Take the Guesswork Out of Your Investment in Marketing

Take the Guesswork Out of Your Investment in Marketing

Once upon a time, in a career far, far away, I was once the National Retail Promotions Manager at a large greeting card company. In order to sell a whole lot of greeting cards, we did a whole lot of promoting — coupons, giveaways and sweepstakes aplenty.

I had a counterpart in the field who had similar responsibilities. Like me, he was also strategizing the best way to reach our targets, sometimes flooding retail stores with programs designed to get people to care enough to send (more of) the very best.

A conversation we had regarding our efforts is one I will never forget. I asked him how a particular promotion went. “It seemed like we did pretty well.” The word “seemed” echoed in my head. “Seemed?,” I shot back. “Why don’t we know?” With the tools available to us today, especially online, we shouldn’t be guessing about anything these days. Especially the effectiveness of programs we’re funding.

In my experience, measuring marketing efforts is the most important part of a marketing plan. It’s also often the most overlooked. That’s because a lot of us get caught in the “onto the next thing” trap and fail to look at what worked and what didn’t. Things don’t need to “seem” a particular way anymore.

Seamless Marketing: Yes.
Seemless Marketing: Also yes.

The Importance of Specific Goals for Seamless Marketing

If we don’t really understand what it is we are trying to accomplish and then set up measures to see if we were successful, we’re bound to either fall short or worse, repeat our mistakes.

Understanding what we want to accomplish is the first step to succeeding. A popular approach in marketing, and one I wholeheartedly support, centers around the notion of Seamless Marketing. That is, marketing elements are interconnected and designed to accomplish a common task.

In many organizations, marketing efforts are loosely stitched together and often based on the Idea Du Jour. Effective marketing organizations set goals and rely on multiple tactics to achieve them. That’s Seamless Marketing. Now let’s look at how to make it Seemless, as well.

Let’s say, for example, an organization has a goal to increase adoptions by 10%. On their list of available tools are social media platforms (like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram), banners on popular local sites, banners on the organization website, and links provided through emails and postcards that go out to the adopter base. But we really want to know what works and what doesn’t so we know where to put our efforts in the future.

10% of what? And through what period?

First, let’s start with that 10% increase goal. Hiking results up by 10% sounds pretty good, but we need to break it down in more finite numbers and the timing to go with it. Here’s a tip: when you see a percentage in a goal, ask two questions first: of what and by when.

Setting Specific Goals: An Example

There’s probably a skew towards a particular species occupying the facility, so let’s imagine we want to overemphasize cat adoptions as well as mature dog adoptions to make up the 10% lift. Maybe that means we want to spend 75% of our effort on cats and 25% on mature dogs. We’re expecting a big run on puppies and kittens in the Spring, so let’s make this a first quarter goal.

So we have our first item to check off the list: the objective of our marketing plan is to increase overall adoptions by 10% in the first quarter, with 75% of our budget and effort dedicated to promoting cat adoptions, and 25% to mature dogs. In order to be cost-effective and targeted, we’re going to lean on varied social media, online media and limited direct mail to achieve the goal.

With a clear objective, specific goals assigned by species and the tactics we want to use, it’s time to move into the targeting phase of the program.

Measuring Against Your Goals

In order to meet our adoption goal, we need a variety of tactics. One of them is to build content encouraging readers to visit our website, share an article about adoptable pets, or even better, contact us about adopting a new family member.

To do this, we construct a tracker, outlining all of the content being shared, where it’s being shared, and with whom (target audiences). There’s also an open column ready to populate with results from our first quarter adoption campaign. We’re looking for statistics on activity: who’s reading, who’s sharing and ultimately, who’s adopting.

Links to our “available for adoption” sections and activated adoptions are the ultimate prize, but we are also looking for open rates (who’s reading) and shares (who’s passing it along to their friends or better yet, posting to their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media accounts).

We should track all of our efforts, including any advertising online or in print, and any direct mail sent, and ask people when we can what exactly brought them to the shelter. By asking for this information, we can correctly attribute the marketing efforts that paid off. Often, it will be a combination of things — people sometimes need a few reminders to get them to take action.

You should be seeing a pattern here: Focus on the goal, build the vehicles to deliver on it, and design measurements to ensure it’s working.

Target Medium Traffic Goal Traffic Generated Adoption Goal Adoption Actual
Currently have cat(s)
 Interested in cat(s)
Currently have dog(s)
 Interested in dog(s)

Learning From Experience

In this perfect campaign, we started with a set of well-defined, realistic goals, and then measured what worked and what was less successful in promoting adoptable pets. We closed this circle by attributing adoptions to the specific marketing activities that brought adopters to our shelter.

Our fictional organization considered what it meant to be successful and they put tools in place to understand what was working and what wasn’t. They achieved their goals and adopted more pets. You can, too.

And we’ll all live happily ever after.


Tom Tholen

Tom Tholen is SAWA's Senior Vice President of Marketing & Development. The SAWA member has served as President of Companion Channel, a cloud-based digital screen media service that streamed into partner shelters. Tom is perhaps best known in the animal welfare industry as the former President & Chief Marketing Officer for Callahan Creek, which was the agency of record for Hill’s in the early days of their shelter program. Over the years, he has worked for several agencies, as well as major corporations including Hallmark, Sprint and General Electric. A Colorado native, Tom received his BS in Journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and he lives with his family in the Kansas City area.


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