The Chicken and Egg: Put Accountability Before Automation

As the CEO, perhaps your marketing folks have told you that they need more marketing automation tools before they can address marketing measurement.   Don’t succumb.  This is a stall tactic.  Technology is not the answer to performance management.  Sure it will help, but automation will not help marketers define their metrics.

It’s easy for marketers to become enamored with the next shiny toy! But it is a mistake to wait to address accountability until after you have addressed technology, even if it’s just the marketing automation piece.  Why is this the case?

We know from over a dozen years of research, that when it comes to performance management, two best practices are statistically significant when it comes to separating the best marketers from the rest of the pack: alignment and accountability.  While automation matters, best-in-class Marketers focus on knowing which outcomes and metrics are essential to proving how Marketing is impacting, and contributing to, the business, and therefore which metrics need to be reported and improved. Armed with this information, your Marketing function can make decisions on what course of action and what investments will enable them to create value for your customers and your organization.

Marketing technology, analytical prowess, and other capabilities may need to be among your investments. With it you can carry and move more – capture more data, make better content, make better channel and mix decisions.   A lot goes into making a technology adoption decision, such as your current platforms, your current capabilities, what you need to be able to do.  Alignment and accountability can provide valuable input in developing your marketing technology roadmap and the processes and skill requirements your marketing team needs.

If you want to know whether your marketing team is moving the needle, consider taking these four steps:

  1. Verify alignment. The first place to begin is with the marketing plan. Review the marketing plan with your marketers and ascertain whether the relationship between the activities and investments are clear. Many marketers see sales as their customer and as a result limit their marketing objectives to what the sales team is trying to achieve.  In addition to the sales plans, be sure the marketing plan identifies other business outcomes, such as customer value, category ownership, etc. that marketing you expect marketing to impact. If the line of site or other outcomes are missing, ask your team to revamp the marketing plan so that there is clear line-of-sight between marketing activities and business results. If there isn’t a plan, it’s time to make one! Seek expert help, this will be a wiser investment with a faster payoff.  Once it is clear how marketing is expected to move the needle, it will be much easier to select the right metrics and set the right performance targets.
  2. Validate the metrics. Website visitors, downloads, fans, followers, shares are among the expanding number of things your marketing team can measure. Many of the things marketers track fall into activity and output types of metrics, such as— site traffic and engagement, likes, followers, retweets, etc. Best-in-class marketers move from activity/output metrics to more meaningful measures of effectiveness and efficiency and business metrics such as customer acquisition, growth, retention and profitability. If you’re marketing team doesn’t have a metric framework, it’s time for them to adopt one. Armed with a framework and the performance targets defined in your marketing plan, you and your marketing team will be able to define your marketing dashboard components. Dashboard development is an iterative process that goes from static performance reporting to the ability to use the dashboard for scenario analysis. Once your marketers have the dashboard, help them use it to facilitate real-time course adjustments and strategic recommendations. Even without a dashboard, set aside time to regularly meet with marketers to review their performance and contribution.
  3. Assess the analytical capabilities. Ask your marketing team what processes they use to collect and manage market, customer, and competitive data. If they don’t have one, request they develop and implement such a process. A good place to start is to have them create a data inventory and metrics catalog. If your marketing team doesn’t have the data and analytics expertise, consider having them team up with someone from finance or quality to help them learn how to leverage data, analytics, and modeling to discern patterns, glean insights, and predict outcomes. In the meantime, explore options for outsourcing this critical work.
  4. Evaluate your infrastructure. Now we’re talking technology! Before you write that check, ask your marketers to provide an inventory of existing siloed processes and tools and to identify best practices for sharing and standardization. Remember, marketing’s infrastructure includes more than email or campaign automation, marketing resource management, and marketing asset management. Move from automation tools to performance management processes that enable marketing to operate like a business.

Volumes have been written about why automating a bad process or faster reporting of bad data does not improve anything. More importantly, it may further expose the lack of alignment, accountability, and meaningful analytics. So, put the alignment before accountability. To learn more register to read the free white paper, Charting a Course for Marketing Effectiveness: Alignment & Accountability and the 2015 Marketing Performance Measurement Study Abbreviated Summary: A Diagnosis and Prescription for Marketing Performance Measurement