There are two kinds of marketing plans to consider as 2014 looms — a great plan and a bad plan.
A great plan motivates people to come to work every day. A great plan defines the largest of business goals. A great plan moves brands ahead.
A bad plan gives unmotivated people a reason to put out their least amount of effort to pull a paycheck. A bad plan relegates marketing to non-critical function of an organization. A bad plan protects mediocrity, incremental adjusting, and small thinking.
At the core of a great plan are two essential drivers — well-articulated goals that help the entire organization, and the metrics to measure progress against those goals.
Too often, the goals are departmental and don’t take into account the impact the group’s efforts may have on the entire organization. As such, the metrics to measure success only support existing siloed objectives.
Of course, this post cannot articulate your larger business goals; each of you are so entirely different from one another. However, here are a few metrics that I believe to be universal. In particular, as any reader of this blog knows, I am a rabid proponent of brand advocacy — the concept that customers have the power to extend the reach and goals of the brands they admire through their networks. Social networks — and the oft-maligned, catch-all social media — are just the fuel needed to spark large scale brand advocacy. If you believe in brand advocacy, then the following metrics should be considered.
1. Blind social community growth is dangerous. Ask who the business needs to attract and serve. Then measure business impact.
For the past decade, the success of social media efforts have been measured largely by the same yardstick as traditional media: viewership. The logic is that the more people who follow a brand, the larger the pool there is to broadcast offers and marketing messages. The problems with this logic are vast.
First, a person follows you for a reason, good or bad. If a marketing group’s only goal is to grow followership, then they’ll do whatever it takes to hit their numbers. This often means incentivizing followers through campaigns or coupons. These methods usually result in the same outcome — “Now what?” The problem is their motivations were brief and fulfilled. These followers entered the contest, they downloaded the coupon, and they’re fully satisfied. This low-level of desire and engagement never translates to long-term success.
The key goals of growing communities are: Identify your very best customers and prospects, break them into categories based upon their needs and desires, deliver the content they want, then attract more people like them through targeted communications and advocacy. Most likely they are already connected largely to one another through their own networks.
Modified metric: Measure social growth from your targeted audiences rather than top-line, undefined “follower” counts.
2. Measure success by overall company involvement, not just marketing.
Connected customers are concerned about the health and well being of an entire brand, not just marketing. A mature and successful social brand is one that measures the information and content needs of its community of customers, then enables people from across the organization to become appropriately involved. Marketing’s role in that ecosystem is to be the grand keeper of customer needs. Because of their nearly unlimited access to real-time data, ideally no one should know more about what a customer needs than the marketing department.
With all due respect to us marketers, the questions customers have for brands are rarely marketing related. The answers originate in other departments, like customer service, product design and development, legal and contracts, and the executive suite. If we are to assume this to be true, then it is marketing’s responsibility to articulate and evangelize the common business successes all will enjoy by providing real answers to these very important people we call customers. Marketing’s role is to shepherd external audiences to internal experts, and ensure that the desired outcomes are hit. And in the world of brand advocacy, marketing’s successes should result in a steady flow of highly qualified and educated customers advocating for you in their own words to their network of peers, both in person and online.
Modified metric: Cross-departmental involvement in communications and support. (Measured by percentage of customer inquiries addressed by individual departments, followed by sentiment scores by those addressed audience segments.)
3. Audience involvement is a better metric than brand volume.
So far, I’ve addressed two areas where brands must rally — first, attracting the right audiences, and second, involving the organization as a whole. Both are critical. Yet, little matters if the outcome of your efforts results in low customer appeal. How do we measure appeal?
A variety of factors will indicate that a brand is truly connecting with its most important people.
- Are they creating compelling content on their own? Meaning, are they telling their own first-person accounts of their experiences with you?
- Are they providing accessible feedback for how they expect and desire a brand to be better, either through product iterations or service levels?
- Are they coming to bat for in third-party conversations where a brand is being considered against its competitors?
None of these outcomes will occur on a large scale unless customers believe a brand will actually listen and respond. But let’s be careful. Responding is not just “We’ve heard you.” Responding is much more meaningful when a brand actually makes changes to its products and service as a result of real people making real recommendations. Too often, because social media efforts are centralized under marketing and public relations, a brand’s response to customer inquiries are relatively shallow. “Thanks for your feedback.” Or, “We love it when our customers talk to us!” These are quite meaningless unless followed with a promise of change. A response that is really a non-response is as frustrating as saying nothing at all.
Modified metric: Percentage of content created by customers vs. the brand. The percentage of positive or constructive customer content should continually grow, indicating a stronger brand affinity and likelihood for true advocacy.
Your 2014 is in front of you. You have the choice to rinse and repeat old metrics and methods only to find you’re back in the same place. Or you can hold yourself and your organization accountable to new measures and standards. Those articulated here are just a few that we have found to have great consequence on building and sustaining better marketing and better businesses.
Andrew Eklund is the founder and CEO of Ciceron.