I see it happen over and over to small business owners. They invest a significant amount of their marketing budget into a big initiative, like a billboard or a newspaper ad campaign. When I ask them if the ad worked, they say, “We’re not sure.” Maybe business bumped up a bit that quarter, or maybe it stayed level, but they lack the key metrics they need to tie an ad to a change in their business in any concrete way.

When it comes time to invest in a new ad campaign, they make another poorly educated guess where they should be able to look back over the history of their marketing efforts and invest in the initiatives that actually brought them new business. If that data was never collected, however, that can’t happen.

When you are planning a marketing campaign or an ad buy, identify the metrics you need to track ahead of time so that you can plan the execution of the campaign accordingly. Fair warning: Some marketing initiatives take more effort than others to measure, but you should always, always, always have a plan for measuring the effectiveness of an individual marketing tactic. Talk to your marketing consultant or ad salesman about metrics in the planning stage (what I call pre-metrics because you are acting before you actually have any data). It will pay dividends later.