As marketers we need to take the macro-environment into consideration when we’re creating any plan. With the election looming, there is a constant barrage of headlines suggesting that the U.S. economy is faltering and that the future could be bleak. Many of the themes emerging from opposing sides are designed to emphasize differences and polarize.
During periods of change and uncertainty, it makes sense that companies work hard to understand the implications of the results for several scenarios. Scenario analysis is a good exercise for strategic planning at any time. Most polls are showing a close election and suggest that we will continue to live under a divided government, accompanied by discord, debates and delay.
It might be heartening to know that since 1947 the president’s political party has switched back and forth eight times and the control of Congress has reversed even more frequently. Even with these changes in political power, the economy grew 85 percent of the time. Since 1982 the U.S. economy grew 90 percent of the time. In fact, the economy has expanded at an annual average rate of 6.6 percent, despite periodic recessions.
So while historically we know that political choices establish the framework for the economy, and while there is a lot of uncertainty about potential changes to that framework — especially in terms of government spending and tax and industry legislation — our government’s system of checks and balances tends to produce incremental shifts rather than dramatic swings. Financial markets and the economy tend to adapt quickly to any changes, resuming a business-as-usual
cadence despite policy changes.
The election will be in the history books in a few months, but the marketing investments needed to make to generate value for your organization will last far longer. That’s why you need to avoid getting caught up in the election hype. Don’t play politics with your planning. Using the election, waiting on the results to create your marketing plan and taking a “wait-and-see” approach to your investments are not the best course of action. The future of your business is more likely to be determined by your plan of action — or lack of a plan — than any election outcome. As we enter the election and planning season, here are five reminders to help achieve the best results:
1. Be Strategic: Choose the best strategy that will generate value for your company and industry.
2. Pick your Bets: Bet on a strategy tailored to your current situation designed to achieve your organization’s customer and market outcomes.
3. Follow the Boy Scout Motto – Be prepared: Don’t wait until the end of the year to prepare for calendar year 2014. This will only put your organization behind today’s global competition.
4. Semper Paratus– (Always Ready): You are more likely to achieve next year’s performance targets if you have a plan ready to implement when the new fiscal year begins.
5. Develop your plan and make quality strategic marketing investments aimed at moving the needles for the business.
While change and uncertainty may make planning more difficult, they also make it more essential. A good plan takes into the account the extra risk the business may face. In times of uncertainty it is important to step back and identify risks, consider scenarios, and continue to innovate. Rather than using the impending political climate as an excuse for “battening down the hatches” or to taking a “wait and see” position, the best course of action is to maintain a long term perspective designed to manage potential risks and move your organization forward.
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. 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. To 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. 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