One word that changes everything

As this issue was going to press, the Wall Street Journal published a story by Bill Gates in which he explained that the secret to fixing the world’s biggest problems could be summarized in one word: measure.

“In the past year, I have been struck by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve incredible progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal,” Gates wrote.

The Microsoft founder is leading the charge in a handful of world-changing endeavors, from eradicating polio around the world to fixing education in the U.S. What’s missing in these and numerous other projects, he says, is often good measurement and a commitment to follow the data.

It occurred to me after reading Gates’ article that the same message is true for projects of a much smaller scale. I inventoried the stories in this issue, which offer a broad spectrum of sales and marketing ideas, and decided that measurement was at the crux of every one of them. From the cover feature on marketing automation, to columnist Dave Stein’s look at the ever-evolving relationship between B2B buyers and sellers, the lessons we learn and the progress we make all rely on measurement.

As Gates says, “This may seem basic, but it is amazing how often it is not done and how hard it is to get right.”

It left me thinking through my to-do list — both personal and professional — and committing to more solid measurement. It’s the surest path to steady progress and the only way to significant improvement.

Of course, there are numerous other not-so-secret ingredients to continued success, one of them being collaboration. Surrounding yourself with smart people has always been a bona fide means of exceeding expectations.

That’s what our annual Incentive Manufacturers & Representative Alliance Directory is all about (page 33). This listing of non-cash incentive suppliers is a trustworthy source of companies and individuals who can help you increase the ROI of your incentive efforts throughout 2013 and beyond. I can’t encourage you enough to call on them for ideas and inspiration. They’ll make a difference.

But be sure to measure it.

Paul Nolan, Editor