Why Bother With Marketing Excellence When You have Good Enough?

For the past fifteen years, the annual Marketing Performance Management (MPM) benchmark study has asked CEOs a pivotal question: “What grade does your Marketing organization earn for its ability to demonstrate value and contribution to the business?”  Participants rate their Marketing organization in one of four ranges: 90-100 (top marks), 80-89 (middle-of-the-pack), 70-79, less than 70. Only a handful of marketers earn top marks, about one in four.  The number of marketers earning top marks has remained relatively unchanged over the years. The grade distribution for this year’s study is captured in Figure 1.

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Figure 1: MPM benchmark study grade distribution for Marketing’s ability to demonstrate its value and contribution to the business. Source: VisionEdge Marketing and Demand Metrics 2016 MPM Benchmark Study, “How to Make Progress on Your Marketing Excellence Journey”.

From data collected over this study’s 15 year-history, we have been able to construct personas for each grade segment:

  • A’s: The most strategic and data-driven group: This group, characterized as Value Creators, uses data and instruments to navigate a precise course to create value for customers and the business. Members focus on producing outcomes that matter to the C-Suite.
  • B’s: This group, termed the Sales Enablers, focuses are doing things right, such as demand generation, without asking if demand generation is the right thing to do. They see themselves in service to the Sales team, dedicated to all things pipeline oriented.
  • C’s and D’s or lower: This group is largely directionless. They function as service providers or an internal agency to the organization, producing outputs on demand. As a result their focus is on activity, not necessarily results. Compared to other segments profiled, these marketers are performance laggards. This marketing personas is labeled Campaign Producers.

Even with steady or growing pressure to measure and manage Marketing’s performance, the current study shows no steady rise in the average MPM “GPA”.  The increase in enabling technology and higher C-suite expectations haven’t been sufficient catalysts to create an upward trend.  The 2016 study shows a year-to-year increase in the number of Value Creators (A’s) and Sales Enablers (B’s), but the multi-year trend is flat.  A year-to-year decline in the number of Campaign Producers (C’s and D’s) is encouraging, but here too, there is no indication of a meaningful trend in this direction.

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Figure 2: The percentage of Value Creators remains flat over the past decade.  Source: VisionEdge Marketing, Demand Metric, and ITSMA MPM benchmark studies.

Why do some marketers make more headway on the MPM Journey than others?  The first critical success factor in any endeavor is to attach importance to it. To succeed with MPM, marketers have to make it a priority. If your heart isn’t in an initiative, you’ll most likely see failure.  When something is important to the C-Suite, it’s important to the rest of the organization.  If measuring Marketing’s value and contribution is important to you, it will be important to your marketers.

Making something important won’t necessarily mean you achieve it.  In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Excelling at MPM requires discipline and a plan, a plan supported by you and the rest of C-Suite.  It comes down to whether you believe your Marketing organization should align its initiatives to the business, be able to measure its contribution, value and impact to your business, and have the tools and skills either within their ranks or through internal or external partners.  If you do, then work with your Marketing team to create the roadmap to support this journey.

Deciding to make MPM priority depends on whether you are satisfied with Marketing’s performance.  We’re going to be candid with you: Improving Marketing’s performance takes an investment of your and your team’s time, energy and money.  It takes discipline and a commitment to change to keep going.  Why bother when what you’re doing may be “good enough”? Because of the impact Marketing can have on your business results (Figure 3).

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Figure 3: Over half of Value Creators showed improvement in six of these nine key business metrics from 2015 to 2016. Source: VisionEdge Marketing and Demand Metrics 2016 MPM Benchmark Study, “How to Make Progress on Your Marketing Excellence Journey”.

Marketers who impact business results focus their efforts on the achievement of business goals.  When it comes to the perception of Marketing’s contribution to business goals, Value Creators maintain a sizeable lead (Figure 4).

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Figure 4:  Value Creators excel at measuring Marketing’s contribution to business results. Sales Enablers and Campaign Producers found firmer measurement ground. Source: VisionEdge Marketing and Demand Metrics 2016 MPM Benchmark Study, “How to Make Progress on Your Marketing Excellence Journey”.

If you feel your marketing performance is good enough, congratulations. Stop reading.  If you’d like to see Marketing improve its ability to measure impact on key business metrics, work with your team to create an MPM roadmap that incorporates the following six capabilities:

  1. Build business acumen: The Value Creators know the business, not just marketing. Business acumen is an essential skill for marketers who want to be seen as Value Creators.
  2. Excel at alignment and accountability: Best-in-Class Marketers know how to align Marketing activities and investment with business outcomes that matter to the C-suite; accordingly, they know what to measure. Choosing the right measures is more important than the quantity of data measured.
  3. Take data, analytics to new levels: Value Creators know how to use data to facilitate strategic decisions, derive critical insights into customer behavior, make tactical course adjustments, measure performance, and improve marketing effectiveness and operational efficiency. As a result their data is more relevant.
  4. Create actionable dashboards: Value Creators incorporate metrics that reflect Marketing’s value to the business. A good marketing dashboard facilitates decisions. If Marketing’s dashboard doesn’t enable course adjustments, reveal what is and isn’t working, and communicate Marketing’s strategic and financial impact, it’s time for a dashboard makeover.
  5. Leverage a Marketing Operations (MarketingOps) function: Value Creators make MarketingOps about doing things right AND doing right things. The Value Creators’ MarketingOps function uses far more than marketing automation and technology to run demand generation initiatives or resource management. For Value Creators, the processes, systems, tools and skills necessary to link marketing to business outcomes exist within the Marketing Ops function, which has responsibility to track and report results in order to improve and prove Marketing’s value. In short, MarketingOps helps Marketing function as a fully accountable business by building the processes and managing the systems.
  6. Transform Marketing into a Center of Excellence (CoE): Agility and CoE go hand-in-hand. Agile organizations excel at fostering and harnessing best practices. They performance well. At its most fundamental level, a CoE is working to create world-class standards and models that achieve business results, encourage innovation, and leverage proven techniques and methodologies.

Implementing these six capabilities may require tapping subject matter experts. Make your journey to marketing excellence go more smoothly.

© 2016, Laura Patterson. All rights reserved.