Have you ever enthusiastically reported marketing key metrics to your CEO or a board of directors just to have them ask, “So what?”
Connecting seemingly intangible marketing communications efforts to your organization’s very tangible bottom line can feel impossible. For instance, it may not be immediately obvious how mentions of your brand in social media impact sales, but this does not mean there isn’t value. You know this. We know this. So how do we prove it to everyone else?
First and foremost: stop reporting.
At least in the traditional sense of the word. Reporting implies a checklist of metrics that serve as a status update of sorts. Instead, reframe your marketing strategy and metrics into a company-wide context and refocus your reporting on informing larger business strategies.
Providing context to your marketing strategy
There are three steps to providing company-wide context that will enable you to prove the value of your marketing efforts. This process uses the Objective First Framework, a tool designed to ensure that all stakeholders are aligned on the execution and measurement of any given strategy.
1. Know your business goal
What is the business trying to accomplish and why? You have to answer these questions before you can do anything else. Once you have established business goals, you can develop SMART (specific, measurable, audience-related, realistic, and timely) objectives that tie directly into these company-wide goals.
2. Understand what success looks like
This involves defining success and the key performance indicators (KPIs) that best measure that success. Being transparent in your objectives and definition of success helps you avoid vanity metrics – numbers that look good but do not help you understand your own marketing performance in a valuable way. To ensure your key metrics hold water in the larger context of your business, ask yourself, “What business decision can we make using this metric?”
3. Align your metrics to the marketing funnel
Top tier unique mentions, thought leadership share of voice percentage, customer acquisition cost, engagement rate – the problem with marketing KPIs is that they can sound like a foreign language to the uninitiated. At INK, we have developed an internal measurement framework that allows us to connect our program efforts to audience behavior through the marketing funnel. This well-known funnel helps translate the value of marketing communications work into a common language and connects the dots between our work and the work of other departments.
Effective program planning starts and ends with strategic, data-driven decisions. Redefine reporting as part of an iterative, scientific approach that ensures you are aligning with your internal stakeholders, staying on the right course, tracking back to goals and metrics that matter, and stating your outcomes in a transparent and meaningful way. Too many people see reporting as the end of the process, when in reality ongoing, data-driven marketing measurement should be leveraged to continually optimize your strategy.
Let’s take a look at this in practice. In the example below, we clearly connect the objective to the larger business goal. We are specific about what success looks like and we evaluate all results together to inform our strategy. Most importantly, by following this process, we avoid the pitfall of celebrating vanity metrics and are able to make recommendations driven by measurable objectives.
Business Goal: To increase revenue
SMART Objective: Support the revenue stream of the organization through increasing inbound qualified leads by 4% in Q1, accomplish by increasing social media followers among the c-suite audience (increase awareness), driving views of c-suite landing pages (increase knowledge), and capturing leads through gated content downloads (increase interest).
Metrics and Benchmarks: Before setting these metrics and benchmarks, we analyzed year-over-year and average quarterly growth. Using this insight, we then established the below benchmarks for Q1 2019 program expectations:
- Increase social media followers by 8%
- Increase landing page views by 6%
- Increase lead capture through gated content downloads by 4%
Results: After Q1, and during the first month of Q2, we used analytics to measure our progress-to-goal for our metrics from Q1 above and found the following program results:
- Increased social media followers by 10%
- Increased landing page views by 4%
- Increased lead capture through gated content downloads by 3%
Analysis: While we exceeded our social follower benchmark by 2%, this increase in followers did not translate to the 4% increase in lead capture we expected. This tells us that our followers are not targeted and/or the content on the landing page is not engaging viewers. The difference between increased landing page views and increased downloads is less, indicating that it is likely an issue on the social side.
Based on these insights, our recommendation would be to adjust social follower campaigns to better target the c-suite audience. After four weeks, reevaluate the same metrics to gauge if landing page views and gated downloads have increased.
At INK, we simply call this entire process Planning and Analysis. By using this as a framework to monitor and assess the success of our marketing campaigns, efforts, and strategy on an ongoing basis, we’re able to test concepts, pivot when needed, and de-risk the pursuit of uncharted territory.
And most importantly, we are able to answer that nagging question, “So what?”