marketing metrics

4 Steps to Guarantee Your Strategy’s Success

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The importance of good planning and execution seems obvious to most of us, and as we continue creating and finalizing our plans for 2014, that importance is even more evident. A good strategy that is well executed has the ability to impact a market, competitive position or business model. Yet, there are many companies at all stages that invest time in planning, but lack the processes and leadership needed to ensure a strategy achieves the desired results.  Failure is expensive and wastes precious resources.

What causes execution to go wrong? Two common causes: lack of communication and shifting focus of the strategy. Forbes Insights has conducted studies on why strategic plans fail and has found that an almost all CEOs say “communications is critical to the success of their strategic initiatives and that strategic initiatives often fail due to a lack of understanding, commitment and follow-through by key stakeholders.”

It’s not uncommon for companies to change strategies, the challenge is to be sure the organization can support the shift. For example, if your initial strategy is to compete on price, then your processes and focus need to support the execution of this strategy. If you then try to change your strategy to be one of service, the organization may not have the infrastructure for this strategic shift. 

Perhaps a simple way to start addressing execution is to think about how your organization is going to synchronize itself to ensure the right products get to the right customers at the right time. Synchronization is not easy. It can involve reconfiguring supply chains, knowledge of numerous foreign markets, addressing your cost structure and more. Communicating the plan to all the people involved and securing their support are critical to success. It’s common for organizations to resist change. 

Managing change and addressing the resistance, which may be well-founded, are important steps. Once the plan is decided upon, the infrastructure and processes put in place to support it, and the organization is on-board, it all comes down to follow-through. Studies continue to indicate that less than 15% of companies routinely track how well they performed in comparison to their targeted performance. The first year’s goals may be measured because they are often tied to bonus thresholds, it’s the follow through that tends to slip. Companies who invest in putting the right people in place to get the right things done and emphasizing process deliver the best results. Companies that combine attention to process with executive development tend to deliver the best return to shareholders. 

We like the four steps outlined by experts at Wharton that any company can take to improve the odds of execution success:

1. Develop a model for execution. You can adopt Michael Porter’s theory of comparative advantage, William Sharpe’s capital asset pricing model, or some other model. The important point is to have a model that defines the critical variables to support successful implementation of the plan. 

2. Choose the right metrics. Without a doubt sales and market share are going to continue to be the dominant metrics of business, but there are additional metrics that are critical to monitoring performance and success. Keep in mind that marketing is given money to invest on behalf of the organization.  The leadership team wants to know how this money is helping the organization achieve more of something, faster, and less expensively then if that money were directed somewhere else.  Use these mandates to guide your metrics selection. For example, speed to penetrating new markets as a way of understanding marketing’s impact on achieving something faster. 

3. Keep the plan center stage. Once you’ve earned internal and stakeholder buy-in, initiate a formal process that will keep the team engaged and focused. Meetings between the executive team and unit managers should be regular and ongoing and they should foster collaboration, dialogue, and problem resolution in order to maintain momentum. 

 4. Assess performance frequently. Annual reviews don’t allow the organization to make necessary adjustments. Assess the performance frequently to secure real-time feedback on the quality of execution down the line. 

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Customer Conversations: The Value of Adding Data & Analytical Skills

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 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!” Image

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.” 

Analytics: The Essential Ace in Every Hand

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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.

The Six C’s of a Customer-Centric Marketing and Sales Pipeline

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Just like Sales, Marketing is responsible for managing a predictable, reliable demand generation pipeline with a plan that ultimately produces higher value opportunities and maximizes revenue.

We believe that the traditional approach to the pipeline — Awareness, Interest, Demand, Action —or the more modified version of this pipeline — Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Purchase —is outdated. Why? Because customers are no longer passive recipients or a sidelined spectator.

In today’s environment, customers are actively engaged in the buying process, leveraging a mix of vehicles from search engines to customer generated blogs and reviews, from online communities to social networks, and from broadcast to personalization designed to create engagement and enhance experience. Therefore, how we approach, define and leverage the pipeline must also change.

Marketing and Sales teams have tried to tackle the change by jointly defining what a qualified lead is. This is working for some companies but not all. Why? We have to change how we think about the customer engagement process, not just our terms.

