Time to rethink how we measure


What was the most successful company last year? Was it Momo, the Chinese social search and instant messaging company that topped Fortune’s list of the 100 Fastest-Growing Companies last year? Wait, isn’t Walmart is the most successful company? The retail giant grew only 2% last year but ranked first on the Fortune 500 list last year with more than $500 billion in revenue.   

You might consider The Zildjian Company the most successful. The family-owned maker of cymbals, mallets, and drumsticks has hardly grown at all over the last 10 years and has about 1/100th the revenue of the last place company in the Fortune 500. But it\’s the oldest, continuously family run business in the United States, having smoothly weathered depressions, world wars, cultural change, and digital transformation.

Then there’s Edward Lifesciences, number 653 on Fortune’s list, which has seen 10% growth year over year. The 60-year-old company has seen its stock price double in the last couple of years due to its top ranking as an ESG company. ESG (which stands for environmental, social, and governance) is a new method investors use that involves looking at a company’s efforts to be a good citizen along in addition to the standard financial evaluations.

Which is the most successful? Which would you most want to work for?

One of my favorite business thinkers, Eliyahu M. Goldratt, once wrote, “Tell me how you will measure me, and I will tell you how I will behave. If you measure me in an illogical way … do not complain about illogical behavior.” 

People adjust their behavior to the measurements they’re held to – no matter how illogical they may be. One of the most common examples in B2B content marketing is the debate over whether to put content behind a registration gate.  

When I’m asked to help decide, one of my first questions is why they want to gate the content. The inevitable answer is “because we’ll get more leads.” 

But are all the people downloading that content leads? When you’re measured by the number of leads you produce, you’re probably more than willing to redefine the concept of a lead. This flawed behavior sometimes leads to different definitions of a qualified lead for each team (demand gen, marketing, sales). Then teams spend their time debating the adjudication of how each lead matches each team’s qualification. 

The behavior you measure is the behavior you get.  

I believe classical marketing measurement can be made more logical. But what intrigues me is how the concept of marketing measured may be completely rebooted. 

It makes sense that these new measurements will influence the way we market products and services, too. Marketers are on the cusp of new ways to measure that go well beyond the efficiency standard of how much revenue we can drive against how little we can spend to do it.

We have the opportunity to use customer data more responsibly. We can create, acquire, and sponsor content-driven experiences that deepen trust and deliver and a more inspired and educated addressable market. We can evolve marketing into something more important than an efficient engine of revenue.

The action we measure is the action we increase. Maybe it’s time to start looking at new ways to act.

It’s your story. Tell it well. 

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