Don’t Go Crazy Tracking Everything in Your Marketing

Many years ago, I sat in a prospective client’s conference room presenting recommendations and a marketing campaign that we at Kolbeco believed would bolster their brand and their business. The prospect listened intently, chimed in with his opinions, and in the end began the following exchange:

Prospect: If I do these campaigns, do you guarantee that my business will grow?

Me: “I can’t guarantee that, but what I can guarantee is that we’re going to put forth the maximum effort to build your brand, foster relationships with your target audience, and inspire them to act.”

Prospect: “I don’t understand you marketing people. If you hire us to do our service, we can guarantee that service will be done when we leave. But you can’t guarantee me anything ….”

You might think this conversation ended badly. Believe it or not, we ended up having a wonderful, long-term relationship with this particular company. What changed? Leadership began to see marketing, and the services we provided, as an investment rather than an expense. We shifted away from trying to painstakingly attribute every lead to a specific source and looked at the campaign results each year holistically. We worked to define success in more tangible terms, and measure it accordingly.


Everyone, including your marketing team wants, a positive ROI on your campaigns. We want to see what’s working, what’s not, and make adjustments accordingly. Sometimes in marketing things go really well, and sometimes they don’t. This is true for the smallest companies to the largest international corporations. But unless you do extensive market research, measuring ROI on specific tactics can get pretty complicated – but it can also be pretty straightforward. Let’s consider the following scenarios:

  • You sell exclusively via ecommerce and only run digital camapaigns – here, it’s relatively straightforward to measure the effectiveness of all of your digital campaigns.
  • You run television ads to boost brand awareness or highlight a special that’s available on your ecommerce site – that’s where it can start to get sticky. The ad stuck in a customer’s mind, they googled you a few days later, and you capture that lead as an internet search lead.
  • You’re trying to sell a specific piece of inventory quickly – if you target campaigns, both online and offline, to this specific call to action, you can gauge pretty quickly if you sold your inventory or not.
  • You sell services that have a long sales cycle – perhaps your target prospect has been engaging in your brand for a year, in a variety of different ways. Whether it’s through the consumption of your online content, the constant reminder as they drive down the highway and see your billboard, or the mentions they’ve seen in the local paper, when they do raise their hands to say yes, you may not be considering the full picture of what led them to that point.

The Marriage of Data and Intuition

We marketers love data. It gives us great insight into the target market, provides direction for where a campaign can go, and can even report on real-time results of certain efforts, among other things. But we also know that data isn’t the end of the story – it’s part of the story. Intuition plays a key role because there are some things that you just can’t tangibly track (unless as I mentioned above, you’re doing extensive market research).

For example, when a Kolbeco client was recently featured in a major, national publication, their sales went up 2500% that day. Is there a report that told us all those people bought the product because of the article? No. In these cases, we have to look at spikes and logically attribute them to some cause. In this case, I think our intuition was right on track when we logically attributed the 2500% increase in sales to the news article.

But let’s not stop there. What are the long-term effects of the article on sales? How did it build the brand? How many people will find that article three years from now and include it in their reasons to buy? Those are the things that are hard to measure, but they’re also the things that will build positive, long-term impact on the brand.

Marketing as an Investment

As I’ve outlined in the various scenarios above, marketing is an investment for both your short-term and long-term goals. What you do today can produce immediate results, and it can also drive you into the future. Yet in some cases, building your brand is like saving for retirement. The reward isn’t immediate, but the long-term payoff can be huge if done well, done consistently, and follows a strategy.

In the end it comes down to creating and working a strategy that will address your immediate, short-term needs while building your brand to stand the test of time. Focus on your brand promise. Feed your short-term sales and business goals. Broadcast your message as loudly as is appropriate for your brand, and engage consistently with your audience. That’s what investing in your marketing is all about.