7 Mar 2018

Start with expectations, not numbers

Robin Campbell-Burt – Director at Spreckley

Getting evaluation metrics right always comes down to one thing – having a clear understanding of the expectations of whoever is in charge, and finding a quantitative way to demonstrate that you have met those expectations. This is easier said than done and I have been around long enough to get caught out by measuring the wrong thing. The client accepts the monthly status report that I send over, saying what a good a job we are doing. Only one day, the client calls and says that they do not see the value in what we are doing and has decided to take a different tack in future. The issue is not in what we measure – our metrics are faultless and produce lots of exciting graphs and insightful numbers. It is that the measurements did not prove to our client that their expectations were being met.

So, what to measure? Actual sales is something that can be easily measured, the challenge is showing the CEO how your marketing efforts contribute to the bottom line and the ROI against activity. If public relations – and I include social media, digital campaigns as well as media relations in this term – is being used to build customer relationships then the best approach is to use the marketing funnel. It is a worldview of communications that has stood the test of time and it is an excellent base to establish worthwhile metrics.


Let’s look at the first stage – awareness raising. There are two metrics worth thinking about here – how many people have seen your communication and the cost per person of that impressions. For media relations, the circulation figures of publications can be used as an indicator of impressions. I would put a caveat here that readers do not consume every piece of content, however, circulation is still a reasonable indicator to use.

You can take a similar approach for social media activity, using the volume of impressions achieved divided against the cost of producing the collateral used in the campaign.


We don’t want to only know whether someone has become aware of who you are. We want to know whether their interest has been piqued and if they have engaged with your content to find out more about what you are saying.

An interest, or engagement, metric measures when the audience has taken a proactive action – gone on your website, clicked through from an advert, watched a video, liked or shared a tweet etc. Engagement volumes can be calculated against the cost of the development of the content that people engaged with, giving you a strong ROI indictor to guide future activity and show the impact of existing marketing spend.


The final stage that we can measure is the conversion of people who have engaged with your content to becoming a lead that is passed onto the sales team. This figure can be further supported by simple surveys of new customers asking what content they have seen in the run up to making a purchase.

So what?

So, what do these three tiers of metrics give us? Firstly, and possibly most importantly, you need to clearly understand where in the funnel you are being expected to support. As an example, I might be asked to run a media relations campaign (which is awareness raising), but my client may only be interested in lead generation as a metric. There is a divergence here, as if I am just doing media relations work for a client then I have no direct control over lead generation, making the metric unfair. I either need to advise that we should be conducting a broader piece of work, enabling me to take responsibility for lead generation, or that the client needs to adjust their expectations – and thereby the metric that my work will be measured against. Catching divergence between activity and measurement metrics early is critical to manage expectations. Understanding your place in the funnel is a good way to do this.

Secondly, if you can see the ratios of people moving from awareness, to engagement and then leads, it is possible to find weaknesses in the campaign and adjust. For example, if engagement to lead ratios are low your content is not cutting through and changes are needed. If audiences are not moving from awareness to engagement then this can be a combination of poor quality content at the engagement stage or poor initial awareness messaging.

Thirdly, by being able to calculate the ROI at each stage of the marketing process, you can show the financial value of what you are doing and maximise the effectiveness of spend. An ROI metric can be an important tool to justify marketing spend and to build a case for larger budgets.

Metrics are supposed to be objective measurements so it is easy to forget that behind them is a very human emotion – expectation. Metrics can be very simple to get right if you understand the human expectations of what you are doing and either adjusting your work – or educating your boss to realign their expectations. Focus on the player and not the ball.