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How to Manage Your Performance Marketing Program: The Simple Rules to Avoid Disasters and Unnecessary Risk.

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Every organization, program, or task has a goal. And that is simply a statement or identification of the result sought – what we want or need to accomplish. For planning and control purposes it is most useful to think in terms of both a goal and set of objectives. For example, in planning a performance marketing campaign your goal is to gain either sales, customers, or leads.

It is important that you decide about that in advance, that you have a clear understanding of what result you really want, if you are to have any reasonable probability of achieving it.

Otherwise, the result comes about by chance, not by design or purpose. That is not marketing management at all, and it is almost certain to lead to disaster ultimately.

With the marketing goal firmly established, you can set marketing objectives. You can set a schedule, a budget, a set of milestone targets (dates or elapsed time) for the various events and steps required, all of which are marketing objectives marching toward the goal, whatever that is.

It seems so obvious that this is essential ordinary wisdom or common sense and yet every day marketers launch marketing programs without any truly clear goals or objectives, hoping to somehow stumble into a success.

First: Your Marketing Assets

Your marketing assets are whatever can be used to accomplish something marketing-related. They are time, money, material, computer equipment, people, imagination, talent, energy, and perhaps even other resources.

One of the less well-known cliches of management has it that you can accomplish anything you wish, given unlimited resources. But in practice you never have enough of anything you need, and the real test of management (and above all, marketing management) is the ability to get the job done – achieve your marketing goals – despite the inadequacy of the resources.

True managers get the job done without enough time, without enough help, without enough money, and without enough of anything, and great managers do so under the most difficult circumstances.

The most valuable resources and the ones most difficult to quantify and budget are your own internal marketing resources of talent, imagination, creativity, and personal energy.

These are impossible to measure, calculate, or even estimate, and therefore impossible to factor into any equation. Again and again such resources as these produce almost unbelievable results.

So I will not attempt to take these resources into account here, in designing tools for performance marketing management, but let’s bear their potential always in mind.

To fail to do so would be to deprive ourselves of what often proves to be the most valuable resource of all: human imagination, innovation and creativity.

Worksheet: Deciding On Your Basic Marketing Goal

Setting your marketing goal overall is entirely up to you. It is an arbitrary decision. However, there are some guidelines that will help you make the decision, and they are presented in the worksheet below. This is a rather simple form, but an important one.

INSTRUCTIONS: Check off and/or write in appropriate responses to the items called for. Try to be thoroughly objective in your judgments and estimates, and avoid the trap of wishful thinking.

Marketing goal:[ ] Make sales
[ ] Get leads
[ ] Make new customers
[ ] Build customers database
[ ] Other: ________
Sale items:________________________________________________________________
Type items:[ ] Big ticket
[ ] Consumer item
[ ] Loss leader
[ ] Other: ________
Expected size of typical sale:$ ________ – $ ________
Probability of immediate sale:________ % – ________ %

Ignore the first item, Marketing goal, for the moment. It is logically the first item on the form, but is not the first item to make a decision about. We will return to it later.

Describe first, in a brief statement, what you wish to sell.

The next consideration is the size of the sale. Yours may be a situation in which the price is fixed – there is only one possible price – or a variation in price may be expected.

The form of the worksheet allows for that. Enter the price, the estimated amount of the average sale, or the probable range of most sales, as appropriate, whether these sales are the direct goal or can be realized only later, after follow-up.

Next estimate the probability of closing sales directly as the result of the online or offline ads, without follow-up of any kind.

This calls for hardheaded honesty, not wishful thinking. If the order runs to several hundred dollars the likelihood of an immediate sale without follow-up is small.

And if the item runs to four or five figures, you may be sure that you are extremely unlikely to make a sale without one or more follow-ups – that your goal ought to be focused on getting sales leads, not on making direct sales.

Big ticket sales often require a dozen or more marketing touches, including calls, solicitations, and presentations before you can close them properly and get the order.

Be honest in estimating the percentage of probability here. It is likely to save you time and money.

All of that done, it is time to return to the first item and decide what your true marketing goal is. You have at least four choices.

You can be trying to make sales directly, trying to get leads to build a prospects database, trying to get sales leads for follow-up via personal calls or phone, or trying to expand your customer base by using loss leaders or other inducements.

