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You can’t improve on what you don’t measure

If you hang around any of us at Digital Solutions long enough, you are likely to hear the phrase “you can’t improve on what you don’t measure.”  If you read our blog regularly, you’ve seen this quote here, here, here, here, here and at least a dozen other places on our site.  In fact we use the phrase so often that many of our customers are fond of repeating it as their own marketing mantra.

The phrase has evolved for us over the years.  It actually started out as “you can’t improve on what you can’t measure.”  But then we realized that in the Inbound Marketing world, there isn’t much limit to what can be measured.  And the sad truth is that many sites on the web could easily be measuring and reporting on more metrics but for various reasons they don’t.  The biggest reason we see for not measuring isn’t because something can’t be measured but simply because people don’t measure.

So what does the phrase really mean?  The simplest analogy for me is to use the example of a person who wants to lose weight.  They spend countless hours implementing the perfect diet and workout plan for them.  They believe this plan will meet their time requirements, budget requirements and weight loss goals.  During the process of dieting and working out, how will they know if they have truly lost any weight?  How will they know if the plan was successful?  Losing weight was the initial goal and they won’t know if they met the goal without some form of measurement of weight loss.  In this case measurement could be stepping on a scale, looking in a mirror, or seeing/feeling a difference in how your clothes fit.  Each of these measurements have different levels of accuracy but they will each give some indication of success in meeting the original goal.  Successfully implementing their initial diet/exercise plan is completely different than implementing a diet and exercise plan that is successful.  And the only way to know if the initial plan was a success is to measure.  After measuring, adjustments can be made to improve results.  Perhaps calories should be increased/decreased and the exercises should become more intense or more varied.  But again the only way to improve is to actually measure.

So what should be measured?  In our business we try to measure everything at some level.  Our thought process is that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth measuring.  Now our level of measurement might vary depending on the importance of the goals.  An example from our business is that we have a goal of generating 1 new Inbound Advisor customer every month.  We build a long standing relationship with every Inbound Advisor customer and we know we can continue to build long standing relationships at a rate of 1 per month.  In order to do this, we have determined that we need to have 100 prospects who have some vague interest in or need for our product, 50 prospects who we have qualified as being a good candidate for the product, and 10  prospects who are close to buying.  As a result of these metrics, we will generate 1-2 new Inboud Advisor clients each month who are a good match for our services.  Measuring quantity of new customers and dollars transacted from new customers is easy and most likely something that many businesses do well.  But measuring what marketing efforts influenced the new customers before they bought, is usually not measured very well.  This level of measuring the Inbound Marketing process is the whole idea of what spawned our Inbound Advisor package three years ago.  There is a large need for companies to see more measurement and more accountability from their marketing efforts.  And Inbound Advisor fills that need.

Back to our example for new Inbound Advisor customers we know that in order to generate the 100 interested prospects, we need to measure our channels where interested prospects are generated.  For us those channels are organic search, social media, speaking engagements, press and referral sources (word of mouth).  The only way for us to get to our 100 interested prospects number is by accurately measuring each of those channels and comparing the results from each channel to their individual goals.  Only then can we actually improve on any results.

Internally, we implement the same measuring and reporting at various levels for customer satisfaction, employee retention, projects on-time, and projects on-budget because we know that looking back at the close of the year we won’t know if we improved on any of these key indicators if we don’t measure them.  Through our Inbound Advisor program, we help our clients implement these same metrics for all of their Inbound Marketing to better calculate real ROI.

So what are your goals for 2014 and do you have a plan in place to measure and track them?

 

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About Marc
Marc Ohmann is president of Digital Solutions, Inc in Minneapolis. Digital Solutions is the company behind the MDWebPro blog and tool set. Marc was a computer science and engineering student at the University of Minnesota in 1999 when he started Digital Solutions. Marc, now a husband and father of 3, greatly enjoys the clients and creativity he is involved in each day through Digital Solutions. Follow Marc on Twitter @marcohmann and @MDWebPro and also on Google Plus

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