Monday, October 12, 2009

5 Steps to Marketing Measurement Maturity

Summary: marketing performance measurement can start with simple response tracking, and grow in stages to show business impact, track the buying process, optimize results and demonstrate strategic alignment. Each stage adds new data, systems, measures and processes.

I’ll be talking about marketing measurement this Tuesday at Silverpop’s B2B Marketing University seminar in Palo Alto, with a repeat performance in Boston on November 4. The core of my presentation will be a 5-step measurement maturity model for B2B marketers. This post will give you a brief summary.

A little background: marketers’ objectives for performance measurement generally fall into five broad categories: measure response, show business impact, track the buying process, optimize results and demonstrate marketing alignment with business strategy. Each category has different requirements for data, systems, measures, and processes. Because some of these requirements overlap, there’s a natural progression starting with the simplest requirements and adding new requirements for each stage. This progression leads to a maturity model. Here are the details.

1. Measure Response. The most basic requirement is simply to count the number of responses to each marketing program. This stage also includes the closely related step of calculating the cost of those responses for a simple cost-per-response measure that can be used for a rough ranking of investments.

Key data needs for this stage include mechanisms to capture responses and campaign costs and to link responses to campaigns. This requires a campaign management system to execute the campaigns and track their costs, and a marketing database that stores the identity, promotion history and response history of leads generated by the campaigns.

2. Show Business Impact of Marketing Campaigns. The cost per response tells little about the business impact of a marketing program. You must also know the value of those responses. At a minimum, this requires linking marketing leads to closed sales. This typically means importing closed opportunity records from a sales automation system and linking those opportunities back to the original marketing lead. Add the cost data already gathered in stage 1 (response measurement) and you can calculate a simple Return on Investment based on revenue / acquisition cost.

Of course, true ROI is based on profits, not revenue, and incorporates all incremental costs, not just the initial marketing expense. A proper business impact measurement thus requires capturing the full marketing, sales and product costs associated with new leads, as well as their actual or estimated long-term value. These give a ROI measure that comes reasonably close to showing the true business impact of each acquisition campaign.

In terms of new requirements, this step adds sales opportunity data, which implies integration with a sales force automation or CRM system. It also requires processes to assign opportunities to leads and leads to campaigns, and, optionally, ways to import and connect lifetime costs and revenues.

Keep in mind that this approach only applies to lead acquisition campaigns, not to campaigns that nurture existing leads or customers, or branding campaigns that don’t generate a direct response. This is a smaller issue for B2B marketers than many consumer marketers, who often have no direct way to identify the customers acquired or influenced by their activities.

3. Understand the Buying Process. This stage looks at the impact of non-acquisition marketing treatments on moving customers through the buying process. It requires defining stages within the buying process, tracking the movement of individual leads through those stages over time, recording the marketing treatments applied to those individuals, and measuring the correlation (if any) of treatments to stage changes. The result is both a more detailed understanding of the buying process and a way to decide which treatments are most valuable.

Meeting these requirements implies capturing more information about leads, including static attributes (company, job title, etc.) and behaviors such as Web site visits and email responses. These can be used in scoring models or other tools that decide which stage a lead is in at any given moment. The system must also keep a history of each lead’s stages over time, so it can correlate stage changes with treatments. The treatments themselves are already captured in the marketing database needed for response measurement, so they do not represent a new requirement.

4. Optimize Results. Once you’re tracking lead movement through process stages and measuring the impact of individual treatments, you’re ready to build an end-to-end model that calculates the impact of each small change on final sales. You can then optimize the combination of treatments across the process. For example, you might find you can spend less on acquiring new leads if you spend more on nurturing existing ones, to produce the same sales volume at lower cost.

The calculations for this type of optimization are fairly simple, and they don’t require any new information beyond the previous stage in the maturity model. But you do need more precise information about the impact of different treatments, which means formal testing of alternative treatments and careful analysis of results. You’ll also need a business simulation model that can estimate the impact of changes on near-term revenues and costs, since the company still has its quarterly targets to hit. You'll also need to define you goals -- higher revenue? higher profit rate? lower marketing costs? -- so you know what to optimize.

Ideally, you’ll also add optimization software that can automatically find the best of all possible treatment combinations. But few B2B marketers have the data volume or statistical skills required for this, so you’ll probably end up manually running a variety of scenarios through your simulation model instead.

5. Demonstrate Strategic Alignment. Delivering the optimal set of treatments won’t satisfy your CEO if your marketing programs don’t align with the larger business strategy. That alignment may in fact require campaigns that produce low short-term returns, such as investing in a new product or market segment.

To demonstrate alignment, you must first show that your planned marketing activities support business goals, and then show that those activities have yielded the expected results. For example, a strategy based on selling to a new group of customers might yield a marketing plan with 10% of acquisition spending aimed at generating leads from that segment, and a goal of that segment accounting for 5% of new leads received.

The exact requirements for this stage will depend on your specific strategic goals. But it’s likely that you’ll need more information about the purposes of your marketing spending (so you can show which funds are supporting which strategic goals) and more about lead attributes and behaviors (so you can show that results are in line with expectations).

Incidentally, demonstrating strategic alignment doesn’t depend directly understanding the buying process (stage 3) or optimizing results (stage 4). So a company that has reached stage 2 in the maturity model could jump immediately to demonstrating strategic alignment if desired.

Final Thought: once you get past counting response, all later stages in the maturity model assume you are measuring your marketing performance against the ultimate goals of closed sales and long-term customer value. This is increasingly necessary as marketing remains involved with leads even after they are officially transferred to sales. It implies that marketing and sales must integrate their systems, so they can view, coordinate, analyze and ultimately optimize sales and marketing activities across the entire buying cycle.

In companies where the marketing's responsibility still ends with the hand-off of qualified leads to sales, the maturity model could be adjusted to optimize only through that stage. But that's an increasingly obsolete approach.

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