Metrics, Metrics, Metrics. When to Stop Counting.

Our HRmarketer development team is working on some cool new "cloud computing" features including a Google API that allows companies to view their web site analytics on HRmarketer in order to measure the effectiveness of their marketing and PR campaigns.

This is important information for marketers.

When you overlay this data alongside other key metrics like keyword rankings (a recently introduced feature on HRmarketer) and media placements (just introduced this week) and compare it to your marketing and PR activities it becomes crystal clear how well your tactics are working - and where you need to invest more resources.

Another new feature our development team is working on is some robust reporting tools that will give marketers insights into where their sales leads come from, how much these leads cost and what marketing and PR tactics are most effective.

Yes, we've had a busy summer.

All this got me thinking about metrics, what really matters and at what point are we guilty of over-analyzing data.

Marketing (and PR) is one of the only operational components in business where costs have increased while effectiveness has decreased. In other words, many marketing departments are accomplishing less while spending more.

Experts don't agree on why but certainly marketing is more complex today than it was fifty years ago. We have more choices and tools to work with thanks to the Internet, our markets aren't as easily defined as they once were, competition is more intense, and consumers (buyers) are more sophisticated, less predictable (not everyone tunes in the 6pm news every night on ABC, NBC or CBS), harder to connect with and inundated with marketing message every waking moment.

So we spend more money on more tactics in an effort to stand out in a increasingly crowded marketplace.

David Weigelt and Jonathan Boehman from Immersion Active offer another reason in their fabulous new book dot Boom (one of the better marketing books I've ever read). They say marketing has become less effective for many companies because they "define success in a narrow and overly transactional manner".

David and Jonathan use the The Last Ad Trap concept to make their point, describing how marketers attribute a customer's successful completion of an action solely to a single touch point before the action occurred. I paraphrase the authors' words:
"...A consumer will often click on a banner ad, go to a web site, and make a purchase. The trap is attributing 100% of that conversion to the last ad clicked, thus investing a significant portion of their budget to optimize that one ad. The problem with this approach is that it does not account for anything the customer did BEFORE they clicked the ad. It does not consider the person may have previously visited the company's web site, heard about the company through blogs, received emails about the product, etc.. Instead of considering the holistic impact of the customer's exposure to the brand, the Last Ad Trap only considers the effectiveness of a single marketing touch point".
A lot of companies spend way too much time and energy focusing on things like "views" of a press release, "open rates" of an email campaign, "downloads" of a white paper, "click thru's" of a banner ad, or "average time" spent on a web page.

Yes these are important metrics and yes you should continue to analyze them -- but in context. If your last email campaign didn't result in a 20% open rate you don't abandon direct email. Conversely, if your last campaign resulted in record downloads of your white paper, you shouldn't necessarily move your entire tradeshow budget to direct email. And if you didn't get any media interest from your last press release you don't quit writing press releases.

I don't have any secret insights into how human resource professionals make specific buying decisions. What color banner ads they will likely click on. Whether they prefer blogs to podcasts. What day of the week they prefer to receive emails. (Although HRmarketer's HR Buyer Reports do shed some light on these questions).

Nobody does. If I've learned anything in marketing it is that blanket answers rarely work anymore. People aren't that predictable and markets aren't that easily segmented.

But I do know without any doubt the best way to engage HR decision markers and motivate them to take action (sales leads) is to continually invest in a comprehensive and overreaching marketing/PR strategy that includes the use of original content (e.g., white papers) delivered to your target market through a mix of traditional and online marketing and PR tactics (including social media/networking).

It works. And not every individual tactic can or should be measured independently. Remember Eistein's quote: "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."

But if aggressively executed and managed with proper discipline (including monitoring but not over analyzing the metrics) you will achieve that elusive marketing/PR "efficiency".

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