Example: One prominent and successful ecommerce company has for many years built their customers database by selling loss-leader low-ticket items at an almost nominal price through Facebook ads.

All of these are perfectly legitimate and honorable marketing goals, and you may even get unexpected results on some occasions such as getting a large number of direct sales where you expected only to generate a few leads to follow-up with your complex performance marketing program.

But you cannot count on unexpected luck. You must exercise reasonable prudence in deciding what a sensible marketing goal is, i.e. what you have a right to expect from your performance marketing campaigns. Helping you do that is the entire purpose of this worksheet.

How to Set Your Marketing Objectives

With a marketing goal established, you need to set marketing objectives – milestones marking the way to achieving the marketing goal – because a great many steps must be taken and a great many things accomplished before you achieve the goal.

Sound marketing management practice requires that you do these several things:

  1. Establish and define clearly the specific marketing objectives.
  2. Set target dates for their achievement.
  3. Have a mechanism for monitoring progress and – especially important – an early-warning system that detects problems almost immediately.
  4. Establish contingency programs to cope successfully and promptly with the problems.

Ahh, the Marketing Disasters, Missed Deadlines, and the Unexpected

Philosophically, this means that you expect things to go wrong, as Murphy’s law cautioned us they would. This is why you need to monitor progress so as to detect problems at an early stage, while they can still be corrected.

(Most disasters are the result of not perceiving the problems until it is too late to prevent them from screwing everything up.)

To complement that early-warning system, you must have a set of contingency plans – ready-to-go remedial measures. These are measures that can be implemented immediately because they were prepared in advance.

In terms of specific marketing management instruments or tools, this calls for at least the following kinds of items:

  1. A planned schedule of some sort showing the optimal dates and/or the deadline (absolutely latest) dates for your marketing activities.
  2. A Critical Path Method diagram showing the alternative routes to the marketing goal when the optimal route is blocked or impeded.
  3. A calculated appreciation of all the possible or probable problems concerning your marketing activities.
  4. Alternatives for every possible problem of item 3.

Obviously the specific items on the schedule or chart will vary from one marketing case to another, depending on what you are trying to do.

Following are some schedules as examples or models you can adopt and adapt to your marketing needs. They are, of course, somewhat generalized, to fit as wide a variety of marketing needs and marketing situations as possible.

For your own case – your distinct performance marketing program – or for any given application, you will probably not use all the items suggested, and you may find it necessary to customize the models.

Because they are broken into classes of marketing activity, the list of dates will not be in strict chronological order. That is something of a drawback.

There is a distinct advantage in having schedule dates in chronological order. For one thing it facilitates monitoring progress.

But there is also an advantage in grouping milestone marketing objectives by functional categories. An advantage you can appreciate best perhaps when you tackle the job of setting up contingency plans to cope with problems that are likely to arise.

Schedule Form For a Big Ticket Item Sold Via a Multi-Step Facebook Ads Campaign

Optimal DateDeadline Date
Facebook ad creative; __ creative sets
Landing page creative; __ creative sets
Retargeting ad creative; __ creative sets
Email follow-up creative; __ creative sets
Telemarketing script
Direct mail follow-up creative; __ pages
Photos, studio
Photos, stock
Art / Production / Development
Web development
Online graphics
Offline print-ready graphics
Outsourced Agency Activities
Promo materials upload
Traffic start
Ready-to-mail / to mailing house
Telemarketing / telesales support
Audience selection

Use these forms as preliminary schedules – rough worksheets, designed primarily to help you analyze the needs and estimate the times required.

Then convert the results into chronological schedules that you will use to actually monitor progress.

This approach gives you the preliminary (by function) schedules as aids to monitoring and troubleshooting problems, while it also provides a more convenient means of monitoring progress overall.

Gantt / Milestone Charts For Performance Marketing Needs

However, the chronological schedules overall, as distinct from those chronological-by-function schedules, are probably most useful when they are graphic, as in the form of milestone / Gantt charts.

Below is an example of such a milestone chart. In this case it is based on a direct mail campaign following-up Facebook-generated leads, but the model can be adapted readily to any campaign or marketing activity.

Legend: A – drafts; B – final copy; C – print ready; D – to printer; E – ready to mail; F – mailing date

This model is based on a 90-day, 13 week schedule, but it can be modified to be based on any time period, of course. It is a generalized milestone chart for overall monitoring of a performance marketing campaign, most suitable for the relatively small organization or small campaign.

