Weaving Contextual Data into Models

Posted on

Many companies are developing opportunity scoring models which essentially assign a predetermined numerical score to specific behaviors or statuses within a database. The purpose of opportunity scoring is help sales people know which opportunities are sales ready and worthy, and therefore take priority. Often variables such as title, company, and industry, serve as the basis for the scoring model. However, behaviors can be used too, such as the completion of a contact form, visiting a particular page on the website, participating or viewing a demo, etc. Contextual data adds another dimension to the model by weaving in predisposition information that reflects content, timing and frequency-for example what products they currently use, the last time they purchased, their complete buying history, the types of keywords they used in their search, etc.

Keep in mind, timing is everything. To be effective, contextual data must be delivered to the right person, at the right time, within an actionable context. For example, the date of a key customer’s contract renewal is posted in your CRM system all year long, but that doesn’t mean you’ll remember or even see it. Think how much more useful that data becomes when your system automatically alerts you to the fact that it’s the customer’s renewal date. Sending email messages about renewals too early just creates noise at best and at worst suggests you don’t know their renewal date. Customers are more likely to respond to call to action when it is in context of their workflow. Communication that is contextual is more personal and as a result feels more authentic, shows value, and leads customers want to act. As a result, you can reduce the cost of customer acquisition and the cost of sales.

The end goal of contextual data is to connect with the buyer when they are most predisposed to buy. As a result, you can use contextual data to help build propensity to purchase models, for prioritizing opportunities to support opportunity scoring, to develop more personalized messages, and select the best mix of channels.

This same concept of contextual data can be used to build propensity to purchase models. By identifying the winning experiences associated with a particular segment, you can use this information to craft more relevant messages to similar targets to increase uptake.

Personalization is a compelling and challenging proposition. It’s a moving target and therefore requires a test and learn approach. By adding contextual data into the process you can make your personalization efforts more effective and more relevant.


3 Attributes to Extend Your CMO Longevity

Posted on Updated on

As 2013 winds down and we prepare to enter 2014, there are bound to be a few changes in the CMO line up.  You say, that’s not news, CMO tenure is always a bit tenuous. But actually, that is less true today than ever. In SpencerStuart’s 8th Annual CMO Tenure Study, it was reported that CMO tenure is now nearly 4 years, compared to just 2 years back in 2006.  While CMO tenure varies across industries, there are several attributes long- tenured CMOs share. First and foremost, these CMOs can demonstrate positive impact on the company and have impact beyond the “marketing agenda.” They also tend think more like business-people who are able to provide strategic direction and use data and analytics to make fact-based decisions.  

In addition to being an exceptional, technically proficient marketer, there are three attributes we see among successful long-term CMOs. 

1.   Customer-centric. These tenured CMOs connect regularly with customers. They do more than conduct voice of customer research, review customer data, or meet with a customer advisory board. They are actively and regularly engaged in customer conversations. Do you describe your customers for example as engineers with X years of experience in Y industries, Y accreditations, who attends B events, reads Y publications, and uses Z social media? If this example seems familiar you may be missing the mark. These long-tenured CMOs have a deeper understanding of their customers’ needs, wants, emotional state and motivations, what it takes to engage them, and the kind of experience that needs to be delivered. These CMOs serve as the window into the customer for their companies. They are relentless in their pursuit to know and understand the customer.   

2.  Outcome-oriented. It is clear to the leadership team that these CMOs have marketing well aligned to the business with metrics and performance targets focused on producing business outcomes rather than marketing outputs. These CMOs understand that outputs such as visitors, fans, followers, etc. create more contacts, connections and engagements that are important. They also understand that their job is to translate these outputs into something relevant and meaningful to the leadership team, such as how marketing’s contribution is reducing the sales cycle/accelerating customer acquisition, reducing the cost of acquisition or retention, and improving product adoption and win rates. These CMOs have an excellent handle on what touch points and channels are most effective and efficient depending on the needle that needs to be moved. 

