Most organizations out there have a really hard time measuring the majority of their KPIs.
Their marketing approach is flat, measuring solely money in, money out.
Those that keep evolving and strive to bring excellence at work act in several different ways (also contingent on industry or business size, but here’s what usually happens).
Smaller self-funded firms are chaotic and often “hope for the best”. The smarter ones take smaller steps, speak frequently with their customers, attend industry events and form their decision-making process as a mix of all incoming opinions.
They usually know of at least one or two channels that work. This limits the number of distractions, allowing them to focus on refining their strategy and measuring results across a network or two.
This may be deceiving and outright dangerous, let alone inefficient. But some assumptions can be made for certain industries. For instance, it’s common knowledge that many B2C products sell well on Facebook or Instagram while B2B solutions often utilize LinkedIn.
Smaller firms may be creative at times, spend a lot of time in marketing groups and communities or speak to their marketing circles. This may be a differentiator for many.
Funded startups also leverage one or two channels at first. That said, rapidly growing ones can afford to go “omni-channel” and heavily invest in brand building.
ROI is also not a top of mind. Some well-known funded companies have been around for over a decade without generating a positive net profit. In a growth environment, acquiring customer base ASAP is the number one goal. Future monetization or exploring other business models comes second.
This may include some bold experiments like working with a network of influencers, branding complete events, hiring top marketers and growth strategists or mixing in different marketing/advertising flavors.
Growing companies have been around for a few years. They’ve tested a few channels and figured out what works (for the most part).
Their scaling strategy depends on their previous experiments. Having loads of data (even at low ad budgets) reveals some average numbers – cost per click/conversion, the lifetime value of a customer, average costs for demand/lead generation, churn rates, etc.
They have full-time marketers on board who know the right industry averages.
Some try to do competitive research in different forms — measuring PPC costs for their competitors, using online tools that give some ballparks or even hire marketers from other companies in the field. Enriching the data set allows for a more refined decision-making process.
Top brands are an odd mix between funded startups and growing companies.
They have the brand value in place and a decent revenue to invest in. Generating 8 or 9 figures turns the marketing play into a long-term venture.
- 6-figure businesses plan for the coming weeks
- 7-figure businesses invest for 6–24 months ahead
- 8-figure businesses plan for 3–10 years ahead
The Effectiveness of Brand Recognition
Brand recognition is a key metric. Having acquired a good portion of the market, it’s all about expanding this market and stealing some of the customer bases from their top competitors.
Measuring the effectiveness of this process is much more complicated. This involves external and tangible factors such as:
- Annual revenue (it’s a given)
- Market share (compared to their competitors)
- Net Promoter Score or other forms of evaluation
- Customer success rates
- Retention of top talent within the organization
- Ease of hiring new talent
- The longevity of their customer base
- Complex combinations of revenue, market share, brand recognition, size of the market, innovative advancement compared to the rest of the market
It’s rarely a direct play with a simple funnel tracking a direct visit to a sale.
When it comes to marketing new products, it’s rarely direct advertising too. Smart companies employ cross-promotion, utilizing their brand accumulated through other products, and assumptions based on their success with existing products.
Examining The Branding and Advertising Initiatives of Top Brands
Honesty is often “in the eye of the beholder”. There are various compilations discussing possible branding revamps based on common conceptions and mockery toward various brands – you can find some of the popular ones in this thread:
Generally, I would classify the popular brands into two separate categories based on the type of advertising and the product category:
- Decent businesses that are generally helpful but fail every now and then
- Brands that sell products that may generally harm the humankind in the long run
The first category is often service businesses or products that are overall healthy, motivate consumers to engage in sports activities, and the like. That also includes car brands, airlines, digital businesses, various means of communication or transportation which people use on a regular basis.
Let’s review a couple of examples.
LinkedIn is often criticized given it’s poor communication element. Notifications are far from perfect, their feed is chaotic, HRs add each and every prospect that could help them land a deal. Groups are often used for spammy content and don’t spark helpful conversations.
Based on a recent research, LinkedIn reports over 500 million users and somewhere between 220M and 260M monthly active users. They list more than 10 million active job posts as well.