One of the best ways to change our thinking is to alter the language we use to define and describe the customer buying pipeline.  However just addressing our thinking is not enough in the complex, multi-touch, digital marketing world we live in. In addition to shifting the paradigm it is critical that we store all of the information coming in from our customers and prospects so we can track and measure the effectiveness of our marketing efforts, and the best place to do this is in your CRM system.

Perhaps this six step idea of how customers engage will strike a chord with you and will more accurately reflect how Marketing can measure its contribution. These six steps are:

. Contact

. Connect

. Conversation

. Consideration

. Consumption

. Community

These may seem like a new twist on an old idea, but language matters. These labels aren’t about what we do TO a prospective customer, but rather what we do WITH them. These revised labels suggest collaboration between the buyer and your company. Another key difference from the traditional approach is that these labels are behavioral in nature. This makes it easier to define what behaviors for each measurable stage you want to be able to affect and measure. Together, these steps create the string or series of behavioral events most prospects exhibit on their way to becoming and remaining a customer. Let’s briefly examine each of these.

Contact

While awareness is an important factor, what really matters is establishing contact. Prospects may be cognizant of your company and its products and services but until they demonstrate some degree of interest, you may be wasting time and money. Making contact means you need more than a vague idea of the market or customer set, you must have actual contact information. For some organizations, they are just beginning to build their contact database. For others, they have an extensive existing contact database they may be adding to and maintaining.

For most companies, though, this information is stored in their CRM systems, which if set up properly tracks every single customer or prospect you are engaging with.  CRM systems, such as salesforce.com, are the basis for all Sales and Marketing campaigns so when getting ready to contact the people in your database you need to make sure you have a well thought out lead and contact lifecycle built to capture all this contact information.  If your response lifecycle is constructed properly you can “count” the number of people who gave you their contact information and permission to contact them.

Connect

With contact made the next thing is to connect. What is the difference between a contact and a connection? A contact is an observable signal of hello from a person; it doesn’t mean they are eager to get to know you better. A connection suggests at least the virtual exchange of a handshake and the establishment of some type of rapport. You can approach measuring Marketing’s impact on creating connections in much the same way as we measured contacts: the number of connections made, the cost to acquire and maintain, and the rate of conversion from connection to conversation. We’ll be able to use a version of these metrics for each step.

Unfortunately, you can’t tell how deep a well is by measuring the length of the pump handle. That is, just because the connection has been made, doesn’t mean you have a customer or even someone who is inclined to engage in a conversation beyond the casual and polite visit to borrow a thing or two or yack about the weather. It’s about becoming a follower — downloading material from your website, signing up for your newsletter, participating in your webinars, etc. This is why the conversation stage is so important. This is the first stage that truly signals more than a passing interest.

Connection is perhaps the most important stage to track when measuring you marketing.  From a metrics perspective the connection is all about who responded to your campaigns – how many hand raises each campaign produced, how every Marketing campaign contributes to the Sales pipeline of your company, etc.  For this to be as effective as possible tracking the results of these connections in salesforce.com (or whatever CRM solution you use) is very important because it keeps Sales and Marketing on the same page and gives everyone context for the conversation that is about to start.

Conversation

Now we’re talking! That’s the best way to describe the conversation stage. There’s a flow of information back and forth between prospects/customers and you. Both parties are engaged. This is where the rubber meets the road. You cannot acquire a customer that requires a considered purchase without a conversation or series of conversations. Once the conversation is in play, the next step is consideration.

Consideration

We must understand the difference between a conversation and consideration. Just because we have a conversation in play with a customer doesn’t mean you have a qualified opportunity that is seriously considering purchasing from you. Consideration involves customers/prospects applying careful thought to your offer and company and weighing their options. Different marketing vehicles, such as customer references, case studies, and third party white papers, will be deployed at this stage to help the customer/prospect build preference and predisposition toward your offering. At this stage it is possible to determine whether you have an opportunity worthy of sharing with sales.