3.  Alliance-savvy. There’s been a great deal of coverage on how important it is for the CMO to have solid relationships with their Sales, IT, and Finance colleagues, and our research shows that Best-in-Class CMOs do more than that. These CMOs have forged formal explicit partnerships with these counterparts. They invest in these alliances because they believe that the partnership will enable the organization to be more customer-centric and more competitive. As a result, these companies are able to enter new markets and bring new products and services to market faster. What is different about the alliances formed by these CMOs? They work with their colleagues to plan, form, design, and manage a formal working agreement that focuses on developing the right working relationship, taking into the account that each function most likely operates differently. They create and execute an agreement that emphasizes how the organization’s committed resources will achieve a common set of objectives, how to leverage the differences to the company’s advantage, and how these differences are designed to facilitate collaborative rather than competitive behaviors among all the members of each team. Performance metrics are established to support the alliance with a focus on both the outcome of the alliance as well as the process.   

Whether it be the stream of green lights you hit on the way to work or the person that holds the door for you as you juggle groceries, at the end of the day, we are most appreciative of the people and things that make our lives easier. Although technological innovation and automation have given us the ability to soothe many of our woes, we cannot forget that the human element is at the center of all things marketing. In light of this, we must ask ourselves, “Would I be satisfied as a customer or colleague in this process, and if not, how could I change it?” By exemplifying these traits of a successful CMO, the outlook of your operations will shift from being self-serving to philanthropic in nature.  



Analytics: The Essential Ace in Every Hand

Posted on

None of us would agree to play a card game with cards missing from the deck; we would know that the odds of winning would be significantly diminished. Yet surprisingly, many marketers are willing to implement marketing programs sans analytics.

In the past few weeks I have attended several marketing conferences. At each event, marketers are talking enthusiastically about how to make Web sites, SEO, social media, email campaigns, and mobile better. However, there is very little conversation about how to be smarter. Analytics is an essential card — actually an ace — in every marketer’s deck for enabling fact-based decisions and improving performance, and most importantly, for being smarter.

While the ace alone has value, when played with other cards its power is truly revealed. And when it comes to analytics, the other card is data. Yes — we have all heard the common complaint about the elusiveness of quality data. Unfortunately, data quality has been an issue in organizations for so long that it has now become the ready excuse for why marketers cannot perform analytics. To harness the power of your analytics card, identify your data issues and create a plan to address them.

Another reason that you may overlook this missing card in your deck is that guessing or gut instinct has been working well enough. Unfortunately, this approach may not suffice in the long-term and your “luck” may run out as organizations push to make “smart” decisions. As marketers, analytics is our opportunity to actively contribute to fact-based decisions. Through analytics, marketers achieve new insights about customers, markets, products, channels, and marketing strategy, programs and mix. It also enables marketing to help improve performance, competitiveness, and market and revenue growth.

As the importance of analytics gains momentum, marketers with analytical acumen will be in great demand. According to some resources, the complexities of data analysis and management are becoming so enormous that there is a shortage of people who are able to conduct analysis and present the results as actionable information. Taking the initiative and honing your analytical capabilities will enable you to make sure you have this ace in the deck — and preferably, in your hand.

Most of us are already working with a time and resource deficit. Try to find a way each quarter to bolster you analytical skills. Attend a conference, read a book, take a class, and bring in experts you can learn from. Here are some key analytical concepts and skills to add:

· Quantitative Decision Analysis
· Data Management
· Data Modeling
· Industry and Competitive Analysis
· Statistical Analysis
· Predictive Analytics and Models
· Marketing Measurement and Dashboard

If you can build your analytics strength, you’ll always have an ace in your pocket.

5 Steps to Improve Your Marketing Accountability

Posted on

What is marketing accountability?

Accountability has become another business buzz-word. We all think we know what the word means and we all think we do it. When you review the definition of accountability, it doesn’t really shed much light on its importance, “ac•count•a•bil•i•ty [uh-koun-tuh-bil-i-tee]: the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable.” (

We can turn to the AMA for a more specific definition. The AMA defines marketing accountability as:

“The responsibility for the systematic management of marketing resources and processes to achieve measurable gains in return on marketing investment and increased marketing efficiency, while maintaining quality and increasing the value of the corporation.”

