Your Marketing Results May Vary…and They Should!

In the business marketing world, the “results” buzzword has been in vogue for some time now. Frankly, it appears to have a lot more legs than the less fortunate “synergy”, the trendy “disruptive”, or even the granddaddy of them all, “paradigm shift.”

Corporate pressure to show measurable ROI in every phase of the marketing process has led many a marketing director to seek out “results-driven” agencies who, in turn, have been more than happy to respond to this hot button. Open a browser, grab your business bingo card, and do a search of agencies who position themselves thusly:

Focused on results
All about results

Of course, the operative question is, “What were they driven by before?” If tangibly achieving goals is not table stakes for you as a marketer, then you probably need to find a new vocation.

We work with a lot of nonprofits. Over the years, we’ve learned a thing or two from these big-hearted game changers that the corporate world would be wise to adopt. Chief among them is the idea of outcomes vs. outputs. It’s a concept that is first cousin to the more brand-centric notion of moving beyond the “So What?” approach to the deeper benefits associated with “So that…” thinking.

What’s the difference? Plenty, if you believe marketing can actually help people improve their lives.

So What? thinking is often internally focused, examining what it is about a company or organization that tries to answer the relevancy question in the mind of prospects. It’s a good start in terms of differentiating from competitors and identifying surface-level customer benefits—in this case, maybe the “outputs” of a brand such as quality, speed, price, durability, ease-of-use, etc. But So What? thinking is limited in its ability to get to the deeper benefits that truly matter to people and therefore shape our attitudes and behaviors.

So that… thinking sees beyond the outputs to the outcomes—or results, in this case—that manifest in the lives of people. Will this service make things easier? If I choose company A over company B, will my risk go down and my peace of mind go up? If I support this organization, will my contribution make a real difference I can feel great about? What if I make a mistake or choose poorly? How will that look to my friends or my boss? Will I be able to invest the time I save into other important areas of my life?

It behooves us as marketers to understand that people’s beliefs, motivations, and fears are often complex and not always obvious. Well-defined customer personas are invaluable in identifying these underlying drivers so that you can make your communications as personally relevant as possible, thereby improving the likelihood of a desired outcome. People know when someone really “gets them” and they reward those who reflect that in their marketing.

One final thought. Don’t confuse measurement with marketing outcomes. Clicks, opens, likes, shares, downloads, mentions, and conversions are valuable metrics to gauge performance, but they have never improved the quality of someone’s life.

Want to see real results from your marketing? Focus on the outcomes, not the outputs.