“Half of all my advertising is wasted. I just don't know which half!” Many of you may think this statement is no longer true or relevant, citing obvious examples of how and why we are now able to track exactly which of our advertising efforts are effective and which are not, particularly on the Internet.

With metrics such as impressions, click-throughs, page views and call-to-action conversion rates, this question appears all but moot. Yet, on further examination, we see just how easy it is to massage the metrics and skew results, throwing our ad-savvy self-confidence into a tailspin.

Do you base your conversion rate percentage on the number of people visiting your site versus the actual number who purchase or opt in? Or do you measure conversion based on the number of site visitors who visited a specific order page and placed an order? The difference between the two is often significant and can wreak havoc on your planning. This issue's dilemma asks: With Internet technology at our fingertips, are we any closer to knowing which of our advertising is effective and which is not?

Think advertising is dead and not worth an opinion? Let us know what keeps you up at night. What dilemma do you take with you when you leave the office? Your peers would love to help. Write to us and ask our SWOT Team about your dilemma. Tap into the collective strength, wisdom and experience of this group. It works, and you could win a free copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

Revisit our previous dilemma—read below for your peers' best advice on moving from knowledge to action and “getting it done” in 2004.

Unite and make a difference!

This Issue's Dilemma

SWOT Category: Internal Weakness

Confused about calculating conversion rates

We are a micro-business that sells information products entirely online. We rely on both search engine optimization and search engine marketing to attract visitors to our site. I originally began tracking and calculating conversion rates based on the total number of visitors to our site who made a purchase on the first visit.

After three months, I realize that many of our site visitors convert on a second or third visit, and seem to be interested in two or three other pages on our site that provide free information, but do not require a specific action. There seems to be so many variables to consider, and I want to have a clear measure of effectiveness before making changes to my budget or the overall campaign.

Can the SWOT Team provide tips on what to track in order to measure the effectiveness of my current site?

—Anonymous, Business Owner

Previous Dilemma

SWOT Category: Internal Weakness

My New Year's corporate resolution is “don't just do it, get it done!”

Perhaps other readers can identify with the countless hours spent in meetings, assessing mounds of data and research, and teaming up with colleagues and managers from different departments in person or through an Intranet to share knowledge, develop strategies and plan projects and tactics for meeting our objectives.

My dilemma is that too often these projects lead nowhere, and we just spend more time meeting and planning what we are going to do, while less and less gets done. My resolution for this year is to set smaller actionable goals that we can initiate, complete and measure within a manageable time frame.

How can I motivate my team and myself to break free from the analysis paralysis cycle and get more done? Can other readers share examples of what worked for them?

—Angela M., Specialty Products Manager

Summary of Advice Received

Angela, we applaud your efforts for tackling your “get it done” list this year. It's understandable that the more senior your position, the more active you are in planning and strategy sessions. Finding the time to plan and assess the forest, while also allocating time to check out what's happening with the trees, can leave us all stumped.

Your peers share your frustrations and experiences and offer the following best advice for getting more done in 2004:

1. Determine what motivates team members.

2. Break big goals down into smaller chunks.

3. Define what success looks like.

4. Use specific methods to streamline the process.

5. Reward achievements along the way.

1. Determine what motivates team members

We take it for granted that everyone is motivated by the same things, in the same way. An anonymous SWOT Team member sheds light on the “science” of achievement, letting us know that your motivation approach needs to be customized for the different members of your group:

Through my research on NLP (neural-linguistic programming), I have learned that people generally fall into two primary categories when it comes to motivation—away from and toward. We use both at different times, but are usually more oriented to one than the other. Individuals with an “away from” orientation are motivated more by fear and the avoidance of pain or loss. Alternatively, people who possess a stronger “toward” motivation are inspired by the rewards and success itself.

Work with your team members to understand their motivation orientations. By simply observing the language that different individuals use, you'll get a sense of your own orientation and those of your team members. When you ask someone with an away from motivation what achieving a specific goal will mean to him or her, s/he may say things like, “I'll be able to keep my job” or “‘I won't let the team down.”' Whereas an individual with a toward motivation, when asked the same question, will cite motivations like wanting to exceed last year's results, win an award, or experience the pleasure that comes from hitting the target. Remember everyone uses both at some time or another, and both can be effective. Therefore, when you plan your action items, be sure to take these motivations into consideration while discussing possible strategies with your peers.

