10 questions you must answer before launching a measurement program

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Before we get into the specifics of measurement, you will need to have at hand some basic information about your organization.

Work through the following 10 questions and do your best to find the answers if you don’t know them already. What’s most important about this exercise is achieving consensus among the people who will be using and/or contributing to the measurement data you will be collecting. Getting everyone on the same page is an absolute necessity before you can begin to implement a measurement program.

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Question #1: What are your objectives?

While it may seem facile and simplistic to actually put this question on the list, I am amazed at the number of people I’ve met with who cannot answer it. Or, even more frequently, they have objectives that are not measurable. You must start with a thorough understanding of your company’s or organization’s business objectives. And if they are not written down somewhere, ask your boss—you might have a very interesting conversation.

I sometimes help my clients through the process by asking them to shut their eyes and imagine that it is the end of the year, and they are celebrating enormous success: Corks are popping, champagne is flowing, and bonus checks are being passed out to everyone. What is it that they are celebrating?

Another way to define your mission is to frame it from the opposite perspective. Suppose your department was wiped out tomorrow, how would the business suffer?

Question #2: Who are your program’s target audience(s)?

This is another question that may be pretty obvious for some companies, but it never hurts to get it in writing. The important thing is to define the audience as specifically as you can. No matter what your business or organization, the answer to this question is not “Anyone with a pulse.” There is always, within any market, a set of customers who are the most profitable, the most valuable. These are the ones you want to target.

Question #3: What is important to your audiences?

Once you’ve defined your audiences, you can go about determining what issues matter most to them: What inspires them? What scares them? What are they most passionate about? Where do they go for information? The closer you get to identifying an audience’s passions, the closer you are to understanding why they are loyal to your company or brand.

Question #4: What motivates them to buy your products?

This is perhaps the most salient question for your measurement program; the answer will determine what you measure. You need to connect your actions with the ultimate purchase decision. If you sell a commodity product and what motivates purchase is price/value, then you need to measure the extent to which this concept is being communicated to your marketplace.

However, if you are selling a service and what motivates purchase is the long-term relationship with the brand and/or the salesperson, then you need to be measuring relationships or brand engagement.

Question #5: What are your key messages?

If you haven’t articulated them yet or don’t know what they are, do research to figure out what messages will resonate most forcefully with your target audience(s). Key messages should reflect what makes people buy your product or services, or what distinguishes you from your competition.

Question #6: Who influences your audience(s)?

Who else influences your target audience and what are the secondary influences on your business? Enumerate all the traditional media, websites, online publications, politicians, nongovernmental organizations, peers, educators, discussion groups, industry gurus, and so forth that your customers take into account when they decide to do business with your company.

Question #7: How do you distribute your product or service?

Through what channels do your customers purchase your products? Which do they prefer? Which does your company find most convenient or profitable?

Question #8: What are you going to do with the information you get from your research?

Never ask a question to which you don’t want to hear the answer. Make sure you can act on all the information you get and can make changes and improve performance as a result. If your report is going to the CEO, you will have 20 seconds or less to get your message across, so your report must make an impact like that of a billboard.

If it is going to marketing, the report should be short, but detailed enough to include brand data as well as corporate data. If it is for market research, you’ll need to provide cross tabs, verbatims, and other supporting data. If it’s for the VP of communications, you’ll want to make sure your results provide a big-picture corporate overview as well as the details as to why certain results are what they are.

Question #9: What other departments or areas will be affected?

Who will be involved in implementing changes as a result of your measurement program? This is one of the most important questions, because without buy-in from all departments to change their behavior or strategies, your measurement program will be a waste of effort. Whoever might have to change as a result of your measurement needs to be involved in the process of designing the measurement program. Without their buy-in, change will not happen.

Question #10: What other measurement programs are currently underway?

What data do you have access to? What metrics are already being collected? You may be able to tailor new measures to complement existing ones. For instance, sales or lead tracking data could be compared to marketing activities and measures.

This is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of “Measure What Matters,” by Katie Delahaye Paine from Wiley Publishers. Read more excerpts at the Measure What Matters blog and order the book from Amazon.

Katie Delahaye Paine is CEO of KDPaine & Partners, and publisher of The Measurement Standard newsletter, in which this article first appeared. The article previously ran in April 2011 on Ragan.com.

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