Time is money so in addition to measuring the time it has taken to move a contact to this stage you can begin to quantify the value of the opportunity as well. We can measure Marketing’s financial contribution to the pipeline.  One of the best ways to quantify Marketing’s contribution to the pipeline is by leveraging weighted campaign influence as opposed to traditional Marketing ROI.  Weighted campaign influence enables marketers to attribute multiple campaigns to every opportunity but also assign different campaigns certain weights, because it is highly unlikely that every campaign touch played the same role in creating an opportunity.  Check out Full Circle CRM’s description of campaign influence to learn a little more about this metric.

Consumption

Even though the opportunity has now moved to the domain of Sales, Marketing still plays a role in converting the opportunity from consideration to a contract to consume or an actual consumption of the product or service. And upon consumption, Marketing can now measure the overall conversion rate, and time, the cost from contact to customer, the cost to acquire, and Marketing’s “win” rate (how many of the Marketing opportunities closed and how this rate compares to the win rate of non-Marketing generated deals).

Leveraging your CRM solution to track your company’s Marketing funnel is a great way to concretely track this.  For example, you can set up reports on your Sales, Telesales, and Marketing funnels inside of salesforce.com to see the results of the handoff between Marketing and Sales as well as the volume, conversion rates, and velocity of leads generated from your campaigns.  You can see where Marketing is effective and where it can be improved.

Community

It would be a shame to stop investing in a relationship that has just begun. A customer is your most important asset. Customers are also your most important advocates. In the world of customer generated content, blogs, social networks, and product reviews, marketing organizations need to focus on developing their customer community, the final C in the pipeline. There are numerous ways to build this community, such as using Facebook and LinkedIn or other social networks to create a means for your customers to engage with you and each other. Hopefully these six key measurable stages for developing, implementing and measuring Marketing’s contribution to the opportunity pipeline offer you a valuable approach for understanding how to measure the engagement of your customers. It also enables a more collaborative conversation with marketing and sales. With a new year on the horizon, now is the time to revisit how you frame your pipeline.

See part one of this conversation at the Full Circle CRM Blog

Tackling the “Too Hard To” Pile of Marketing Accountability

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If you’re like us, you probably have one of those piles on your desk that keeps being moved from one corner to another. You know that pile you need to get to but avoid because it will take some real effort to tackle. For many marketing professionals, marketing accountability, analytics and ROI are in this pile. Not too long ago at a marketing conference where Laura was speaking, the organizers had set up round tables with specific topics for discussion over breakfast. Laura was sitting at the measuring marketing ROI (return on investment) table (of course, where else would I be sitting?) which was strategically located right next to the buffet line.vem cluttered desk While she was sitting there waiting for people to join her, she kept hearing people say, “Oh measuring marketing,that’s just too hard.” There were hundreds of marketers attending this conference, and about 2 dozen tables of 10 were set to accommodate the early risers. Yet only four other brave souls joined her.

We must stop avoiding this topic and tackle the pile. As Sylvia Reynolds the CMO of Wells Fargo says, “Marketing must be a driver of tangible business results…we must start with the goal in mind and a clear way to measure that goal.” ROI is important for accountability–besides being able to justify spending and enable us to run the marketing organization more effectively and efficiently, knowing what is and isn’t working helps marketing achieve greater influence and serve in a more strategic role. Various surveys suggest that over a third and as much as 42% of marketing budgets are not adequate enough to achieve the outcomes and impact expected.

Perhaps your organization like many others is in the thick of budget planning. A key part of budget planning is to establish and validate the money you plan to spend. The more aligned marketing is with the outcomes of the organization and the more the plan includes performance targets and metrics, the more likely you will be allocated the budget you need to achieve the expected results.

So what does it take to tackle this Marketing Accountability pile? Here are six affordable steps any marketing organization can take to start whittling away at the marketing accountability and measurement pile.

1. Focus. Nothing of importance miraculously gets done on its own. vem focusTo effectively tackle the marketing measurement pile will take all of Covey’s seven habits: from taking a proactive approach and beginning with the end in mind, that is the outcomes you are expected to impact, to keeping the effort a priority when other things present themselves as urgencies to making marketing measurement a win/win for you, your team, and the rest of the organization. More than likely, you are going to need a cross-functional team to tackle this pile – people from finance, sales, IT, operations, etc. working collaboratively together to define the metrics and hunt down and organize the data.

