By: Sharon Berman
Published: Rain Today
Is my marketing working?
That is one of the fundamental questions professional services marketers ask themselves—and is asked even more often by their management. The only way to know is to measure your marketing results, and that has proven notoriously difficult in the field of professional services.
One reason behind this difficulty is the absence of immediate results in many aspects of service marketing. In this context, marketing is usually a long-term effort, so you may not know the results of a marketing strategy for several months or more. Say you publish a bylined article in a professional journal, and no one calls to learn more about your services. From a short-term perspective you might consider the article a marketing failure, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the tactic is ineffective in the long term. Often a firm will receive an inquiry months after an article appears, especially given the shelf life of content on the Internet.
Some marketing tactics appear more straightforward to measure than others. For example, you launch a direct mail campaign (yes, direct mail can still be effective), and after the first mailing you receive three phone calls from qualified prospects. You now have a concrete measurement of three leads. But does that mean this approach is working?
As much as we’d like precision, measurement is a matter of perspective. If 1,000 mailers result in three leads, you could regard that as a very small return. Alternatively, you might consider that converting just one of those leads into a client could pay for the whole year’s mailings, giving you the opportunity to generate additional leads.
Further, measurement is not only about quantity; it’s also about quality. If you generate 15 leads from 1,000 emails, are those results better than obtaining three leads from 1,000 direct mail pieces? If both approaches result in the same caliber of lead, then email is better because it has rendered a higher quantity and is more cost-effective.
What to Measure
Because tracking and measuring your marketing can sometimes be like trying to get your hands around thin air, it’s tempting to dismiss those activities as unnecessary. Despite the difficulty, it’s important to create systems and measure whatever you can.
Simply stated, you should measure the results that are important to your business. Even data on results that appear to be elusive can help you make better choices about future marketing efforts. Here are some things you should consider measuring:
Contain Information Collected
To measure your marketing, you need information—but firms have a way of letting information seep out of their systems. The first step toward creating an occlusive seal around your information is getting management’s commitment to gather the pertinent information.
Some firms believe they are measuring their marketing when they track where clients come from—the “How did you hear about us?” question—but that’s actually sales information. Capturing full marketing information involves tracking where your leads come from. That’s the kind of information that tells you if your marketing is working.
Develop a System
Effective capture of information requires a tracking system, good communication among the members of your firm, and, ideally, a management champion. Your system should converge at a central collection point—a single person who receives, compiles, and reports on leads. All your professionals should know this person’s role so they can forward information regarding inquiries, leads, and sources.
If your firm distributes a newsletter, anyone who receives a call as a result of a newsletter article must notify the central collection point about that contact and its source. Without a central system, your firm may receive 10 calls after sending out an email blast or newsletter, but no one ever knows how well that effort worked.
Your firm’s priorities will determine the level of tracking that is most effective for your purposes, such as simple acknowledgements of communication or valid leads only. Although tracking leads may be preferable, feedback and comments about other marketing efforts are also important. They show that you are maintaining your name recognition and visibility, which are key factors in getting the phone to ring.
Some simple but useful analytical tools are available to help you measure and track results. Google Analytics is free and can provide you with a great deal of information about your website and what your audience is interested in. Similarly, the system you use to send email blasts can tell you how many people opened the email, clicked through to your website, and so forth.
Think Long Term
Marketing requires patience. It can take time for a specific approach to pay off, so give it a chance. Be prepared to measure results over the long term, not just for one quarter. Measuring over time will also give you the opportunity to observe any seasonality and to tweak efforts when results begin to fade.
W. Edwards Deming, the father of Total Quality Management, said there can be no improvement without measurement. If you want to improve your bottom line, measuring your marketing results can tell you what tactics are working so that you can leverage your time and resources to get the biggest bang for your buck.
Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Marketing & PR, a marketing consulting firm specializing in working with professional services firms. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The firm’s website is www.berbay.com.