Perhaps VEM’s perspective will help drive home the concept. Accountability is the measuring and monitoring of the commitment a person, group, or organization makes to deliver specific, defined results. We have found that accountable marketing organizations are both accountable to the financial and strategic initiatives of the organization. When marketing examines the ROI of a program it is addressing the financial side of the equation.

Measuring marketing’s commitment to moving the needle regarding market share growth or an increase in customer value are examples of being accountable for the strategic initiatives side of the equation. Both necessitate aligning marketing objectives with business outcomes and linking marketing to a company’s financial performance.

Performance Management Takes Measurement

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” This time-tested adage from management guru Peter Drucker applies now more than ever given the continuous scrutiny on marketing. Best-in-class marketers understand this idea all too well and are investing in the infrastructure (tools, systems, skills, processes) needed to develop a fully accountable performance-driven outcome-based marketing organization. These organizations aren’t only focused on being more efficient (reducing costs and waste), but improving their effectiveness and strategic value with laser-beam focus being on improving business results.

Notice two operative words: performance-driven and outcome-based. Accountability starts with an outcome, a result that needs to be accomplished. Marketers have tended to concentrate on outputs, the “stuff” we produce, and the ROI on these outputs. Best-in-class marketers are shifting from being output-oriented to outcome-based.

For example, rather than reporting on the number of people who attended a webinar and the associated ROI, these marketers are reporting on the number of qualified opportunities against the expected performance target for a webinar and how many of the opportunities ultimately converted into sales worthy prospects.

Performance-driven marketing organization leverage performance management techniques. Performance management is the process of measuring progress toward achieving key outcomes and objectives in order to optimize individual, group or organizational performance. VisionEdge Marketing research over the past nine years found that marketing performance management is a top priority for the C-Suite (CEOs, CFOs, COOs, etc.).

The bottom line, as marketers we must still prove the business value of marketing, that is we must be ever more diligent and vigilant when it comes to marketing accountability.

The need for marketing to embrace performance management is not new. The Advertising Research Foundation study highlighted this finding back in 2000. Despite the number of tools added to the marketing arsenal, performance management remains elusive for many marketers. Why? In our work we have discovered that many marketing organizations lack the data and tools they need to measure and manage performance and those that have the tools and data often lack the analytics, metrics, performance targeting, and measurement sills. These problems will continue to plague marketing organizations until they focus on and acquire the analytical approaches and skills, the right data and data collection processes, and the right measurement skills and tools.

Most importantly accountable marketing requires develop meaningful action based measures and metrics. This year’s study by Unica (now part of IBM) found that turning data into action, measuring results and effectiveness remain among the top priorities for marketers.

Steps to Improve Your Marketing Accountability

There are two things every marketer can do to improve their accountability. First, ensure the link between marketing objectives and the associated programs, tactics and activities are directly linked to specific quantifiable business outcomes. Second, demonstrate the value of marketing by setting, monitoring and reporting on relevant measurable marketing objectives, metrics and performance targets to the leadership team.

Easier said than done you think? True. But these five initial steps will go a long way toward enabling you to start and accelerate this important journey.

