One of the things that continue to elude communicators is measurement. Part of the challenge is the industry doesn’t have a uniform way to measure what we do.
Then we also have to take into account brand awareness, which is pretty near impossible to measure, and then we’re left with the things we can measure—leads and how we participate in nurturing them to conversion.
But how do you create your goals, and what do you report on weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually?
Read on, my friends…read on.
Measurement Is Not Groan-Worthy!
Measurement is not a fun topic and I can hear you all groaning. BUT!! It’s extraordinarily important. Pretty much every meeting my team and I have with clients today begins with, “How many leads did you generate? How many are marketing qualified? How many are sales qualified?”
It’s rough and, while we’ve figured out the answer for most, there is still the elusive brand awareness, which is required, but challenging to measure—at least without a six-figure budget to do studies every year.
But I’m not here to whine and complain that executives don’t understand they have to invest in brand awareness (OK, maybe a little, but I have it out of my system now).
What we are going to talk about is what you can measure and how to set up your comms plans at the start to define the metrics the correct way. And then we’ll use a framework to help you report on the results.
For that part, I’ve asked my buddy Christopher S. Penn to provide some information.
Let’s get started!
Include These Three Goals In Your Plan
Every year, I get roped into judging PR award entries. Every year, I say I’m not going to do it ever again and every year, I prove myself a liar.
The reason I don’t like to do them is that when you come to the evaluation part of nearly every award entry, one of two things happens: either the comms team has added in the metrics and measurement at the end of the campaign when they wrote the entry (and trust me, you can tell when they’ve done that) or they “measure” things such as video views or social media followings.
Yes, they still do that today.
IT DRIVES ME CRAZY!
So let me give you some advice. Neither of those things measurement make and, if you try to present that to a board of directors, they will laugh you out of the room.
Instead, you want to attach your communications plan to three things: 1) Organizational goals; 2) campaign goals; and 3) tactical goals.
Let’s go through each of them.
Measuring Organizational Goals
For organizational goals, you want to answer the question, “Why are we doing this?” In most cases, it’s to get more customers and drive more revenue.
There are certainly exceptions to that rule—you work for a nonprofit and you’re tasked with getting more volunteers or you do internal communications and you’re tasked with higher engagement for employees.
But, for those of us doing external communications with for-profit organizations, we’re almost always doing to get more customers and drive more revenue
Measuring Campaign Goals
For your campaign goals, ask yourself, “What is the overall campaign outcome?”
It will need to lead to your organizational goals, for sure, but in most cases, it will be lead generation and/or demand generation.
For our clients, we break those into three buckets: leads, marketing qualified leads, and sales qualified leads. What’s the difference, you ask? Allow me to explain!
It certainly depends on the client (it depends is always the caveat), but leads tend to be people who have come to the website from our inbound marketing programs and given us their email address, either from subscribing, downloading, or filling out a form.
But not all of these people will be prospects—some will be competitors, some will be journalists, and others may be professors, depending on your content, of course. So, while we track those people, we don’t consider them prospects when reporting to clients.
Marketing qualified leads, then, are people who fit the ideal customer profile. They should have the right title, work for the right company, and engage with multiple pieces of content.
For instance, an MQL for Spin Sucks might be a chief communications officer or a chief content officer at a Fortune 200 brand who has either joined the Spin Sucks Community or reads multiple blog posts a week.
A sales qualified lead, then—and, again, it depends on the organization and its goals—is someone who has already been qualified as a marketing lead and has the budget and need for the product or service in the next 90 days.
This is a bit different for consumer businesses, but it’s how it works on the B2B side.
Measuring Tactical Goals
Once you have your organizational and campaign goals, you can create your tactical goals. This by-the-way is where most communicators begin if they measure anything at the start. It’s not where you begin!
To set your tactical goals, ask yourself, “How do we want this particular tactic to perform?” While I don’t really love vanity metrics, this is the right place to have them. Your tactical goals might include things such as click-through rate, number of form fills, added subscribers, or engaged community members.
