HomeBlog How to Tell the Real Story of Marketing’s Impact This Year

How to Tell the Real Story of Marketing’s Impact This Year

December 18, 2013 | By Megan Heuer

Looking back at everything you did, what would you say made the biggest impact on financial results? If your organization, like many this year, made a shift to deliver marketing support for a broader set of activities that do not result in new leads, but still help with important goals like sales productivity, cross-sell or upsell, and customer retention, has your measurement model kept up?

Now that we’re closing in on the end of the quarter, and for many organizations the end of the fiscal year, let’s take a moment to reflect on our marketing results. Looking back at everything you did, what would you say made the biggest impact on financial results? How do you know?

Yes, this is a loaded question, and it’s getting harder to answer. For many of our clients, 2013 saw a shift away from marketers focusing exclusively on demand creation toward more balanced support for reputation, sales enablement and market intelligence objectives, along with demand creation. Many of these efforts involved account-based work such as helping sales source demand in target accounts and providing post-sale customer experience support. In 2014, this shift will accelerate, as non-demand-creation activity becomes an accepted part of marketing’s charter. Even for companies that focus mainly on demand creation, there’s change: We see a shift to maintaining marketing involvement way before and long after the lead goes to sales, based on customer preference for continued online interactions.

That’s where my loaded question comes in. If you made a shift to deliver marketing support for a broader set of activities that do not result in new leads, but still help with important goals like sales productivity, cross-sell or upsell, and customer retention, has your measurement model kept up? If you are mainly focused on measuring demand creation, are you painting the complete picture of marketing’s contributions at all stages of the buyer’s journey? Nothing kills a smart program faster than using the wrong metrics to show its impact. Sadly, we see a lot of marketers still trying to apply the wrong measures to tell the full story of their impact on results.

There are two things you can do to update marketing measurement to reflect the function’s new charter.

First, stop attempting to tie a single marketing tactic to a revenue outcome. When we know multiple activities are involved before someone buys, why do we continue to make an over-simplified link from single tactic to revenue? It just doesn’t make sense. Even worse, it causes marketers to over-simplify their understanding of what’s helping – in favor of whichever tactic is tagged to an opportunity or an intuition-based weighting system.

Second, create a more complete picture of marketing’s specific contribution to business goals. In 2014, it’s time to take a fresh look at marketing influence. This is the antidote to misleading tactic attribution. The right approach to influence reporting is not a return to the bad old days of marketing trying to take credit for anything it may have had a remote chance of touching. Marketing influence in 2014 is a data-driven analysis of what happens when a new buyer buys – or a customer stays and buys more – that provides the full picture of what investments help deliver a positive outcome. We can look at which contacts or personas consumed which marketing activities – and when they did so – to get a detailed and accurate view of the buyer’s journey across all stages. Our old friend the demand waterfall (well, the re-architected one) can anchor understanding of timing and impact on results.

Marketing measurement in 2014 must be about defining specific campaign objectives and then linking every marketing activity in the budget to them. Don’t just evaluate the success of a tactic on its own, but the success of a combination of tactics in the service of meeting a broader business goal. This is the best way to determine the real ROI of our marketing efforts. We’ll also be able to see what wasn’t well targeted or impactful, and where good old-fashioned execution was lacking. There’s more than enough accountability to go around in a solid marketing influence report.

The influence-based model of marketing measurement makes a lot more sense in a complex ecosystem of b-to-b interactions where lead volume is only part of the marketing story. Don’t sell yourself, or your marketing, short.

Megan Heuer

Megan Heuer is Vice President of Research at SiriusDecisions. With more than 20 years of industry and professional services experience, she has worked both in – and for – organizations to build a wide variety of collaborative sales and marketing deliverables that drive systematic, predictable growth. Follow Megan on Twitter @megheuer.