Avoiding Measurement

I'm still running away
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I was talking with Gini Dietrich about our forthcoming book Marketing in the Round, and which topics people would find interesting. We discussed measurement, and both of us noted that whenever we get into the nitty gritty of ROI and outcomes blog traffic drops precipitously.

Generally, marketers and communicators avoid measurement.

Of course, this is not a universal fact. Many pros attend to their measurement and monitoring programs diligently. Just two weeks ago, I delivered a measurement workshop to 80 people at MarketingProfs’ SocialTech Summit. Companies like Dell use it to pivot their businesses forward.

Still the numbers don’t lie. Most of us avoid measurement conversations like a plague. It’s that bad chore in your home that you let fester, piling up dust or remaining in a state of disrepair.

There are a variety of reasons for avoiding outcomes. Many people in marketing and communications jobs lack professional training. Others are still grappling with interactive media in general, much less how it can be used to offer precision metrics. Still others just simply don’t want to measure. It’s just not enjoyable for them professionally (I can identify, creating is much more fun). Some even decry measurement as meaningless.

It’s too bad because one of the key topics in the book was not only measuring outcomes, but using measurement and monitoring data to drive further performance. Monitoring and measurement can reveal strengths that were previously considered intangibles, and demonstrate need, which can be met with new products and services. In the short term, measurement done right proves marketing activities are worthwhile, and can justify further expenditures.

Why do you think so many pros avoid measurement?


  • Being a Sales and Finance guy when I found out Advertising folks bought impressions I actually laughed for 7 days straight wondering what buffoons pay for stuff that you can’t prove works or has impact. It is the reason the CMO has the shortest tenure in the C-Suite.

    How can you tell if your campaigns are working if you have no base line to start with?

    •  It really is a comedy of errors.  I rarely discuss anything more than the leads I generate through marketing. Reputation is nice. Money matters.

  • Like you, I find creation much more fun. Studying the numbers is tedious, but it’s important. I believe that wholeheartedly, which is why I intend to do a better job of tracking them this year. 

    I know, too, I would be upset if somebody were to tell me something were such and such a way and not offer any proof or evidence. That would be like me writing a research paper and not providing any supporting or contradictory criticism. If that’s a no-no in academic circles, why let people get away with it in professional circles? The power’s in specificity, not generalities.

    • Totally agree with your logic. Plus, why would anyone want to see their money get spent frivolously?  I think in the modern era we should know what’s working, and what’s not.

  • Perhaps the issue is while case studies abound on ROI for Ford, Zappos, Southwest Airlines and the other usual (over-profiled) suspects, the success stories may not necessarily scale or apply to the silent majority of businesses. While you were delivering lessons on measurement, folks like Brian Solis were telling us (in a speech last month) that the C-Suite still hasn’t bought into the return on social media marketing.  Pay-per-click the CFO gets.  Measures like “sentiment” value may not be passing the smell test.  Looking forward to your book and the solutions offered for this important subject. Posts on ROI and measurement only get a yawn. Interesting.

    •  Yet, Altimeter just released a report about influence not being measured by Klout.  In 2012. So here’s the thing, the CEO suite has always been skeptical of social media ROI, and that’s because it’s not been experienced wide spread. And the brutal truth… Social doesn’t always deliver ROI, in fact it usually doesn’t.  What it does deliver is other more PR centric outcomes. You can get ROI out of social media, but I see full on integrated marketing communications programs needing to play into it if you’re going to get maximum value out of social.

  • I think the biggest problem that comes with measurement is that the knowledge around social media in many companies is remedial outside the SM team. So when the these folks are shown non-traditional metrics, their defense systems go up. These defenses only add to the insecurity of many-a-PR-turned-social dude/dudette who are typically numbers advers.

    Another reason we can see this is because no one wants to be tied to a number that may not scale and to @howieatskypulsemedia:disqus point many get into a project without KPIs so making a baseline 1-2 years in is sketchy. 

    Then there is the whole school of thought that things like social can’t be measured. You know the crowd, kind of like David Wooderson in Dazed and Confused.. stuck in an timewarp and preying on impressionable folks. 

    •  I agree.  The new metrics don’t add up to business goals, and then when you add in the social media purist argument, well it just gets uglier. It makes it all the worse.

  • The issue is bigger than remedial social media knowledge. It’s that most PR pros don’t go to business school. They don’t take business classes. And, unless they reach the upper echelons (particularly at agencies), they’re never responsible for a P&L. So they know they have to measure results, but they don’t know the difference between revenue and profit or what the heck a margin is. They manage budgets for clients, but that’s different than showing how your efforts affect sales. It’s hard experience to get unless you run a business or a P&L. That’s why we have to keep pushing forward and educate.

    •  I agree. Worse are the pros that end up in the job after failing in another area, like engineering or sales…

      • I sat next to a woman on the plane last week who spent 18 years in IT sales and then, when she was laid off a couple of years ago, decided to open her own PR consulting firm. I almost fell out of my chair. I asked her why and she said, “Well, I have a communications degree.”

        Yeah…from 20 years ago. She’s never practiced before. It makes me nuts the barrier to entry is so low.

      • Those aren’t pros.

  • I think they avoid it because the tools are nebulous, ever-changing, very different from what creative folks are used to, and not well-explained. I would really be awesome if every measurement tool out there gave you a nice overview of how to maximize their value, some basic templates for different business goals, and some decent tutorials. Rarely happens. 

    I would also argue that the amount of conceptual thinking and API accessing that goes into it really is a role for the statistician and coder, not the writer or the networker. It’s just a different mindset. Gini’s idea to “just deal with it and become an Excel expert” isn’t really gonna resonate with these folks. They need real solutions, guides, and methods to confidently move forward. 

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