Measurement: Why do we fear it?

Does your direct mail piece result in annual gifts from alumni? Do prospective students use the hashtag that you include in a social media campaign? Does your website content for admissions lead to increased inquiries?

Marketing and communication plans are easy to create when you don’t have to pay attention to the facts. If you don’t measure results, all marketing tactics are equally reliable and successful. Measurement makes us uncomfortable so we claim that measuring results is too difficult, not an exact science, and not possible given our limited tool set. Frankly, measurement of marketing and communications tactics is anxiety-producing in part because it might lead to evidence that what we thought would work doesn’t work as well as we’d hoped.

In a time of shrinking resources and increasing expectations, marketing and communications professionals must rely on measurement to determine strategic priorities and make the case for pursuing particular tactics and opportunities.

First, we need to get SMART. We need to avoid creating metrics akin to New Year’s resolutions. A goal of “becoming a millionaire in 2015” is not as realistic as adding $10,000 to your savings account. Secondly, what we can measure easily may not tell us what we need to know. The truth is not everything that can be measured is worth measuring.

Start thinking pragmatically and concretely about measurement. Three ideas for getting started:

  1. Include links to custom landing pages in digital advertising to monitor the effectiveness (for example, clickthroughs and conversions) of your calls to action.
  2. Use event tracking in Google Analytics to record activity with particular website elements.
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness of print by reviewing accompanying website metrics (for example, this postcard will result in 500 visits to a companion landing page on the website).

As a real world example, let’s consider measurements within a recent social media campaign at Fordham University.

The goal of #Fordham4Me was to influence the yield of admitted undergraduate students planning to enroll in fall 2014. We knew that a measurement tied to an increase in the number of students enrolling at Fordham wasn’t realistic. Instead, we evaluated the success of the #Fordham4Me campaign using these metrics:

  • Reach 90 percent of all admitted students.
  • Prompt 100 admitted students to generate content.
  • Attract 150 new followers on Tumblr and Instagram.

The results for #Fordham4Me were strong. On Tumblr, we had 3,200+ page views, 900+ visitors, and 63 new followers. On Instagram, there were 6,238 public likes, 511 public comments, and 99 unique participants.

Measurement of marketing and communications activities over a period of time can offer insights for senior leadership as they plan for additional staffing and resources. Metrics can:

  • Demonstrate success in a particular initiative and make the case for funding a new position.
  • Prove that particular activities don’t have value. Data helps not only to establish priorities , but also to determine what a team can stop doing.

More on measurement from the mStoner blog:

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Author: susantevans

Susan T. Evans is director of corporate and foundations relations at the College of William & Mary. She is a proven strategic leader with deep expertise in advancement, communications, brand management, marketing, digital strategy, technology, administration and organizational development. She is known for creative and strategic approaches to challenges within higher education, nonprofits and business.

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