here’s the rub: do we now devalue marketing efforts we can’t measure?

For example, getting mentioned in a major publication. Or being included in somebody’s book. What if those marketing wins produce a value we can’t measure? We don’t know how many people have purchased because of them. We’ll never be able to tell how many people saw the mention and then visited the website, or, better yet, bought the product. Does that make those marketing efforts less valuable? Do we start underestimating and under-using these parts of the marketing mix because we can’t produce the metrics?

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  • Tim, you reminded me of a lesson from the past. One company got quite a bit of business from me for pricey toner cartridges. Believe it or not, I found them in a print catalog for shipping labels. The toner company’s label was featured as an example of ‘label style 1234’. In designing their label, they included company name, an idea of what they sold, and how to contact them. Perfect. My hard-to-source specialty product was now one phone call away and successive sales resulted from “advertising” they never would be able to measure.

    • Susan, yes, exactly. Thanks for that story, that’s a great example.

  • Tim Kern sounds like the publisher of a magazine, not that there’s anything wrong with that! You can correlate traffic or inquiries to events like running an ad or being mentioned in Tim Berry’s blog but it is an inexact science. In my opinion, this has always been to the advantage of the marketers and consultants, because we all know that we need PR and advertising but we rely on the experts to tell us how much and what kind.

    • Thanks Tyler. I like that “not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Reminds me of a well-known episode of Seinfeld that played off of that theme.

  • Tim, you’re right, again. I have some clients who, just a couple weeks after a press release goes out, will tell me it’s been a failure, because none of their just-arrived trade magazines has picked it up! Even though these are rational people, they refuse to recognize that print and mail take time.

    Complicating the mix is the fact that online pubs can run the PR immediately, so many print pubs are reducing their “announcements” sections, reserving them (though they seldom admit it) for their advertisers’ releases. This reduces the print pubs’ variety (and thus their potential interest and even relevance) to their readers — hurting the readers, the pubs, the remaining advertisers, and eventually the industry — since new ideas don’t get through. Worse (for the publications) is the fact that, with narrowed reader interest, they lose even those who might have read the magazine, looking for interesting things that are not directly advertiser-related.

    Certainly, advertisers know that their ads are primarily inducements and reminders to visit their websites, where in-depth product/service information resides. The days of print ads’ needing (if ever they did) to convey actual, hard information are over.

    Enlightened editors and publishers know this, and provide depth on items of interest, even if those items aren’t directly connected to advertisers. Though the advertisers may not appreciate the “competition,” they should also realize that, with a healthy readership, they’re ultimately better off.