Why the Least Measurable Marketing Channels Tend to Perform Best: 5-Minute Whiteboard

Content marketing, social media, events, PR, and marketing through sources-of-influence have consistently produced remarkable results for the companies I’ve run, and yet, most big businesses invest 1/1,000th the effort and dollars in these tactics that they do in digital advertising. Why?

Measurability and scalability.

Let’s dig into this challenge (and how you can invest better) with this week’s 5-Minute Whiteboard.


Howdy SparkToro fans, and welcome to another edition of five minute whiteboard. This week: why is it that the least measurable marketing channels are often the ones that perform best? How do we even know that if we can’t prove it?

That’s what we’re gonna talk about this week.

So why is it that tactics like LinkedIn ads and Google pay-per-click search ads are invested in by millions of companies but organic social content in social media marketing and PR focused content investments, which we know pay dividends, why did they get so little investment

The answer is the time it takes to prove ROI on a lot of digital advertising platforms forms, especially the big tech platforms where they have an incentive to show you that it works, right, to track it all the way through and to say, yeah, you got this many conversions promised that these many people on LinkedIn or in Google search search for these things saw your ad came to your site made that conversion.

They’re gonna take credit for a lot of conversions that absolutely would have happened anyway. If somebody searches for SparkToro, they probably were gonna sign up for a free SparkToro account, at least a good percentage of them were. If we bid on the SparkToro brand name in Google pay-per-click advertising, Google would get a lot of that credit through their PPC program. And if we were venture backed, if we had a board of directors, if I had CMO. Right? That person, that organization would be showing the metrics to the board and to the CEO.

Right, and saying like, hey, Google PPC, that’s really producing results for us. The CAC to LTV ratio, this is the cost to acquire one new customer and the lifetime value of that customer would tend to be low. Right? You might pay eight hundred dollars per new custom and their lifetime value is twelve hundred dollars — paid sources tend to have lower LTV than organic sources. Just generally speaking. Google PPC, right? It might be a little bit better.

But the provability of the platform and the scalability of the ability to invest. Right? If if we said, hey, I just wanna pour another $50k into LinkedIn ads. Well, you turn up your budget. Right? You’re gonna you’re gonna pour more money in. Hopefully, you’re gonna get more people out, more customers.

Organic social PR focused content, the investment works completely differently. It might take months or even a year or more to prove hey, remember we invested in that PR focus content. Well, we can now see that a lot of the people who heard about us, heard about us through that. We can see that we were mentioned in those sources of influence and those sources of influence impacted our brand reputation.

We can now see the lift in traffic from being on these podcasts or being in this media source or going to this event and the leads that that turned into. The CAC:TV ratio is gonna be incredible, right, hundred bucks to get a fifteen hundred dollar lifetime value, but the scalability and the provability is really tough. Really, really low. And because these are so low, most organizations don’t invest in them.

And because most organizations don’t invest in them, they tend to have very high ROI because the competition is so low. And because being present in those places, makes you stand out from your competitors and in the crowd.

How do you do this? Well, you’ve gotta go to places where your audience has a relevant presence. What I mean by that is TikTok doesn’t count.

Yes. Everyone is there, but everyone is also driving on American highways. Everyone is also visiting Starbucks everyone is visiting is is watching Netflix. And yet, I never hear marketers say, what’s our Netflix strategy? What’s our highway strategy?

Because your audience isn’t having relevant conversations in those places. And with with a few exceptions, TikTok is probably that as well. Relevant conversations might be happening in niche media. It might be happening on LinkedIn. It might be happening maybe in a subreddit in certain consumer sources, maybe on YouTube, maybe in podcasts, maybe even on reds or mastodon or Twitter.

Second, a place where you can provide unique value that no one else delivers.

If you tell me, well, YouTube is is the place for us, but I I can’t think of anything you need to do there. Well, maybe maybe do it somewhere else. If you can do it on your maybe you have an email newsletter. Great.

Right? That that’s where I would choose to invest. And third, a place where you personally get value from that platform and that channel investing in it. I’ve never seen.

In my whole career, I’ve never seen a marketer who’s like, I’m so good at Instagram, but I really hate it.

Does it happen? Right? Tends to be the places that give you energy that that you’re excited to contribute in. That’s where you’re gonna do well.

Invest in these and you have to measure them. You can’t measure them the same way you could measure advertising. You have to measure them with what used to be called vanity metrics with things like engagement followers how many people saw this? How many people commented?

How many people liked it? How many people did we see who came from that source, you know, actually signed up for an account and lift lift over time. Hey, we made these investments and we saw that quarter on quarter, we got a lift in number of branded searches. We got a lift in we gotta lift in conversion rate.

That’s almost certainly connected.

This stuff is harder to invest in. If you’re a big company, put your money here. Give the big tech platform your money. But if you’re a small or medium sized business, you can do extraordinarily well with these types of longer term investments that your competitors are unwilling to make. And get a competitive advantage in marketing. Take care.