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Have you started running your marketing by the numbers?

I once ran into a famous public speaker who had grown rich from one speech, delivered flawlessly, over and over again for years. It might appeal to you as an easy way to make a living, but it doesn’t really appeal to me. I like constantly moving on to new ideas, not rehashing the same one over and over. But there is one subject that I have been talking about in various forms since 1999 when I first brought it up at IBM, and there seems no sign of stopping. It’s about making digital marketing decisions based on metrics. No matter how long I’ve been discussing this subject, it feels like there are always more companies that need to hear the message.

At first, I thought it was understandable. After all, this Web marketing stuff was new (back in 1999) and it makes sense that not everyone understood how to apply direct marketing principles to digital marketing.

Numbers

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But it’s 12 years later. I’m starting to believe that there’s a never-ending supply of companies that still are marketing by the seat of the pants. In 1999, it was almost all companies. Within a few years, the e-Commerce companies had caught on. Later, the retailers caught on, whether they sold online or offline. In recent years, I’ve found that many B2C companies have caught on, but that leaves a big, yawning gap.

Those B2B marketers are still hearing the same stuff from me that I was saying inside IBM in 1999. Identify your Web conversions. Test your marketing. Make decisions based on results.

It’s not easy, but it is simple. The principles are simple, but because it is difficult, we’d all rather think about something else. It’s human nature to be in denial of problems that we can’t solve. Many B2B companies are so overwhelmed at the idea of measuring its marketing and sales that we act as though the problem does not exist. It makes us feel better not to have to dwell on a failure this large.

Now, it doesn’t make the situation any better. It doesn’t improve our business results. It just makes us all feel better. So, the question is whether you are willing to risk feeling bad. Can you cope with feeling a little overwhelmed if the payoff is vastly improved business results?

I’ll challenge you with this question: “Have you started running your marketers by the numbers?” If not, why not?

It’s not a rhetorical question. Make a list of all the problems and ask yourself how you could take just one step to solve one of them. If even that is too overwhelming, then take a different approach. Fast forward yourself three years into the future and imagine that this problem is completely solved. (If three years seems unrealistic, make it five years.) Then ask yourself what had to happen to solve the problem. At this point, you can’t throw up your hands and say it is impossible, because we already said that it is solved. Don’t dwell on how unrealistic it is–this is your imagination. What must have happened to get you to the point where you can make your marketing decisions based on numbers?

No matter how difficult this, it’s too important to just give up. Do one thing to solve the problem. Then do something else. Before you know it, you might be able to make one kind of decision based on numbers, even if they aren’t the greatest numbers.

I’m begging you not to sentence me to this same speech 12 years from now.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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