I LOVE playing with numbers (said no marketer I know, ever).

We need to acknowledge the things we are good at and accept our time is better spent on those than on things we’re not so good at

Statistics.

Calculations.

Percentages. (I’m pretty sure I was sick the day they taught percentages!) Figuring out numbers is not my go-to strength.

I love solving other problems, though. Most marketers I know love solving other problems.

We love to solve look-and-feel problems.

Engagement problems.

And, if possible, we love to solve those problems behind the scenes, nurturing others and making them successful.

That’s what makes most of us marketers happy!

For years, we’ve shied away from the numbers and focused on what felt and looked good:

The beautiful website with the fresh design.

The cool booth that offers the engaging game or unique drinks reception.

The colorful, glossy, double-sided brochure.

And when management looked at the large, annual marketing budget, it wasn’t justified with numbers.

No. It was justified with “soft” language like, “We have to have a presence” or “This is about the brand.”

But there were no hard ROI numbers to back up the work and investment.

No mention of numbers of leads. Quantity of opportunities. Amount of revenue from marketing. Rates of engagement rates.

And that lack of discussion of numbers?

It made us weak.

Because when times are tough, and push comes to shove, it is hard to justify the investment in marketing.

And what we were presenting? There was no real ROI. There were no real numbers. Or none that were easy to find.

(Actually, we delivered the ROI in anecdotal stories like, Oh, that deal we just won? Didn’t they come to our beautiful booth in that show we produced? Wasn’t it the drinks reception we invested in that attracted them? Didn’t they start talking to us then?)

Then into this gap came the marketing analyst.

That rare person who is a marketer at heart, but has a knack for finding numbers and creating spreadsheets.

This person started collecting information: Leads. Opportunities. Anecdotes. Engagement rates. Won deals that marketing uncovered as leads.

Then the marketing analyst turned these into beautiful graphs and tables.

Magic! All of a sudden, we could present our success with numbers: We spent X this year, and we got Y-ish for it. Progress!

But it wasn’t quite that simple. Our friends at the sales organization could still say,

Well, yeah. But we knew this prospect from before. They came to the booth because we’ve been friends for 20 years. They would have come even if we didn’t set up a booth.

Our anecdote was hard to prove.

And their stance was hard to argue. There wasn’t enough information to support either claim.

No tool to record this client’s journey.

When did they first come to our website? When did they start downloading assets? When did we email them? Who emailed them? When did they stop engaging, and when did they start engaging again? Did they even come through the website? LinkedIn? Twitter? An offline engagement?

None of it was really recorded. At least not in a centrally located, manageable way.

And then technology moved into marketing, and smart companies like HubSpot and Hotjar and Google Analytics started popping up.

They did the hard work.

The tracking.

The recording.

The calculations.

The percentages.

And they provided beautiful graphs and tables we could present to management.

Graphs that showed how every dollar we spent on that drinks reception or event brought value (or not).

How every dollar we spent on our PR agency and content pieces is making a difference (or not).

How this event was more successful than the one we did last year because of the number of leads/opportunities/closed deals accruing from it (or not).

Not to mention how this page of our website, the one on which we spent hours and days, has a higher bounce rate vs. that other page.

Double magic! Double progress!

Numbers are powerful.

Very.

We can’t allow ourselves to avoid them just because we are not good at finding them or pulling them together.

We just need to acknowledge the things we are good at and accept our time is better spent on those than on things we’re not so good at.

Then find help to manage those other tasks — the number tasks — that will keep us alive and viable and creating. In the toughest of times.

Simple. Very, very simple.