2. Break big goals down into smaller chunks

It is easy to lose motivation and focus on goals that are set too far in the future. Shorter-term goals will keep team members motivated and moving forward.

Bob, Chief Coach of Falling Blossoms, had this to say:

Deliver your projects in small, discrete chunks; evolve solutions rather than looking for one big-bang solution—early and repeated success motivates like nothing else. Borrow some of the key principles from the Agile Methods movement in software development—stress individuals and interactions over processes and tools, results-in-action over comprehensive analysis, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, responding to change over following a plan.

An anonymous marketing specialist recommends:

Take just one objective. Set a SLAM Target—Specific, Limited, Achievable and Measurable—against it for all to see. Agree to it, and just go for it. The information you have supplied suggests a number of failures in the past, due to too much fear of not getting it right. I suggest “feel the fear,” and do it anyway. It got me some very profitable accounts and much respect, even if I was not always 100% successful. Success breeds success. Good luck.

Another anonymous SWOT Team member suggests that you “give the team short-term goals with quantitative indicators to be revised twice yearly at the most. Conduct performance meetings once a month to review progress.”

3. Define what success looks like

This goes back to the previous point of setting short-term milestones. With ongoing projects, it can be easy to focus on the tangible end goal while overlooking the importance of the team's day-to-day efforts.

An anonymous marketing manager makes this defining point:

At a management level, much of the day-to-day tasks leading up to the big goal are intangible. Your team members may have no way to know if their day-to-day behavior is leading them closer to the goal. Without a clear and advance definition of what success looks like each step of the way, your team can easily become unmotivated. By defining and meeting incremental successes, team members balance challenges and rewards, and keep the project's momentum going.

4. Use specific methods to streamline the process

Breaking goals down into actionable steps requires a methodology and system for success. Working back from the end goal to the most immediate step your team needs to take, will not only help streamline your goal achievement, but will illuminate tasks or areas that may be otherwise overlooked and cause derailments in the future.

Phil Cernanec, Financial Advisor with American Express Financial Advisors, offers these guidelines:

Your resolve for this year, to set “smaller actionable goals,” is a great step. A constructive approach is to decompose the steps required to achieve the “larger goals” into incremental actions steps. For example, a simple decomposition of client acquisition might be:

  1. development of leads, 
  2. contact, 
  3. appointments set, 
  4. initial interviews, 
  5. client agreement, 
  6. analysis/quantification/recommendations, 
  7. implementation, 
  8. delivery, 
  9. service, etc.

Next—focus on the activities that drive the desired results, with the greatest focus on the key drivers. Monitor results at pre-determined intervals to prevent significant deterioration and to tweak activities.

For example, your focus might be on client acquisition, with an overall objective of increasing income/margin contribution. Over the short term, your focus would be on developing and gaining “good clients,” without “over analysis” on margin/revenue per client. Conduct a quarterly analysis to check the margin/revenue per client and to ensure there is no “significant deterioration.” By decomposing to an agreed objective, each department/person can then focus on their contribution to that measurable result IN THE NEAR TERM. Of course, there needs to be some matching to the clients' objectives/values/goals/etc.

5. Reward achievements along the way

We can become so focused on the end goal and bottom line results that we don't stop to acknowledge and reward our interim achievements.

Sharon, a Software Project Manager, recommends this:

Ensure that each milestone is documented and has a clearly stated reward for being met. Be sure a system is in place to follow through, and rewards are given promptly as milestones are achieved. We are never too old or too senior to enjoy the pleasure of our achievements and give ourselves a pat on the back.

Way to get it done, SWOT Team—thanks again!

We did our best to provide a thorough overview of your responses to this timely topic. All of the advice we received was insightful. Thanks for your participation. We appreciate it!

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Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.

Yvonne is a “customer engagement coach” and President of EVE Consulting, helping companies achieve sustainable market leadership through the power of customer engagement.