This is a standard cry we hear in business and, on the whole, I think it is one we should adhere to. All too often with small business there is precious little measurement and reporting of budgets and activity and then the inevitable questions are asked. What can we do to make things better? This is impossible to answer unless we know what is working currently and what isn't. I do think, however, there are cases where you could argue the opposite is true so what side of the fence should we sit on?
Certainly, in the world of marketing, there is plenty of activity that gets thrown out there. Networking, advertising, direct mail, social media, website content, SEO and PPC, telesales, PR, exhibitions, leaflets and so the list goes on. Leads, enquiries, sales hopefully come in but which bit of your marketing activity worked and which bit didn't is almost impossible to measure. If you employ more than one marketing activity how can you be sure you apportion any success to the right activity. It all adds to the level of 'noise' your brand makes and hopefully the right marketing mix delivers results.
Of course, we have fabulous analytical tools that we can use to justify activity and more importantly budget. If you put an email campaign out there database software allows us to measure who opened the email, who clicked on what links and hopefully who converted to a sale. This then gives you the opportunity to follow up and call the warm leads rather than knocking on cold doors. The same is true of a digital advertising campaign or social media campaign. You should be able to use google analytics to establish the source of any enquiry and thus justify the efforts involved. It would be a foolish marketing professional who did not employ these tools to help steer future activity and measure existing efforts.
Can you really measure creativity and passion though? I often work with companies who have tired outdated brand images and websites that have often seen better days. We inject modern, clean creative and copy but will this inherently deliver more customers? There is no way to really know. I do know that decisions are often made based on whether something is aesthetically pleasing, and comparisons are made between like for like businesses. If you look at a brand or website do you not make a judgement on the status of the company involved based on the images they are projecting in the same way we size people up, rightly or wrongly?
If you want to be a contender in a given market you have to look the part to be credible and sadly image plays a large role in that decision-making process. Measurement has a part to play but we cannot deny the importance of gut feel and experience and no amount of numbers and metrics will make our customers hearts beat faster, pick up the phone or hand over their hard-earned cash. Sometimes a feeling is all it takes.
So where does this leave us? I think the simple rule of thumb is to measure what you can measure and use the results to steer your activity going forward. If you regularly send out a monthly newsletter or set of promotions and you get no upturn in the number of enquiries to your business or sales then maybe it is time to re-consider the merit of that activity. Having said that if your gut tells you that company image is dated and needs refreshing then it may be worth the punt in spending the money on new creative and visuals for your brand. Just don't expect the phone to ring off the hook the minute your new look is launched. Sadly, it doesn't always work that way.