Making difficult conversations easy

Entry to the 2020 memcom membership excellence awards is now open


Christian Walsh, Digital Director at the Market Research Society, outlines how measuring the effectiveness of your website should be the first step to improving it, not the last. MRS won ‘Best Website’ at the memcom membership excellence awards 2019, as well as ‘Best E-learning Initiative’.


It’s still surprising how many projects fail because we forget to do the one thing we talk most about – measurement. Or whatever you call it – ROI, effectiveness, a balanced scorecard.

The digital community has been pretty smug about its ability to measure everything since the internet began. But measurement is boring. It’s not half as fun as crafting a tweet or producing a video. Measurement gets in the way of the fun stuff.

I’m pretty sure we won the Best Website award thanks to our efforts to measure the effectiveness of our new version of We certainly didn’t get it on looks alone – even the judges said that:

Clear strategy and goals. Creative is fairly simple and works beautifully. Really impressed by the inclusion of targets against results…”

Of course, it helps that the numbers we were measuring turned out to be very good – see the chart below.

But we shouldn’t be afraid of bad results. The sheer act of measurement – assigning KPIs, reporting back on results, analysing with the broader team why things are the way they are – all this leads to improvements that wouldn’t otherwise happen.


MRS website before (top) and after (bottom)


5 reasons to measure (there are more):


  1. Measurement can be simple

One reason we don’t measure is because we get bogged down in the hassle of it all, in the growing mountain of data and questions and more data and more questions. My advice is to pick no more than 5 KPIs for a project and track them from the start and keep going after it has launched, rolling into ongoing reporting to the senior team. Look out for big trends that may require further investigation (drops in traffic, stuff not selling), rather than getting lost in the minutiae. Then work with your teams to develop an action plan to address any problems, or amplify any successes.


  1. Measurement makes difficult conversations easy

“Can I have a button on the homepage?” “We need an app for that”

These are the perennial conversations we have with our stakeholders, regardless of sector. Having evidence helps you explain why this app or that design change may not be a good investment or might lead to a negative effect, and it helps you suggest alternative actions. Without the evidence to have a rational conversation it’ll be your word against mine, increasingly emotive, and a gradual souring of relations across departments.


  1. Measurement gives us a common language

We need to spend more money on SEO, I mean adwords, sorry affiliate marketing, oh you know what I mean…”

We’ve managed to bring various functions together from across the business, from CEO to database managers to have productive conversations and work towards a common goal. Cross functional working is impossible without a common language and measurable objectives, and it helps us to stop talking at cross purposes.


  1. Measurement must lead to action

Any measurement initiative needs to have the space carved into it to act on the results. If not you’ll end up measuring for the sake of it and losing buy-in from your stakeholders. What they want to see is evidence that enables better decision making and action. It’s at the heart of what this society represents so we should know!


  1. Measurement gives the digital function credibility

Having a grown up conversation about how your digital strategy contributes to the bottom line and/or your organisation’s strategic objectives is better than being seen as an adjunct to the IT department, interlopers in the Marketing department or as an add-on to someone else’s day job.

Ultimately measurement – as blunt an instruments as it is – brings power and authority back to the digital function, giving it the credibility to help the executive make the right decisions.


What we did:


Lastly, I thought it might be helpful to see how we measured the success of our new website project. At the start of the redesign project we developed KPIs against each of the five objectives in the table below. These are reported to the senior team every quarter alongside some other traffic and engagement reports for social media and other MRS websites.

Objective KPI RESULT
1. MRS proposition: A clearer, more succinct and engaging proposition to potential members, companies and / or customers. TARGET 1: 20% increase in online membership applications in YR1 45% increase in online applications
2. Data: For new audiences the website should be the point of conversion and data collection. TARGET: 30% increase in web accounts for members in YR1



TARGET: 15% increase in web accounts for non-members in YR1

95% increase




148% increase

3. Usabilty: Customer satisfaction will increase if users can perform operational interactions with the society online, leading to savings internally. TARGET: 15% decrease in YR1 in paper membership applications



TARGET: 15% decrease in customer queries that could have been resolved through better website usability.

25% decrease




40% decrease in volume of web-related queries

4. Sales: Better cross selling of products and services, seamless integration with our CRM. TARGET: 15% increase in online sales in YR 1 91% increase
5. Supplier directory: With the decline in print relevance the online directory must invest in new features and generate more traffic to company listings. TARGET: 30% increase in YR1 of company listings that upgrade their profiles on the new website.


15% increase in users (Google Analytics) to the RBG microsite in YR 1.

57% increase




47% increase