HomeBlog Marketing Measurement Snake Oil

Marketing Measurement Snake Oil

February 28, 2013|Ross Graber

The Web is littered with prescriptions for what your marketing measurement needs to be like and look like. There’s way too much bad advice being dispensed from sources that you’d expect to be credible. Whether this advice is well intentioned or simply snake oil, b-to-b marketers need to be able to spot bad measurement advice and reject it.

The Web is littered with prescriptions for what your marketing measurement needs to be like and look like. There’s way too much bad advice being dispensed from sources that you’d expect to be credible. Whether this advice is well intentioned or simply snake oil, b-to-b marketers need to be able to spot bad measurement advice and reject it. Here are some common flavors:

Your CEO wants to see these key performance indicators. It’s fantastic that you know what my CEO needs without ever asking what our business objectives are – or what marketing’s responsibilities may be. What if our company achieves its business goals through customer retention, cross-sell and upsell efforts? Do we use the same four KPIs as my neighbor’s business, which requires rapid customer growth, fueled primarily through marketing sourcing new pipeline? Will my CEO want these same numbers if our business only targets 100 strategic accounts?

Any approach to marketing KPI selection needs to start with an evaluation of company goals and the role that marketing plays in achieving them.

You need to have one, two or three metrics, no more. We all strive for simplicity in measurement. And it’s true that many marketers are drowning their audiences in meaningless data. I love Megan Heuer’s post, which reminds us to make things as simple as possible, but no simpler. To paraphrase, measurement needs to provide us with a view nuanced enough to support the decisions it is supposed to empower.

Don’t feel like a failure if you can’t do this with three or fewer metrics. Instead, evaluate the decisions that metrics are intended to consistently support, and then work backward to establish what you need to know to get there – keeping simplicity in mind. Steer clear of advice telling you that this number shouldn’t be greater than three, or any other pre-determined number.

You must calculate financial ROI for each individual marketing tactic. The b-to-b echo chamber seems fixated on the idea that, aided by technology, marketers can (and must) assess a financial return for each and every marketing tactic. While I make my living helping b-to-b marketers determine the results they are getting from their marketing efforts, I think this fixation on ROI for every tactic is the worst snake oil of them all – mostly because so many b-to-b marketers believe it, and waste so much time chasing after it.

The reality is that b-to-b buying processes tend to be complex, involve multiple players and a slew of sales and marketing interactions, each influencing the buying process. But these influences are not binary – they can be positive or negative to a greater or lesser extent in many ways. The degree of positive influence any interaction has on the buying process may not even be understood by the buyer. Yet we want to tie a single content interaction with a purchase? Layer in multi-player buying structures and interpersonal dynamics between players? Keep adding variables, and the absurdity of calculating the influence of each tactic on each buying outcome quickly becomes evident.

We’re aiming at the wrong target. The objective needs to be summarizing the impact that marketing is having across performance areas relative to the investment made. Marketers who can do this CAN show the return that they’re creating across their tactics, programs and campaigns. And there are ways to determine which tactics are more or less likely to be associated with better opportunity outcomes. The best part about this approach is that it’s achievable, regardless of how complex your buying process may be.

Strive for measurement that reflects your business objectives, doesn’t underestimate its complexity and provides an accurate view of marketing’s performance. And while you’re at it, steer clear of the snake oil.

Ross Graber

Ross Graber is a Senior Research Director of Marketing Operations Strategies at SiriusDecisions. He brings over 15 years of b-to-b marketing experience with focus spanning marketing measurement, demonstrating ROI, data management, process development, marketing technology, customer marketing and sales enablement. Follow Ross on Twitter @rossgraber.

Join Us at #SDSummit