Phew! Now that we’ve set our goals, it’s time to put numbers to paper and track your efforts against them
Remember you have three buckets for measuring results: organizational—or the why; campaign—or the what; and tactical—or the how.
And this is where I will steal from Chris Penn. You are going to create your SAINT reporting framework. SAINT stands for summary, analysis, insights, next steps, and timeline. Clever, right?
Let’s go through each.
The Summary of Your Measurement Report
The summary is, well, a summary. You can do this weekly for your tactics, monthly and quarterly for your campaigns, and annually for your organizational goals. It is a condensed version of what happened, why, and what actions need to be taken.
Let’s say you’ve created a campaign around a special report that is indicative of trends in your industry. You would include everything from what happened and when, why things went according to plan—or not—and what you need to do next. This is not a tool to toot your own horn, though you will in some cases. It’s designed to be a debrief so you can be flexible enough to tweak as you go.
The Analysis of Your Measurement Report
While the summary is short and to the point, the analysis is a detail of what happened against key performance indicators and it should focus on unexpected outcomes.
For instance, if your campaign goal was to get 200 leads that turned into 100 marketing qualified leads that turned into 50 sales qualified leads and you were short on any of those numbers, you’ll want to provide an analysis of what happened (the why will come next).
It could be that your numbers were too aggressive and not based on any organizational historical data or it could be that a global pandemic derailed your efforts or it could be that the campaign just bombed.
On the flip side, if you ended up with 200 marketing qualified leads versus the 100 you expected, you’d want to report on that, too, Unexpected outcomes are not always bad—they’re just, well, not expected.
The Insights of Your Measurement Report
Now it’s time to put your brain to work and provide some insights. You’ll want to explain why those unexpected things happened. This is where data and analytics will help you.
In the insights piece of your reporting, it’s not enough to say, “Well, you know, the world shut down in March and April so that completely derailed us.” It’s understandable, of course, but it’s not enough in the why section of your reporting.
In this case, you might explain that, while you were derailed in March and April, you’re spending time in May and June adjusting messaging and launching the campaign or tactics.
But global pandemics aside, if you exceeded your marketing qualified lead goal, in the insights section of your reporting, you’d explain why that happened. Perhaps you had an influencer unexpectedly share your trends report or a major news outlet linked to it and it provided an extra oomph you weren’t expecting.
No matter what the unexpected outcome is, explain why it happened.
Then you want to create a list of actions you need from colleagues both on your team and in other departments. This might also include leadership.
If you’re short on your sales qualified lead goal, for instance, it could very well be because the sales team didn’t follow up with the marketing qualified leads so that you could nurture them to the next phase. Or, and this has happened to my team and me before with clients, leadership can’t agree on whether or not the MQL is actually qualified and they never get passed along, and then the prospect stops engaging.
This is where we get to have hard conversations, which my team usually leaves up to me. It goes something like this, “We need to agree, right now, on who is a lead versus an MQL versus a SQL. And we’re going to run it this way for 90 days before we can make changes.”
For the most part, executives will get it and agree to a shorter timeline (which comes next) to get it done. Give people things to do and then move to the timeline phase so you can get it all accomplished.
The timeline, of course, is how long people have to take action. This allows you to set expectations. And it allows you to hold people accountable. This is very, very important. As you begin to measure your goals and report on your progress in this way, no matter if you’re on the agency side or in-house, there will be hurdles you don’t expect. Every. Single. Day. Your job is to clear them as fast as possible and get what you need out of your colleagues to reach your goals.
This isn’t always fun. You’ll have some very frustrating days. But it’s worth it in the end because you’ll be able to prove all the work you’re doing is contributing to the success of the organization–and you’ll soon be seen as an investment, instead of an expense.
And, if you need help with measurement in any form, join us in the Spin Sucks Community, leave us a comment below, send me a DM or email, or mail a bottle of wine with a “help me” note attached. Actually, do that. I’ll respond to those first.