Only the faint tick of the grandfather clock broke the silence as I waited for him to acknowledge my presence. He’d summoned me to his office to discuss the great idea I’d outlined in a memo only last week. So new in the company, yet already meeting with the Managing Director!

After a few moments, he lifted his head from what he’d been working on, reached across his desk, and picked up two sheets of paper between his thumb and forefinger. My memo!

“The idea itself is interesting and not devoid of merit,” he said. “But then you fail to provide me with even a mediocre marketing plan or a smidgen of meaningful data to back it up. Do not ever waste my time again in this way.”

With that, he ripped my memo in half and dropped it in the trash.

Precisely five minutes after I had entered his office, I was headed for the door.

It took me many years to appreciate the lesson I should have learned that day: Without a plan that includes a way to measure the potential of your great idea, you’ll never know if it is a rip-roaring success or an abject failure.

That came to mind just last week. I was reviewing a client’s e-mail acquisition strategies — what was working, what we would test, and how we could keep costs down and still acquire profitable names.

My client, “Elizabeth,” had made some fairly significant changes to campaigns that were underperforming. I was interested in hearing how much of a difference those changes had made.

“I don’t know,” she said.

Then we reviewed changes Elizabeth had made some weeks earlier to her pay-per-click campaigns.

What difference had those changes made?

She didn’t know.

“Let’s check, shall we?” I said.

When we looked into it, the changes she’d made actually HALVED her signup rates and increased her acquisition costs.

Elizabeth had no excuse. She’d been taught how to test changes and measure results. But she didn’t bother.

Shooting blindly in the dark and hoping to hit something is nuts! The Internet is perhaps the most measurable of all marketing channels, yet few online marketers measure what they are doing.

Measuring the success — or failure — of your marketing activities is crucial. It is the basis upon which you must build your marketing campaigns. Every single online effort should test an assumption and should be set up in a way that allows you to measure that assumption.

What should you measure?

That depends. You’ll probably want to measure several different aspects of any marketing activity. If, for example, you are bringing in new prospects, you’ll want to assess both their initial acquisition cost and their subsequent purchases. You need to know if the means you’re using to bring in those names is worth it or if you’re throwing your money away.

Let’s take the painful example I outlined above and make some assumptions. (I’m being kind, but my gut feeling is that not only did Elizabeth not measure her results, she had no clue what she should be testing in the first place.)


1. Ran a campaign to acquire e-mail addresses

2. Wanted to increase the number of signups to her e-mail newsletter

3. Wanted to keep her acquisition costs steady

4. Wanted the prospects she acquired to purchase at least at the same rate as previous prospects acquired through this same method

Elizabeth’s e-mail signup rate (baseline conversion rate) for her current campaign was about 8.5 percent. So any changes she made should have been done to improve that percentage. Instead, her signup rate decreased to less than 4.3 percent — because she kept  blindly making changes and ignoring all the data.

If her signup rate had increased, the next thing would have been to continue to tweak the changes, possibly repeating those changes across other campaigns. Meanwhile, she would be watching to make sure the subscribers acquired after the changes made purchases at the same rate as subscribers brought onboard before the changes.

At this point, you may be rolling your eyes at the hoops through which I am asking you to jump your little marketing pony. But unless you want to waste your time, money, and resources, you must define and track at least some simple baseline metrics and measure all your marketing efforts against those metrics.

P.S. It really isn’t as complex as it may sound. And I can help you get the answers to all the important questions you need to be asking as an Internet marketer. With my Internet Rant newsletter, you’ll get “tough love” as well as my brutally honest take on the marketing tactics you should — and should not — be using. Find out more here.

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