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Over the past few weeks, I've had recurring conversations with marketers from several companies. One afternoon, a marketer from a well-known global manufacturing company in the transportation industry called and wanted to talk about measuring her campaigns. She was asked by the company's leadership team to start reporting on some metrics, and she wanted me to give her a list of metrics she should use.

I told her that although some general metrics exist, I could, perhaps, help her identify the right few if she could answer a couple of questions for me.

My first question was "what is the specific outcome each of these campaigns is expected to produce?" followed by "what performance targets are being set for these campaigns related to these outcomes?" What followed was an extremely long period of silence. I began to think I had lost the phone connection, so I asked, "Are you there?"

She said yes, and then told me that the campaigns served a general purpose of raising awareness and had no performance targets. She added that each campaign runs in its respective region and said she guessed that the regional directors wanted the campaigns to generate inquiries... but she wasn't exactly sure.

I won't bore you with the details of the rest of the conversation. What I will tell you is that I have had a version of this conversation several times over the past few weeks. Each time, I seem to be asking the same types of questions about which business needles the campaign is expected to move and how far.

The point I attempt to make in these conversations is the same: If you don't know what you're aiming at, how can you measure whether you hit it?

Just as a pilot works through a preflight check list before departure, every marketer should follow three steps when developing and executing a marketing campaign:

  1. Quantify what you're aiming at.
  2. Pre-set your performance target.
  3. Plan how to measure your results.

Let's briefly explore each step.

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image of Laura Patterson

Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.

Twitter: @LauraVEM