Many companies tell us that they are creating a marketing dashboard to improve visibility and alignment. As a key element of performance management, a marketing dashboard also serves as an important vehicle for assessing marketing’s contribution. Almost every week, we’re working with a company who is trying to select the right performance metrics and develop an actionable marketing dashboard. In addition to internal factors, good data is a vital ingredient to successful dashboard. Data is needed to employ metrics and establish key performance indicators. Without the data, it would be difficult to measure marketing’s value, determine how well marketing is moving the needle, and/or how well marketing is aligned with the rest of the organization and the overall strategy.
However, even with the data, it’s possible for the metrics to distort reality. For those of you investing in business intelligence tools and various marketing and sales software systems, remember to put the necessary checks and balances in place to evaluate the usage and quality of the data. You will need a way to quickly address data inaccuracies so that the metrics don’t steer execution in the wrong direction. It will also be important to have a process for evaluating aspects of the organization that are hard to measure.
One thing to keep in mind throughout your journey is that metrics can help create alignment as well as improve and prove the value of marketing. One of the most overlooked aspects of the performance management process is the dialogue it creates and the opportunity for organizations to discuss the meaning and implications of the metrics. The journey to create a Marketing Dashboard can be a difficult one, but once you have an excellent dashboard at your fingertips, you’ll see its value and will agree that it is well worth the investment.
- Product experience (perception of choices and comparative offers)
- Outcome focus (ability to achieve their desired outcome)
- Moments of truth (service expectations and encounters)
- Peace of mind (confidence in the service provide and perceived expertise of the provider).
- Peace of mind has the strongest impact on customer satisfaction, loyalty and word of mouth.
- Moments of truth are the next most important attributes to positively impact loyalty and word of mouth.
- Outcome focus (the customers’ ability to achieve their goals) effects loyalty and word of mouth but only to a lesser extent than peace of mind.
- After peace of mind, product experience has the strongest impact on customer satisfaction, but not as much impact as the other three dimensions on loyalty or word of mouth.
As you are finalizing your plans for 2014, it is an excellent time to revisit your approach to strategy. Strategy is about defining and setting the long-term direction for your organization. Marketing as one of the primary external-facing entities (sales is another) within an organization plays a central role in strategy development and execution.
During the past few years, many companies have focused heavily on internal processes, looking for a way to reduce costs and improve productivity. While this is essential to survival and driving short-term earnings, it doesn’t help a company address shifts in the market, new technologies, new channels or the entrance of new competitors.
This is the domain of strategy, and successful strategies leverage an outside-in approach, which takes seeing your customers as assets. If you want to take an outside-in approach to strategy you must be willing to continuously invest in learning about and from your customers and to translate this knowledge into initiatives that will enable you to gain a competitive advantage, improve your market position and ultimately your shareholder value.
We hope you will check out George Day and Christine Moorman’s book, Strategy from the Outside-In: Profiting from Customer Value, which discusses taking an outside-in vs. an inside-out approach to strategy.
Inside-out thinking begins with more traditional questions such as “what are we good at,” “what are our capabilities,” “what are our products,” and so forth, and can make a company rather myopic. The book explores how organizations that take a customer-centric view — looking at everything the company does through the customers’ eyes — focus on creating and keeping customers by delivering exceptional customer value.
In their book, the authors remind us that when companies “hunker down, cut R&D, slow innovation, no longer experiment,” and put internal issues above serving customers, they are putting their survival at risk. This is all part of the inside-out thinking. Their work found that “outside in” companies perform better because they immerse themselves in the market, doing more experimentation in order to gain market insight and draw actionable ideas.
How do you know whether you are an inside-out company? If you are continually surprised by bad results, seem out of touch with who your customers are and what value you are delivering to them, the entrance of a new competitor or the emergence of a new product category, you may be falling into the inside-out trap.
Outside-in companies depend on marketing to help them be customer-centric and to increase the direct dialogue with customers in order to see and adapt to patterns sooner. This responsibility as well as finding growth opportunities and positioning the organization for the future falls to the CMO. Successful CMOs are passionate advocates for customer value and build strong relationships with R&D and sales.
By taking an outside-in approach, marketing can develop strategies that will improve its ability to attract, keep and grow the value of customers, thereby improving its effectiveness and value — critical components of marketing performance. As you build your marketing strategy and offer counsel to your leadership team, we hope you are taking an outside-in approach.