2. Plan an attack. You know that age old question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer being, “One bite at a time.” This is true for the marketing accountability and ROI question. If this is a new effort for you, you need to break it into manageable pieces. Quantify your objectives, decide how you will measure them, collect the data that you need to meet the objectives, establish a baseline, gain commitment to the measurement plan, and finally, measure.

3. Get data: “Data is the new creative,” declares Stephan Chase of Marriott Rewards. Establishing metrics, determining effectiveness, understanding efficiencies, all take data. Without data you cannot monitor and measure results. And don’t assume that you have the data that you need to measure your objectives. For example, if you want to measure how many new customers you interest in a new product, you may find that you need first to determine what a “new” customer is. This may require different views of your existing customer records or new strategies for evaluating.

4. Analyze: Once you have the data, the challenge is to generate insights that facilitate fact based decision making. One of the most valuable applications of data and analytics is in leveraging your metrics. The metrics are what enable continuous improvement as you strive to achieve and set new performance standards. Just looking at numbers doesn’t tell you as much as evaluating trends or creating statistical models that help you identify an optimized approach to your marketing efforts. Consider looking at your measurements for what isn’t immediately obvious such as what might have happened if that campaign had gone to the three bottom deciles of customers?

5. Use a systematized process: You may need to set up systems and processes that enable you to capture and track results on an ongoing basis. Many organizations put a substantial amount of energy into initiating these programs and then let them fizzle as other priorities surface. It takes both process and discipline to sustain a measurement effort. Systems help you automate a process so that the process can become a manageable part of your day-to-day operations. Today every marketing organization is moving at a breathless pace. Implementing test and control environment can keep you from having a fatal, head on collision

6. Train. Many marketers are unaccustomed to living in a metrics-based environment. You may need to invest in measurement, analytics, as well as data training and skills development. Start by taking a skills inventory. Find out who in the organization has data management, analytics and measurement skills.vem train Decide what skills they need to perform at your expected levels. Develop training that fills the skill gaps. Doing this in-house allows you to tailor to your needs, but consider courses from universities, associations and external consultants to fill out your requirements.

Moving marketing performance metrics from the “too hard to” pile to the “we can do it” pile can reap rewards for the entire organization.

For more information on Marketing Alignment and Accountability, download our Free White Paper: Charting a Course for Marketing Effectiveness: Alignment & Accountability

Power Up Your Marketing to Prove Business Value

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Numerous studies throughout 2012 reiterated just how challenged marketers are in proving
Marketing’s business value.

The Capsicum Report found that “Marketers lack commercial acumen and don’t speak the language of the business, reporting their contributions in terms of ‘activities’ or ‘outputs’ rather than the business key performance indicators.”

The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that “the CMO’s traditional dilemma of demonstrating effectiveness, return on marketing investment, and relevance to the business still persists.”

The Forrester Evolved CMO study stated that “to prove their value and justify investment, they (CMOs) must tie marketing closer to business results.”

The 11th annual marketing performance management study conducted by VisionEdge Marketing and ITSMA reported a continuing trend of the C-Suite’s perception that only about 25% of marketers are able to demonstrate their impact and contribution to the business.

Some marketers, though, are cracking the code, and we can learn lessons from them as we work to power up our marketing.

One of the key differences about the stellar performers is that these marketers view and present themselves as businesspeople first. This elite group is customer-centric above all else, and it’s driven to transforming or establishing Marketing as a center of excellence within the organization.

These marketers work at ensuring that Marketing focuses on producing results that matter to the business, particularly in customer acquisition, retention, and value, and they are able to communicate those contributions in ways that are relevant to the C-Suite.

These marketers consistently apply five best-practices:

1. Aligning marketing activities and investments with business outcomes

2. Developing outcome-based metrics and reporting capabilities to demonstrate their
accountability

3. Employing and developing analytical skills

4. Investing in the infrastructure, processes, and systems to support their work

5. Building collaborative alliances with Finance, IT, and Sales colleagues.

They also recognize that deploying those best-practices is only part of the equation for boosting their performance and measurement competencies. They realize that playing a more strategic role takes added muscle, which they build by…

  • Embracing strong talent, balancing creativity with science derived from valuable customer and market insights
  • Emphasizing innovation for all aspects of marketing—related to strategy, implementation, processes, and so on.

