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

Dragons, Quests and Marketing Plans

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Over the course of the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to review a number of marketing plans. In many instances, the plans fell into one of two categories. One group involved brief documents containing short lists of tactics for the coming year along with a budget and calendar. The second group consisted of an extensive set of PowerPoint presentations chocked full of charts and tables about market statistics and product roadmaps, etc.

In the first group, while the tactics were well defined, they are not anchored to any specific strategies or objectives. Someone reading the plan for the first time would have trouble understanding why the organization is embarking on these efforts and what outcomes are intended. The second group contains an enormous amount of information about the market, company, customers, competitors and a set of strategies and tactics. However, in this group, it is difficult to connect all the dots between the information, the plan and the outcomes. While it may seem that the two categories have little in common, the one common link is their inability to tell their company story. A good marketing plan is in essence the “Cliff Notes” version of the company story explaining current status, how it got there, and what if anything needs to be addressed and if so, by whom, how, with what and when. A good marketing plan has all the elements of a well-told story.

A good story grabs our attention, captures our imagination, draws us to the characters– both the heroes and villains–and to the situation at hand. A marketing plan should do the same. While a marketing plan doesn’t need to be a novel, it does need to provide a context, define the situation, clarify the objectives and measures of success, and establish the strategies and tactics for achieving outcomes. A marketing plan must provide a setting and context, just as a story does, such as “Once upon time in the far away mountainous land of Travinikar, one of its six kingdoms, the once prosperous kingdom of Jedele, lay in near ruin and its great castle, Orona, was under siege.” From this one sentence we have context.

Once we have established the context, we can very quickly provide the information about the organization’s successes and challenges, its market, position, competition and customer information. Using our story and an example, we learn that Jedele, once the most prosperous and powerful kingdom in all of Travinikar, was the only manufacturer of Premion used in the making of precious metals. Premion, at its highest purity, requires dragon fire and is in extreme short supply. Two other rivals kingdoms, Stober with its Puratonic and Corbin with its Specpure, are quickly overtaking Jedele’s position as the best provider for the high purity substance. The situation is swiftly unfolding.

We don’t know why Jedele lays in near ruin or why the castle is under siege. And the story continues the essential details will be provided. For example, in this instance, we discover that Jedele and Orona were under siege by the Imperial Eastern Dragon, Yanagi, and his clan of dragons. We learn more about the dragon clan and its members, Burga, Dildy, Geydos, Kashdan and Vega, who are angry with the people of Jedele for stealing a sacred flask of dragon fire in order to manufacture more Premion. We now understand a key challenge, obstacle that must be overcome. The challenges your company faces needs to be just as clear in your plan.

Opportunities also need to be presented. For example in our story, for Jedele to regain its glory it will take more than just defeating the dragons, it will require Jedel to secure the Philosopher’s Stone, which is hidden in Mount Horeb in the land of Ormus. The situation is clear and so are the objectives: defeat the dragons and secure the hidden stone. It seems that most good stories contain at least one and sometimes both elements – something that must be overcome and/or something that must be acquired – the elusive quest and the slaying of the dragon. A well-crafted marketing plan lays out the same information whether there are any dragons to defeat or quests to complete.

Once we understand the primary plot, a marketing plan explains what the organization will undertake including the strategies, tactics and resources needed to achieve the objectives. The remainder of the story addresses how Rincon will save Jedele. For example, his strategy will be to ask the five most powerful mages in the kingdom, Aguais, Malkemus, Huricks, Steverding and Toupal, to help defeat the dragons. The story will provide some details about the mages, their skills and flaws, and outline the tactics they will use to defeat the dragons. The story will explain whether the mages will attempt the task alone by creating a special potion, negotiate with the dragons, form a strategic alliance, or seek help from somewhere else or a combination of all of these strategies will be revealed. And while this part of the story unfolds, we’ll discover that Rincon also requests each noble house in Jedele to send their best knight to seek the stone and secure it before the knights from the other kingdoms do. We’ll read in anticipation how the Knights of Jedele – Lacour, Gordon, Sandars, Wroe and Eason – set out to secure the stone before the rival kingdoms of Stober, Corbin and two other kingdoms, Devwa and Malave, secure it. The story provides insight into the strengths and weaknesses of each kingdom, as well as the strategies that Rincon’s knights will use to reach the stone before the rivals. We know time is running out for Jedele and Orona. We feel a sense of urgency.

Your marketing plan must do the same: outline the challenges and the quest; define what it will take to succeed and win; identify which competitors to overcome and which dragons must be slain; and identify the strategies and tactics to deploy by whom, when, and at what cost. Keep the tables and charts of your market, along with customer and competitive information, as they are illustrations for your story. Just understand they are not the story.

Your challenge is to examine how well your marketing plan tells the story of your kingdom and castle, the challenges and opportunities being faced, and the strategies and tactics needed to succeed. Do the mages defeat the dragons or does the castle burn to the ground? Do the knights secure the stone in time or does another kingdom find it first? Do the mages and knights succeed or are casualties experienced in the battle? Is Jedele once again the most prosperous kingdom in all the land? Well, that’s a story for another time.