A Simple Formula For Success

A reporter recently asked me what I'd learned across several hundred marketing measurement projects in the past 10 years.  Rather than spew out the usual rash of BS, I asked if I could call her back with a thoughtful answer.  Here's what I came up with:


For those of you not into algebra, the meaning is simple:

Success is the sum of all your experience finding insights, transforming them into action, and trying to create more value than the resources you consume in the process.  And then all this is raised to the power of perception.

It's not all too difficult to find new insights in the search for improved marketing effectiveness and efficiency.  There is still quite a bit of wasteful spending going on, and the dynamic marketplace tends to ensure the continuation of that opportunity.  The hard part, though, is translating those insight opportunities into actions that companies (read: people) can actually implement.  Tricky.

And if that wasn't difficult enough, we're all often challenged to do it with toothpicks, a roll-on antiperspirant, and a pack of bubble gum.  Who am I, MacGyver?  Seriously, you're going to spend all that money on advertising and trade shows and then want to measure it for .000000000005% of total spend? Not gonna happen.  But if we're smart, we can demonstrate the potential returns associated with effective measurement, and build the data streams over time that break the cycle of insanity.  Ironic though that companies building competitive advantage on deployment of strategic resources so often see performance measurement and continuous improvement as an expense.  Fortunately, done well, the value of measurement always exceeds cost.

And finally, the power of perception.  The quality of our measurement matters little compared to the perception of the quality.  We can inspire an organization to action with bad measurement if we package it well enough.  Obviously, that's not our goal.  But the inverse trips up more measurement projects than I can begin to remember - even GREAT measurement technique is worthless unless we get people bought into the process long BEFORE the numbers hit the charts.  There is NO report pretty enough and there are NO facts compelling enough to move a seasoned executive off their experientially-derived position IF they don't WANT to be moved.  Our job in measurement is to lay the groundwork for them to be willing to move.  Otherwise, we're teaching pigs to sing - which just wastes our time and tends to annoy the pigs.

So taken together, this experience can be described in this simple formula.  Plug in your numbers and see how well positioned you are to succeed.

5 comments about "A Simple Formula For Success".
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  1. Sheridan Sands from Initiative, February 16, 2011 at 10:09 a.m.

    Enjoyed reading this piece....

  2. Howard Zoss from Zig Marketing, February 16, 2011 at 10:10 a.m.

    useless .. how about understanding metrics clients need ... engagement measures of time spent or key interaction scoring done on a cost per interaction-to-media metric or CPA for ecommerce or CPM on social media engagements to calculate a true ROI for social or CPA for a mobile commerce or text database acquisition or mobile coupon ROI payout or a hundred others measurements that can be used to optimize media in real time and deliver REAL value ... not perceived value. The problem I am seeing with MediaPost is that the experts don't know digital metrics or consumer behavior. Real problem

  3. George Goldstone from Tribal Cloud, February 16, 2011 at 10:12 a.m.

    I like the formula. Now turn it into a SuccessGrader app and have it calculate it for you automatically :-)

  4. Michael Wolfe from BBDO, February 16, 2011 at 10:43 a.m.

    The problem with metrics in general and a lot of the talk on here in particular is that everybody is looking for the uber report-card rather than using the metrics to uncover opportunities for doing better things.

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 16, 2011 at 11:22 a.m.

    You are so right. Some things just cannot be accurately measured. A lot of people have made a lot of sales living with this malady and survived very well. Many useless hours spent that could be reassigned to design a better campaign to sell more stuff. We can all still live well.

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