Haven’t we all looked at another company and thought that they were marketing rock stars? Can’t we all point to a handful of organizations that seem to hit a homerun every time they’re at the plate?

Pondering how to measure marketing success isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s one thing to evaluate your own organization. But it’s another ballgame to look at a company from the outside and be able to tell if their marketing is up to par.

So why does it matter?

Because marketing has its eyes to the future and its ears to the ground, it can be a strong indicator of an organization’s overall business health. If marketing is firing on all cylinders, chances are the business is running full steam ahead. Communities are the same way. When an active community of marketers exists in a particular industry, that industry is likely ahead of the curve.

The Full Story Lies Below the Surface

Before diving in, let’s remember what marketing is all about.

Marketing is listening to the needs of your customers and providing value that meets those needs. It is research. It is asking for feedback. It is building brand value. It is storytelling, lead generation, reputation management, competitive analysis, customer focus, positioning, pricing,  and on and on.

In our world of sabermetrics and big data, it is possible to tell the story of your marketing through numbers. Web conversions, click-through rates, marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, revenue, market share, search engine results pages … these can and should be used to show the health of your marketing. The problem is that you won’t be able to access most of these numbers for anyone but your own company, so unfortunately we have to look elsewhere when examining how well someone else is doing.

These are some of the typical surface-level methods, and each has their own shortcomings:

  1. Looking at sales. If marketing leads to sales, and sales are booming, it must mean that marketing is doing something right. Right?!? Not necessarily. So many factors affect sales; marketing is just one. A great product sometimes sells itself in spite of marketing, not because of it.
  2. Looking at the number of social media followers. Once the favorite way to validate digital marketing tactics, counting followers is now a faux pax and a dangerous path to stroll down. Any digital marketer worth their weight in CTA’s will tell you that your following is only as good as it leads to the bottom line.
  3. Looking at market share. Like sales, successful market share can’t always be attributed directly to marketing. It could be the result of any combination of historical factors.
  4. Looking at industry awards. Receiving awards from your peers in your industry can validate a single campaign or tactic. But industry awards and conference presentations don’t typically reward the long-term health of a marketing team. That doesn’t mean to clear the trophies off of the company mantle, but all awards aren’t created equally.

Don’t Stop With Tactics

Marketers love tactics because they are tangible and measurable. You can see an e-blast, or a landing page, or a direct mail piece. But according to MarketingProfs, marketing is not just about tactics. They make the case that too much focus on tactics can cause us to lose sight or devalue customers, competitive analysis and company capabilities.

Definitions of success that are based on individual campaigns or tactics tend to fall short because they are incomplete. Maybe you have an effective inbound campaign, or your email automation is rockin’ the free world, or your analytics team is second to none. That’s great, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It would be like claiming the Cowboys deserve to win the Super Bowl because of their offensive line, when we all know that they’re now deficient at running back (please come back, DeMarco Murray!).

The People Factor

What if we focus on a different measurement — the people behind the marketing? I refer to your in-house team, your outside resources and your customers. Are they happy? I mean Pharrell Williams, clap-along happy? Again, how can you tell? Here are a few common traits I have observed among happy marketers:

  • They have influence
  • They value personal relationships and build them daily
  • They take calculated risks regularly
  • They highly value creativity and innovation
  • They seek for and create blue oceans
  • They are encouraged to broaden their horizons
  • They do anything they can to break the status quo
  • They keep an eye toward the long term, not just on any single campaign
  • They can explain the ROI of their efforts off the tops of their heads
  • They actively participate in the marketing community and network with their peers
  • Their budget is larger than the industry average
  • Team turnover rate is lower than the industry average
  • Their portion of the company head count is higher than the industry average

What do budget, turnover rate and headcount have to do with it? I don’t believe marketers can be fully successful if their organization doesn’t value what they do, and companies that value marketing invest more in it.


This is an art, not a science, yet I believe we can learn and apply many lessons when we attempt to examine the attributes of successful marketing teams. In doing so, we can collectively raise the bar for an entire industry and take business to the next level.

What about you? What is the greatest factor in determining how successful companies will be at marketing? How can companies improve their marketing?

This article was originally posted on the Health IT Marketing and PR Conference blog.