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Editorial: Are you measuring up?

By Len Monheit

So, how are you measuring up? Are you charting progress on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis? What about your customer behavior? Are you watching and measuring it? Do they react and do you notice? What works and what doesn’t?

Industry reports abound, discussing consumer and demographic trends, and they help us understand what sectors may be buoyant three months or three years from now. They’re a guide to strategic planning and a benchmark of your company position relative to the market and the way the market is likely to move. But how do you interpret this information in the context of your business and what can you do to ensure you capitalize on the information you’re receiving? And how do you take this strategic information and make it work operationally?

If it seems like I’m full of questions, it’s because I see such a range of behaviors and practices in these and other industries. Frequently business deals with the crises of the moment, losing sight of both the strategic view needed to plan for the future, and also losing the capability to proactively manage day to day operations to make the gradual improvements in performance and service that lead to strategic success. This is further complicated by mergers and acquisitions, changing values and directions, key personnel movement and numerous other factors. So how do you define the track and keep on it?

Last week, I spoke about the need to use KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) to measure success in all aspects of business including Internet related programs and went on to speak about some of the data and statistics available for websites in particular. You’ve probably thought seriously about what success means for your business.

If you’re operating in the business to business environment your success indicators will be different from a business to consumer operation. In either case, your list of indicators could look like:

  • Number of new clients, number of renewals
  • Number of interactions with potential clients
  • Number of new leads
  • Dollar sales, gross and net margin, average sale
  • Ranking in various areas
  • Number of orders and number of active accounts
  • Customer satisfaction level and number of complaints, recalls etc.
  • Inventory turns, out of stocks
  • Number of proposals sent and contracts won
  • Number of deals signed

Of course, in your operation, there are likely key indicators for success in each job function so your company list of KPI’s could number into the hundreds. If you’ve got an active call center, then queue time is critical, and there are metrics such as service level, fill rate, turnaround time, brand recognition and more.

Depending on the number and type of projects you initiate, each unique project will likely have its own KPI’s against which success is measured.

And here’s where the process breaks down in most operations.

With the best of intentions, a project is initiated which seems like a great idea at the time. One year later, the project is on the books, money is spent, key personnel or responsibilities may have changed and the project is a failure, due largely to the fact that there were no metrics put in place to measure program success, and no system to ensure that objectives remained relevant during the course of the project.

Technology and Internet projects are notorious in this respect and marketing professionals are trying to improve their own record by measuring critical aspects of marketing programs instead of operating based on intuition and sales results alone. This brings us to a critical juncture, marketing, communications and the Internet--And websites are only a piece of the story.

Planning programs well mitigates the risk of failure- and more organizations are doing this than ever before with their sites and e-communications strategy. I continue to be amazed though, at the number of companies that still haven’t realized that if you’re not capturing e-mail addresses at every opportunity, whether you’re in B2B or B2C, you’re missing out. And the opportunity to communicate with your customers through e-newsletters, even if it’s only twice a year, is beneficial and cost effective.

Here are a couple of other ideas:

  • Review website performance on a quarterly basis, reintegrate with corporate strategy as that changes.
  • Collect e-mail addresses on website and in all business operations
  • Change (even minor) aspects of your site periodically to keep it looking fresh and dynamic.
  • Put your URL on stationary, business cards and marketing materials
  • If you’ve got a message, release or announcement you’re delivering to the press and your clients, make sure it’s on your site too.
  • Understand your customer preferences and information gathering processes, they may not match industry trends.

And going back to the concept of KPI’s for an e-communications strategy, you may wish to consider:

  • Number of referring directories—a measure of the success of your search engine optimization programs. Measuring against the engines your customers would typically use will indicate where future energies should be allocated.
  • Number of subscribers/new subscribers—will dictate strategy and message.
  • Origin IP’s and Origin URL’s—companies, URL’s and countries of site users. If there’s activity in any region or from a particular company, it should be investigated and capitalized on.
  • Page by Page site activity—if users are targeting a page, find out why. If there’s a page not being viewed, either change the introduction to it, or remove it.
  • e-communications response—measure by feedback and effect. Give specific URL links so that each of your programs can be measured.
  • User agents—is your message and your site reaching your audience in a form they can appreciate?

There are many other ways of measuring program effectiveness. The key is to understand that if it isn’t measured, it’s probably only hearsay.

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