A client prospect recently asked me, “Could you tell us how you propose to measure (in numbers) the effectiveness of the marketing communications (marcomm) program?” I appreciate their concern and curiosity and it's a reasonable question. However, the answer isn't simple because it depends on lots of variables.
There are a variety of ways of coming at measurement. The question above begs more questions.
First, how is your company currently measuring their marcomm effectiveness, if at all? And how's that working for you? Another consideration is whether you are talking about linking customer prospect inquiries, leads, and sales back to marketing communications outputs? That's a much more complex and typically costly exercise unless they're already great at applying Salesforce apps. Even then, some important actions can be left out.
What's Better Look Like?
Marketing communications and public relations, when done reasonably well and consistently, increases awareness, credibility, preference, and demand. It does not close sales. That's what sales does once they've got a qualified prospect.
Creating and measuring improved awareness, credibility, and preference should be done on the basis on knowing where you are currently, before initiating a campaign. That's what benchmark awareness studies are for. If a company is a new start-up that hasn't done any promotion, one can safely assume you're starting at zero. Otherwise the question becomes, “increasing from what to what?” How much movement of the effectiveness needle is desired, affordable or even possible? Is the company doing all the other things necessary for success. Is there a product problem? If so, fix that before amping up promotion.
Effectiveness metrics can be challenging and depend a lot on how someone defines effectiveness or success. It's a loaded business term that's been heavily overused and quite often leveraged as a weapon.
What Do You Mean By That?
Effective in business communications can mean, that the company's messages are being transmitted clearly and regularly into the minds of the target audience. Further, it takes into account how often, in what variety of media, and approximately how many target audience members were exposed to the messages. That's certainly measurable.
Just measuring tactical outputs (news announcements, articles, speeches, interviews, blog posts, etc.), as was done at one place I worked, is kind of like the army counting how many rounds were fired at the enemy. Some might have hit their targets and helped accomplish the mission, others not. More aren't necessarily going to be better. There's a great potential for wasted time and money that way.
Some people are metrics junkies and have actually asked questions like, “What's the ROI on issuing a news announcement?” on some particular topic. I have no answer for them. We're not even on the same planet. Others want to count page hits or search engine optimization (SEO) and only measure online activity. That's good but misses lots of very effective communications that go on in the real world.
I once had a client who seriously said he expected the PR campaign to gag his server with inquiries. I asked him how many inquiries would that take in what frequency and he didn't know. So the team had a good laugh. Our work didn't overload his server. However, the campaign did cause the company to be very profitably acquired and created some wealthy people.
Another aspect of measurement is, over what time period are you concerned with understanding effectiveness? Some stuff is measurable in the short term, some isn't. Only doing what's easily measurable is one way to go. But it may leave a lot of perfectly valuable options completely unaddressed.
Books have been and are being written on this. But as you see, the prospect's question is somewhat unclear and not immediately understandable. There's no way of knowing what they expect or what the answer they're looking for might be. Is there even a correct answer? Do they realize that extensive measurement also has associated costs?
It's usually best discussing metrics with clients or management at the outset of a campaign so everyone is agreed on what gets measured and how. Having someone pop up several months into the program and ask for something else can be impossible or at least extremely frustrating.
I didn't mean to write a whole story on this but a simple answer wouldn't have helped the person who asked, not even one bit.