Tag Archives: Laura Patterson

Marketing Technology: A Key Asset for Success

 “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself” — Peter Drucker.  For 99% of businesses, achieving this goal (a requirement for surviving in today’s hyper-competitive environment) requires the right investment in Marketing Technology. If you want to optimize the performance of your Marketing organization and become more efficient and successful, you must know how to identify which technologies are need, in which order, and how to effectively implement and use the tools.

There are over 300 companies in 45 categories in the marketing technology space. So, it’s hard to keep up! As the number of tools and solutions for marketing has grown, the marketing technology landscape has evolved.  Today, we need to know both the types of technologies available, as well as how to implement and leverage them as a holistic system.

Marketing Technology and the Work of Marketing

The marketing landscape can be confusing, and the acronym alphabet soup used to describe these technologies only adds to the conundrum: DAM/MAM (digital asset or marketing asset management), MOM (marketing operations management), MAP (marketing automation platforms), and MRM (marketing resource management). In their study, “Realizing the Promise of Marketing Technology,” ITSMA defined marketing technology as “the software for improving marketing and sales processes to achieve business objectives.” This definition provides a way to frame the marketing technology landscape, which currently consists of a very large and growing list of players.

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A New Approach to the Marketing Budgeting Process

Ahhh Fall…For many of us it signals welcome relief from the summer heat.  Also, for many of us it signals budgeting season and that too many marketers will be submitting their budgets before even creating their marketing plan.  Yes, that does seem a bit backwards!  How can you know what to budget if you don’t yet know what you plan to do?  So what do we do? One common approach is to build the budget based on how the current budget is allocated across headcount, travel and various marketing activities, such as PR, Digital, Events, Training, and so on, make a few adjustments and hit the submit button.

While this may seem like a feasible method, it’s a dangerous one. The budget may be allocated against activities we intend to produce, but it’s unclear what impact or value these activities, and the associated funds, are going to have on the business in terms of new customers, retained customers, additional vertical or customer expansion, or contribution to the business from new products.  It’s no wonder our budget is suspect and immediately comes under fire, especially from the folks in Finance.  And this approach sets the stage for questions like these:

  • Why ads in these pubs?
  • Why so many webinars or trade shows?
  • Why so much money for the email automation platform?
  • Why so much money for new content?

Right away we’re playing defense – with others e.g. finance, suggesting ways we can reduce our spending.  And before we’ve even gotten out of the gate our budget is eroding.  If this isn’t your world, congratulations! If it is, here’s the shocker.  It’s your fault.

If those of us who end up in these conversations had taken a different approach, the conversation would have gone differently.  As marketers we need to think beyond the subaccounts in the cost accounting system.  We need to understand how the dollars we’re requesting are actually going to move business needles.  Businesses are based on revenue and profits generated by customers buying our products/ services, hopefully profitably.  This is the very essence of Marketing.  As a result, we need to think about our budgets in terms of the customers and what they buy.  So rather than submitting a budget for activities, what if you submitted a budget that allocated funds into buckets such as these:

  1. Marketing generated business from net new customers buying existing products
  2. Marketing generated business from existing customers buying existing products
  3. Marketing generated business from net new customers buying new products
  4. Marketing generated business from existing customers buying new products

Of course this would mean we would need to know how many existing customers the company currently serves, where, what products they buy, and how many potential customers there are for these products and where are these potential customers.  And we’d need to know what new products are going to market, the competitive situation, and what customers are most likely to buy these products.  And we’d have to have some targets for each of these categories.  Imagine though that we knew this information about our customers, products, and market.

