One time, many years back, I ran into a famous public speaker. The speaker had one single product that made him rich: a single speech, delivered flawlessly, over and over again for years. It may seem appealing as a way to make a living, but to me it sounded rather boring. I like moving onto new ideas, not repeating the same ones over and over. 

Yet there is one subject I have been talking about in various forms since 1999 when I first brought it up at IBM, and I can't seem to stop talking about it. It's about digital marketing decisions based on metrics. No matter how long I've been discussing this subject, it feels like there are always more companies that need to hear the message.

At first, I thought it was understandable. After all, this web marketing stuff was new (back in 1999) and it makes sense that not everyone understood how to apply direct marketing principles to digital marketing.

But it's 16 years later. I'm starting to believe that there's a never-ending supply of companies that still are marketing by the seat of the pants. In 1999, it was almost all companies. Within a few years, the e-Commerce companies had caught on. Later, the retailers caught on, whether they sold online or offline. In recent years, I've found that many B2C companies have caught on, but that leaves a big, yawning gap.

Those B2B marketers are still hearing the same stuff from me that I was saying inside IBM in 1999. Identify your Web conversions. Test your marketing. Make decisions based on results.

It's not easy, but it is simple. The principles are simple, but because it is difficult, we'd all rather think about something else. It's human nature to be in denial of problems that we can't solve. Many B2B companies are so overwhelmed at the idea of measuring its marketing and sales that we act as though the problem does not exist. It makes us feel better not to have to dwell on a failure this large.

Now, it doesn't make the situation any better. It doesn't improve our business results. It just makes us all feel better. So, the question is whether you are willing to risk feeling bad. Can you cope with feeling a little overwhelmed if the payoff is vastly improved business results?

I'll challenge you with this question: "Have you started running your marketers by the numbers?" If not, why not?

It's not a rhetorical question. Make a list of all the problems and ask yourself how you could take just one step to solve one of them. If even that is too overwhelming, then take a different approach. Fast forward yourself three years into the future and imagine that this problem is completely solved. (If three years seems unrealistic, make it five years.) Then ask yourself what had to happen to solve the problem. At this point, you can't throw up your hands and say it is impossible, because we already said that it is solved. Don't dwell on how unrealistic it is-this is your imagination. What must have happened to get you to the point where you can make your marketing decisions based on numbers?

No matter how difficult this, it's too important to just give up. Do one thing to solve the problem. Then do something else. Before you know it, you might be able to make one kind of decision based on numbers, even if they aren't the greatest numbers.

I'm begging you not to sentence me to this same speech 16 years from now.

Originally posted on Biznology

September 9, 2015

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


Great post. A lot of people/businesses put this in the 'too hard' or 'tackle later' pile and waste a lot of money. Reliable numbers and facts are the key to making good decisions. You also need to carefully define what success looks like for you and your organisation and measure against that, it's not always as simple as a cookie-cutter equation.

What is it that they say? ..... Knowledge is power, and in my opinion, being able to make informed decisions because you have accurate data available is what separates the exceptional from the humdrum.
Great article, but I think difficult for many people business people to successfully fit their problems into a 'box'

Thanks for the comment, Danny, but what do you mean by fitting their problem into a box?

I deal with many Law firms who are certainly marketing by the seat of their pants. They dont have the discipline to anlyse their marketing spend properly, but continue to spend big money with no real test of value.

Guys.. Do you give lessons on marketing?? I just want to work with But my level is too low at the moment..

I do. Thanks for asking. You'll find them at and there are more coming.

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