How to tell if your marketing is really working

Marketing is a complicated task. Many companies without a full marketing department will try one-off or on-a-whim tactics without having any sense of strategy or way to track their results. Even if they get lucky, they’re left without inside knowledge of what worked or how to replicate that success in the future. The result of this haphazard approach can be a very costly and ineffective marketing stab in the dark. Fortunately, there’s a fix. Simply measuring the effectiveness of your efforts through strategy, KPIs, and benchmarks will help guide your marketing success moving forward.

The elements of assessment

Checking in on the effectiveness of your marketing is no different from any other type of assessment: you need to define your goal, decide what variables indicate nearing that goal, and establish your starting point. Then you can go forth and test the waters, armed with the tools you need to measure your efforts. Let’s take a closer look at this process through a marketing lens.

Define your goal

Before you spend any time or money on any marketing tactic, it makes a lot of sense to look at why you’re choosing to do it. For example, you might be doing a social media campaign in order to increase awareness of your brand and to engage with customers. This simple statement not only defines your goals, to increase brand awareness and customer engagement, but it ties the tactic to the desired results. This kind of basic goal setting should be done first.  

Choose your key performance indicators

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are measurable variables that offer you insight about how well your strategy or tactic is performing. This concept is simple but it can be tricky to choose the right KPIs.

Try to choose two to three different measures of success, indicators that relate directly to your business goals and provide insight into how your efforts are working. The best KPIs can show a change in performance; this will give you insight on how to proceed.

Here are some commonly tracked performance indicators:

How well do your potential customers know your brand? How much is your brand associated with your product or service offerings? These are variables that relate to awareness, and can be tracked by measuring reach, mentions, and search data.

How interested are potential customers in your offerings? Interest can be measured by looking at the number of inquiries into your product: click-through rates on tactics like online advertising and email marketing, the growth of your database through name collection from opt-ins or newsletter subscriptions, and your conversion rate from visitor to lead.

Having and generating leads is crucial to sustaining your business. For 99% of our Hop Skip clients, lead generation is their top priority so tracking leads is a must. Impressions, or the number of times your message was displayed, and reach, the number of people it was displayed to, are preliminary ways to track lead generation. The click-through rate (CTR) refers to the number of people who click a link in the message divided by the number of times the message was shown, and it gives you information on the quality of the tactic. Finally, the conversion rate—the number of conversions divided by the number of clicks—can tell you how many people took action based on your marketing.

The idea is to identify a few appropriate KPIs to help you understand the effectiveness of your marketing, but in order to make a comparison you will need a point of reference. This is where benchmarking comes in.


A benchmark is a standard against which your new data can be assessed. Having a click-through rate of 12% is mostly meaningless, but recording a click-through rate of 12% when it was previously 4% tells you a lot about how effective your marketing is. Record benchmarks for each of your KPIs at the start, before you begin tracking your progress. It’s fairly typical for a small- or mid-sized company to have a website but no Google Analytics account. This account is free, and it’s a great way to source your benchmarks.

Now that you’ve got a sense of the steps to take, let’s look at how this works in real life.

A client we've been working with at Hop Skip used to spend 90% of their marketing dollars on radio ads. We moved 50% of that money into Google Ads, which we can track down to the sale, and integrated a "How did you hear about us?" question into the sales intake sheet. This enabled us to determine the ROI of radio ads and compare them with another top-of-funnel tactic: pay-per-click ads. As it turned out, radio had good return for them, but only in one of three cities where they operate. Google Ads performed better in terms of ROI across the board. This gave us valuable knowledge about what works and doesn’t going forward with their marketing.

If you’re going to market effectively, you need rigour, testing, and tracking. Determining your KPIs and benchmarks at the outset takes the guesswork out of the process and helps you get the best results.