  1. Conduct an audit to identify alignment, data and process gaps.
    It’s hard to know where to go and where to aim if you don’t know your current state. Use the audit to identify and add the right talent, systems, and tools to help automate marketing processes and improve marketing performance. Assess the crucial data, analytical and measurement skills your team needs and provide training.
  2. Create and adopt a performance measurement and management strategy, system and metrics and measurement framework that aligns marketing with the business outcomes.
    Design and select metrics and clear standards of performance that enables marketing to measure its impact, effectiveness, efficiency and value. It’s important to understand the select the right metrics. Marketing metrics should tie to our three primary responsibilities: acquiring, keeping and growing the value of profitable customers. Therefore the metrics we select should in some way indicate the impact marketing is having on market share, customer value, and customer equity.
  3. Engage the leadership team and form strategic partnerships with an extended team of finance, IT, sales, service, etc.
    In 2005 the Tuck School of Business facilitated an executive roundtable with nearly 20 CFOs and CIOs from some of the largest companies in the world, including Cisco, IBM, Eaton, Whirlpool and Citigroup. Why? Because CFOs and CIOs along with other members of the C-Suite “have increasingly become key partners in a variety of initiatives critical to business success.” Performance management is one of these critical business initiatives. CFOs often lead the internal discussion about metrics and performance management. CFOs are also taking the initiative to develop standard, consistent measurements that focus on leading indicators of value creation. CIOs and IT play a major role in creating and maintaining the infrastructure and data needed to support performance management. Marketing accountability is key to performance management. The elevation of their roles plus the leadership team’s renewed focus on productivity, business value and performance management require marketing to build bridges and allies finance and IT and engage them and other key members in the marketing performance management journey.
  4. Create and align processes, policies and practices that ensure the linkage between marketing objectives and programs with business results.
    As a result the marketing organization will be properly and strategically positioned and pulling in the same direction as the rest of the organization. Organizational development research has shown that proper alignment of people and organization’s result in higher productivity for less effort. When you have achieved alignment the link between marketing project, programs and initiatives and the broader company outcomes is explicit. And each member of the marketing team understands the impact of their daily activities on the outcomes. Once you take this step you will be able to prioritize projects based on their value and impact rather than what’s most familiar or easiest.
  5. Develop a multi-level dashboard to report performance and results in real-time to facilitate course adjustments and foster decision making. Make your marketing dashboard an iterative and collaborative effort. A good marketing dashboard facilitates decisions. If your marketing dashboard doesn’t enable you to make course adjustments, know what is and isn’t working, and communicate the value of marketing in financial and strategic impact terms then it’s time for a dashboard makeover.

For many marketing organizations these steps may require process and cultural changes. So marketing accountability is not a journey for the weak or timid. However, there have been enough studies over the years to suggest that by implementing marketing accountability you will be able to hold or add to your marketing budget AND you will become more effective at using marketing to drive business results.

Do You Have What It Takes to Earn an A?

Posted on

For the past decade, our annual marketing performance measurement and management survey has asked, “What grade would the CEO give the marketing organization for implementing initiatives that enabled your company to achieve its objectives?” And for the past decade less than a quarter of marketing organizations received an A. Do you know and have what it takes to earn an A?

Applying ordinal logistic regression (Chi-square = 126.592, df 6, p < .001) to the survey results proves there is a direct relationship between those marketers who clearly convey to the leadership team how marketing is impacting the business and who are able to directly link between marketing activities with business outcomes with those marketing organizations that receive an A. There is less than one chance in a thousand this result was due to random variation. What does this mean? It means if you can perform two things convincingly well — alignment and accountability — you will go to the head of the class.

Let’s quickly examine what is meant by alignment and accountability and what each might require. We are all familiar with alignment, the ability to arrange groups or forces in relation to one another. When there is direct-line-of-sight among marketing activities, tactics and programs with marketing objectives and business outcomes, we foster alignment. The key is direct-line-of sight and this, at a minimum, requires some type of approach or methodology. The more visual you can make this, the easier it will be for the C-Suite to see the relationship.

When you review the definition of accountability, it doesn’t really shed much light on its importance, “ac•count•a•bil•i•ty [uh-koun-tuh-bil-i-tee]: the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable.” ( We can turn to the American Marketing Association for a more specific definition. The AMA defines marketing accountability as:

“The responsibility for the systematic management of marketing resources and processes to achieve measurable gains in return on marketing investment and increased marketing efficiency, while maintaining quality and increasing the value of the corporation.”

In practical terms, accountability is the measuring and monitoring of the commitment a person, group, or organization makes to deliver specific, defined results. Measurement is the foundation of accountability. It’s is very hard to be accountable without the ability to measure. And measurement typically takes data and analytics capabilities, such as processes, systems, and skills. And lastly in addition to monitoring and measuring their performance these best-in-class marketers actually report on their performance conveying their metrics on some type of dashboard designed to facilitate strategic decisions and make course corrections.