Despite of the common backlash toward LinkedIn, it’s still the most active business social network out there. It provides opportunities for tens of millions of employees interested in new job offers. There are various ways to leverage the network for prospecting (thanks to their Sales Navigator), advertising, business networking.
It can probably work better for a larger percentage of the users but it also comes with a certain set of processes that can generate better results. The fact that some users are frustrated doesn’t make the network horrible – and there aren’t plenty of viable alternatives generating better results right now.
IKEA is known to cause frustration when assembling furniture at home. But each and every attempt of mine assembling anything else purchased by a competitor leads in several extra hours of hard work, sweating, and a ton of profanity.
There’s the popular joke that job interviews in IKEA start with one of their packages for a brand new chair that the applicant has to assemble before starting the interview. While being funny, the affordability and ease of assembly (as compared to many competitors) are hard to argue with.
Overall, that category includes businesses with large communities that strive for the even better customer service or further simplification. They are not necessarily justified. Alternatives are available but their results are often worse when looking at the bigger picture.
Brands You Can Often Avoid
This category includes “win a lottery” businesses, soft drinks, candies, or other guilty pleasures that hundreds of millions of people purchase several times a month.
Due to various government regulations, brands rarely risk with false misinformation or they get hit with numerous fines and following lawsuits.
Some of those ads are a bit extreme. Providing 100% chicken in fast food is hard to grasp – or fresh vegetables for their salads bought from a farmers’ market. Those are the ones I’d be careful with.
Other than that, the thing with this category and their promotion is less of a deception and more about personal preferences.
Sure, Toblerone is a chocolate bar brand available worldwide. It’s indeed available in all airports I’ve been to. There are often fancy packages suitable for gifts when flying back home or various local variations that are not necessarily available to all markets.
That doesn’t make the standard advertisement incorrect or dishonest. On top of that, one would argue the healthy benefits of the chocolate bar – and those come with a “quantity cap” as well. Sharing a bar once a month could be a great family activity. Eating a couple “two-feet” large ones a day is not going to support your healthy diet for sure.
I have to admit that I’m in the “Coca Cola” camp even though I have vastly limited the amount of intake over the past couple of years. Whenever a restaurant serves the PepsiCo variety of beverages, I usually go for a bottle of water or a coffee.
But some of my friends are truly Pepsi fans. They would grab a snack from a place that also sells Pepsi rather than picking a better meal packaged with Coke.
Pepsi Cola’s global market share is behind Coke’s but they have a large following in certain countries around the world. While cola’s taste is complying with the same secret recipe, the taste of the local water may affect the taste a lot. When traveling, you can distinctively identify different tastes in Pepsi or Coca Cola produced in different countries.
Not to mention that PepsiCo owns 22 billion-dollar brands in its portfolio (often in food markets and not solely beverages).
Overall, brand perception and advertising is not necessarily incorrect or deceiving. Customers are often told a story that resembles the core business goals and direction.
Some brands can be better and could do a better job as a corporation. Other brands like soft drinks are trying to enter the healthy market due to the global concerns and reports from the World Health Organization blaming soft drinks for sugar and other ingredients.
Nobody is forcing people to eat a breakfast in McDonalds along with a Coke or Pepsi and grab a Toblerone on their way out. But affordability, fast delivery, and taste are often leading factors before the lunch break or on the way back home.
With time, brands may become more cautious regarding the long-term health impact and create new, healthier categories as well. Existing healthy solutions may become more affordable as well and tastier (often a problem with different healthy drinks and meals). Then advertising would definitely be challenging and may lead to misconceptions and misinformation.
The Bottom Line
Both sales and marketing are needed for a successful growing business. Even the Inbound marketing methodology defines the term “smarketing” – the productive cooperation and collaboration between sales and marketing people.
What you need to discuss with your marketing agency are key KPIs. While you may not be familiar with many of them, it’s important to come up with some realistic goals that are negotiated with the agency.
Increasing traffic and sales may be among the obvious KPIs but they may depend on increasing SEO which is about building additional content, having more social media followers, and landing some guest post opportunities with backlinks. Sure, there are several other ways to position your products on the market but KPIs and some time frames are necessary in order to justify your investments in several marketing initiatives by your company or through a marketing agency.
What are some of your most pressing marketing challenges? Check out my digital marketing guide and let me know how I can help.