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Is it too much to ask marketers to prove they know what they’re doing?

Being an engineer in a company full of engineers, I’ve grown accustomed to a particular world view. Specifically, that all things in life can and should be measured. Now of course, I don’t really think all things can be measured. I’m not sure if I can measure how much grief I went through when England was knocked out of the World Cup by Germany (days gone without smiling?), but when it comes to selling yourself and your services, if you can’t put up a number to back up your story, I raise an eyebrow.

In particular, the marketing industry draws my ire. The inaccuracies and casino-nature of traditional form of marketing and advertising is well documented (“Half of your marketing budget is wasted - you just don’t know which half”), but online marketing campaigns are different. There’s a slew of companies whose job is to just measure outcome of your marketing initiatives.

Analytics, analytics, analytics. So in the face of our current mindset of measure, measure and then measure some more, why is it that so few marketers display their effectiveness? What I’m angling for is a marketer (or “Guru” as the douch-ier ones like to be called on Twitter) to proudly display on his or her website: “I started a Twitter contest campaign for brand X and increased the number of followers for that brand by 25%, Facebook fans by 10% and regional revenue by $1.5M” Is it really asking too much for people to be able to prove that they know what they’re talking about? I couldn’t imagine building a piece of software for a client and telling them, as I took their money, “You know, I’m not sure if this is even going to compile. Caveat emptor!”

Now I know those in the biz will counter and say “Yeah, but it’s hard to measure. How do we know that the increase in sales were as a result of the Twitter campaign and not the weather or some other externality? How do we accurately recognize and attach revenue to any given marketing activity? Give us marketers a break college boy!”

If I was a “social media marketing agency”, I would be damn sure to measure everything that I do for my clients. Why? Because when the next potential client comes along, I can increase my chances of landing business by proving my case with hard numbers. What currently passes for “proof” of competence is putting up the logo of a brand you have worked with. That’s garbage.

The only reason I can think of why marketers and their agency colleagues don’t show numbers is because there’s nothing to brag about. They know we’re all playing a game called the Emperor’s New Clothes and nobody has stood out yet and yelled, “You’re all naked!”

Well, you’re all naked.

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