If we were to budget in this fashion, it doesn’t mean our friends in finance wouldn’t be making a visit, but the conversation will certainly be different.  They will still want to know why we need so much money but instead of defending an activity that we don’t even know we will want to deploy since we haven’t created the plan, we’ll be having a discussion about the business – how many customers, which ones, how easy or hard it will be acquire, retain or grow these customers, our competitive situation, and our product innovation situation.  I’d rather have these conversations with the CFO or other members of the leadership team any day than a conversation about which tradeshows to attend.  And once we have clarity around marketing’s contribution via customer acquisition, retention and growth,  we will also have achieved better alignment with the business and gained insight into how to measure and account for our value.  Plus we will have created maneuvering room and the ability to select the activities best suited to achieve the result.

 

 

Power Tools – Pitfall or Potential for Precision

Two of the most valuable purposes of a marketing dashboard are to help the leadership team understand how Marketing is moving the needle in terms of top line revenue, market share, customer value, category ownership, etc., and to provide strategic guidance. However, one of more perplexing findings from the recently completed marketing performance research conducted jointly by Forrester, ITSMA and VisionEdge Marketing is that while marketers have access to more data, leverage more analytics, and invest in more tools and systems than ever before, marketers continue to struggle to prove marketing’s contribution to the business.  While the majority of the marketers in the study indicated they regularly produce and share a dashboard. The same survey, with results from the 400+ marketing and business leaders shows that just 9% of CEOs and 6% of CFOs use marketing data to help make strategic decisions.

So where’s the disconnect? It appears that most marketers participating in the study use their marketing automation (MAP) or sales automation (CRM) systems to create their dashboards.  While helpful, dashboards typically generated by these systems report on marketing activity and associated costs  – email activity, website activity, social media activity, lead activity- rather than reporting on metrics executives can use to set direction.  It’s not that these reports and dashboards are bad; they are valuable when used to support tactical decisions, but if you want your CEO, CFO and other members of the C-Suite to use your dashboard, it must clearly connect marketing investments and initiatives to business outcomes and results.

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Analytics Isn’t Business Acumen but it is a Mighty Important Part of the Equation

In today’s data-driven environment it’s important not to confuse analytics with acumen. Analytics may help facilitate or enhance business acumen or astuteness, but it certainly doesn’t replace it. The Oxford English Dictionary defines acumen as “the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions.”

Analytics, on the other hand, is logical analysis derived by applying some type of algorithms or mathematics to data. In 2007, Davenport and Harris described analytics as a set of technologies and processes that use information and data to understand and analyze business performance. Certainly well-thought out logical analysis can be very useful in understanding and addressing business situations and making quick decisions that will produce a desired outcome. But there’s more to business acumen than logical analysis. A McKinsey article I once read framed this well, “good analysis in the hands of managers who have good judgment won’t naturally yield good decisions.”

Research by the Perth Leadership Institute, the Conference Executive Board (CEB) and others offer a variety of recommendations for how we can improve our business acumen. One of the key competencies cited is strong, quantitative skills. Why? Because being able to see the big picture requires an understanding of your market and how your organization operates in that market, and what drives profitability and cash flow for your organization. This is where analytics come into play.
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Bridging Finance & Marketing Using Metrics

Finance departments often criticize marketing’s inability to present a tangible ROI and use financial measures. It’s a common lament and one we’ve all heard. Rob Stuart, Executive Vice President & Publisher at CFO Publishing, in a recent conversation reminds us that CFOs expect marketers to come prepared to describe what their ROI is going to be for marketing investments. CFOs want to know how marketing is going to measure success, the key performance indicators for a conference and the ROI targets. CFOs are looking at the big picture and the organization’s overall investments.

If we want the CFOs support we need forge a stronger partnership with our finance colleagues. The perception or reality of an antagonistic relationship needs to be replaced with collaboration. And one of the best way to begin to build this relationship is to work from the CFOs comfort zone: data, analytics and metrics.

You may think that you already do.  But here’s an example of how easy it is to throw things off kilter. A key source of the friction is derived from using the words with double meanings. For example, consider “brand equity”. The marketing professional uses the term to describe the health of the brand’s franchise with its key audiences; the financial professional uses it to characterize the brand as an economic asset. Whatever their differences, marketing and finance professionals need to find common ground.