This year, numerous studies of the marketing discipline and numerous articles highlighted the challenge and need for marketing to capture, manage, synthesize and leverage data and analytics. Marketing organizations around the world want to become more data-driven, but the explosion and rapidly growing volume of data as well as the lack of effective tools make this difficult. In the meantime, they are revamping their organizational lineup, adding more analytical talent and capabilities that enable them to boil oceans of data and produce mountains of reports.
Access to this information and refined analytical and process skills create an opportunity for marketers to generate business-relevant insights. Having the necessary skills and technological infrastructure are becoming table stakes to successfully compete and serve customers. These capabilities are evolving into the building blocks of every marketing organization’s foundation. Today, marketing leaders use data, analytics, metrics, and modeling to tackle point problem and to enable organizational change. To be effective change agents, marketing leaders need to move from being a blocking and tackling organization to taking a more holistic approach — one that integrates analytical, process, strategy, planning, and performance management expertise.
Being a change agent is a noble aspiration, but what does that entail? Change agents are catalysts. A successful change agent improves the organization’s ability to achieve a higher degree of output. When acting as a change agent, marketing leads the creation of a vision of what could or should be. Marketers then identify what it takes to realize this vision and go about amending or replacing strategies, procedures, and processes that are obstacles to achieving the vision. We operate on two planes — one where the organization currently is, and the other being the ideal state.
Since marketing should be the antenna for the organization — gathering and interpreting the signals — we are in a better position to act as change agents. The business environment is always changing, and therefore, the company that can create, manage and master change has the greatest potential to thrive. Being a change agent means more than just coming up with a brilliant idea — it is about bringing the idea to life and engaging the rest of the organization. Creating, managing and mastering change is a skill. The skills we have in marketing to connect and engage with external customers and prospects are the same skills we need to connect with and engage people within the organization. That’s what gives marketers an advantage as change agents. The steps we use to impact and drive change externally also enable marketing to impact and drive change internally.
These vital steps are:
1. Link change explicitly and tightly to real performance outcomes. Change is not for the sake of change; change should improve business performance. The result of change should be concrete, specific, quantifiable, business outcomes.
2. Develop concrete initiatives that support the outcomes and focus on what it will take for these initiatives to affect the organization’s operation in a positive way.
3. Include the human dimension in your calculations. People do what people do. They embrace, they resist, they obstruct, and they rise to the occasion. Listen closely. People dodge drafts. Find ways to enroll people into the process.
4. Develop and market the message. When we sell to different market groups, we develop appropriate campaigns. Employ this approach inside. Segment your internal markets and tailor the message accordingly. Leverage both the informal and formal networks.
5. Disruption is an important part of the process. Being a change agent means you’re going to discomfit people around you. You’re going to interrupt the “way we do things.” As change agents you must be able to step outside of your own comfort zone if you want to take people outside of theirs. Key to being a change agent is producing and keeping a healthy tension alive in the organization.
Here’s an important point to remember about being a change agent — the first person who must change is you. A change agent models the way. We must live the vision we see and the behavior it requires if we want others to do so. The rest of the team will be watching us. We must develop the skills and techniques to change how we work if we’re going to help others acquire the skills and techniques to change how they work. Being on the front line enables us to capture, manage, and synthesize market and customer data sooner and faster. As a result we are ideally situated to use analytics, metrics, and process to act as organizational change agents.
Considering our purpose as marketers, we should be placing customers at the center of our marketing efforts. That’s truer today than ever before, because customers have more choices, more control, more ways to connect, and more access information. No wonder marketers everywhere are scrambling to develop content and make use of the myriad of channels to reach and connect with prospects and customers.
Many marketers have gotten so caught up in the creation of content, however, that they have forgotten how important it is to match marketing content with the customer buying journey and life cycle. Content delivered in the right channel at the wrong time can be a wasted touch point.
Too few marketers have mapped their customer’s buying journey and moved from profiles to personas, and therefore few clearly understand their customer’s life cycle. Because keeping a customer is more cost effective and profitable than acquire a new customer, knowing both the buying journey and the customer life cycle is important.
The Customer Life Cycle
One common definition of customer lifecycle is “the progression of steps a customer goes through when considering, purchasing, using, and maintaining loyalty to a product or service.” The key point is to recognize that the life cycle defines an ongoing relationship and continuous dialogue.
Forrester defines the customer life cycle as follows: “The customers’ relationship with a brand as they continue to discover new options, explore their needs, make purchases, and engage with the product experience and their peers.” In our company, we talk about the Six Cs associated with this process:
Whether you use this approach or another, the premise of the customer life cycle is the same: Capture potential and existing customers’ attention, preference, purchase, and loyalty.
