Traditional marketing is broken. The cycle of creating a campaign, figuring out how much money you can throw at it, then using vaunted, unverified, and irrelevant metrics to show how well you did doesn’t work anymore. Much like Don Draper, traditional marketing has become a victim of its own hubris, and there’s no “teach the world to sing” Coke commercial epiphany as the scene fades to black. Before you drown out your sorrows like Don, you may want to check your workplace policy on bourbon before lunch…

As a veteran marketer and avid fan of Mad Men, I admired the panache of Don Draper and his ability to deliver the perfect pitch. The storyboards, the ads, and the campaigns are all perfectly designed to convey a controlled message to an open, receptive audience. If you drank enough of the marketing Kool-Aid and attended the marketing unicorn BBQ, the only hindrance to greater success was that the evil financial overlords weren’t allowing you to spend more to reach more people.

In the end, the reason we as marketers have always thought we were successful, is because we’ve been fooling ourselves. We provided detailed reports of how many eyeballs were exposed to our advertising efforts. We believed that each copy of that newspaper or magazine traded hands 18.5 times and that the number of impressions that tweet got was a real number (in case you don’t know…it isn’t). Today, after decades of the C-suite saying they love marketing but they can’t ever understand the value or impact, they’re finally saying, “prove it.”

Marketers are competing for two things – consumers’ trust, and attention. When you look at the traditional methods of social media marketing, the stark reality is:

  • 88% of the people who like you on Facebook will never return to your actual Facebook page
  • Only 1% of those under 35 say a compelling ad will sway their trust in a brand
  • You can’t place “Likes” on a balance sheet
  • Most social marketing software uses inferred data

So if you’re still with me to this point, and wondering what does matter and how to measure success in today’s (and tomorrow’s) marketing world…here’s how:

  • Engagement: If you’re competing for trust and attention, engagement means at least you’re getting their attention. But what is considered true engagement? Think of it in human terms – what does being engaged in the conversation mean? It doesn’t mean just pushing the like button or following somebody. It means talking about your brand or engaging in the conversation – sharing content, mentioning your brand, something that says to their friends on social media “hey, I’m talking about this or doing this and wanted you to know.”
  • Conversion: This is where marketers can prove actual business impact. This can be in the form of earned media, list subscription, or actual sales, but it must be something proving that followers actually did more than simply like your post. That they didn’t just look at your social post and press the like button – but didn’t actually read it, didn’t share it with friends, didn’t sign up for your email newsletter, didn’t download a coupon, didn’t visit the store, didn’t buy anything. As much as “growth hacking” can have a variety of connotations, the core of it is simple – a melding of sales and marketing that focuses on constantly testing, measuring and driving results.
  • Loyalty/Customer Experience: This is your chance to provide the right customer experience that encompasses what drives both loyalty and advocacy. Many are starting to wrap their head around “flipping the sales funnel” and knowing that if you find the right customers, give them the best experience and nurture those relationships, they’ll tell other people about it. Those people become advocates and you can harness their enthusiasm for your brand and it will make an impact on both loyalty and new customers coming to you from word-of-mouth. All of which can be measured.

So put down that bourbon, embrace the end of “Mad Men Metrics,” and focus on taking the necessary steps to ensuring your business, your job, and your results are sustainable for a long and prosperous future.