One afternoon, I was sitting in the CEO’s office at a global agency when an urgent knock came from the door. The global account director was leading an emergency meeting with the agency’s biggest client, and he was in a bind.
The agency needed to retrofit a performance measurement plan for a $12 million marketing campaign that just wrapped up. The global account director heard I was an “analytics guy” and thought I could help.
I joined him downstairs with the client’s VP of marketing as well as six agency people. It turns out the VP had a new boss who wasn’t around at the start of the campaign, but wanted to know how the program performed.
Here’s the rub: The client and agency had together failed to define what success would look like. No KPIs, no benchmarks and no goals.
I stood at the whiteboard and tried in vain to define a Performance Framework — a framework my company, Right Intel, uses to organize and prioritize KPIs.
But since the campaign had already ended, I had limited success. Retrofitting objectives and KPIs to a completed program didn’t work.
It never does.
About a month later, I heard the global account director had been “reassigned” and that the new marketing lead wasn’t happy. Who could blame him?
All marketers — especially CMOs — need ways to measure success. They need proof that their initiatives worked, and they need performance benchmarks to use for future optimization efforts.
Finding The Right Insights
Having clear objectives and ways to measure the success of marketing programs should be a given, but unfortunately it’s not.
The haze of corporate bureaucracy combined with our complex marketing ecosystem make it difficult to define objectives. When you mix in people’s fear of being held accountable, the result is a lack of clear objectives and KPIs.
I founded Right Intel in 2011 to help solve this dilemma by providing clients with the tools necessary to deliver the right insights within their organizations as well as useful thought-leadership content to their customers.
Recently a large retail brand started to use our software. While getting things set up, it became obvious that the CMO needed a clear set of objectives and KPIs that the CEO and CFO could get behind.
We first started brainstorming metrics like brand health; while these metrics are good in theory, we realized they were too “fluffy” to resonate with the CEO and CFO. After some back and forth, we settled on a primary outcome metric (store traffic) that resonated in the boardroom, supplementing it with other important, yet fluffier metrics like Net Promoter Score and traffic conversion.
These defined objectives unified the executives and marketing team and demonstrated that the CMO was working to improve overall business performance, not just out to win creative awards.
Objective: Keeping Marketing Departments Focused
Not only is it important to define KPIs in order for the boardroom to track the marketing team’s success, but it’s also crucial to lead an effective and unified marketing department.
I’ve been in meetings with marketing leaders who walk around their company on eggshells. They don’t set clear objectives and goals because they don’t want to be accountable; they don’t want to be blamed when things go wrong.
What they fail to see is that their employees — at least the good ones — suffer in the ambiguity.
And often, the lack of a unified set of KPIs leads to different team members working toward conflicting objectives.
While working with a banking client last year, eight of us struggled to reach consensus on how to position a campaign’s key objective. It quickly became obvious that there were eight different opinions on what was important.
I suspect that if you asked the key people on your marketing team what the department was trying to achieve, the result would be similar.
The risk comes into play when different views produce different actions. People and budget get spread out across different priorities, and the marketing organization is less efficient.
In this case, one of the bank’s marketing executives felt strongly that the bank needed to “increase the number of products owned by each customer.” This objective would lead to an all-out blitz to get customers to add one more product through TV units or out-of-home billboards. Another executive felt the bank needed to increase net deposits from its top customers. In that scenario, billboards and TV would be a waste. Rather, the bank would emphasize targeted direct mail programs and perhaps exclusive events.
After a few hours of back and forth, we landed on our top objective – increase net deposits from the top 5 percent of the bank’s customers. Only then were we able to define the tactics and people who would help us reach our objective.
My good friend and entrepreneur Christian Faulconer used to say that most organizations aren’t trying to go from “good to great.” Rather, they’re just trying to go from “crappy to good.” During the next few months, I’ll be sharing case studies and best practices on how CMOs can use analytics to go from “crappy to good” — perhaps even to “great.”
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.