As marketers, we can and should use the customer lifecycle as the basis for every marketing investment decision we make that’s designed to acquire, retain, up-sell, cross-sell, and create customer advocates. Only by understanding the customer life cycle can marketers make better decisions about the additional marketing investments of time, people, and cash on customer-targeted efforts.
Content and Life Cycle
The purpose of content marketing is to deliver high-quality, relevant, and valuable information to prospects and customers in the right channel at the right time to drive profitable customer action. Content marketing is not the same as running a campaign. Content marketing looks more like publishing, where you serve as the architect of useful and compelling information that will inform, educate, engage, and entertain customers and prospects. Content marketing is part of the marketing mix, not a substitute for it.
If you serve more than one market or region, and your product requires a consultative approach, you will likely have multiple customers and will therefore need to map content to multiple buying journeys and life cycles. Perhaps the following examples will help bring this point home.
Let’s say you currently market and sell a technology product to IT buyers and decision-makers in the federal government. Your research suggests that there may be a strong growth opportunity in the Emergency 911 system—a quasi-governmental system. If you didn’t map the customer buying journey, you might assume that the buying process for the Emergency System was the same as for any other government agency. And you might also assume that the profile of the IT buyer at these sites would be the same as the IT buyer at the agency. Only by mapping the buying process would you learn that these are two very different personas and two different buying processes with different marketing content implications. White papers and tradeshows may be far more important in the early stages of the government-agency buying process, whereas webinars and videos of the system in use are more important in the early stages of the buying process for the emergency services sites.
How can we record this process when most customer buying journeys and lifecycles are not linear? Though it is impossible to completely capture and monitor the entire buying journey and decision, mapping the process helps you capture channel preferences and interactions. You may not be able to know exactly which colleague, analyst, online and offline channels a customer used, or which publication informed the decision, but mapping the buying journey and customer life cycle will give you insight into when and how they are influenced.
Mapping the Journey and Life Cycle
The approaches to mapping differ. Regardless of the approach you take, you should include input from all internal people who are in contact with customers (Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, and Product Marketing) as well as input from the customers themselves. The mapping process should take into account the following:
- Initial triggers that lead to first contact
- Steps they take (industry reports, product reports and reviews, white papers, demos, etc.) and the conversations (analysts, colleagues, event encounters, call centers, salespeople, etc.) they engage in to solve their problem and find a specific solution
- Steps and experiences leading up to their purchase (the RFP, reference calls, pilots, etc.)
- Steps associated with the purchase and consumption (the on-boarding process, purchasing processes, implementation, invoicing, etc.)
- Ongoing experience and reaction to their purchase (problem resolution process, new product offers, community participation opportunities, etc.)
Once you’ve mapped the process and organized each step into the appropriate stage, you can begin to match marketing content with the buying process and life cycle. Two important benefits of the mapping initiative are improved Marketing and Sales alignment and a more behaviorally based opportunity-qualification process.
Matching Mix, Content, Channel, and Life Cycle
The links between marketing activities, content, and the customer buying process and life cycle will become clearer once you complete the mapping process. You’ll realize that different programs and content will be more valuable and appropriate at different stages depending on the customer process. The map will serve as a guideline for improving the utility of your mix and the content you use to connect and engage with customers and prospects, as well as to enhance existing customer relationships.
For example, you may learn from the mapping process that traditional in-person events and presentations are far more valuable at creating contacts and connections for a specific segment than social media and blogs are. Your map may reveal that webinars with industry experts are a viable touch point for consideration for some customer segments while online chats with existing customers and traditional telemarketing are more effective for other segments. Through the process, you may learn that traditional e-newsletters are ideal for staying connected with one set of customers, whereas an online community with guest posts is better for another. Marketing will then need to select the program and build the content that supports the preferred channel for particular touch points in the process.
We’re drowning in data. We generate it from our own activity or research; we collect and capture tons more from external sources. And, by now, all of us have been exposed to the conversation about Big Data—the voluminous unstructured data that is collected from nontraditional sources such as blogs, social media, email, sensors, photographs, video footage, and so on.
As the number of channels and customer touches expand, so does the amount of data coming from them. Every day, there are more than a billion posts and 3.2 billion likes and comments on Facebook, and 175 million tweets on Twitter. According to Stephanie Miller, VP of member relations at the Direct Marketing Association, “data is big, getting bigger, and more complex (and expensive) to manage.”