Every organization can benefit from adding such power and muscle to their marketing team:

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Take a look at  the most recent 2013 Marketing Performance Management Report: Executive Summary (FREE DOWNLOAD) or Purchase the Full Report at the VisionEdge Marketing Online Store!

Measuring Relevancy: A Three Step Approach for Linking Content and Behavior

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Various studies over the years have examined the relationship between content relevancy and behavior. Almost everyone would agree that content must be relevant. But what is relevance? According to Wikipedia: “Relevance describes how pertinent, connected, or applicable something is to a given matter.” A thing is relevant if it serves as a means to a given purpose.Image

In the context of this discussion, the purpose of content is to positively influence customer or employee behavior, such as increasing purchase frequency, purchase velocity (time to purchase), likelihood to recommend, productivity, etc.

When we ask marketers and others how they measure content relevancy, we often hear, “We base it on response rate.” If the response rate meets the target, then we assume the content is relevant; if response doesn’t meet the target, we assume it’s not relevant.

Clearly there is a relationship between relevance and response. Intuitively we believe that the more relevant the content, the higher the response will be. But measuring response rate is not the best measure of relevancy. Many factors can affect response rate, such as time of year, personalization, and incentives. Also, in today’s multi-channel environment, we want to account for responses or interactions beyond what we might typically measure, such as click-throughs or downloads.

So, what is the best way to measure relevancy?

The best-practice approaches for measuring relevancy are many, and many of them are complex and require modeling. For example, information diagrams are an excellent tool. But marketers, who are usually spread thin, need a simpler approach.

The following three steps provide a way to tie interaction (behavior) with content. It’s critical
that you have a good inventory of all your content and a way to define and count interactions, because once you do, you’ll be able to create a measure of relevancy.

The process and equation include the following:

1. Count every single piece of content you created this week (new Web content, emails,
articles, tweets, etc.). We’ll call this C.

2. Count the collective number of interactions (opens, click-throughs, downloads, likes,
mentions, etc.) for all of your content this week from the intended target (you’ll need to
have clear definitions for interactions and a way to only include intended targets in your
count). We’ll call this I.

3. Divide total interactions by total content created to determine Relevancy: R = I/C
To illustrate the concept, let’s say you are interested in increasing conversations with a particular set of buyers. As a result, this week you undertook the following content activities:

• Posted a new whitepaper on a key issue in your industry to your website and your
Facebook page
• Tweeted three times about the new whitepapers
• Distributed an email with a link to the new whitepaper to the appropriate audience
• Published a summary of the whitepaper to three LinkedIn Groups
• Held a webinar on the same key issue in your industry
• Posted a recording of the webinar on your website, SlideShare, and Facebook page
• Held a tweet chat during the webinar
• Tweeted the webinar recording three times
• Posted a blog on the topic to your blog

We’ll count those as 17 content activities.

For that very same content, during the same week, you had the following interactions:

• 15 downloads of the whitepaper from your site
• 15 retweets of the whitepaper
• 15 Likes from your LinkedIn Groups and blog page
• 25 people who attended the webinar and participated in the tweet chat
• 15 retweets of the webinar
• 15 views of the recording on SlideShare

That’s a total of 100 interactions. It’s likely that some of these interactions are from the same people engaging multiple times, and you may eventually want to account for that likelihood in your equation. But, for starters, we can now create a content relevancy measure:

R= 100/17 = 5.88.

Using the same information, had we measured only the response rate, we might have counted only the downloads and attendees—40 responses—so we might have had the following calculation:

R = 40/17 = 2.353

As you can see, the difference is significant.

By collecting the interaction data over time, we will be able to understand the relationship between the relevancy and the intended behavior, which in this example is increased “conversations.”

I strongly encourage you to consider relevancy as a key measure for your content marketing. By tracking relevancy, you will be able to not only set benchmarks and performance targets for your content but also model content relevancy for intended behavior.