After creating an exhaustive number of workshops, webinars, and blog posts about marketing (even an entire book), one thing has become glaringly obvious to me: most owners don’t understand how marketing works.
More specifically, they don’t understand how to know if their marketing is working.
Even when assured they’re doing all the right things, they still don’t know how long it will take to see results. And all of this uncertainty leads them to question why they’re doing marketing in the first place.
Here’s the good news: success in marketing can be measured. It should be measured. And we should use those measurements to inform how we can improve it.
More Than Sales
The line between marketing and sales can be a bit blurry. The goals of each are very different, but they have overlaps and shared responsibilities. Because of this, owners often evaluate the success of their marketing by sales numbers.
If sales are high, marketing must be doing its job. But if sales are down, marketing must be failing. Right?
That would certainly be simple, but it’s not accurate.
To explain, here’s a conversation I’ve had multiple times over the years.
A business owner approaches me wanting to redo their marketing because they desperately need new business. I ask them to tell me about their best customer and how they won them over.
They tell me that the pivotal moment was when the customer first walked into their building and became impressed with their operation.
If that’s the pivotal moment in their selling process, I explain, then getting potential ideal customers to walk across the threshold should be EVERYTHING — the most important goal they aim to accomplish with their marketing.
Trying to measure marketing success in terms of sales is counterproductive if sales depend on someone first walking through the doors.
Now we can see the value proposition of marketing. Marketing is the thing that makes sales easier and more reliable.
The 11-Point Marketing Plan Template
If sales numbers don’t indicate the level of marketing success, then what do you measure?
This question is what led me to develop my 11-point marketing plan template. By seeing how many aspects of your marketing actually do make a difference, you gain a new understanding and appreciation for each of your marketing efforts.
In this post, we’ll walk through each point of the marketing plan to learn what it is, why it matters, and how to measure it. You’ll then be able to judge how effectively your marketing is performing and what needs to change to make your efforts more successful.
1. Business Goal
First, you need to define what you want marketing to actually do for you. This could be a general goal, like growing sales, or a more specific goal, such as growing a particular type of sales.
The measurement for whether you’re successful with this goal is your percentage of sales growth (not just revenue).
2. Target Customer
Once you’re clear on your business goal — which in most cases will be generating sales — the next, more important thing to focus on is who you want to sell to.
Who is the target (or ideal) customer your business wants to serve?
Once you’re clear on this, it determines how you’ll measure success. You may find that your ideal customer has a close rate of 10%, while other businesses have a close rate of 90% with their ideal customer. This is subjective depending on your particular target customer.
You can’t determine the right benchmark until you decide who you’re setting the benchmark for.
3. Value Proposition
The marketing plan also has to have a clear value proposition. You have to understand where you’re putting the value into whatever it is you’re selling to the target customer.
In other words, the target customer determines the value prop.
How well you do that is measured subjectively. It could be through anecdotal feedback from target customers in sales meetings that communicates, “This is exactly what I was looking for and it fits my ideal budget.”
Whatever it is, you want to consistently connect the value you offer to your clients’ willingness to spend money.
4. Products and Services
Then, you can start to decide which products and services you should offer that will provide value (see #3 - Value Proposition) to your buyer (see #2 - Target Customer).
Measuring products and services means tracking utilization. If you have a service that no one buys, that says something. If certain products are always sold together, maybe there's a missed opportunity to bundle?
5. Prospect Plan
Next, you can look at the areas more traditionally associated with marketing. The Prospect Plan tells you how well you’re attracting your target customers.
Measuring this may seem as simple as looking at the number of people entering the sales funnel, but it’s actually more subjective than that. You need to see how many of the right prospects are engaging with you, which requires deeper inspection.
One thing we’re often guilty of in marketing is trying to draw the shortest line between when someone becomes a prospect to when they sign a contract. We often forget about all the smaller things that happen in between, which is the path to conversion.
Taking these smaller, pre-purchase steps into account tells you how well your conversion process is working. For example, if quotes are a part of the sales journey, your prospect:quote ratio can become a measurement that helps you gauge your success.
While some owners have disagreed with me about this in the past, pricing is also a part of marketing. Where you choose to make money and how you choose to convey value to a customer is ultimately a marketing decision.
One thing to measure here is whether you’re consistently delivering products and services in a way that meets your target customer’s budget and value, which is a subjective measurement that comes from feedback.
Then, you can evaluate all the things you do to promote your business and your brand, like digital events, networking, sponsorship opportunities, and partner programs.
Each of these efforts has a measurable response rate based on your specific target customer, your value proposition, and the types of products and services you provide. For some businesses, that means engagement with 1,000 prospects, while other businesses view a response from a single ideal prospect as successful.
9. Social Media
Social media helps create awareness and engagement with your brand. But in our industry, the only practical measure for success in social media is interaction.
It’s nearly impossible to attribute a sale directly to social media postings, simply because that’s not how our sales funnels are set up to function. Social media is just one of many factors that influence a customer.
And if you’re spending a lot of energy and time on social media without any measurable level of interaction, it’s likely a waste of your time.
10. Content Plan
As someone who has invested a lot of energy into digital marketing, I firmly believe that content matters. And because it’s often a long play, sometimes the best measurement is output.
You need to look at your content pipeline and know how far out your content is planned and where it will come from — and those aspects are measurable.
If there’s a point where the amount of content you have gets low, it indicates you’re not putting enough time and attention into that area of your marketing, which will impact your entire marketing plan.
11. Partner Plan
People often ask me about the quickest way to get new leads. They want my input about where they should buy a contact list. My response is that they’re asking the wrong question.
A partner plan — which is often overlooked — involves entering into a mutually beneficial relationship with another company that results in exposure to new audiences containing your target customer. It’s not buying a list of names and addresses of people to spam.
Find out which outside organizations would like to support you by sharing your content and helping people in their audience find you. Then decide your plan for interacting with them and, most importantly, how you can help them in return.
You can measure the success of partner planning by how many new contacts (willingly) join your list from that source, and how far they make in your sales process.
Feel free to download the 1-Page Marketing Plan Template and a completed example in the link below.