In today’s data-rich and data-driven environment, we are predisposed to gain our insights from data. But action doesn’t always follow collection. A survey of 600 executives by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that 85% of the participants thought the biggest hurdle to unlocking value from data was not grappling with the sheer volume, but analyzing and acting on it. And gleaning the insights from the data is what makes the data valuable.
Merriam-Webster defines insight as the power or act of seeing. Keyword: Seeing. We must use the data to identify and see—to see patterns, trends, and anomalies. And once we gain this insight, its value is proven by the actions we take as result. Data that doesn’t help you see isn’t useful. So, in this instance, more does not always translate into better insights. In fact, according to the recently released 5th annual Digital IQ Survey, consulting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) found that 58% of respondents agree that moving from data to insight is a major challenge.
In 1990, Stephen Tuthill at 3M helped make the connection between data and wisdom. His The Data Hierarchy outlines four important concepts: data, information, knowledge, and wisdom, with data being the raw items or events. Once we have the data, we can sort and organize it into information. Knowledge is then derived from the patterns that result from understanding the relationships between the data and other factors. Wisdom comes when we understand what to pay attention to—what has meaning for us.
So, rather than focusing on more data, we need to focus on capturing the right data and then analyzing it in a way that gives us the power to see (knowledge) and act (wisdom). Bernard Marr from UK-based Advanced Performance Institute reminds us that to get the most out our data “you need to know what you want to know.” Once you know what you want to know, collect and organize the data.
So, now what?
Getting From Data to Insight:
1. Having the data is one thing, analyzing and synthesizing it is another. Synthesis is
where we begin to see the patterns. Once the synthesis is completed, you will need a way
to bring the data to life. Data visualization greatly aids in this part of the process. Data
visualization presents analytical results visually so we can more easily see what’s relevant
among all the variables, capture and communicate important patterns, and even support
predictive models. Visualization is an important step for exposing trends and patterns that you might not have otherwise noticed.
2. Not all patterns are germane. Take the time to review and discuss each pattern and its
potential implications. Talk about why you think each pattern is important and what it
means. This is an essential step for going from information to knowledge.
3. In one simple statement, articulate the insight that emerged out of each pattern or
point of synthesis. We find it is helpful to capture insight on a Post-it Note and place it on
a wall or flip chart to easily track each insight and see the “big picture” that may be
emerging as we go.
4. Incubate the insights. Give yourself and your team at least a day away from the “board.” When you and the team return you can take a fresh look and decide whether to make any changes.
5. Do the insights resonate? Once you are comfortable with the conclusions/insights
you’ve captured, involve other people who were part of the initial steps to gain their
reactions. Be sure to give them the context. The point of this step is to decide if the
insights resonate and are compelling enough to make or affect key decisions. That is, to
determine whether you have acquired the wisdom you need to act.
The success of this approach is contingent on the quality (not necessarily the quantity) of the data set, then following a process proven to identify core insights to support strategic decisions.
Jamie, the VP of Marketing at one of our manufacturing companies, in a recent conversation expressed excitement about securing someone from the finance group to support marketing data and analytics. “It took 2 years of lobbying but now we’ll be able to make better and more informed decisions,” said Jamie. To which I replied, “Awesome!”
Then, in my usual fashion, I asked a series of rapid-fire questions:
- What decisions are you hoping to make and in what priority order?
- What and where is the data that they will be accessing?
- What is the data capture and management plan?
- Is he just going to start delving into the data( A.K.A. boiling the ocean to see what treasures await) or are there specific insights about customers or the market that you want to gain?
- How will his contribution be measured?
- Is his role specifically digging into and analyzing data- and if so for what?
- Will he serve your team in a broader capacity a.e marketing ops, performance management and reporting?
Well, you can see the line of questioning.
Jamie said, “Whoa, I didn’t really think about what he was going to do or how, I just knew we needed someone who was comfortable with data and analytics because this isn’t my strong suit.” I said, “Adding this capability to your team is a great win, and demonstrating how it will prove and improve the value of marketing will create an even more important win. Now that you have this person, it might be a good idea to take some time to think about and decide function’s scope, role, purpose, etc.”
Jamie said, “Yeah, these are good questions and getting off on the right foot and in the right direction is really important for the team and for him. It almost took a miracle to get this person; we won’t get a second chance at it.”
Jamie asked if we could schedule a meeting next week to discuss things further. I said, “Of course, it would be our pleasure. In the meantime, your person may find our Marketing Operations: Enabling Marketing Centers of Excellence and from Intuition to Wisdom: Mastering Data, Analytics and Models white papers helpful .” As we set a date for our next call, Jamie said in closing, “ Downloading these as we speak.”