For truly major marketing campaigns, a separate chart should be generated for each functional area with an overall chart for the entire campaign.

However, for truly complex performance marketing programs, something based on the Critical-Path Method is even more helpful.

Critical-Path Method for Performance Marketing Activities

Critical-Path Method is used commonly in software development, research projects as well as the construction business, where there are many factors operating at one time, requiring close control, if schedules are to be met and budgets controlled.

The idea overall is to set all the critical factors, such as deliveries of materials and completion of tasks on time and determine which factors are sequential and which can be concurrent.

For example, landing page web development cannot be carried out until final copy and layout graphics are available, and final copy and graphics cannot be created until copywriting and art work are complete.

Meaning, these are necessarily sequential functions. On the other hand, the process of creating a Facebook ad creative or selecting the Facebook audience for the campaign can be carried out while the ad creative is being developed, so these are functions that can be parallel.

The milestone chart can show this clearly enough, and even suggest the possible time relationships by judging which task takes 10 weeks, which 4 weeks, when each job can be scheduled, and so forth.

However, Critical-Path Method charting shows this in a somewhat different manner that many marketing managers prefer.

In fact, the purpose of Critical-Path Method charting is not only to plan the most efficient ways and schedule to get a marketing job done, but also to help monitor and manage the work every day. Especially when there are interruptions to the schedule and it is necessary to troubleshoot problems and resort to alternative measures.

Example: A single copywriter can begin with a first, rough draft of the landing page copy, and turn to a first, rough draft of the microsite as soon as the ladning page copy is handed over to management to review.

Then when management reviews the microsite copy draft, the copywriter goes to prepare the final copy of the landing page.

This careful planning of phases of tasks continues enabling a single copywriter to handle it all, if no trouble arises. However, if something comes along to hang up the landing page, e.g. disagreements and lengthy discussions of what should be in it, the copywriter can be assigned to leapfrog over the original planned work progression and go on to one of the other tasks.

Or, as an alternative, another individual can be assigned to help with copywriting. Or, as still another alternative, some or all of the copywriting might be assigned to a consultant or freelance copywriter.

In fact, this kind of chart might be used to manage consultants and/or vendors or contractors, as well as staff personnel, and, in the software development or engineering business, most management problems do involve the subcontracts and subcontractors.

The Critical-Path Method chart provides an overview of what was planned and what the alternatives are for unforeseen contingencies. In this example, it plots the critical path for copywriting, but it could be designed to plot a critical path for other marketing functions or aspects of work, and it could also be made larger and more complex and cover all phases and aspects of the performance marketing program, if desired.

Contingency Planning (or Making Your Performance Marketing Program Fool-Proof)

Performance marketing campaigns are complex operations. They entail a large number of functions that must be carefully integrated, per the established schedules and budgets.

Only when all come together as planned can the performance marketing campaign have a maximum chance for complete success. Every failure to come together as planned jeopardizes the campaign and lessens its chances for any success.

Minimizing such failures must be a target of marketing management, and can be accomplished by contingency planning. Contingency planning is, in fact, a most important part of performance marketing campaign planning and management control.

And it is based on distinguishing carefully between that which is under your own direct and total control and that which is not, i.e. that which depends on others.

Identifying each and every function, including the development of your marketing products (e.g. landing pages and banner ads), in terms of whether the function is or is not under your own direct control, requires a bit of explanation.

Your Direct Control is What Counts

You might believe that because you are the customer and you are paying for having some service performed or some product developed by a contractor, vendor, freelancer or consultant that the function is under your direct control.

Not true.

It is only nominally under your control. All too often the limits of your control over things will become painfully apparent to you, as a supplier fails to deliver something on schedule, a contractor fails to deliver at all, a freelancer or consultant becomes ill, or any of a thousand other disasters materializes.

In fact, to some degree you are not even in total control of work and products being prepared by your own in-house marketing staff. My own experience bears this out.

Aside from the fact that even your own staff can become incapacitated unexpectedly, staff members sometimes leave you abruptly and before they complete their work, and it is not always easy for someone else to take over and “get up to speed” quickly on the job.

(My consulting clients regularly tell me their marketing horror stories in which some members of their marketing staff waste many weeks and even months of the time and money and then resign abruptly because they came to realize that they could not do the job acceptably well and feared being exposed and fired.)

