Unhappy man at desk

When has my campaign failed?

I recently answered a question on Quora about failure, having run a few startups it was something that struck home. As an entrepreneur you never believe you’re going to fail. Even when the writings on the wall, you still have this vague notion that it can work. When it’s finally buried, that’s when you stop. It’s probably a good trait for a very well funded, highly motivated (almost pathological) serial entrepreneur.

Probably not so much for a regular guy, or a marketer.   We don’t have the luxury of being able to ignore all the signs. That whole concept of failing fast & frequently, the one HBR’s been writing about and the one that Silicon Valley seems to fashionably espouse. That means you need to be able to detect failure and respond to it quickly. You should be planning to fail, or if you prefer, failing gracefully by design.

Knowing when a campaign is going wrong
Detecting potential failure in the future


In the absence of a minority-report-future-seeing-psychic, I check my campaigns against metrics and try to ascertain whether we’re on track or not. It’s a questionably better than relying a more arcane-mystic methods, but it’s certainly better than not doing anything at all.

Creating Metrics

When deciding what to track success/failure against, it’s really important to think about your campaign. Personally I believe that (for small businesses) all campaigns should only be focused on client acquisition & lead generation. Which means that all my metrics are funnel metrics (views -> leads -> conversions). If any campaign isn’t performing well, rather than throw more money into it, I’d rather cut it short and redirect the resources to another campaign. There’s an overhead of creating a campaign and running it. Especially for more offline campaigns, but that’s why you should be A/B testing even when you’re doing something as offline as an event. For example:

  1. Handout two variants of flyer with different offers instead of one
  2. Have two different sign-up methods on the flyer and see what works best (QR code & a conventional web link)
  3. Try using electronic sign-up via iPads as well as clipboard sign-ups

If you started any type of marketing campaign, and you don’t have success metrics, you’re doing something wrong. There’s a good chance that you don’t actually have a plan. Check out this guide about setting up a marketing plan. If you don’t have the time to create a marketing strategy, try to think tactically and build metrics on a per campaign basis. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing at all.

Failing to Plan

Action without a plan is not uncommon, it feels better to be doing something rather than nothing. Isn’t some marketing better than no marketing? Yes, you need to do something, even if you don’t have a plan. Just be smart about it, create some metrics, monitor and manage it.  At the very least you’ll have discovered if something works or not. Don’t use planning as an excuse to sit on the fence forever.

Cake or Death

Lego Cake or Death - Eddie Izzard

If things are on-track, and everything’s looking peachy, it’s time for cake! Yay. Don’t rest on your laurels or get too cheeky, start thinking about your next campaign. That’s going to begin from zero, it doesn’t get any head-start from your previous campaigns.

If things aren’t looking good, don’t despair, it’s time for the campaign to die. If you ran it properly you learned something useful that’ll make your next campaign more successful – even if it’s just how to get a consistent 2% improvement in sign-ups through better offers. You should eat the cake anyway, because it’ll make you feel better & it’s silly to waste good cake.

If you don’t have any metrics to measure against, you won’t know whether it’s time for cake or death (or both). It’s probably time to have a cup of tea and watch this YouTube video:

Tablet showing SEO metrics

How should I measure my SEO agency?

A friend of mine was looking for a SEO agency, and was casually mentioning to me about the different views the managers had about how to measure the performance of the new agency. The first view was measuring based on Google Search Rank position for the selected keywords (ie: page 1 for “Buy a boat”), and the second was total ROI for engaging the agency (ie: total value of sales from web generated leads vs. agency cost).

Website SEO Metrics Measurement Template
Click here to download Website SEO Metrics Template (14.12 KB 26 downloads)

To his surprise, I strongly agreed with the second view. The purpose of SEO is to generate business, not to achieve rankings. What would be the purpose of achieving page one rankings if it didn’t get you any business?

The purpose of SEO is to generate business, not to achieve rankings.

