Measuring marketing efforts: why are you really doing it?

Posted by Gina Rosenthal in community building | Leave a comment


A lot of dollars go into marketing a product, and it’s only natural that we want to see a good return on that investment. That’s one reason for measuring marketing efforts, and then managing those efforts to make sure we’re getting results. But is it reasonable to think that everything can be measured? Is it possible that we are measuring marketing efforts just to manage and then report on them?


Have you ever heard this quote:

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. -Demming

Did you know that is not the correct quote? Here’s what Dr. Demming actually said:

It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth.

Product marketers know a thing or two about measuring

I’ve been a product marketing manager for four and a half years. In most organizations, product marketers are responsible for creating product messaging and core product content, and making sure sales and marketing are enabled to take that message into the market to customers. Doing that effectively takes money. And you need to prove that the way you’re spending that money is yielding results. The easiest way do this is measuring marketing efforts.

Some things are pretty straight forward to measure: leads from webinars and trade show booths, sales pipelines. There are standard measurements, and you can manage progress towards goals.

Some things are hard to measure

Many times product marketers will want to spend money on initiatives that end up in an “awareness” bucket. Things like influencer programs, attending customer events, supporting community events, etc go into this bucket. Most of the times it is very hard to draw a direct line between these types of events and a sale, and the “common wisdom” is if you can’t measure impact, you can’t manage the project. What typically happens is budgets get tight or sales drop, and the funding for this bucket dries up. But remember:

It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth. -Demming

Some things are impossible to measure

I got lucky last week, and was shown a direct link between important work I did a year ago and a sale. When I was working for Spanning, I would go to storage and virtualization user group meetings. My product was Spanning Backup for Office 365, and I had a gut feeling that our customers would be at these events. I’m not sure anyone at Spanning really believed me, but I fit the user group meetings in with other events so they humored me.

One user group I love attending is the VCE User Group (VUG) (now the Converged Infrastructure Group). It is always attended by great customers who don’t mind talking shop, making it the perfect event for a product marketing marketer. I would show up before the presentations began, grab a drink, and just start talking to people.

Last year at the VMworld VUG all I had to do was introduce myself, say where I worked, and ask people if they had Office 365 initiatives. I ‘d have to explain SaaS a bit, and explain how you lose data, and we’d have a great conversation. I had no real expectations of uncovering a hot sales lead, the biggest take-away from me was a better understanding of what customers were actually thinking about when it came to protecting their SaaS data. Customer interactions are vital for improving messaging.

Fast forward 11 months to the Indy VMUG. One of the VMUG leaders told me that his company bought Spanning Backup for Office 365 based on a conversation I had with him and his salesperson at the VUG! Not only that, they are now purchasing licenses to back up their Salesforce instances. In all honesty, their salesperson did all of the work, I just sparked the interest. But I never would have known unless someone told me. There was nothing to put into Salesforce to track it and give product marketing credit, this was a pure awareness exercise. There was no way to measure it.

Measuring marketing efforts that fill information needs

Our job as product marketers is to figure out the information needs of customers (and prospective customers), and make compelling content to help them satisfy those needs and buy our products.

It’s not on customers to tell us how they found out about our products so that we can measure our marketing efforts. People do want to read your content, but many times they don’t want to give up their info to get to that content. That why you see so many “Mickey Mouse” leads.

We need to manage the activities in the awareness bucket. If done properly, they lead to sales. If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to directly map marketing efforts to sales. But even when measuring by traditional means isn’t possible, think of ways to manage these efforts:

  • Measure each awareness event with the number of people in attendance, quotes, pictures, etc.
  • Set goals for how many customers you speak with at each event. Keep track of conversations that you had, use objections to refine your messaging.
  • Go where you suspect the customers are. If you get a few successes, flip the events to traditional events that can be easily measured.


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