Turn Your Marketing Metrics Upside Down!

by: Doug Michaelides

Even the most died-in-the-wool marketing skeptic will grudgingly admit that marketing has some positive effect.  The debate is usually about how much and whether it’s worth the precious dollars spent.  All marketing teams must provide proof of their impact or risk being starved for investment.

The ultimate proof of success is revenue but because deals often take time to close, marketers use proxies to measure progress through the buying cycle.  Things like opens, clicks, repeated visits, page view durations, likes, downloads, webinar attendance and tradeshow booth registrations all point to increasing prospect engagement which is an indicator of propensity to purchase.  However, sometimes these proxies become such a focus that we lose sight of the imperative of actually generating a sale.

Eventually, someone in the company (usually the CFO or a GM who has profit responsibility) calls the marketing department on it and demands that it prove that its initiatives are generating concrete, business-impacting results.  A flurry of effort ensues to trace each lead to an outcome.  For marketing departments without a history of tracking lead status (or with a sales team that only pays lip-service to closed-loop use of CRM) this can be an exercise in frustration.

But what if we were to turn the question on its head?  Rather than trying to determine the outcome of our thousands of leads, let’s look at how many sales resulted from marketing leads.  Like a detective, work backwards from each sale to see how (or if!) each customer’s decision was influenced by marketing.  This information can be collected from the sales team during win/loss reviews and from customers themselves.  Since people are usually quite willing to talk about positive decisions, you might be surprised at the cooperation you’ll get.

Yes, it is an upside down, after the fact, way of approaching marketing metrics.  But until you get a structured lead management system in place, it will enable you to assess and demonstrate the impact that your marketing programs are having.  It is a decent way to take the temperature of your marketing effectiveness in a pinch, and a good place to start for beginners or when you’re short-staffed.

As a sidebar, I’ve noticed that the discipline of tracking marketing metrics isn’t related to company size.  While you might expect small companies to operate more by the seat of their pants, I’ve seen some great use of marketing automation, A/B testing and impact-reporting in small firms.  In contrast, billion dollar companies with substantially more resources may struggle to determine whether their heavy investment in tradeshows is paying off.  My conclusion?  It all depends on the philosophy of the marketing leaders in the company.  Are they metrics-driven “marketing scientists” or more branding/creative types. Interestingly, I’ve found that younger marketing leaders tend to be more analytical than the old warhorses.  Something about being raised in the age of social media and Google analytics perhaps…

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