Focus on results, not just activity

In “How to Become a Marketing Superstar,” Jeffrey J. Fox uses the analogy of the “Ka-ching” sound made by a cash register ringing up a sale. “Ka-ching” is what the business hears every time our work leads to a new manufacturing order, a donation to our non-profit organization, an energized workforce or a customer clicking on our website. Ultimately, it’s about results. In the words of Mr. Fox, “It don’t mean a thing if it don’t go Ka-ching!”

I recently had the privilege to serve as a Quill Awards judge for two U.S. Chapters of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). In reviewing award entries, it was so refreshing to see such innovative and creative campaigns that covered a broad range of business communication challenges.

But a few campaigns did not achieve their full potential because of a common issue in project planning… they focused on activity without measuring results. For example, the goal was to drive additional traffic to a business. This was followed with beautiful design, great ideas, and impressive data analytics on “likes” and “impressions.” But there was no data on whether the campaign actually increased traffic.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the creative and get away from the basics of good communication strategy.

What is your goal, and how will you measure it?

A goal of increasing “impressions” or “likes” can definitely be an indicator of increased awareness. Getting people engaged with your company via digital media can play an important role. But will it lead to a “Ka-ching”?

One company’s award entry had a goal of increasing foot traffic at restaurants and retail businesses in a small community. They had a catchy theme and people could pick up a card at one location and get points when they used it at any of the businesses. They focused on digital media to promote the event, had very strong digital analytics and good social media engagement.

But the stated goal was to increase foot traffic. Did it work? No idea. They spent so much effort on the activity (the digital media execution and analytics) that they lost sight of the results (increased traffic and resulting sales).

On the other hand, there was a utility company with an impressive campaign to head off potentially negative publicity about a new construction project that would be located in a business and residential area.

They carefully identified key stakeholders… area residents and businesses, environmental groups, government leaders, etc. They held community meetings, distributed fact sheets and set up a website with updates on the project to keep their target audiences informed. Their employees worked hand-in-hand with a local environmental group on a clean-up project at a nearby lake. The message was clear that they were partners in the community and were focused on collaboration to meet the needs of each audience.

In addition to all this activity, they also had meaningful results. While other similar projects around the country had received significant negative publicity, this campaign avoided similar outcomes. They successfully addressed the needs of each target audience and enhanced the image of the brand in the community. Definitely a “Ka-ching.”

Moving the Needle

In his book “One Great Insight is Worth a Thousand Good Ideas” Phil Dusenberry writes, “When you boil it all down, the purpose of any business insight is to improve conditions so that your business performs better.”

Dusenberry’s creative team at BBDO New York created game-changing insights with national brands like Pepsi, VISA and HBO. His concept is to “move the needle” – to defeat the status quo in a significant way.

When planning any communication strategy, we have to ask:

  • What is the “needle”? What are we really trying to accomplish? Is it increased traffic? Higher sales? Improved morale? More donations? Less staff turnover?
  • Will the activity or tactic being considered move the needle in a meaningful way? If there is no measurable correlation between the activity and the results, consider investing those resources on something that WILL help move the needle.
  • How will we measure needle movement? It isn’t always possible to objectively quantify results, but we need to think about measuring what we can. How will we know if our work moved the needle?

As business communicators, we must be confident in our ability to produce results. It’s about one more customer in the door or one more purchase from the website. It’s the injury avoided due to an employee safety campaign. It’s moving the needle on employee morale or increasing donations to our non-profit group.

Our employers, our clients and our coworkers depend on us to help move the needle. That happens when we focus on thoughtful planning, skillful execution and measurable results.

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