Contributed Column

Marketing 101

by Christine Miller, Miller Consulting LLC

How do you know when your advertising is working?

John Wanamaker, considered by some to be the father of modern advertising, said, “I know that half of my advertising money is wasted … I just don’t know which half.” Over 100 years later, business owners still struggle to determine what works and what doesn’t.

Most small-business owners head up their own marketing efforts. As that person, you are tasked to define your advertising objectives and audience, and create a budget. You have to choose your medium and place the buys. Budgets are tight, jobs are on the line, and there is no time to randomly “test” advertising and hope it works. You need to quantify the results and make sure they were worth the revenue spent. Now, I’m no fan of math, but math equals measurement, and measurement matters. 

Failed marketing is often a result of poor planning, not a reflection of the power of the medium, nor the product or service being sold. Know how you are going to measure your results before you commit to advertising. Measuring results against goals allows you to know what was effective, what failed, and what needs a little adjusting.

Marketing metrics help with the quantification of performance, such as market share, advertising spend, and response rates elicited by advertising and direct marketing. Measurement doesn’t need to be complicated; it’s more a matter of discipline than sophistication. And once you know what works you can do it again.

Many business owners run an ad campaign and then wait for some magic results, not specifically defined. When asked how they will determine if the advertising worked the answer will be “increased sales.” When every dollar spent needs to make more than a dollar, that’s a reasonable expectation. But should that be the only expectation? Is that the singular definition of a successful campaign? That depends on how clearly you tailored your message, defined your goals, and planned your measurement metrics.

So, what are you hoping to achieve? Is it a “numbers” goal or changed behaviors? Measurement for traditional ad placement and media coverage is often gauged by rating points, reach, and frequency. You can also evaluate impressions, cost per thousand, and cost per point. Digital is the darling of ad tracking. Online media are rich with built-in measurement tools including social media analytics, click-through rates, engagement, links, traffic, and Web hits.

But let’s dig a little deeper. How can you measure the mental state of your customers, whatever the medium? Is there a greater awareness about your product/service? Do they believe in it? Do they favor your product over the competition? We can even measure the behaviors of the audience. Do you have requests for more information? Did they clip coupons? Is there increased foot traffic in the store? Have you gained sponsors or volunteers? Is there a boost to social media “follows” or “likes”?

Lastly, determine how long it should take to see results. Essentially, the longer your sales cycle the longer it will take for results to happen. Once you are able to gauge customer reactions, keep track. Note the medium you used, the message you created, and the results achieved. By noting these three factors you will be able to start to determine what is working, what is not, and what needs adjustment.

When it comes to marketing, especially in a down economy, advertisers often cut corners. But cutting corners is different from maximizing potential. Getting accurate feedback is crucial to knowing what ad concepts and media plans are most effective.

Remember: What you don’t measure you can’t manage. •

Christine Miller is president of Miller Consulting LLC, which helps small businesses identify, qualify, develop, and close targeted sales leads, and helps organizations find more value in existing relationships. She can be reached at

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