One of the most important aspects of any business model is marketing. Through this arm, we reach out to engage and win over a portion of the audience we are playing to. And while there are any number of tried and true approaches that one can use to build their marketing gameplan, finding the right blend of elements to give you the greatest ROI takes a much more calculated approach.

It’s not always a sure thing that users will actually tell us what they like about our service and what they don’t, so when we are having to measure the effectiveness of something like our marketing plan, it’s not always easy. For your average business, this is not an issue at all. They hire someone to specifically monitor and report on the effectiveness of all of their marketing endeavors. But for freelancers and small businesses, it’s not that simple.

Without having the necessary budgets in place to go outside for help in this, we (as per usual) have to tackle it on our own. Which, depending on how in depth you are looking to go, can be tricky to sort out. For the most part, we need to know where to go and what to look for. Hopefully this post can come in handy in that respect.

Which Metrics to Monitor

As I mentioned, this process really is an exercise of personal preference with regards to how you want to come at it and what you want to measure. Are you looking at the overall effectiveness of your marketing plan? Are you wanting to view how particular elements of that plan are working? Are you looking more at your brand’s market presence and impression? So there is a lot to consider.

Each question is going to have different answers, and they will have to be collected or measured somewhat differently. So right off the bat, you have to know exactly which metrics to monitor, and that is determined by which of the questions you will want to take on first.

Full Marketing Measure

If the first question is the one that called to you, and you want to get an overview of the overall effectiveness of all aspects of your marketing plan then you are going to have to figure a few things out first. In order to get this measured accurately you need a couple calculations you might not have considered. This will call on you to know the full cost of your marketing plan.

You need a complete cost breakdown of everything spent on marketing your brand. From the ads you have bought, down to the people dreaming up and designing those ads. The team in charge of your online presence, and the full cost of your online presence. From hosting to domain registration. You need to know the costs of all printed marketing materials from business cards to mailers. And once again the salaries of those who create and design them.

This is the time to dig deep and really track all of the costs you have that are associated with the many reaching tendrils of your marketing plan. And the reason that I am really driving this point home, is because there are many of us who often forget some of the finer points of the plans once they’ve been active and running on auto-pilot for a time. So we need to step back and really consider the full costs of our marketing endeavors to get this picture clearly painted.

This also includes membership fees for marketing groups we may belong to locally, and other social functions we attend to build our brand around our base of operations. So we have a lot of data to collect and organize in this stage. Because once we have all of those cost points nailed down, we have to arrange them by how frequently those costs are incurred. This allows us to then compare those costs against the ROIs we are looking at. Therein lies how effective it actually is.

Return On Investments

The trickier part of this measure becomes establishing the particular returns we are looking to get from our marketing investments. For instance, when you start trying to figure the ROI on all of your social media networking. Especially with the automated following that runs rampant through the networks, followers do not always translate into customers or potential clients. They do not always equal eyes on our shares or feeds either, so these measures and ventures have to be more about actual interactions than simple numbers.

Just as mass mailers are a bit of a crapshoot, so are their online counterparts. So we have to remember that many of these marketing approaches have different ways of measuring their ROI, and that those returns are not always going to be apparent. This also means that we may to have adjust our expectations with regards to these returns. We cannot reasonably expect every connection we make through some aspect of our marketing plan to yield a noticeable return.

So we have to get realistic about what we expect. If we haven’t already, at this stage, it is critical. Once you have laid out all of these ROIs, you can see and measure the full weight of your marketing plan, and begin to see how effective it is overall. These Marketing ROI Resources will come in handy during this process, so you might want to give them a gander.

The Finer Points

If we start looking at the finer points of our marketing plan, to suss out how particular individual parts are working, then we have to examine them in much the same way discussed in the earlier part of the post. That is why I went into so much detail in the full measure section, because that gives us the lay of land, but also clues us in on how to approach and break-down the individual metrics and measures we are looking to collect.

If you are looking at the social media arm of your marketing plan, we already discussed that you have to measure connections, not just overall numbers. The interactions your brand has is the important part to look at. Yes, you want to know the projected reach (# of followers and such), but the interactions are the more accurate reflection of how your brand is being received. How well your social media engagements are working.

If people are responding to, and sharing your brand’s updates and content, then you get more insight as to how well your social media exploits are working based on the true connections. Though, services like Klout

and so forth, will also help give you something an overview of your true social media reach. Showing you categories that users rate and rank your expertise in gives you insights as to what approaches and tactics are landing with your followers.

There was a post on HubSpot earlier this year that gives some great insights via the marketing metrics cheat sheet they developed. It breaks it down in terms of which metrics matter the most when you are talking to a CEO, but works on a number of levels really. In fact, we have linked to and showed their cheat sheet below.

Overall Online Brand Presence

If it is your overall online brand presence that you are concerned with, then you will not only want to take full stock of how people interact with you via social media, but you will want to scour the web for any mentions of your brand that give an impression or perspective on your business, content, or products. These perceptions of your brand are invaluable at granting insight as to how well our business measures up to our own expectations of our brand.

Once you have decided on the ROIs that you look to yield from your individual marketing approaches versus your entire plan, then you will be able to clearly see how the brand is holding up. One thing to keep in mind with your online presence, it that it does take time to build and become established. This must be factored in when you look to set your expected returns. If you set those expectations too high, and do not allow for the proper amount of time to build your presence properly, you risk giving up on an approach too soon.

So How Does Your Marketing Plan Measure Up?

One of the most important things to keep in mind when you set out to plan your brand’s marketing approach, is to keep your expectations realistic. As with anything in life, if your goals are unrealistic then when you set out to measure your progress, you are always going to be behind. Once you have all of your pieces in place, then you can see how your plan measures up.