So bear in mind that to at least some degree everything said here can apply to your staff and in-house work.

Managing the Performance Marketing Complexity

The larger and more complex the performance marketing program is, the greater the problems and the greater the risks are.

The number and complexity of their functions are usually in some proportion to the size and complexity of the performance marketing program overall.

That increases the number of possibilities for trouble, of course. But a great deal of money is at stake, too, and every delay costs money, increasing the risk overall by decreasing the order margin.

Usually you literally cannot afford problems that threaten your schedules because they almost automatically threaten your budgets and investment as well.

Increasingly in this area you can find marketing contractors and suppliers indifferent to your needs and to their own moral and legal obligations. It is a highly frustrating situation, but it is possible to combat the problem successfully.

After deciding in advance which are the marketing functions over which you do not have total control, prepare alternative measures. That is, anticipate that such things will happen and be prepared to skirt the problem with a solution that you can put into place immediately.

In its simplest form, it consists of having alternative sources identified in advance.

Example: Whenever you have a printing job with a critical schedule requirement, identify at least one other source (I recommend you try to identify three acceptable sources before you choose one) that would be available to you on short notice.

Do the same with other suppliers and vendors of services – consultants, freelance copywriters, designers, and others. Make it a principle to always have an alternative source firmly identified for everything not done in-house by in-house marketing staff.

But even that is not always enough. There is the matter of lead time. If a printing job is going to require two weeks to do, no matter who does it, by the time you find that you will not get delivery on schedule it is too late to salvage the situation completely, even with an alternative source, and even with premium payments for accelerated service.

3 Ways to Alleviate Your Marketing Management Risks

But there is an answer for this too: You must identify such special hazards as this and make special provisions to “cover” these special kinds of functions.

There are three ways to do this:

  1. One, you might manage to compel your contractor to have a service-level agreement (SLA) with proper contractual penalties. That kind of penalty is usually rather effective, although it is not easy to induce suppliers and service vendors who are not accustomed to them.
  2. Another and probably more practical way in most cases is to allow for long lead time when you place your original order, so that you have at least some time cushion when and if you have to turn to an alternative source.
  3. A third way, which is something of a variant on the second way suggested, is to set up a schedule for and order partial or phased deliveries whenever possible so that you can detect any slippage in service at an early stage. This can be done by setting up special schedules or by incorporating these deliveries in the schedules overall.

In fact, to some degree these are already built into schedules for certain kinds of marketing activities (especially all creative functions) which normally go through one or more drafts and reviews before settling on final copy or design.

In these cases, especially when the work is being done under contract, rather than by in-house marketing staff, be alert for and alarmed by any slippage or indication of panic deliveries of drafts.

Note that the alternative may be to identify someone in-house (even yourself) as an alternative, particularly in emergencies.

This is an especially good alternative or emergency measure because you have complete or nearly complete control over it.

On the other hand, do not neglect the possibility that an in-house marketing resource may fail you for any of the reasons already mentioned, and that the alternative to that may be an outside source – a consultant, freelancer, contractor, or vendor of some sort.


  • Set a budget overall for your performance marketing program.
  • Identify all major elements of your performance marketing program and list them in your budget and master schedule.
  • Identify your overall marketing goal.
  • Define and commit yourself to a complete set of marketing objectives as milestones marking the way to the marketing goal.
  • Plan all your marketing activities for achieving each marketing objective, setting up schedules and budgets, anticipating possible problems, and preparing contingency plans.
  • Have primary and secondary sources identified, and on a standby if needed.
  • Monitor all functions through all phases carefully so as to spot a schedule- or budget-threatening problem almost immediately.
  • Institute the corrective action immediately when a problem arises.

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The expert's thoughts on direct response - growth hacking - performance-based marketing activities - DIRECT MARKETING

About Me, Rafal Lipnicki.

the direct / performance marketing consultant with a strange sounding name


Not your usual "guru" but a real-world performance marketing & innovation consultant based in Europe and an experienced senior executive at leading multinational companies.

What and Where.

I am a consultant for hire, working remotely and on-site all over the world (but Europe is always preferred). See my consulting services page for details.


Contrarian advice most of the time. Document-based audits, workshops, one-off projects, mentoring programs, and more.