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What is Successful Marketing?

Jacob Brain


How do you reach meaningful success in your marketing?

A strange question was asked of me in a recent phone conversation, and I think it was an important topic for us all to consider:

What makes up a successful marketing campaign?

The exact way they phrased it was, “How do you determine a successful marketing campaign?” – which, a few nuances aside, is the same question, albeit more personally-focused. And, as enamored as I was to be asked for my personal opinion, I think the answer is actually more objective than subjective.

Because the answer lies in one clear piece of information: the data.

First, the Question in the Question

The question I think the person was asking, in a nice way, was, “How will we know if this is working?”.

That question actually contains two questions. First, we have the “this”: what are the tactical aspects of marketing activity? Second, we have the “works”: what are the results that come from the tactic?

A more direct approach might have been to ask, “What results do you expect from X activity?”. All good questions, all basically seeking the same information.

Yet, the answer is a bit more complex.

Success Is Possible If It Is Measurable.

The problem with many “failed” marketing and advertising activities is that a goal or metric has not been established in which to hold the activity measurable to.  Take, for instance, the tactic of email sends. If you have no clue what your target open rate should be, or if you don’t know what aspect of the send to measure, or if you have never measured your sends consecutively, the “success” of any send will be difficult to prove.

The point is this: you won’t be able to judge growth or success unless you first have measurement in place. That goes for marketing and sales activity, and for any detail of your business that you want to be successful.

The Recipe for Success

I’m not one to be overly theoretical. But, a universal definition of success that works for every organization is going to be a bit elusive. One of our clients sends emails without any trouble twice a month. Another can barely get one a quarter. Success in each case is different.

But there are some commonalties on how we can define and create a recipe for success.

  1. Measure what we know already to be. Putting measurements in place is the first step in understanding the current level of activity and results. Without this, we can not improve what we are doing – and, for nearly everyone, success will involve demonstrated improvement.
  2. Change activity. The simplest part of this entire process is to change activity. Start doing something new, do something differently, or stop doing something and see how that changes what you are measuring.
  3. Measure the outcomes from changes. Once you have those measurements in place, and can see if the changes you make impact anything, you’ve started the process of success. Now you’re able to focus on the changes that give you the most improvement.

The Importance of Benchmarks

There is one big addition to this equation that you must take into consideration. There are bottom line expectations for most marketing activities. We call those benchmarks. For example, Google says that you should have at least a 1% CTR on your Adwords ads to be successful. This is a benchmark. If you are not getting that, your campaign is not successful, and you need to keep working.

There are many other benchmarks in the industry as well.

All of these are great places to start to help you understand if you are in a successful place now, and to help you understand what ultimate success would mean.

Benchmark Success vs. Business Success

The next progression you’ll encounter is that you might achieve benchmark success, but still not have business success. This happens frequently, and it’s partly because benchmarks are not very high in the real world for professional marketing.

For instance, you might get a 1.1% CTR in Adwords on your own. But at New North, we focus on getting 4-5% CTR on the Adwords campaigns that we run. For us, that second level is the baseline of our success because its the level at which we’ve seen real business impact.

That is the step that you need a professional to help you with. If you are just starting out, you might muster up some results – and more power to you. But, when you start wanting to get more out of your activity, you need to work with companies that can get higher results from activities, not companies that just have experience with the activities. Make sense?

Your Next Steps Towards Success

If someone asks you, “What is success in marketing?”, I hope you now have an idea of how to respond. You know there are industry benchmarks that can help you get started, but then you need to set your own level of success to really have your organization and marketing grow. If you’d like a more in depth discussion around your benchmarks and what you are doing to get “success”, let’s talk.

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