Are you measuring your promotional success over the appropriate period?

Any business model will forecast revenue and costs over a certain period, perhaps even the lifetime of the project. We’ve all sat through meetings where someone has gone through their Q1, Q2 etc sales projections. I do notice, however, that when it comes to assessing advertising and promotional exercises, people often fail to take into account the longevity (or otherwise) of what they’re commissioning.

This probably comes from the days when everything had a limited lifespan. A press advert would generate maybe 75% of its lifetime response immediately, then perhaps 20% to 25% over the following few days or weeks …and that would just about be it.

The choice of promotional options these days offers a far wider range of lifespans. At one extreme is search engine advertising (e.g Google AdWords). This is the advertising medium where most industrial and scientific companies who I talk to are devoting most budget. Search engine advertising can be just turned on and off at will; you say “start getting me response at lunchtime and stop it next Wednesday”.

At the other extreme are promotions which you set up for the long haul – most ‘content marketing’ falls under this heading. Even in the days when your main target for promotional articles was the trade press, you’d expect the articles to be cut out and kept, and response might trickle in for months or even years. Now that the main response from articles comes from their online publication, their results will almost certainly continue to arrive for a very long time. Indeed, the rate of response may even rise over time.

We’re left, therefore, with this sort of graph of long-term response to a particular investment in PR or advertising:

Response to promotional initiatives over the medium to long term

The online activities may start slowly but will rise continually and in the very long term. Of course, with the search engine advertising, I’ve assumed a constant monthly spend, but you have the flexibility to spend the entire budget in the first month, in which case you’d have seen a flat line across the top of the graph above.

Don’t forget that what I’ve described as “online articles” above could cover any sort of online “content”. Videos are a great example. We’re now producing short promotional videos for clients on a weekly basis for as little as £250 each. Supposing each of these, when published online, gets a steady 10 views a week. After 1 week, you have 1 video with 10 views. That doesn’t sound much in comparison to getting a press release published in a magazine each week, where (let’s say) 200 people will read each one.

After 4 weeks, you have 4 videos with an accumulated 100 views. Your 4 press releases will have been read 800 times. After 52 weeks, you have 52 videos with an accumulated 13,780 views. Your 52 press releases will have been read 10,400 times.

Even if you stop making new videos and putting press releases in magazines then, the videos continue to generate response. In year two, your videos get a total of 27,040 views, making a total of over 40,000 views in two years. The magazine press release response is zero now, so the total remains stuck around 10,000 forever.

Of course, these are just figures plucked out of thin air. But they illustrate that if you’re in marketing for the long term, you need to stop asking yourself “what response did last month’s promotion get me …last month?” and start thinking about the lifetime return on a promotional investment.

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