10. Hold Marketing Accountable to Real Goals (Not Just Numbers)

IMG_2005If you’ve been following along, at this point you should:

In other words, from a marketing perspective, you have defined your goals and how you expect to achieve them with people and strategies.  You are ready to execute, execute, execute — awesome!  There is just one question left to answer:

When and how will you know whether you are succeeding or not?

Your simple answer might be, “When we see the sales needle move, we will know it is working.”

So I will counter with this question:  What if it doesn’t move this month?  What if it doesn’t move (or moves very little) for six months?  When will you know it’s time to revise your marketing strategy?

It has been my observation that, when sales don’t happen, the sales people are usually “held accountable” (read that as “fired”.)  I will agree, since “sales” is right in their title, that the sales people are a part of the failure; but frequently business owners are slow to identify their marketing failures because they are not measuring the right outcomes.  Specifically, I’m talking about the dangerous tendency to use the time-honored sales and marketing model of “filling the funnel” — an attempt to turn marketing (and sales) into a numbers game.  On the surface, it seems logical that having more people interact with you will mean reaching more potential customers and an increase in business; but judging success based on quantity instead of quality will get you (or your poor sales force) into trouble.

Let’s talk about some examples.

I talked in a previous post about the tendency to measure social media success in terms of things like “Likes” and followers; but one of the lessons we’ve learned about social media is that followers have many reasons for “Liking” you that have nothing to do with actually doing business with you — they like your cover photo, they like one post, they have family or friends who work for you, etc.  If marketing is being judged based solely on the number of followers (and not the quality of the followers), then they can do whatever it takes (e.g., post adorable cat pictures) to get followers, and it can look on the surface like marketing is succeeding when really they aren’t (unless you sell cats or cat supplies).

Another common measure of success is booth traffic at an event.  Again, this speaks to the “fill the funnel” model — somewhere there is an equation that says if you have x people come through your booth, y% will do business with you within the next year.  If your marketing group is being judged based on the number of people they move through the booth, then they can get all kinds of crazy just to get people in the booth — regardless of whether they are qualified or not.  In one instance, the marketing company at a very male-dominated event had models applying tattoos to booth visitors.  Some of those visitors left the booth, went to the men’s room to remove the tattoo, and then returned to the booth for another visit with the models.  Clearly, measuring booth traffic here is not going to get you a very realistic picture of potential business.

So as you are launching your new marketing strategies, I encourage you to think very carefully about how you are going to judge whether you are succeeding or not.  Here are some things to consider when managing your marketing activities (that don’t include firing sales):

  • Make sure you have real goals for your marketing tools.  Goals could include increasing customer endorsements, making more people aware of a specific location or making more customers aware of specific capabilities.  Notice that these goals are not about sales but about the things that you think drive your sales.
  • Design SMART marketing goals that provide proof you are meeting your goals.  Set a goal for how many endorsements you want for a product, how many visitors you want to see at a location or how many inquiries you have about a product; and don’t forget to give it a real timeline!
  • Plan a regular review of your progress against these goals.  Weekly or monthly is usually reasonable.  Checking against your goals daily (unless it is a very short-term goal) is a little like weighing yourself every day when you are on a diet — the daily ups and downs can be misleading.  You need to be focused on the bigger (longer-term) picture.
  • Give your marketing folk(s) room to exercise their creativity.  If you’ve designed real goals that really mean something to you (and you are correct about what drives your business), let them get creative with how they meet those goals.
  • Use the regular check-ins to determine if they are making progress that is meaningful to you. If not, revise the goal to better focus their approach. If they don’t seem to be getting close to their goal, push them to come up with something new — you’ve given them the room, so make them own it!
  • If they are making progress against the marketing goals, but the sales needle still isn’t moving, reexamine what you think drives your sales. I recommend a talk with your customers and/or sales force so you can refine or rewrite your goals.  This is a great place to use your market research and analysis thereof.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat.

Logical? Yes.  Takes some time to implement? Yes.  Worth it? Definitely.  Taking the time to plan your marketing goals and implement marketing accountability will pay off in a better understanding of your customers, what drives your business and how you can be in better command of your sales and marketing engine.

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