We realize that alignment and accountability is not an easy undertaking. But if you’re aiming for an A for implementing initiatives that enable your company to achieve its objectives then alignment and accountability and what they entail in terms of data, analytics, metrics and the corresponding systems, processes and skills need to be at the top of your list.

Marketing: More Than Just A Pretty Face

Posted on

The marketing professionals within the customer organizations we work with often tell us they have been relegated merely to tactical implementers who make things pretty. We often hear them say they are perceived as the team that makes the Web site pretty, the presentations prettier, the trade show booth attractive, the online demo cooler, the new product brochure snappier, and so on. Perhaps you’re sensing a theme here? Marketing is more than the “make it pretty” department. Our goal as marketers should be to leverage the creative aspects of marketing to enable our organizations to fulfill the role of any business to attract, keep and grow the value of customers.

We can use the American Marketing Association’s (AMA) definition of marketing as a guide for how we can be more than just a pretty face. The AMA defines marketing as “an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.” This definition dictates that marketing must be more than a creative function.

If you want to make over your marketing to play a more strategic role, then focus on leveraging four customer-centric processes:

1. Create Value Marketing sits in the space between the company’s capabilities and what the customer wants. By understanding the core capabilities of the company, and then matching it with customer wants and needs, marketing drives value creation. This means marketing must fully understand the customer. In this capacity, the marketing organization serves as a driver of an organization’s value chain by ensuring that products and services are shaped by customer expectations and demands.

2. Communicate Value In order to be the chosen supplier for your customer, you first have to be on your customer’s “short list.” In order to be on the customer’s “short list,” you need to know what the customer values so you can communicate how your company and its products/services deliver on this value in such a way as to create preference for your company and its products/services over alternative options. Every customer touchpoint affects the customer’s decision and action; therefore, every touchpoint needs to be tied to and communicate the value proposition.

3. Deliver Value By establishing a strong link between customer value requirements and the major value-producing activities in the company, marketing has the unique role of enabling the company to deliver on customers’ value expectations. Marketing can then use these value expectations to drive customer preference and stimulate purchase decisions. One way to think of this is that at every customer touchpoint — whenever a customer will be affected by a decision or action — the people involved in that touchpoint need to understand and deliver on the value. In some organizations this is known at “moments of truth.” Marketing is in the unique position of being able to look across all the touchpoints and monitor whether the value is actually delivered. Through constant monitoring, marketing can help determine whether it is delivering on its value promise and whether the value proposition needs modification.

4. Manage customer relationships We need to think beyond technology when we think of customer relationship management (CRM), and instead realize that CRM is a business philosophy in which the customer plays a central and critical role in all business activities. While we can debate who “owns” the customer, marketing is in an ideal position to be the centralized point for aggregating, segmenting and analyzing customer data. This ability to create a single view of the customer comes with responsibility: the responsibility to take a leadership role in creating and managing the processes associated with the company’s customer relationships.

For organizations to grow, the leadership team relies on marketing for more “than just the pretty stuff.” It should depend on marketing to develop marketing strategies that create and deliver superior perceived customer value. With this emphasis on increasing value, marketing can help the firm achieve growth by penetrating existing segments, developing new markets, and creating new products and services. As a result, marketers should be willing to own and be accountable for these four processes if they want to serve as growth champions within their organization and leave the “make it pretty” syndrome behind.

Make Marketing Count in 2012

Posted on

What are your plans when it comes to your marketing investments for the coming year? According to Forrester, Forbes Insights and others, more companies will expand their marketing budgets in the coming year, with one very important caveat, marketers will need to justify the spending, prove the effects of marketing campaigns, and demonstrate program success…or risk losing budgets. Forrester suggests marketers focus measurable program elements that are designed around business objectives. If you are like many organizations you’ve invested in web analytics tools, marketing campaign management systems, and sales force automation. Odds are you are coming to expect more accountability from your marketing organization.