There are lots of ways to track the performance of your SEO agency on a technical and ethical level, but when you’re thinking about delivery against targets there are only three things to watch out for:

  1. Google Analytics Goals (when visitors achieve specific objectives on your website)
  2. Total number leads generated from your website (how many qualified leads your website is generating for you every month)
  3. Total revenue from web leads (how much money you made from your web leads)

You need to setup a baseline for comparison. This allows you to  compare your current website performance, vs. the performance after your agency has started work. Even if you’re not tracking these details at the moment, it’s easy to start. Send your website leads to a specific mailbox so you can count them seperately, or use a lead management tool such as Sales Gorilla (Disclaimer: I’m affiliated with this product). Your agency can setup your Analytics Goals, their lead gen work will take time to start working, so your’ll be able to establish a baseline in the first month.

What about all the other website metrics? Things such as bounce rates, time on site, visitors, etc.? They’re all secondary metrics. Great indicators as to what your visitors are doing, but meaningless if your primary lead & revenue goals aren’t being met.

For clarity, you should still track the other indicators & check your agency is doing the right thing (ethically). Just don’t lose sight of the main goal in the process. Effectively your SEO agency is part of your sales team, so I prefer to track, manage and reward them in the same way.

Website SEO Metrics Measurement Template
Click here to download Website SEO Metrics Template (14.12 KB 26 downloads)

Elevator Pitch

Creating your one liner

Before you can begin marketing your product/service, it’s really important that you can talk about your offering. If it’s not defined to the point that everybody on your team, or a random person from the street can understand it in one short sentence, then you need to stop. Breathe deeply. And start again. You need to build your one liner, this is more powerful than your elevator pitch. It’s you, distilled down to a tweet, with no emoticons, lols or cat pictures.

Moore’s positioning statement from Geoffrey Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm, provides a great template for creating your product definition:

For (target customers)
Who (have the following problem)
Our product is a (describe the product or solution)
That provides (cite the breakthrough capability)
Unlike (reference competition),
Our product/solution (describe the key point of competitive differentiation)

When you’ve nailed your positioning statement down, it’s time to start working on your elevator pitch.
I recommend the following structure:

We (customer) (the solved problem)
Whilst (overcoming a common objection)
With (grandma’s explanation of your solution)

For example:

We allow hospitals to maximize the use of doctors & equipment
Whilst improving the patient experience
With a really clever appointment & queuing system

The overall structure is similar to Moore’s statement, but with a few key differences:

1. Tell people about the solved problem not the problem. Problems are negative, and everybody has them. Don’t’ talk about your solution either, that’s your story not theirs. Instead tell people about what happens when you solve the problem. That’s what they’re waiting to hear. It’s positive, non-technical, story based, and easy to remember.

Example #1:
Problem: Disposable coffee cups burn your hands when hot and are slippery
Solution: Thermally insulated coffee cup sleeves
Statement: We provide café’s the coffee cup sleeves that prevent burns

Example #2:
Problem: Tea gets cold too soon after being poured into a cup
Solution: New ceramic compound with massively improved thermal properties
Statement: We make cups that keep tea hot for hours, for (retail chain)

2. Positively overcome a common objection. Most solutions have a common objection, or a slight negative that you need to work around. Put this in, so it’s clear that you’ve solved the other headaches that go with your solution. Bear in mind that this, like your earlier statement might differ from client to client.

For example:
Statement: We provide café’s the coffee cup sleeves that prevent burns
Included objection handling: They’re made from recycled material, so they’re environmentally friendly too

For example:
Statement: We make cups that keep tea hot for hours, for (retail chain)
Included objection handling: They’re the same price & weight as regular cups

3. Keep the explanation of your solution to it’s simplest possible form. This should be the same as what your grandmother tells her friends that you do. In casual conversation, nobody’s paying enough attention to remember anything more specific, detailed or technical than this.

For example:
Statement: We make cups that keep tea hot for hours, for (retail chain)
Included objection handling: They’re the same price & weight as regular cups
Explanation: We make the cups with our special baking process.

In a lot of scenarios just the first two lines are enough. The explanation is only really necessary if there isn’t an obvious link between your solved problem & your solution. Here’s a real life example for you to think about:

For example, about the medical (C3R) collagen cross linking process:
Statement: We save people from with KC from going blind.
Objection handling: It works on early stage KC
Explanation: We have special drops that strengthen their eyes

Edit: I recently read a post about creating one liners for books, and think the idea of adding some flavour is brilliant. It’s deifnitely something that I’d recommend doing. When I next update this format, I’ll be including Flavour as a must have ingredient.