Tracking programs have been a foundation in the marketing suite for decades, serving as an essential ingredient to assess and scrutinize shifts in brand KPIs and consumer attitudes and behaviors.

By collecting data from a static group of consumers on a regular basis, marketers can track and benchmark everything from brand awareness to customer satisfaction to the effectiveness of an ad campaign.

Such tracking studies were once highly popular with marketers and worth the small fortune they cost to run, so why are they being largely brushed over today? Simple: they need to be modernized—and so do marketers' mindsets.

There are several reasons most current tracking programs fall short:

  • A big one is that brands leave their trackers stagnant—often for years—not accounting for the fact that the attributes they deemed crucial to measure when the program started are wholly irrelevant to their brand today.
  • Another is that trackers gather only quantitative input and don't ask questions to get to the "why." Asking "why" on a regular basis can tell you where your market, competitors, and consumers are going, yet it's seldom done.
  • Tracking programs also remain separate from all other listening and feedback initiatives, such as social media monitoring programs. There are too many fertile consumer inputs at play currently to rely on just one. Even some base-level integration could help brands discover trends and test some theories.
  • And, finally, a glaring problem is that trackers function as assessments, and offer little forward strategic guidance. Marketers need to understand performance, but they also need insights that help them forge a definitive path forward.

Simply stated: tracking as it's currently approached is outdated. And chances are your years of tracking metrics are too.

Following these five tips can help marketers get their programs back on track.

1. Get unstuck: Change five attributes every two years

For many, adjusting the attributes in their trackers is like deleting their files or emails; they fear they'll delete something that they may need down the road. Or, more likely, they worry that their CEO will ask for something they did away with two months earlier.

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Mitch Markel is a partner at Benenson Strategy Group, a strategic research consultancy.

LinkedIn: Mitch Markel