How to Measure Marketing Outreach

by Stacey Barr |

Marketing outreach is essentially sending a message out into a target audience, to attract more people that our organisation or business exists to help. It can be time consuming and expensive, so we want to make sure it’s working. But what do you measure to find that out?

Marketing Outreach is a concept, not a goal. And it’s a weasely concept, at that. Before figuring out how to measure it, and especially before we figure out how to improve it, we must define it very specifically.

Like with most vague concepts that aren’t yet measurable, they usually comprise several specific results. In the marketing literature, you’ll see words like reach, engagement, conversion, and brand awareness. But these are really just more vague, weasely concepts. So I prefer to be much more specific.

Be specific about what Marketing Outreach means to you.

In growing this Measure Up tribe, marketing outreach means a few very specific results (you might notice that I prefer to word results as though they’re already true):

  • I make contact with many new audiences, to find out if they have the KPI struggles I can help with.
  • My message about practical performance measurement resonates with many people in these new audiences.
  • Lots of these people become new subscribers to Measure Up as a result of sharing my message with them.
  • The subscribers to Measure Up regularly read and enjoy the practical tips I write for them.
  • Measure Up subscribers become clients that I can help and make a difference for.

There are plenty of marketing metrics (or KPIs or measures, whatever terminology you use) for specific results like those above. To mention a few: views, likes, clicks, hits, signups, opens, click-through rates, conversion rates.

But the answer isn’t to pick and choose your marketing measures from lists like these.

Don’t default to the standard marketing metrics.

Largely, the measures you choose will depend on the channels you use to reach new markets and attract them to your business, organisation, product, event or cause. That’s because of the types of data and how that data can be collected varies across the channels. Tracking “likes” on LinkedIn is much easier than tracking “likes” at live speaking events.

The measures I use for my five marketing outreach results, above, are designed based on the channels I use. Here are some of them:

  • Audience Size = the number of people in the LinkedIn search or conference audience or webcast audience (and so on) that I presented my message to
  • Landing Page Unique Visitors = the number of individual people who went to the webpage I invited them to when I presented my message to them
  • New Signups = the number of people who chose to subscribe to Measure Up, on the webpage I invited them to
  • Engaged Subscribers = the proportion of Measure Up subscribers who have opened at least one of the email newsletters in the last month
  • Measure Up Clients = the proportion of new clients that came from being a Measure Up subscriber

For some marketing campaigns, the first result, which is often referred to as ‘reach’, is a nightmare to gather data for. In this case, focusing on the return on investment is a reasonable proxy measure:

  • Return = number of new leads or clients that came from the new market
  • Investment = effort or cost to reach the new market

Of course, we all use a variety of methods to send a variety of messages out into a variety of markets. Each method-message-market combination will have its own contribution to our marketing outreach measures. So tracking just the totals isn’t going to give us any insight about which campaigns work best, and which are wasting our time and money.

Set up ways to track individual campaign contributions.

When most of marketing is online, it’s not that hard to uniquely track each campaign we run, to find out how well it works. Google Analytics and most email marketing apps these days make it super easy. Generally, it’s a word or a code that is unique to each campaign, and used on each campaign collateral along the journey from reaching a new audience through to someone from that audience ultimately becoming a customer.

Here’s how I use tracking codes in my campaigns to grow the Measure Up tribe:

  • In any post I share in LinkedIn, the only link I ever provide for people to click goes to a single page on my website.
  • That page on my website has “linkedin” in its name, so I can clearly identify from my Google Analytics data how many unique visitors land on that page each month.
  • There is a Measure Up sign up form on that page, and that form automatically passes the code “linkedin” to my newsletter list app, attaching it to each new subscriber that came from my LinkedIn activity.

I don’t get all hot and bothered about the perfection of this kind of data. Sure, a LinkedIn follower might not sign up on the landing page I invite them to; they might cruise around my website and sign up somewhere else. But as with all performance measurement, we’re trying to get a useful understanding of change over time, not a precise understanding of every bit of trivial minutiae.

There are plenty of marketing metrics around: views, likes, shares, clicks, hits, signups, opens, conversion rates. But don’t pick and choose yours from lists like these. Design them specifically for your marketing goals.
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How are you defining and tracking your marketing outreach? Do have some great ideas to add, or are you taking a great idea from this post?


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  1. Tom G says:

    Thought provoking as always…thank you.

    So if I read this correctly, you are saying that things like clicks and time spent may be good measures of site interest (stickiness) but not of your marketing efforts. This makes perfect sense in terms of specific measures. Happy New Year!

    • Stacey Barr says:

      Exactly, Tom. We should never start with measures, only with results or goals we want to achieve. Then the measures should be chosen or designed as evidence of those results or goals.

  2. Peter O'Donnell says:

    Hi Stacey… Happy New Year!

    I found this post especially interesting… it took me back a lot of years to when I was assigned responsibility for managing the marketing budget of a new online university in western Canada. Our goal was to grow our enrollment from under-1,000 students to a ‘break even’ target of 8,000. We accomplished this in less than 5 years, but not by focusing solely on our enrollment target. Instead, we build a ‘ladder’ of measures, where we measured # of inquiries (mail, phone, in-person – including information on how they heard about us ), # of 1-1 interactions with student advisers, # of personalized follow-up interactions, # of initial enrollments (one or more courses), and # of course completions. We designed a tracking system that allowed us to track an individual through the end-to-end process from ‘interest’ to ‘success.’ We then used this data to improve our market targeting strategies and improve our ROI re: enrollment and student success. As a result, we doubled enrollment annually AND reduced our marketing budget significantly through the period. This was in the late 70s, and the approach has been sustained since then to maintain a ‘steady state’ annual enrollment of 32,000 students. In the end, the true test of marketing success is not ‘interest’… it’s progress along a path toward marketing success. Peter

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