Martin Talks explains how to measure the success of marketing strategies

The insurance business works with hard facts. Marketing on the other hand, with its many subjective aspects, can often be dismissed as just 'creative'. This can then be used as an excuse for not measuring and judging its performance.

But whether you employ an agency to develop a marketing strategy for you or do it yourself in-house, measurement is crucial. How else do you know if what you're doing is working?

How can you tell if you are spending your money in the right way, or simply throwing good after bad? What if your marketing is actually having a negative impact on your business?

Before you start any marketing activity, you need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself why you're undertaking marketing in the first place? What are you hoping to achieve?

Marketing is a business tool and there to support your business objectives. So make sure that the marketing strategy is closely aligned to meeting those objectives. If you appoint a marketing agency, it should be made aware of, and buy into, those objectives.

Setting goals
You must set specific goals, which can be measured, can realistically be achieved, are appropriate to the job in hand and have a clear timescale by which they need to be delivered. This will assist you in setting key performance indicators - a brief checklist of your criteria for success.

Decide from the outset what results need to be delivered for the marketing to be a success. For example, if you want to become the largest travel insurer in the UK, then gaining a high-profile among holidaymakers or an increase in requests for travel insurance information may indicate that your marketing is working well.

If you have the budget, it is really useful to conduct research among your target audience before you start any marketing, to determine their understanding of your offer and your perceived place in the market. This will prove to be a useful benchmark.

If the same piece of research is repeated after a period of marketing activity, any changes should give you a clear indication of the effectiveness of the marketing.

Your performance indicators should be periodically reviewed in light of business and industry developments. Keeping an eye on competitors is a great way to understand what your company should be achieving.

If your business objectives need to change, ' ' your marketing should follow suit. It's also useful to ask other marketing agencies for their views and costs, from time to time - and even to ask them to pitch for certain projects - to make sure that your agency is still competitive, in terms of both cost and effectiveness.

Reviews should involve smaller, specialist agencies as well as bigger names, to give you a broad spectrum of the different ideas and price levels available.

One of the most comprehensive ways to track marketing performance is to develop an online campaign. Nearly everything can be measured online - not only website performance, but marketing performance too.

People's movements around the internet can be tracked, generating statistics that give detailed insight into their behaviour and, in turn, into the effectiveness of your online activity. Extensive information can be collated, such as:

  • Number of people that visit your site for the first time, known as 'unique visitors'
  • Total number of people that visit your website - including those who have visited once and return
  • Number that perform an action - such as making a purchase or registering their details
  • Sites visited previously
  • Search engines used
  • Online adverts viewed and responded to.
  • It is therefore not surprising that online use is such an attractive medium for those interested in accountable marketing.

    All marketing can and should be measured in some way, even if it's not possible to do it as comprehensively as online.

    If, for example, you're promoting a new product and want to know how many people are contacting your company because of that promotion, you can monitor it by setting up a dedicated phone number which can be printed in all marketing material - from printed brochures to ads.

    Public relations campaigns are also measurable. The amount of coverage achieved is one method of judging success.

    Although it is more than just volume, you can also judge the content of that coverage. Is it positive? Does it contain your company's key messages? All these factors contribute to whether a campaign's a success or not.

    Regular review meetings should be put in place with your agency or marketing team, to assess them against the performance indicators, to enable you to identify any problem areas and address them early on.

    Follow-up research can measure progress against the benchmark of perceptions at the start of the marketing activity.

    Marketing needs to be seen to be performing, as well as actually doing so. It is just as important for marketers to report on their progress as it is for other areas of your business.

    The development and adherence to clear processes is another key element on which to measure your marketing team. They should deliver regular reports outlining progress, in a format that is useful and easily digestible.

    In fact, more and more marketing agencies are allowing clients to access activity reports online. Eventually, this sort of open book accountability will become the norm.

    There are many ways that marketing can be measured. No longer can marketers use the excuse that creativity is not a science and so success cannot be proven - they need to deliver and be seen to deliver measurable results.

    And you should make sure they do.

    ' Martin Talks is chief executive of blue barracuda:

    Q: I am responsible for marketing in our medium-sized insurance company. I often find it difficult to get the help and input I need internally as my job isn't core business and therefore my requests are never seen as a priority. How can I make people to take note, for all our benefit?

    A: You need to demonstrate the connection between marketing and customer activity. Set up a meeting where you present to some of the key influencers in your company, who can disseminate your messages internally.

    Show them examples of marketing that you've produced to date and if possible give them examples of where it's had a tangible effect on business. For example, what led to an increased number of telephone inquiries? Or to the number of visitors to your website. Convey that it's a team effort - stress that you need their help to make it happen and also ask them for guidance on where they want marketing support.

    Make this a regular practice, so that marketing becomes ingrained across the company psyche and a joint responsibility.

    Answers to last week's CPD
    Q1. Name three assessment techniques for new recruits other than interviewing.

    A1. Any three from: formal testing, reviewing qualifications, obtaining references, reviewing training records, role-play.

    Q2. What can help to establish how well technical knowledge translates into practical aptitude?

    A2. Either: scenario-based testing or role-play.

    Q3. Name three factors that may unduly influence an interviewer in face-to-face interviews?

    A3. Any three from: manners, accent, tone of voice, eye contact, body language, personal appearance, dress and general deportment.