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Data Chains Facilitate Marketing Performance Management

Recently one of our customers was completing their quarterly marketing report. She was frustrated because she was trying to complete nearly 500 input fields in her excel doc! Five hundred fields, yikes! Part of the reason she is collecting so many numbers is that the metrics for the marketing organization and the relationship between the various data elements are not clear. Selecting the right performance metrics and developing an actionable marketing dashboard is something many organizations are tackling. However, if the link between marketing activities and business results isn’t clear, you may find yourself wallowing in data.

For example, it’s important to be able to connect the dots between a marketing program and product trials with customer acquisition and market share. To do this will take three things: alignment, good data, and access to this data. As you grapple with measuring marketing, a key part of the work will be determining whether you have the data you need.

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Does Your Marketing Dashboard Pass These Three Tests?

Perhaps your marketing organization, like so many we work with have a marketing dashboard. At two recent conferences where the topic was marketing dashboards we asked attendees whether  their dashboard enables them to the following:

 

  1. Inform the leadership team of the contribution and impact marketing is making on acquiring, keeping, and growing the value of customers?
  2. Provide a direct link between your marketing programs and investments and business results?
  3. Enable you to make strategic decisions?

Most every participant indicated that their dashboard is not addressing these three questions.  If this situation sounds familiar, then it may be time to do some fine tuning.  Below are three attributes we use to evaluate a dashboard’s ability to facilitate decisions, improve marketing, and prove marketing’s contribution.

Alignment

One of the first things we look for when reviewing a dashboard is the degree of connection between marketing activities and investments and business outcomes.  This signals how well marketing is aligned with the business needles the company is trying to move and whether marketing will be able to communicate its impact and contribution.  For example, let’s say one of the metrics on the dashboard is brand awareness.  That might or might not be a good metric.  And even if it is a good metric for the organization, if the relationship between brand awareness and the outcome it is expected to impact is unclear, then the dashboard needs adjustment.   Members of the C-Suite are invest in marketing initiatives that will help the company acquire more of something, faster, less expensively, for example, more customers, more market share, more business with existing customer; faster conversion rates, and faster product adoption.  Does your marketing dashboard show marketing value, contribution and impact on find, keep and grow, and answer the questions of more, faster, and at what cost?

Outcome-based Metrics

The next thing we examine is the metrics themselves.  Most of the time what we see is data around marketing activity and leads.  Rarely are the metrics actionable.  If the metric isn’t helping you make course adjustments or strategic recommendations it might be interesting and you may want to track it, but it probably isn’t one you want to send up the flagpole. Think about the dashboard in your car.  There are just a very few indicators you are monitoring such as level of fuel, engine temperature, air pressure, and speed.   Each of these indicators are tied to some very important outcomes, such as not getting stuck because the tank is dry or the tire is flat or the engine overheated, or not  getting a speeding ticket.  Each of us uses the dashboard in our cars as a way to make decisions to help manage or mitigate risk.  Some of us are willing to push the risk envelope a bit more and keep the pedal to the metal or keep driving even though the gas gauge needle says the car is running on fumes.  But we have the metrics we need to decide whether to stop and fuel up or not.

Performance Targets

Lastly, we look to see whether the dashboard compares targets to actual.  Many dashboards are missing this critical element.  Monitoring, measuring, and reporting results need to be within the context of the target and the commitment made.  There are two parts to this dimension:

  1. Performance Context:  If you report that you ran a 5K race at a 10 minute per mile pace how can we determine whether that was success or failure?  If you typically run at an 8 minute per mile pace for a 5K then this information tells us something was off and we can begin to do a diagnostic – were you sick, did you lack fuel, were you over-trained, did you have a cramp, fall down?  But if you typically run at a 12 minute per mile pace, then this is a huge improvement.  We have performance context for your results.
  2. Performance Commitment.  What performance commitment did you make?  Was your commitment to place in the top five in your age group? Or was it to surpass your personal record? Or, something else?  The point is that your dashboard should enable you and anyone who to evaluate the results within the performance context and commitment.

