Why Utility Outperforms Ubiquity
It’s a numbers game.
But success can’t always be measured in terms of the raw numbers of people a Marketing or PR campaign reaches. We have grown accustomed to seeking big numbers, motivated by generating more likes, more shares, more clicks, more comments, more impressions. In the quantity versus quality equation, we often fall into the trap of believing that the further our messages reach, the more likely they are to produce the desired outcomes. Metrics like these are often more ego-boost than business boost.
When it comes to measuring business results, a more useful consideration is what we call Utility. How do the tactics and channels selected perform in terms of delivering engagement with people we genuinely need to reach? Advertising, for example, is a high-cost / low-utility option, where the costs to achieve results are great.
The digital world can also be guilty of over-stating the utility of some tactics – just Google ‘digital agencies ripping off clients’ to read the debate about how large budgets sometimes net large numbers, but little business benefit. This is especially true with metrics such as impressions where large numbers are meaningless without understanding what these ‘impressions’ actually delivered.
PR, on the other hand, is a low-cost / high-utility option where a few pieces of targeted media coverage can do just as much – if not more – to generate results than an entire television or digital advertising campaign. However, because PR costs are relatively low the incentive to measure them is much lower than with advertising where costs are high. This makes little sense. It is precisely because the utility of public relations is high that measurement and targeting is just as crucial to this as any other marketing communication discipline, regardless of the size of the numbers involved.
The MD of an agency recently told us that clients are sometimes dissatisfied with small numbers, because they have come to expect multiple zeros on the end of any number in a report. Yet small numbers can reflect the fact that effective segmentation has identified precisely the audience or media required to do the job and anything more would be a waste of time, budget and effort.
The pond full of plastic ducks illustrates this nicely. Each duck fits my target audience profile perfectly. My campaign objective is to hook (engage) as many ducks as possible in a limited time. However, the universe of available ducks is restricted to the twenty yellow plastic toys bobbing on the pond.
At the end of my allocated time, I have hooked five ducks. On the face of it, five is a very small number. However, five ducks represent 25% of my potential market, which isn’t bad for one short fishing trip in a world where hundreds of competing fishermen bait their hooks every day.
Of course, in the real world it depends on the product or service being marketed and the volume of potential consumers. If you’re targeting iPhone customers and manage to engage five, it’s probably time to consider a career change. But if you are targeting CEOs of Premier League Football Clubs the available market is only twenty individuals, so engaging five is not a bad outcome.
The point is that campaign success should be measured not on the raw numbers of people reached, but on the basis of utility. Are the messages reaching the right people, who have a genuine interest in what you are promoting? Everything else is wasted ammunition – reach for reach’s sake. Even if it is a big number.