Measure as you go, not at the end

Marketers need to make sure they have set aside enough money to provide the evidence and insight they need to deliver impactful campaigns confidently and consistently.

They say a sign of madness is doing the same thing and expecting different results. I always wonder who the ‘they’ are but in this case I am not arguing with them. It is bonkers to expect a different outcome when the input is the same. And yet we as individuals and as marketers do it all the time. Worse still is when we do the same thing time and again and don’t even know what the outcome is, we just hope for the best.

Not us, we don’t do that, I hear you say. But can you honestly say that you evaluate the outcome of every campaign you undertake, even the quick and dirty ones? That you know the ROI on every piece of work you do? I can’t and I am obsessed by monitoring and evaluation (M&E).

I admit I used to take a more cavalier approach. A more ‘we had loads of positive feedback, let’s carry on’ stance. I might even have been guilty of once or twice taking a ‘nothing bad happened last time, let’s do it again’ position. But then some years ago I had a damascene moment when I found myself telling my then boss to “trust me, it will work” about, as they would say in the civil service, a ‘brave’ intervention. 

Seeing the somewhat sceptical response, I realised that if I wanted to be bold, to be brave, if I wanted to do impactful and outstanding work, I would need to prove its effects. I would need to prove it to the boss (or client), to the board, to internal and external stakeholders.  

That means investing time and money in really understanding the problem you are seeking to solve, how you expect the intervention you are making to have an impact and how you are going to measure that impact. Of course, marcoms doesn’t operate in a vacuum and there will be many factors that will influence your target audience; some in your control, many not.

It is hard to design robust M&E tools but if you want organisational buy-in, stakeholder support, more funding or – yes, I am saying it – to win awards, you need to put in the effort.

Measurement and evaluation should not be an afterthought, something done on the cheap. If you get it right, it will ultimately save you money.

Tanya Joseph

To be clear, this is a specialist gig, not a side project. You have to have someone on the team who knows what they are doing, and can help develop tools and work with your agencies to ensure your money is being spent effectively. You can delegate responsibility to an agency but having some in-house expertise will help guide the development of work as it is being designed and make sure it meets the varied needs of all of your stakeholders.

I would advocate thinking about M&E at the start of each piece of activity. There is absolutely no point setting campaign goals which can’t be measured.

I am also a big fan of having the M&E work run alongside campaign deployment so that you can assess the impact of activity in real time, or as close to it as possible. It allows you to finesse activity, dialling up and down, giving you the freedom (yes, freedom) to turn off activity which isn’t paying its way swiftly.

I realise I risk stating the obvious but on more than one occasion I have worked with organisations that pride themselves on their M&E capabilities, which dutifully carry out comprehensive consideration of activity, but only when the activity is completed. As a result their insightful reports went unread, sitting in the digital equivalent of the cupboard in the corner.

All of this comes at a cost. But M&E should not be an afterthought, something done on the cheap. If you get it right, it will ultimately save you money, ensuring you can ruthlessly focus on the activity that is truly effective and don’t throw good money after bad on the things which fail to hit the mark.

So whether you are a client or an agency, make sure that you have set aside enough money to provide the evidence and insight you need to deliver impactful campaigns confidently and consistently. No need to cross your fingers.

Marketing Week will be investigating different methods of measurement in a series kicking off next week.

Tanya Joseph is director of Tanya Joseph Consulting and previously worked for Nationwide and Sport England.