You Can’t Improve What You Don’t Measure

One of the most powerful, yet underutilized tools, in marketing is tracking. By that I mean some form of measuring the success and failure of marketing initiatives. For most this practice might begin and end at measuring the response rate of a direct mail piece. What I am talking about though is a systematic approach to diagnosing and tracking what I call the Key Success Indicators in your business.

Starts with a vision

Before we can begin any discussion about measuring success indicators we have to talk a bit about vision. See, you can set targets and goals without an ultimate or at least short term destination in mind. If you are going to start tracking what matters you have to, well, know what matters. By that I mean you need to have some picture of where you want your business to go in the next year, three years, five years. You must be able to see, quite clearly, what it’s like to run your business in the future. Before you can set action steps and tactics, you must have the vision and the strategy that will make it real nailed.

Where are you now?

In order to set some key success indicators it can be helpful to attempt some measurement of where you are now. I’m afraid I inserted the word attempt due to the fact that most small business owners don’t measure very much.

At the very least we need to try to see where you are in the things that may be found hidden inside your accounting software so that we can use them as benchmarks for growth. Things such as revenue, profit, number of clients and number of transactions are a good place to start.

What can you know?

The next step is to add (if you are not tracking these already) things that we can know for sure such as number of leads, percent of leads converted to clients, average revenue per client, number of transactions per client, cost to acquire a new client. Next add a success layer for the number of referrals, number of PR mentions, number of speaking engagements, number of client testimonials, number of compliments.

These hard data items are essential when it comes to setting goals and even setting budgets.

What can you feel?

To take your tracking and measurement system to a higher level I suggest adding some success items that are little harder to measure – in fact they may be hard to find and possess intangible qualities. Look to your core marketing message for clues to these indicators. Look to your people, to your clients, measure what they think matters.

Can you find a way to measure customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction? If so, track and measure those.

A remodeling contractor found that his clients valued the fact that his people cleaned up the job site every day. He might track the number of times a client mentions this fact. He might also find a way to create a clean job site measurement tool or checklist and reward his people for performing this task perfectly.

A law firm found that its clients valued more than anything that fact that the lawyers always got back to them quickly when they had a question or concern. This fact differentiated them from other law firms. This firm might measure response time and set up a simple way to track how many calls were returned within a certain success time frame.

Many times these little things that clients tell us matter can become part of the game if you find a way to measure and reward your people for playing and winning the game. Paying attention to these little things by focusing on them in this manner can pay big dividends.

Open Book Marketing

Once you create your series of tangible and intangible success indicators, it’s crucial to share these with everyone in your firm. Let everyone know that playing this game is non negotiable, that following these rules is required and there is a way to win this game. Most importantly, help them understand why you are tracking what you are tracking, where this tracking is leading (remember the vision) and update them on the results of tracking. Of course the best way to make this initiative fail is if you the owner choose not to play and turn the game into another exercise for your people.

Ways to track

Call tracking services such as Capture the Call allow you to insert tracking phone numbers in your ads that route the call to your main number but capture data on the call. You can view reports that indicate where the call came from and how long the call lasted.

Web tracking services such as ClickTracks can provide detailed ROI analysis and reports on web site visitor activity to help you determine how people found your web site, what ad drove them there and how they interacted with your site when they got there.

Good old fashion paper tracking – you can also employ the simplest system around with a pen and pad. By simply asking every caller or responder where they heard about your firm is a start. You can also code your ads with some key that signals one ad or one medium from another. For instance, in your direct mail ad in Small Business Today, have callers respond to your free information kit by telling them to ask for Betty (you don’t have a Betty, so that’s the key to tracking that ad – simply have the person answering offer to help.) Now, your Yellow Page advertisers are going to ask for Bobby (Again, nobody by that name works for you.) You could also assign phone extension or department names and numbers if you like.

You can test and track different mailing lists, headlines and media in this fashion.

When it comes to tracking things like referrals, testimonials, solutions and results, a traditional people capture system using a spreadsheet might be the best way to proceed. I think the key is to make your tracking system and reporting simple enough that making it work doesn’t get in the way of you using it.

The Great Game of Business

There is a fabulous book called The Great Game of Business written by Jack Stack and Bo Burlingham that outlines some of these concepts in what is called Open Book Management (OBM). OBM focuses more on the accounting side of sharing information with employees and tying bonuses and incentives to key indicators of performance. I think every small business owner could benefit from a read.

Eyes on the dashboard

Visual dashboards such a MyBizHomepage – can help you set up simple tools to glance at your indicators and performance data in graphs and charts. Here’s a nice article from Microsoft on the power of dashboard reporting using Excel.