Measurements & Marketing

“JD Powers is the root of all evil.”

I heard this comment as I was having dinner with a very good friend, a former colleague and superb service manager at a Toyota automotive dealership (I will refer to him as DC for the rest of this article).  DC was unique in that he had previously worked for Toyota as an OEM representative so he was not blinded by only one point of view.  I didn’t immediately know how to respond and as I tried to formulate the words, I finally came up with, “what did they do to give you that feeling?”

DC shared that the surveys created and administered by JD Powers, in an attempt to quantify customer satisfaction and vehicle quality had become tools that in his most recent experience, were being used punitively against dealership employees by leadership teams at dealerships who were trying to gain financial prizes or benefits from the manufacturers for having achieved the pinnacle of customer satisfaction.

Sometimes in our quest to create the campaign that will turn a company around single-handedly, we lose sight of what the true aim of a campaign is and while we measure results, they aren’t necessarily the ones that we need to be monitoring.

Recently I participated in the Google AdWords International Student competition.  Undergraduate and Graduate students competed with a pre-assigned budget of $200.  In AdWords there are two pieces; 1. Brainstorm the key words that you think will be used in a Google search of your business and 2. Create a three-line ad that will be displayed at the top right corner of a search page and be clicked on, leading a potential buyer to your website.  The optimal outcome is to capture a new sale.

As I was writing this article, I went back to all of the reports to try and tell you how successful we had been.  The problem was I couldn’t figure them out!  The reports look just great.  There are maps of the world and things that show you where the views came from, which is very helpful.  I just got lost in the trying to find which key word generated the most response.  I have an email into our team captain who I am hopeful will help me remember how to read them all.  What AdWords did not do, was trigger a conversion in the case we tested.  The business did not receive the phone call or e-mail requesting a call to discuss the service or ask for a bid.

The million dollar or euro question now is, what kept the conversion from happening?  Was it the website, was it the service, does AdWords work better with products than services, what?

This is a real dilemma for all business owners but small ones in particular.  I was grateful it had been “play” money and not real advertising dollars that were being invested.  It was a learning experience.  This was a potentially new channel of advertising but left me feeling a bit empty at the lack of results (no sale, no results in my opinion).

Overwhelming a business owner or department manager with beautiful reports that may take hours or days to create and decipher may not be real helpful.  Keeping the statistics meaningful should be a core focus.  Turning around and then using these types of metrics for performance appraisal purposes needs to be carefully managed.  Often these types of performance metrics are used to award bonuses, base pay, potential for advancement and so on. But what if they are not even the metrics that would be most effective to track?  What if, horror of horrors, employees have discovered  how to manipulate the results to their benefit as my friend DC expressed had been his experience in some cases?

I’m still waiting for the Google report that summarizes why the key words we chose didn’t generate a sale.  In the end that’s what we should be interested in, making the conversion!  Aiming to make sure metrics are aligned with business objectives and not just randomly spending advertising dollars because you are responsible for making sure the Internet channel is covered should be the focus.  I have a cousin at Microsoft who is known to agonize for days with team members over one word on a survey to make sure the right or perhaps it’s really, the metrics being sought after by management, are achieved.  He is crazy busy during the end of year wrap up with executive management calling and quizzing him over and over on metrics because, you guessed it, the big bonuses are tied into the final results.

Bringing Back Focus
Going back to DC’s original comments, perhaps the “root of all evil” is really when we lose focus on our customers and what really effects our profits.

When measurements are not aligned properly with overall objectives, revenue targets, job responsibilities and accountability of the positions, they can become meaningless.

It’s always prudent to measure some tasks and customer perceptions but it’s being able to differentiate and challenge the counter-productive measurements that takes courage and the owner and management team who are willing to take a hard look at what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Link to the original article in Profit Magazine Measurements & Marketing-1

Disclaimer: All insights and opinions are my own and have been formed over many years of practical business and personal experiences; as both an employee and a business owner. They do not represent the views of  my current employer. MM