With twenty five years of energy and sustainability consulting under my belt, I still struggle with this one - and I haven't met any consultant who doesn't. So here are a few thoughts and, as always, I'd welcome any feedback or insights.
Have you ever heard the saying “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”? If you don’t keep records of what you’re spending and when, you never know how much money is in your account. Obvious and boring, I know. And, as we all know, a business generally accounts for all its incomings and outgoings with a high degree of accuracy. And part of that accounting is the marketing budget, which may be broken down into a bunch of separate activities: trade shows, seminars, website, entertaining, and the like. But, in my experience, that’s almost always where it stops. No one takes the time to assess what the $4,562 spent on trade show attendance led to in terms of benefit.
Half the problem lies in defining what the benefit is. There’s certainly benefit in being present at a trade show; it gets your company name out there, reinforces that you’re a player in the market, reminds people that you’re providing services in that sector, and so on. All those things are good, but they’re intangible. If that’s the extent of it, you can’t put a value on it. On the other hand, if Mr. X came up to you at the event and ended up engaging you for a project, that’s a direct benefit you can assign to your attendance at that show.
So let’s accept that you can’t quantify everything. That doesn’t mean that trying to measure it is a waste of time. And quantifying your time is easy.
So the first step has to be keeping track of what you spend and the time you commit to marketing efforts. And tracking any direct benefits you can assign to your efforts. If you met someone at a seminar you presented at, and it led to a project, going to that seminar was certainly worthwhile. You can assign value to that, and you will probably decide to attend the next seminar of that type. If you made ten potentially useful contacts then that likely has value; it's not directly tangible but it's definitely a benefit.
If you’ve attended a trade show three years in succession and never got any work or useful contacts that you can directly assign to that effort, perhaps you need to evaluate whether it’s worth going in year four. As we all know, probably too well, not all marketing activities will bear fruit. Hence the need for some form of evaluation.
This sort of ongoing analysis tells you, to some degree, whether or not your time and money committed has been worthwhile. As a result, it gives you input as to whether to change your marketing package or stick with the current plan. But it doesn’t tell you whether it’s enough - or too much.
It’s certainly possible to spend too much time and money on marketing. It’s also easy to commit too little to it and suffer as a result. The only way you know whether or not it’s enough is to continually assess and review your business—something that you’re probably doing anyway. If you’re happy with the way things are going overall, if you have enough work and enough in the pipeline, then chances are that your marketing mix is working well for you. Congratulations! If, unhappily, you’re not in such a joyful position, maybe you aren’t doing enough on the marketing front. Or perhaps what you’re doing is yielding little benefit. Either way, you need to change it up.
One final point - I don’t think anyone gets their marketing strategy completely right. And if they do, they aren’t aware of it, because much of it is very difficult to measure. Also, things are changing all the time. Think of the rise of social media and its effect on marketing in the last ten years. Where will we be in another ten?
As a highly experienced energy and sustainability consultant, engineer, speaker and author of “Consulting Made Easy” and "Writing Proposals That Sell!". Adrian assists consultants, or would be consultants, to achieve success on their terms in their own consulting businesses. He is the creator and presenter of the Consulting Expertise Masterclass webinar series and the Consulting Strategy Blueprint.
Contact Adrian at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more or to set up a complimentary Business Scoping consultation to help you transform your business.
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