How do you know whether your promotional efforts are working? Of course, the answer is that you have to measure your success somehow. You have to ask your customers and potential customers. Most importantly, you have to be proactive and put those measurement techniques in place when you start.
I asked my friend and colleague Laura Keene of Keene Insights a few questions to share with you. Laura is a self-proclaimed data geek, and an expert researcher–she’s definitely the right person to answer these questions and help your company or organization investigate your successes, not just in promotion.
Just to make it simple to follow along, I’ve labeled my questions McLA and her answers KI, and the answers are in blue.
McLA: One objective that almost all of my clients state is “to increase awareness.” I urge them to be more specific and develop an outcome that is easier measured (e.g. increase sales, donations, requests for a consultation). But some insist that this is all they want. How would you suggest a local nonprofit or entrepreneur measure this kind of nebulous objective?
KI: Well, first and foremost, I have to say that I agree, it’s a good idea to take it a step further. Once a person knows more about the company or the cause, what do you want them to do with that information? That outcome may be more important and a better measure of success. That said, ‘increased awareness’ can be a first step toward action and may be helpful to measure.
Assuming there is a web-based component to the work, some decent proxies (estimates) for awareness that can be easy to collect are:
- Website traffic (number of visits, time spent on the website, number of pages visited)
- Social media engagement (number of followers, number of shares, number reached)
- Blog subscriptions and visits
- Downloads of materials
- Mentions of the company/cause across platforms/websites
- (paper newsletter subscriptions)
You can track these using built-in analytic features and see if they are increasing. Just be wary of focusing too much on ‘how do we get people to come to the website/facebook/twitter/other.’ Remember, these are just proxies or estimates for what you’re really looking to change, which is awareness.
You may also want to consider asking people whether they’re aware of the company/cause directly. This requires getting access to a decent number of current and potential clients/supporters. You can partner with another organization that has access to this population and do an email survey. Or, you can find a place where many of them might be (e.g., an event, a store) and do the survey in person. Questions to ask might include:
- How familiar are you with [product/service/field/topic area]?
- When you think of [product/service/field/topic area], what organizations come to mind?
- Have you heard of [company/cause]?
- How familiar are you with [company/cause]?
- What words would you use to describe [company/cause]?
McLA: Right now, I am working with more than a few clients who are new to business and are holding open houses and other business launch gatherings. Promotion for each event includes press releases, social media announcements, and written invitations. We definitely want to know which mechanism is working best so we can capitalize on that success. Do you have any tips to collect that information?
KI: If there’s a registration form for the open house or gathering, I recommend throwing a question on there that asks how the person heard about the event. That’s a simple way to gather some good information about which promotional activities work best. In addition, sometimes website analytics can help identify how a person moved through various screens and accessed the registration form or event information.
If there isn’t a registration form, you could also throw that question on a sign-in sheet for the event. Something like:
McLA: Excellent idea on coding the forms, Laura! What’s the most difficult program or project you have ever tackled and how did you do it? One last idea…if you have an opportunity to hand out paper registration forms (or something else that people then send back), you can put a code on them to identify the source and then track how many you get back. This can be done electronically too. In many online programs (e.g., survey monkey) you can create different links for the same online form. Then, you can post one link (for the form) on Facebook, another on Twitter, a third to the website, and see which links get the most hits.
KI: A few years ago, I worked with a group that was working to improve educational outcomes for deaf and hard of hearing students at the college level. This included providing training, resources, technical assistance, professional development and much more for both students and educational institutions.
My job, as the evaluator, was to help the group understand how well the work was being implemented and the impact it was having. That information was then used to make improvements to the program and, ultimately, show funders it was worthwhile.
While it was exciting and fascinating, this project was a challenge because of its complexity. First, the initiative stretched across the entire country and it was a collaborative effort involving many people and organizations. Second, they were working not only with students, but also college/universities, and other types of organizations, trying to make change at many different levels. And, third, the outcomes, especially in the short-run, for each person and institution were different. Each one was starting from a different place and aiming to end up in a different place. For example, some colleges already had resources available for deaf students (e.g., interpreters, tutors) and needed help promoting those resources. For other colleges, those resources weren’t available and needed to be developed.
To tackle these challenges, we focused the evaluation on two things: 1) collecting lots of good numerical data about who they were working with, what services were being delivered, and how well, and 2) using case studies to look at change, focusing in on a few key people and organizations to tell a rich story about the impact of their work.
McLA: It sounds like even the most daunting of tasks can be measured. That’s reassuring!
As you plan your promotional activities, keep measurement in mind from the beginning. If you need help creating your promotional plan, email me at [email protected]. If you need help creating a database for proper measurement of your program or promotional activities, or just to help you assess data that you’ve collected, contact Laura at [email protected].