Counting on common sense

There are many photographs of Albert Einstein standing in front of a chalk board. On the chalk board is written: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

Mr. Einstein did not develop this quotation. He used it. He quoted Sir George Pickering, the British medical researcher. Mr. Pickering is usually credited with researching hypertension. Mr. Pickering was Mr. Einstein’s hero.

When working at a corporate job, I dutifully counted many things. On my desk was a form with multiple columns. I was instructed to record each long distance phone call. Because the office was in a small Iowa community, essentially every phone call was long distance. I recorded the date, who I called, what we discussed, the project number, the time the call began and the time the call ended.

I considered the record keep a little crazy. I was certain we were spending thousands of dollars to track hundreds of dollars. In “command and control” organizations, people do a lot of crazy things just to prove they can exercise control.

Frustrated, I went to the chief financial officer and asked what his accountants did with the collected telephone logs of thousands of people who completed and submitted them monthly. He looked at me in shock. His response, “Nothing. We don’t use that data anymore.”

Why do we all spend the time to collect the information if you don’t use it?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe we forgot to tell people they don’t need to submit those forms. Oh well.” He said.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure. But you must make sure that you only count what is useful. It’s like looking for your keys under the lamppost, not because you lost them there but because the light is better. Command and control mentality.

Does your organization count the right things? Do the things you count really have value?

Research concludes that when prospects are reminded of a brand, business, product or person, the more the prospect likes them. (Assuming they are all positive experiences.) With that positive exposure, the more likely prospects will choose the person or brand they know. While we can’t directly measure the sales from brand awareness, we know they lead to purchases. It is hard to “count” that impact. The corollary has been around for a long time. “Half of all marketing money is poorly spent. We don’t know which half.” Branding is just good common sense. It’s darn hard to measure.

You may be able to document social-media fans, friends, followers, RTs, and @ replies. Do these metrics count? Krista Neher, the authors of The Social Media Field Guide, explains, “Take ‘number of fans.’ I can’t tell you how many businesses measure the success of their Facebook efforts by the number of fans that they have. The problem is that this has nothing to do with the ultimate success of their social-media marketing efforts. Number of fans/followers doesn’t necessarily tie back to business results.”

It is important to use common sense and consider the complete buying cycle to successfully measure or attribute value to invested marketing efforts.

In relationship (trust based)-businesses, the number of face-to-face contacts should be counted. Not very glamorous is it? Keep the records for years. Ours is a long-cycle time business. Professional service firms understand it may take three or four years to win a new client. The good news: Once you win a new client, and do reasonably good work, you can keep that client. Typically professional service businesses enjoy revenues from 85 percent to 90 percent of the previous clients. (That is another great number to count.) It’s just good common sense, isn’t it?

Count the things that count in your business.

“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” Albert Einstein.

Dennis Schrag is president of the Longview Group of Iowa City. E-mail him at