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What should get measured?

I’ve long been enamored by the concept of the marketing dashboard. You know the picture, you show up each morning and fire up the one screen that gives you the snapshot picture of the health of your business. Dial down a bit and you get to see sales, productivity, profit, expenses and how your favorite college football teams did.

It’s a nice picture and one that a lot of software programs can probably deliver. The problem is, it’s an incomplete picture – maybe even misleading.

So much of what’s really important is strategic, intangible and not measured by software.

Here’s what I mean. I decided strategically that the Duct Tape Marketing brand would evoke the word practical. I believed there was a significant opportunity in a small business coaching brand that was thought of as practical – turns out I was right. (Doesn’t mean I have a clue how to capitalize on the opportunity, but that’s another post.)

There is a lot of marketing value in being able to occupy a single word in the mind of your ideal prospect. But, in traditional ways of measuring success, how do you measure a word like practical? Well, practically speaking, you can’t. What you can do though is develop a list of stuff, that, if it happens, and you measure it, you can determine, strategically, that you are moving in the right direction.

So, mentions in the press using the word, referrals looking for that word, testimonials citing that word, surveys asking about the word, even use of the word in all your marketing materials, become the benchmarks for measuring a strategic and intangible thing like a brand.

A list of key strategic indicators that capture the intangible and specific actions designed to move those indicators may ultimately be as important as measuring cash flow.

Think of the game you could create inside your company employing this kind of tool.

So, what would you measure?

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  • Alisa Smith

    To assist with your positioning research I would like to offer my perception on your “Duck tape Marketing” brand. The name, while simple and easy to remember, portrays a “quick fix” solution. When I think of duck tape I think of someone who doesn’t know how to fix it correctly and needs a temporary (usually unreliable) solution. Now how you would measure this perception besides me flat out telling you is still a marketing mystery. I would never say this much in a survey or be so direct in a focus group. That’s why the internet revolution is such a success. I believe that blogs will become the common research forum for marketing. As for your theory on brand awareness, I don’t totally agree. While awareness builds a brand, it does not always build knowledge about the brand. For example I may remember your funny brand name, but I have no clue what it is you do. This is something that can be measured but is still difficult to put a profit margin on.

  • John Jantsch

    Alisa,

    First off it’s Duct Tape – not Duck Tape, which leads me to believe that you don’t have much awareness of this brand and then when I see your edu address I’m also led to believe that you don’t have any experience actually owning and running a business. The thing about a brand is that you can’t be all things to all people – this brand is meant to appeal to real small business owners who know what running a business is really like – those are the folks that tell me every day that Duct Tape Marketing is dead on.

  • http://www.burningthebacon.com Phil Barrett

    You’re raising a great topic for further discussion – traditional measurement of tactics that role up to strategies which tie back to your objectives doesn’t work as well in the web 2.0 environment.

    Your suggestions on how to measure are interesting and from my POV really lead to measuring effective engagement with your brand – which is a better indicator than page views or unique visitors

  • John Jantsch

    Phil,

    I know that terms like “effective engagement with your brand” scare some small business folks because of the way they such things are tossed around by branding experts, but you’re dead on – this is what I’m talking about.

  • John Gatas

    I just purchased your book, Duct Tape Marketing this past weekend because as a business owner of a Laundromat and Dry Cleaning business, I am struggling to make ends meet and need to educate myself on marketing techniques that work. I am hoping to gain insight from your book and apply the theory with my customers. I have a business that might be hindered by location. The business operates without the use of quarters and is an amazing business. I just need guidance how to approach customers for the many facets my business offers. Hope this book leads me to the promise land.

  • http://www.adsymetrix.com Andrew Schwartz

    A great post that brings up a fascinating topic: how do you quantify something that is intangible?

    I see it as overt and covert usage. Overt can be measured easily, the the comfort of your own home (keywords, search terms, google, technorati, digg, etc). Covert is more difficult to measure and is based as much on what your audience feels as it thinks about your brand.

    Overt measurement can be done using direct response advertising, calls to action within marketing pieces or by actively searching for ways that people are describing your brand.

    Covert measurement is informed by the same techniques above, but also needs to include some form of qualitiative research. These focus groups, interviews, observation research activities can give you the information you need to understand how people feel about your brand even when they don’t know they’re thinking about your brand. It can be something as simple as asking your customers for the one word that they think about when they think about your business.

    But the most important part of all of this is to clearly communicate what your brand is all about. A brand needs to be controlled by the brand’s owner. It’s broadcast in everything they do, all day long.

    As you have made ‘practical’ the key to your brand, you’ve made sure that everything here leads with that. People may not actively recognize that Duct Tape Marketing is practical but I think you’d find that anyone who’s had any experience with it would explain the advice and techniques as such.

  • http://www.beforetheyhatch.com Asako

    I agree the demand for “practical” help is high among small businesses. I am also trying to write practical business tips, and am finding it difficult. I have seen many small businesses do great without tracking specific key performance measures. In many cases, it is due to the strong leadership of the top management. And how leaders create such high performing organization is often difficult to explain in a measurable manner.