Power Tools-Use with Caution

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The results from the marketing performance research recently conducted jointly by ITSMA and VisionEdge Marketing (VEM), and Forrester were just announced. In its 12th year, the purpose of this study has been to understand how proficient marketers are at measuring and managing performance; using metrics, data, and analytics; and communicating marketing’s value, impact and contribution to the business. This year’s study captured input from more than 400 respondents. The study revealed areas in which marketers have made strides and areas where marketers remain challenged.Image

The result I found most perplexing was that, while marketers have access to more data than ever, leverage more analytics, and invest in more tools and systems, they continue to struggle to prove marketing’s contribution to the business. One clear indicator of this is that just 9% of CEOs and 6% of CFOs use marketing data to help make strategic decisions. Less than 10%! Although the majority of the marketers regularly produce and share a marketing dashboard, they are not bringing valuable, useful information to the table.

So where’s the disconnect? If you want your leadership team to understand how marketing is moving the needle in terms of top line revenue, market share, customer value, category ownership, and so on then the dashboard needs to be able to tell that story. Unfortunately, it appears that most marketers participating in the study use their marketing automation (MAP) or sales automation (CRM) systems to create their dashboards. In fact, dashboards and reports are already integrated into many of these systems. These dashboards, however, typically report on marketing activity and associated costs – email activity, website activity, social media activity, lead activity- rather than reporting on metrics executives can to set direction. It’s not that these reports and dashboards are bad; they are valuable when used to support tactical decisions, but if you want your CEO, CFO and other members of the C-Suite to use your dashboard it must clearly connect marketing investments and initiatives to business outcomes and results.

The ability to push a button and generate a pretty report that doesn’t add any value to the strategic decisions made at the C-Suite level doesn’t serve marketing well. To be on the right track, you need to start by making sure the marketing initiatives and investments are clearly aligned to business outcomes and that you have the right metrics in place. Otherwise, investing in better marketing tools is akin to buying a power saw when you have yet to master a hand saw. You have the ability to do more damage faster.

Learn more about the survey results and some initial impressions at:

Four Reasons Why Social Media is Not Research

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By Julie Schwartz, ITSMA and Laura Patterson, VEM

We recently completed a three-city road show to deliver the results from the 2012 ITSMA/VEM marketing Performance Management Study: The Path to Better Marketing Results. A question that came up during the discussion in all three cities was this, “Do I need to do customer research when I have access to so much social media and web data?”

We hate to break it to you, but YES! Social media listening is not research. That’s because:

  1. It doesn’t ask the questions you want to ask
  2. It doesn’t come up with a hypothesis and get the data to support (or refute!) your hypothesis.
  3. It doesn’t comprise a representative sample
  4. It doesn’t tell you what might happen in the future; rather, it’ a window into the past

Sentiment analysis, content analysis, and Twitter search are not the same as doing research. Don’t get us wrong; listening is definitely good and you can learn a lot from hearing what your critics and supporters say about you. However, social media listening is not the same as identifying the questions you want to ask and getting the answers. Relying on the voice of the customer as it is expressed online is a reactive, rather than proactive, approach. Further, social media does not necessarily offer a representative sample. Therefore, how valid and reliable are the results?

While Social media listening cannot replace the rigor of the traditional scientific method, it can still play a role in customer research. Social media can help:

  • Provide qualitative insights. Many companies have successfully used crowdsourcing and targeted online communities to garner insights into customer wants and needs.
  • Reveal unmet needs. Further, the qualitative nature of social media enables listeners to uncover potential unmet needs and learn things they never thought to ask about.
  • Test ideas in real time. Once choices have been narrowed down, floating trial balloons on a social media network or community can offer immediate feedback.
  • Collect data. And there is nothing to stop market researchers from using a social media-based data collection tool within the rigors of a well-designed study.

ITSMA’s How Buyers Consume research shows that the market for complex B2B solutions has bifurcated into B2B social buyers and traditional buyers. We now have a business generation gap. Younger, B2B social buyers are online participating in blog and community conversations, yet there remains a still-large contingent of more traditional buyers. Companies have to be relevant to both audiences, and research—the proactive, objective, scientific kind—is an excellent way to gain meaningful, relevant insights into different market and customer segments.

The bottom line is this:  Social media listening, although an important tool, is not going to give you the insights into customer behavior that you need to innovate and gain competitive advantage. With social media listening, you’ll know exactly what your competitors know. Nothing more.

Today’s marketers need to remember that one of their primary jobs is to provide the rest of the company with a window into the customer. This takes research.  Marketers need to reexamine their priorities and determine how they can best allocate their resources to retain and grow their business with existing customers and provide deeper insights into buyer behavior.  Social media listening is but one view of the customer and will not provide this insight. Social Media listening does not replace research.