Since 2001, VisionEdge Marketing has conducted research in the area of marketing performance measurement and management (MPM). During this time we’ve seen that organizations have steadily invested in developing and implementing processes to measure and report their progress toward achieving key outcomes and objectives in order to optimize their performance. But there are still some important gaps to close.

When it comes to improving marketing measurement and performance, we encourage you to enable your marketing organization to achieve the following in order to help you understand marketing’s contribution and value.

1. Work from a marketing plan blueprint

Marketing’s difficulty in linking its contribution to and impact on the business in a definitive way is due to how it tracks activities through to business outcomes. Part of the problem is in the marketing planning process. So often the plan is an extensive word or power point document that culminates in a calendar and budget worksheet. The relationship between the activities on the calendar and the business becomes blurred. While the work associated with the planning effort is extremely important, the resulting document isn’t a useful day-to-day tool. Ask your marketing organization to summarize the plan in a one page map or blueprint that visually shows the link between Marketing and business results.

2. Focus on outcomes rather than outputs

Too many marketing programs lack a performance target and those that have one are typically volume-oriented output-based metrics such as metrics related to the website traffic, downloads, and site behavior or social media behavior. Most marketers remain challenged with defining metrics and measurement from lead-to-pipeline-to-revenue. As a member of the leadership team you most likely monitor results such as new deals, rate of new deals, market share, customer retention/attrition, increase business per customer, etc. It’s time to for marketing to focus on these types of metrics too – metrics related to customer management, lead management, market outcomes and marketing management. Ask your marketing organization to move from output to outcome based metrics, and to develop metrics more directly related to the business such as pipeline contribution, retention rates, referral rates, product adoption, and share of wallet. One key step is to include a performance target tied to an outcome-based metric for every program this year.

3. Clarify business outcomes

Marketers cannot market to a bucket of revenue. The lack of quantifiable specific outcomes related to the number of customers to acquire, retain, grow in a market or segment hampers marketing’s accountability. Your marketers need to understand what needle to move. It is the responsibility of the leadership team to provide two things:

  • Clear, specific, quantifiable business outcomes related to number of customers to acquire, retain and grow, and in which markets or segments at what average order value and
  • How you expect marketing to contribute to these outcomes.

    4. Improve your marketing organizations data, analytics, and measurement skills

    The team may now have web and marketing automation tools that provide instant insight into campaigns activity but they won’t take you far if you don’t have the data and analytical, analytical and measurement skills. Many organizations have invested in information-centric technology to support segmentation, personalization, content management, customer touch points, and safe force automation. Analytics is the missing link that enables marketers to truly leverage these investments. Data and analytics skills will make it possible to make better decisions. Over the years researchers from Forrester, Jupiter, Ovum and others analyzed the impact of analytics on performance. They found that marketers using analytics are able to focus their spending on the areas of greatest return and are able to move from “blind” acquisition to “intelligent” acquisitions, retention and value. You’ve made the infrastructure investments, now it is time to make the skills and talent investment.

5. Demand actionable dashboard

The ability to easily collect, track, and report on marketing performance can make the difference in a consistent and effective MPM practice. Investment in this area is critical. Systems that allow access to critical data elements and automatically visualize the data for Marketing allow for faster and more frequent assessment of marketing effectiveness. When these systems are not in place or lacking, they can cause Marketing to focus on metrics that they can track vs. what they should. Tracking and measuring what you can is not the same as measuring and reporting on what matters.

The marketing dashboard graphically represents marketing performance. A good dashboard is actionable. It enables the marketing organization to understand what is and isn’t working and if necessary to make appropriate course adjustments. Having a dashboard is one indicator of MPM maturity. Make the coming year the year you require a marketing dashboard that enables the organization to see marketing’s contribution to the business.

Essentially all of these steps require operationalizing marketing. Your marketing team probably knows what it needs to do. But without the systems to collect data and monitor results and the processes and skills to measure and report on marketing effectiveness and efficiency, the organization will continue to flounder when it comes to performance management. Marketers practicing performance management can optimize marketing activities thereby making measurement more relevant and allocating marketing resources more appropriately. This may be the year to consider establishing a Marketing Operations function that will tie together analysis with performance management.