Summary

If you have a dashboard that makes the connection between marketing activities, investment and results, is comprised of metrics that foster decision and action, and reports performance within context and commitment you are on your way to having a dashboard that will enable you to improve and prove the value of marketing.

 

Insight into Insights

If there was an ‘Insight’ Facebook page, it would have millions of Likes. Why have some marketers latched onto this concept tighter than a terrier with a new toy? This article explains what an insight is, why insights are essential to developing a competitive advantage, and a best practice for finding valuable customer and market insights.

What is an Insight?
Kieron Monahan of Arnold Worldwide offered one of the best definitions for insight that I’ve ever heard:

a surprising truth that makes you think again.

Insights are more than an observation; they are a discovery gleaned from the data and facts we collect. Insights serve a variety of purposes from sparking the innovation of new products to driving the delivery of a better customer experience.  Read More…

Using Attribution to Understand Content Impact on Customer Behavior

As we create more content, marketers are trying to understand the role this content plays in the buying process and which components have the greatest impact on generating conversation, consideration and ultimately consumption. So it’s no surprise that marketers are trying to understand how to leverage both marketing mix attribution and optimization models. Recently we’ve been receiving a number of questions about fractional and last-touch attribution. So we thought a brief tutorial on the topic of optimization and attribution modeling might be helpful.

There are a number of sources and tools available today to help create either model. Both attribution and optimization modeling are about improving mix and understanding the impact of marketing investments on customer behavior. Let’s begin by reviewing what these models are, when to use them, and how they are different.

Optimization Needs Attribution
Optimization relies on predictive models that track non-linear relationships between specific goals and spend levels in order to ‘predict’ the incremental changes in conversions based on the relationship between the variables. Many organizations attempt to ‘optimize’ campaigns via A/B testing, a form of scenario analysis. Unfortunately A/B testing doesn’t address the complex non-linear interactions. An algorithmic approach that simultaneously analyzes all possible scenarios is needed to see which combinations produce the best incremental results.

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Grade A-Marketers Measure Results

Marketing is under pressure to deliver results and drive business outcomes. But how are they doing? Research shows that measuring marketing’s performance is an area of major frustration for the C-Suite and a significant challenge for most marketers. In fact, according to the ITSMA and VisionEdge Marketing (VEM) just completed study, most marketers are dissatisfied with their MPM capabilities. On average, marketers award their marketing organization’s ability to manage its performance a 5.6 on a scale of 10.

In August 2012, ITSMA and VisionEdge Marketing conducted a Marketing Performance Management Survey with 405 marketers to assess marketing’s performance with regards to how they use data, metrics, and analytics. With more than a decade of industry ‘talk’ on the topic of marketing accountability,  this research shows that only a few exceptional marketers have cracked the code.

Those few marketers whose leadership team assigned them ‘A’ grade for their ability to demonstrate their impact to the business have adopted six principles of Marketing Performance Management to increase marketing ROI and contribution. They are:

  • Alignment
  • Accountability
  • Analytics
  • Automation
  • Alliances
  • Assessment

The A-list marketers VisionEdge has identified are able to show how marketing can benefit the organization: 96% say they can prove the direct link between business goals and marketing activities; 91% say it’s clear to the management how marketing impacts the business; and 90% say that marketing can measure and benchmark their results. That is another important takeaway from the study – the A category use statistics as a basis for important decisions, and are more mature when it comes to adoption of Marketing Automation systems.

The survey identified several characteristics in the organization of successful marketers:

  • Empower Marketing Operations
  • Implement integration and interoperability initiatives
  • Institutionalize marketing standards
  • Establish formal partners within IT, sales, and finance
  • Regularly benchmark to drive performance innovation

For more information, there is an abbreviated summary available for free download.
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