Mousetraps and Marketing Metrics

October 11, 2006

It’s that time of year again. Last night I was walking through my basement and I turned on the furnace room light in time to see a mouse scurry away through a crack in the wall. Luckily, I had just reset all of my non-humane, old-school mousetraps with fresh peanut butter over the weekend.

As I was resetting the traps, my thoughts wandered to marketing metrics. (Yes. I am insane.) You see, for one of my clients the past month also marked the beginning of their fiscal year and they have been celebrating with a lot of strategizing and planning.

How does placing mousetraps throughout your home relate to planning your marketing? Easy. As I was dropping off the traps I thought of my “mousetrap results” from the past year. The two mice I caught were from the same trap location (downstairs bathroom next to the shower). In my mousetrap planning this is the equivalent of a marketing campaign that works. All six other traps that I’ve set are essentially unproven as they have yet to yield a result. Did I do anything different? No. I set all of the traps in the exact same location I’ve always set them.

Was this responsible, results-driven planning? If I wanted to make decisions based on actual results I should have set the proven trap next to the shower and tested some new trap locations. But I didn’t and the only reason was because I didn’t bother to consider the results.

Now you may think that these are just mousetraps and marketing planning is a much bigger deal that always gets more careful consideration. Really? Take a step back and look at your current plans? How many of your proven efforts from last year are you repeating? (Your answer should be all of them.) How many of your unproven efforts are scheduled to be repeated this year? (Your answer should be none of them.)

Or, worse yet, are you in the dark on your efforts because you don’t track and measure them. To continue with my mousetrapping metaphor, that would be like setting several trays of poison out and a random dead mouse shows up. Which poison tray (marketing campaign) got the mouse (your results)? You’ll never know. So you also need to take an even bigger step back and make sure you are measuring your efforts. Remember, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. For my money, you can’t beat actionable ads and mousetraps that kill. Both are dependable, measurable, and provide results.

The Point? It’s simple. Make sure you are tracking and measuring every ad, marketing campaign, and promotion you do. Then when it comes time to plan, repeat what really worked, try to fix what kind of worked, and test something new in place of the stuff that failed. Failure isn’t bad. My direct marketing mentor always said you either want a clear success or a clear failure because they give you a result that you can read and take action on. In other words, you know something. So take some time and think through where you “trap your mice and your customers and remember you can improve both if you know where your results are coming from.

P.S. “Try something!” and “Test. Test. Test.” are some of the rules of one of my favorite analytical minds, Dr. Gregory House of Fox’s House M.D. This week one of my favorite business minds, Tom Peters, did a great post with a slide summing up “House-isms” that can be applied to direct marketing and really anything strategically focused. Enjoy.

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.