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Being clear up front that the data may not be there

Analysing the numbers on your marketing initiatives can provide the best justification for them – but there are dangers of committing yourself to this. 90% of this company’s clients approached us in the first place, rather than the other way around, as a result of the single promotional strategy we adopted from the start: this blog. It’s been the only real marketing we’ve ever done, apart from investing at times in attracting new readers, yet it’s met our limited ambitions very well. However, it would have been difficult after a year of writing the blog to demonstrate that it was a good investment. For many years we just had to go with a gut feeling that, in our case, it was the right thing to do. Competing for business through paid search or SEO, for example, would have been ridiculously hard, given the competition and – more importantly – our niche target market.

And that’s the key – with our market being so tightly defined, being able to talk to even a couple of hundred prospects on a regular basis was a real achievement. There was never any chance of anything we did ‘going viral’, nor would we want it to. The best way to market the business was to try to establish some authority and approachability, then hope that the prospects we were in contact with would consider us when they needed our services. It’s not been uncommon for new clients – who we didn’t know – to say: “I’ve read the blog for over five years and only now felt the time was right to approach you”.

This was a successful way to do things for us. Your company’s marketing activities will be very different, I’m sure. My point, however, is that not only do you need to find the things that work for you, it’s important to understand that some of them may be hard to justify through data, and that could be a problem if you’re at the sort of organisation where you’re constantly required to do exactly that. I don’t have the answer on what to do in place of being able to back up your initiatives with numbers, but I do think it’s a good idea to recognise the situation from the start and to ensure colleagues and management are aware.