Can everything marketing does be measured? I talk to marketers every day who struggle with this question.

Can everything marketing does be measured? I talk to marketers every day who struggle with this question.

“How can I measure the effectiveness of our events?” “How can I measure the impact that social media is having?” “How can I measure our sales enablement efforts?” and “Can I measure any of these things?” are questions I get all the time.

If you know what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s always possible to measure whether or not goals are being met. When marketers are having trouble measuring, the biggest problems I see is that they haven’t defined what they’re trying to accomplish and/or they don’t know how to describe what success will look like.

Let’s take social media. For marketers, social media is a somewhat broad term that covers a range of tactics that they can use to engage with an audience. But for social media to be effective, it needs to be applied to accomplish defined business goals. These goals are typically tied to measures that give direct indications of the health of the business (e.g. increased revenue, longer-term customer relationships, reduced costs, higher profit margins).

When tactics aren’t associated with any defined business goals that they’re expected to help achieve, the best you can do is to count activities and responses. This means count things like number of blog posts, numbers of followers acquired and number of shares. The problem with this is that counts of activities on their own don’t demonstrate that value has been created – only that the things were done. And it’s really unlikely that social media efforts will be viewed as valuable if the only thing that can be proven is that staff was kept busy.

However, if we instead start by defining a goal that says: “We would like to shorten our sales cycles,” then we have an objective that we can measure against. We can measure the impact of our social media efforts on the duration of sales cycles by constructing experiments. For example, we can compare the lengths of sales cycles where we know that participants are actively engaged with us in social media against sales cycles that lack similar evidence of engagement. We can do surveys or interviews after the fact, asking participants in sales cycles about their engagement with our social media efforts and then correlating it to the length of their sales cycles.

At this point, maybe you’re thinking: “Wait, aren’t there other things that could be influencing those shorter sales cycles?” Yes, there are – and we can investigate those other potential factors. Still, by leveraging the variables we can control, we’re looking to make the strongest correlations possible between activities and outcomes. That also means testing for other variables and possibilities that may have contributed to those outcomes. Strong correlations make for impactful measurements – and ultimately better decisions.

Anything with well-defined goals can be measured. But not everything that can be measured has business impact. Sometimes, the better question to ask is: “What should we be measuring?”