Cutting-edge tools finally make it possible to quantify the impact of your marketing initiatives, but only if you know how to put them to use.
It’s a paradox. No one relishes data as much as a marketer does. But when the time comes to quantify the impact of marketing for the boss, even the most data-driven marketer can stumble. And, typically, that time comes every 90 days or so, each time the Quarterly Business Review (QBR) rolls around.
The challenge comes from the need to align intangibles, such as brand scores and value proposition, with ROI. Well, it’s not a new challenge, of course. Marketing has always had to justify its impact. But it’s an increasingly complex one in a time when shiny new marketing platforms crowd the field and metrics from multiple sources can obscure the big picture.
There’s a good chance, too, that someone up the ladder is already a marketing agnostic. Repeatedly, studies show that a large majority of CEOs — as many as 70 percent, according to one landmark study — have shown a lack of confidence in marketers’ work, and CFOs are even more skeptical.
It’s not that they don’t know that marketing impacts the bottom line. They just might not really know how, because the art of marketing and hard-edged business have spoken different languages for too long. This barrier isn’t really that surprising when you consider that CEOs and CFOs live and breathe concrete metrics but — as another eye-opening study revealed — 90 percent of marketers have no formal training in how to calculate marketing return on investment (MROI). Maybe that’s why 63 percent of them said they don’t tie marketing results to financial outcomes when they report to higher ups.
So, welcome to your QBR.
Measuring the real impact of marketing has never been easy
Traditionally, there have been a number of barriers to demonstrating the ROI of marketing campaigns.
For one thing, marketing initiatives don’t necessarily fit into 90-day review cycles. It can take a long time to fully roll out and assess a campaign. That could leave you with little to show for the ROI at your QBR, because your data will be a moving target and it won’t be easy to judge its accuracy or relevance. That’s typically the case if you’re attempting to mine incomplete or fragmentary data the old-fashioned way — manually wrangle data into complex spreadsheets in an effort to cultivate insights from disparate sources.
A similar problem can stem from drawing on different data sets to bubble up insights. As marketing campaigns are often implemented across multiple platforms, it can be difficult to correlate data from various sources to find those important nuggets of information.
Marketing impact must-haves: Using new tools to pin the numbers down
In both instances, taking advantage of tools that unify marketing elements, and provide real-time KPIs and analytics, will give you the hard data you need to quantify MROI for quarterly reviews.
Since these solutions collect and present all of the relevant information about marketing impact in one place, they also offer invaluable tools for optimizing campaigns and comprehensive marketing plans, and demonstrating their marketing impact through concrete data.
Unfortunately, there still isn’t one universal metric to wrap around a marketing report in preparation for your QBR. That’s especially true in the case of social media and other emerging platforms, but there are best practices that can replace soft data such as “likes” with language that the boss is more apt to, well, like. That’s not to say that impressions, follows and clicks don’t have value. They do, certainly in terms of brand awareness. But tying a campaign to, for example, the number of leads generated is going to go over well with the CEO, because it’s easy to see a straight line between leads and revenue.
Data visualization: the key to proving marketing impact
The good news is the tools that make marketing impact visible do exist for today’s marketers, so there’s no need to let a QBR presentation descend into nothing more than a pipe dream. Now, by using advanced solutions you can create customized dashboards designed specifically for presenting all of your marketing data to the CEO or CMO — or any targeted audience, for that matter — in an easily understandable format. At last, marketing impact can be proven — and communicated in terms any boss can only love.
This isn’t about pretty pie charts. Technology has taken us well beyond that, and it’s now possible to turn raw data into a powerful narrative. By having a real-time view of your comprehensive marketing activity across channels, campaigns, regions, etc., marketers are more empowered than ever before.
These same tools also give today’s marketers one more big advantage over their predecessors. By integrating all relevant data, they’re able to show the connections between marketing and sales more vividly than ever before. As much as the two functions may sometimes seem to be at war, the reality is when they work collaboratively — grounded in real-world data and analytics — companies prosper, as the Harvard Business Review has detailed, pointing to readily quantified gains, such as shorter sales cycles and reduced cost of sales.
Together, they can determine the strategies and campaigns that have been most productive in the past and can better inform future plans.
What C-level executive wouldn’t love to hear about that at a QBR?
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