In today’s world of big data, you would think it would be easy to determine exactly how much revenue your marketing programs are generating, but it’s not. There’s a reason Google shows 178 million results for “marketing measurement,” marketing leaders across the globe continuously discuss the topic in depth, and agency clients and C-Suite executives continue to demand more and more robust reports. Because while that answer is getting closer, it can still be hard to obtain.

360Diagram_NewStaticToday, with the introduction of our new lead generation and marketing automation service, we’re helping clients build a true 360° approach to PR and marketing – one that better tracks the progress from brand awareness to lead generation to revenue. To understand the true importance of this expanded scope, let’s look at just how far we’ve come as an industry.

A quick history of PR and marketing measurement: 

There’s a reason Mad Men-era marketers had time for booze-filled lunches. Looking back now, we even had it easy when I entered the field more than a decade ago – clients were thrilled with great headlines and big numbers, rarely asking to tie those numbers to the bottom line. Common reporting metrics included:

  • Ad equivalency:

    Unique to the PR industry, this metric looks at editorial content that mentions a brand, and states what the same sized placement would have cost if it had been a paid ad. You should’ve seen my youngest co-workers faces when I explained how we used to pull out a ruler, measure newspapers, and harken back to 10th grade math to prove our value. Yet ad equivalency doesn’t take into account the third-party value provided by editorial content, or contrarily, may overestimate the value of brief mentions.

  • Fans:

    As soon as brands (and marketers) caught wind of the potential power of social media, the race to build fans and followers began. Of course, it seems like a good idea at first. The more people following your brand, the more people seeing your messages (at least before Facebook updated its infamous algorithms). But if all of those followers aren’t potential customers – maybe they just liked your page to get a freebie, to enter a contest or because of one relevant post – then your fan-building efforts are wasted.

  • Impressions:

    Common across the marketing spectrum, from PR to print, TV or radio ads to digital media, impressions measure how many “eyeballs” potentially saw your message. That’s great if all of those “eyeballs” are actually potential customers AND actually paid attention, but do you know that?

Getting closer…

As marketers began to have more data at their fingertips, we began to find new ways to measure results (and prove our value!). These metrics are commonly used by marketers today, and they do have value, but not alone.

  • Website visits:

    This metric takes the fans, impressions, ad equivalents and so much more, and looks at just how many of those people are coming to your website. Be it from PR, SEO, social media, content marketing or targeted campaigns, driving website traffic can certainly indicate that your marketing efforts are working. But who are those visitors, and what are they doing once they visit your site? Answering these questions is critical to understanding whether your marketing efforts are truly moving the needle.

  • Social media engagement:

    Engagement in the form of comments, questions, reviews, etc., can be a strong indicator that you are creating compelling, relevant content. But again, are those engagements from actual potential customers, employees, investors or referrers? Are those people converting into the above mentioned website traffic and from there into your sales funnel?

  • Leads:

    Much like fans, “leads” as a general term often simply measures the size of your marketing database. The more people in your database, the higher your message reach. Great! But, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record here – Are those leads qualified prospects? Are they in the right industry and at the right level to buy your product or service?

What we’re looking at now:

Now, with more data than ever before, marketers have almost limitless ways to slice and dice their results to tie their efforts to the bottom line. Here are a few of particular use.

  • funnel

    MQLs and SQLs:

    Evaluating MQLs (marketing qualified leads) and SQLs (sales qualified leads) helps put general lead measurement in perspective. MQLs have shown some type of interest in your product, taken an action to raise their hand, and ultimately, asked to be marketed to. SQLs meet further criteria that mark them as likely to buy, including being further along in the decision process. By measuring MQLs and SQLs, you better understand how many of your leads meet the “Q” criteria – qualified. And by measuring the conversion rates between MQLs, SQLs and customers, you can continue to refine your marketing efforts to focus on right fit leads.

  • Lifetime value:

    Converting a previous stranger into a customer is fulfilling – mission accomplished for a marketer. But we sometimes forget that it costs 5x more to gain a new customer than to retain an existing one. Looking at the value a customer brings over a lifetime – not just in an initial purchase or contract – shows you just how important marketing to your current clients is. Neglecting them is a HUGE marketing mistake, but not an uncommon one.

  • Cost of acquisition:

    Dividing your marketing spend by the number of new customers in a given time frame will show you exactly how much you are spending to acquire each new customer. Finding a balance between maximizing acquisitions while minimizing the cost incurred for each of those new customers takes a lot of testing and analysis, but helps you truly market smart.

With so much data available, we could spend each and every day on marketing analysis – which Tweet drove the most website traffic? Did any of that traffic convert into leads? Did any of those leads purchase? What time of day was that valuable Tweet posted? Here’s a list of potential marketing measurements; here’s another list of “marketing metrics made simple;” we could go on and on. However, few of us have the resources to dedicate so much time to measurement – at some point we have to ACT! That’s why it’s important to determine the metrics valuable to you – the ones that you can actually act on and improve upon to drive measurable results. If you won’t use it – don’t waste your time.

Connecting the dots

The list of possibilities may seem overwhelming, but today we have an unprecedented view of which of our marketing efforts are working best, helping us to nimbly shift to what’s most effective. We can now connect the dots between initial impressions, website leads and sales – closer to reaching the holy grail of marketing measurement – showing the money trail from stranger to loyal customer. It still doesn’t come easy – requiring the integration of lots of information and accurate tracking of efforts – but it’s worth it to be able to truly know the worth of your efforts. With our new lead generation and marketing automation service offering, ARPR is here to help. Contact us to learn more, and happy measuring!

As SVP of digital marketing and analytics and ARPR’s resident data geek, Renee bridges the gap between traditional PR and lead generation.

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