Will anyone miss you if you’re gone?

Heavy thought right? Sure, when it pertains to someone being on the earth and then no longer being with us. But I’m not writing about life or death here; I’m writing about something all of us in the marketing sphere understand – measurement and metrics.

The way we communicate has changed dramatically since I started my career three decades ago but the need to measure our impact has been a constant. It’s how we demonstrate our success and legitimize our often-misunderstood profession. In my first job, I arrived at the office bright and early to read the newspapers and clip stories that were either about my organization or related to it in some way. When I got my first agency job, advertising value was all the rage as if somehow we believed we could improve our reputation by aligning with a field that had only slightly more respect. In those days, I would use a ruler to measure the length and width of an article and then look through the huge Canadian Advertising Rates & Data book (CARD) to find out what the same amount of space would be worth in advertising dollars and proudly tell my clients that their small, unassuming article in Macleans was actually worth $10,000.

Thankfully, advertising value was a passing fad and over the next decade, as budgets tightened, I worked harder and harder to show clients a return on their investment. One large packaged goods client had us follow a particularly stringent formula which measured the dollar cost of every single consumer interaction so we had to record not only how many impressions each article garnered but also the “cost per thousand eyeballs” of each piece of media coverage. I suppose it was actually the cost per 500 eyeballs if you consider that most people read with both eyes open but I didn’t quibble.

And finally today, as more of our output is in the form of branded content  we struggle to quantify the value of a tweet, repost, share or link-back. Somebody liked what we said. Now, how do we measure that? The quest for meaningful measurement continues but this week I came across a quote from Seth Godin, marketer extraordinaire, which clarified the whole debate in one sentence:

“the only measurement that matters is, will they miss you when you’re gone”

In keeping with his no-bullshit style, he’s taken something complex and boiled it down to one succinct question and you may be thinking that it’s oversimplified and that no boss or client is going to be satisfied if you put this in your plan under the Measurement heading and you would be right.

But think about it as you plan your next campaign, write your next blog post, curate next week’s Tweet Chat. If you shut down today, took a break from posting, abandoned your newsletter or stopped making weekly videos, would anyone miss what you have to offer? If your organization stopped manufacturing products, providing services or sharing information, would it be missed or would your “audience” simply go elsewhere for products and services that are similar enough that they wouldn’t really notice a difference?

In closing, I want to say that sometimes it doesn’t matter. I’ve been sharing my views in this blog for a few years now and though people have told me that they enjoy it, it doesn’t mean they’ll miss it if it disappears. In fact, in the times where I’ve gone a couple of months between posts, no one has emailed me to complain. But that’s okay. It’s voluntary, I love it and it’s the one area of my role as a professional writer where no one gets to edit my work.

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