Success can be measured. And it can’t.

Success can be measured. And it can’t.

There are a lot of bad ideas masquerading as breakthrough marketing concepts in these days of obsessively measuring clicks, traffic counts and phone calls. One of the ugliest imposters: “If you can’t measure it or track it to sales, you shouldn’t do it.”

Why are we calling this out? Because it’s insulting to the most important people to your business: Your target, your customers, your lifeblood. It says that these people and their thought processes are no more complex than a Pavlovian dog. And that marketing, advertising and communications is no harder than ringing a bell. It also neglects the idea that your objectives might be more thoughtful and long-term than today’s sales.

To be clear, every communication should elicit a form of action. Whether it is a change in perception, an understanding of a benefit or an actual purchase, each communication needs to affect your target in some manner. Measure where you can, but know that some of these actions are difficult to measure. You must understand that most sales processes are based on a long series of multiple communications. Where you don’t want to limit yourself when considering tactics is in requiring a physical, measurable result. There is a place for this, but requiring sales metrics for every message eliminates any long-term strategies and tactics, which are often much more effective over time. The truth is that there are valuable communications that do a great deal of work toward your final goals, and move your target toward the ultimate objective, but cannot be measured because the action takes place in a person’s mind, not at a cash register.

You should always define your objectives and have the ways and means of measuring the indicators of your success. (We often measure “indicators” of success such as changes in perception or understanding when we cannot measure a physical action such as a purchase.) But requiring transaction metrics for each message can lead to the circle of “next week” marketing that some businesses find themselves trapped within – endlessly dropping prices, loading up promotions with non-benefit “benefits,” or racing to the meaningless middle of their categories with “me, too” marketing messages.

So, if a Pavlov disciple tells you that every message must elicit a measurable action, for any business, and always... ring the bell and walk away. They probably don’t understand how to accomplish your objectives, are fuzzy on the fundamentals of the sales process and they certainly don’t understand people.