The oft-repeated observation that marketing without measuring is often wasteful belies the fact that risk-taking should always be a part of the picture, and when you are doing something new, the ability to project results/revenue is limited. In fact, allowing for knowing something about best practices and keeping a lid on statistical risk, you reasonably can expect many failures and much “waste” before you even achieve a reliable break-even benchmark. This is especially true for most architectural, engineering and construction products and services, where the annual transaction volume is so low that really cannot gather statistical data — though the low numbers correlate with high dollar volume, perhaps in the millions or tens of millions of dollars per order/project.
There are two solutions to this challenge.
In the first, you measure the qualities you can, for example, your website traffic, requests for information/white paper or documents, and the like. Or you could, as one US AEC practice successfully applied, use internal time/billing tracking tools to assess the amount of time principals and others are spending on marketing/business development, and their time spent on individual pursuits. (With the analysis, the practice discovered that the higher the volume of time spent by principals, the higher the likeliness of success, and this helped frame it’s go/no go decisions.)
In the second, you gather as much information as you can about industry/competitive benchmarks, and assess your results compared to them. Of course, you don’t simply want to copy your competitors, but you should also be able to understand/analyse how you are doing.
You can also use some simple ROI assessments and probability analysis in deciding on marketing and other business expenses. For example, I reviewed today whether I should take a business trip. There could be some value especially in recruiting new sales staff (a real win, if it happens), but the probability of my increasing the chance of successfully meeting the right person seemed awfully low, based on previous experience. Other aspects of the travel could be covered by having a local representative attend the event. He would charge a several hundred dollar fee. But this needs to be weighed against the travel costs, and excluding the recruitment possibility, the numbers add up to contract the person, rather than go there myself.