In Marketing, Measurability Doesn’t Necessarily Equal Effectiveness

I suspect that most of you have heard the story about the drunk man and the lamp post. One version goes like this:

An inebriated man loses the keys to his house and is looking for them under a street light. A policeman comes over as asks what he’s doing. “I’m looking for my keys,” the man says. He points to a spot about twenty feet away and says, “I lost them over there.” The policeman looks puzzled and asks, “Then why are you looking for them all the way over here?” “Because the light is so much better over here,” the man replies.

Unfortunately, I believe that some marketers may be falling into a mindset that is similar to the one illustrated in this story.

For the past several years, marketers have faced growing pressure to prove the value of their activities and programs. As a result, they are placing greater emphasis on measuring the performance of marketing channels, tactics, and programs. Some marketers are allocating budgets and basing investment decisions on marketing performance measures.

Overall, this is a positive development. It’s hard to argue that marketers shouldn’t track and measure the performance of their campaigns and programs, and use performance measures to guide marketing investments. Common sense says that this approach should lead to better marketing decisions.

The problem arises when measurability becomes the primary criterion for using a particular marketing channel or tactic. For example, the ability to measure the results produced by many digital marketing tactics, such as e-mail and paid search, is frequently cited as a major reason to use these tactics. In an environment where proving the value of your work can mean the difference between keeping or losing your job, marketing methods that are easily measured can appear to be the safe choice.

The problem is, the measurability of a tactic or program is not directly proportional to its effectiveness or impact. Some marketing activities that are highly effective and valuable are also difficult to measure. In fact, it can be nearly impossible to calculate an accurate ROI for some of these activities. This doesn’t mean, however, that such activities should be excluded from your marketing mix. If you take that approach, your marketing efforts may not be as effective as they could be.

The primary responsibility of a marketer is to create and execute marketing programs that maximize profitable revenue growth for his/her company, not merely to execute programs that can be easily measured. One way to keep this idea in  mind is to remember a saying usually attributed to Albert Einstein:  “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

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