Strategic Marketing Planning for Printers (Part IV) – Measures

Putting the Plan into Action

George Jetson FrazzledOver the past three weeks, we’ve worked very closely with George Jetson and his team to create a strategic marketing plan for Jetson Printing Company.  If you remember, George left the Spacely Sprockets Company several years ago to start his own business. The printing company did well for several years, but then the market changed and business fell off.  George got so busy keeping things running that there was no time for planning at all. When we found him at the beginning of this series, he was literally stuck on Astro’s treadmill.

George and his team worked hard to put together a realistic and achievable plan.  They brainstormed together and came up with a list of goals.  They prioritized the goals and developed strategy and tactics for each objective that they would undertake.  Then they mapped out a budget and timetable for each of the tactics.  The new year is coming and the Jetson printing team is about to put the plan into action, but there’s still one area that they need to look at – measures.

How do we know if it’s working?

If we could accurately predict the future, we really wouldn’t need a plan, would we?  Planning is by nature predictive; but because our assumptions aren’t always correct, even the best plans need to be adjusted.  The rational approach to adjusting and changing a plan is to analyze effectiveness.  This requires measurement, or metrics in current business jargon.  Specifically, we will need to measure the effectiveness of each tactic we use.  In some cases, this is simple – some of the tactics that George and his team have listed are prerequisites for other actions.  For example, the Jetson Printing Company isn’t currently using a CRM system to track their contact with customers and part of their plan calls for a new system to be installed.  There’s no real measurement required for the installation – it just needs to be done by a certain date. The system itself probably does need to be evaluated after it’s been in place for a few months.  The team will need to discuss the system, how it’s being used, and where changes need to be made.  They’ll make a qualitative evaluation of the system.

Three kinds of measures

tapemeasureThere are lots of different measures, units of measures, measuring systems and devices.  As we put our strategic plan into action, we really only want to look at three kinds of measures:

  1. Qualitative Measures – Evaluations that are primarily observed, but not necessarily based on collected data. Connection to the desired outcome may be conjectural, but is rational.
  2. Inferred Measures – Conclusions are inferred, based on data that is related, but not directly connected to the desired outcome.
  3. Correlative Measures – Conclusions are based on data that can be directly connected to the desired outcome.

We’ve already established the desired outcomes we’re looking for.  These are the goals that we chose and prioritized at the very beginning of the process.  We’ve also briefly discussed Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) and the idea that our evaluation will be based on which tactics are most efficient – where do we get the most bang for the buck.  As we measure, we’ll want to do more of what works and abandon tactics that cost more than the profits that they produce.

There is a school of thought that would discount the value of the first two categories of measurement, and there is some merit to the assertion that quantitative measures that can be directly linked to outcomes are best.  The big business solution is to make all measures quantitative. But there’s a problem.  These kinds of measures can be difficult to track, especially for small businesses.   Marketing automation platforms (Hubspot, Vocus, Marketo) exist that make it possible to directly connect sales transactions (conversions) back to the original means of lead generation.  All well and good, but the cost and time requirements are out of range for a business like Jetson Printing. The good news is that qualitative and inferred measures are relevant, and there’s also a lot that most smaller businesses can do to selectively analyze correlative data.

Qualitative Analysis

We’ve already talked a bit about qualitative measurement.  Small businesses have typically relied on this kind of measurement, occasionally with unfortunate results. To be useful, qualitative analysis has to go beyond personal attachments or habits and answer a few simple questions:

  • Is it working?
  • Can it be fixed?
  • Should it be abandoned?

Qualitative measures can be objective, and the value of this kind of measurement is increased when the analysis is logical and there is agreement with the conclusions.

Inferred Measurement:

Even for the smallest of businesses, there are lots of sources for data that can inform marketing decisions.  One of the best of these, Google Analytics, is absolutely free.  Installed on your website, Analytics provides valuable data about page traffic – where visitors come from and the information that they’re interested in.  If you’re running e-commerce, it is possible to track conversions with Google Analytics.  Even if you’re not, the inferences are valuable.

As an example, one of Jetson Printing’s goals is to add 20 web-to-print customers by the end of the year.  They’ll run a cross channel campaign as a part of the strategy, creating a landing page on their website with specific information about W2P and providing an incentive for customers to make an inquiry.  Google Analytics will allow the team to track traffic on the landing page. If traffic and inquiries are high, the campaign is working.  If traffic is high, but inquiries are low, the team can make an inferred conclusion that either the message or the incentive needs to change.

Other useful data in this category is available from email platforms, which allow you to view open rates and click through information.  By itself, this kind of information may only provide an indication of interest, but there are also possibilities to correlate data with actual sales.

Correlative Analysis

Correlating marketing data with actual sales isn’t out of the question for most businesses, but collecting the information can require some effort.  First, it’s necessary to make some intelligent decisions about the data that you’re going to track.  For example, it’s probably not worthwhile for George and his customer service group to manually catalog every contact with a prospect, but they can certainly look at sales increases for the 20 accounts that sign up for W2P ordering sites next year.

Another possiblity would be to track the origin of each new sales lead and then correlate the sales dollars generated to the original lead source.  Tracking the connection between a marketing campaign for a specific product and revenue generated from sales (in a roughly similar time period) is another example of the kind of correlative analysis that is possible using accounting systems that are already in place at Jetson Printing and most printing companies (Quickbooks or Printsmith, as examples).

Finishing the Plan

The rest of the plan is just filling in the blanks.  As the last step of the plan preparation, George and his team simply add a new column for measures  to each of the goals in the spreadsheet.  Here’s a screenshot of the completed sheet for Goal #3.  If you’d like to look through the completed plan for Jetson Printing, just click on the image or the link:


Winding Up

george and astro2013 is drawing to a close, and I’m hopeful that this series on Strategic Marketing Planning for Printers will spur at least a couple of readers to take a stab at the process,  put together a plan for 2014, and get the treadmill back under control. The process takes a little time, but can be very valuable; both as a method of realistically analyzing your company’s current position and to help set a course for change.

When you’re finished, you’ll have a plan of action that includes goals, strategies, tactics, budgets, timetables and measures.  The format is flexible, because with marketing nothing is set in stone.  Follow the plan, adapt as needed, and make some positive changes in the way your business operates and markets.

Happy planning! Feel free to get in touch if you have a question or if we can be of help.


The Last Part

contactbuttonDP Marketing Services provides marketing services and support for printing companies. Part of our mission is to help our customers plan their marketing program and execute it with consistency. We hope you’ll take a look at our website while you’re here. If you’d like to talk about your business, we’d be most happy to get in touch. The first consultation is absolutely free and there’s no pressure. You can contact Richard Dannenberg by phone at 478-719-4029, by email at, or you can click the button to fill out a contact form here on the website.


Photo attribution: Hanna-Barbera, pilfered from the Internet. Forgiveness asked in lieu of permission