It still amazes me how much confusion and conflict that remains in the world of advertising and marketing – especially in these days of economic uncertainty. Almost everyone is counting their pennies. It would seem like it would be more important than ever for marketers to track their expenditures and calculate their return on investment (ROI) in any and every way they can. Still, I stand in awe at the many professionals and entrepreneurs who remain either unable or unwilling to wrap their mind around such a pragmatic principle.
If you never keep track or if you only keep track occasionally, it is almost impossible to affect a good strategy on a consistent basis. Even harder to repeat any success you may experience. Sure you can get lucky once in a while and launch a campaign that so dramatically exceeds the previous baseline of results that it might be considered a “success,” but what exactly did that cost you? How can you manage the process, improve and replicate? It is certainly almost impossible to manage any campaign or program consistently without some form of measurement. It is tantamount to investing money without ever looking at your investment account statements or studying the individual components.
None of this is to discount the importance of good creative strategy or strong content. However, there are unlimited examples of incredibly weak or substantially horrible creative campaigns becoming hugely successful owing to a good program of management and measured media execution. Hence, it stands to reason that the careful and deliberate combination of powerful creative and a well-planned, executed and monitored campaign is the ideal.
Certainly some media are much more difficult if not impossible to track and factor return on investment. They are even harder to manage change in expeditious and effective ways to any degree. Print and Out of Home media come to mind. But today’s digital media world makes some media ideal: online, cable TV, etc. And the tools that area available to help you focus on those critical elements you need to know become better, more effective and cheaper every day. In the case of online advertising in particular, most good networks can provide you with customized “dashboards” for every campaign – giving you real-time access on a daily basis if need be. This can be a real game-changer. You tell them what metrics are important to you and they give you access to the real data whenever you need it. No smoke, no mirrors. No guessing or mystery!
I recognize that for some, it just seems too complicated and cumbersome. For others it may be that they just cannot reach consensus on what to measure, how to measure it and with what tools. At the end of the day it really should come down to three directives:
1. Measure what matters to you.
2. Measure it in such a way that you and even your dog can understand.
3. Use what you learn to make your next marketing decision.
Sure it can be more complex and sophisticated than that. So can balancing your checkbook. But in the final analysis, it all comes down to how much comes in versus how much goes out. Positive or negative. Up or down. What is so frightening about that?
Mark M. Stacey