If Marketing Measurement Is a Top Priority, Why Do We Still Suck at it?

By Julie Schwartz, ITSMA. jschwartz@itsma.com

Measurement Challenge - ITSMA Presentation - OLB121108 slide 4Marketing measurement has been a challenge for more than a decade. I did my first presentation on the topic at ITSMA’s very first Marketing Leadership Forum back in May 2000. VisionEdge Marketing, ITSMA’s partner for conducting Marketing Performance Management research, did its first Marketing Performance Management Survey in 2001 (The 12th iteration of this survey is in the field. Click here to participate until the deadline, April 30, 2013). Looking at how far we have come in more than a decade is an interesting exercise. We see that some of the specifics may have changed, but the overall picture remains very much the same:  Marketing measurement remains a top priority and measuring marketing effectiveness is a huge challenge. Furthermore, marketers and senior leadership alike are dissatisfied with their ability to measure marketing performance.

Why has this been a challenge for so long? Because it’s hard! It takes a lot of brain power, time, resources, and most important of all, discipline.

The Pressure on Marketing to be More Accountable Is Only Increasing

The C-suite wants to see meaningful business results, not number of seminar attendees, website hits, click throughs, and Facebook likes. Most business leaders do not come up from the marketing ranks and they have little understanding of what marketing does and the value marketing can bring to the business.

Marketing is still misunderstood by most executives and needs to communicate a stronger story about where and how it is contributing to the business

The Capsicum Group interviewed C-level executives and P&L owners of 40 technology and consulting companies. According to Capsicum:

Simply put, companies need marketing now more than ever as they seek to grow in a difficult economy. Marketing could be doing so much more to drive growth and add value, without increasing investment beyond the average 1.9% of revenues our research showed is spent today. By refocusing and realigning the function, it can become the lynchpin it is in other industries – creating services that clients want to buy, brands that they will pay a premium for, and experiences that they will come back to and recommend – to build successful businesses and drive long term value for shareholders.

Marketing is Out of Step with the Business

Capsicum painted a picture of marketing functions out of step with the rest of the business, and unaccountable in terms of delivering the business results they need.

  • Marketers are not seen as peers by the leaders of these businesses, often due to their lack of business acumen.
  • Marketers don’t speak the language of the business, reporting their contributions in terms of “activities” or “outputs” rather than the business key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Even in its core activity, supporting pipeline or leads, marketers often don’t work closely enough with sales or get involved in major accounts or bids as a core part of the account team.
  • Few marketers have any meaningful engagement with clients
  • Most marketing functions today are caretakers for their company’s brand, but usually only in terms of the logo and visual elements. They do not control how the brand is delivered or experienced.

If marketers don’t step up to measure and communicate the value, they’re going to be subject to budget cuts.  And even worse, they will be relegated to tactical marketing communications (marketing with a little “m”), rather than the more strategic marketing activities such selecting target markets, and developing new offering and go –to-market plans.

Unfortunately, most marketers don’t think of themselves as business people. They don’t speak the language of the business and find themselves unprepared to be accountable to business results. Instead they are caught in a cycle of using marketing metrics to justify marketing’s existence and hold on to what little budget they have—to prove marketing, rather than improve marketing.

What do marketers need to do to improve marketing? Marketers need to stop counting outputs and measuring the “stuff” that senior business leaders don’t care about. Marketers need to align marketing investments with business outcomes.

The Six As of Marketing Performance Management

Marketing organizations that have demonstrated their ability to impact business results and have earned the respect of business leaders follow the six principles of marketing performance management:

  • Alignment: Draw a direct line of sight  between marketing investments and activities and business results
  • Accountability: Track the right kinds of metrics and report those metrics in a dashboard
  • Analytics: Access and manage high quality data, and analyze that data to glean insights
  • Automation: Build the infrastruction—technology, tools, processes, and talent—to support marketing performance management initiatives
  • Alliances: Forge collaborative relationships with key colleagues, specifically those in IT, finance, and sales
  • Assessment:  Commit to continuous improvement  using benchmarks and audits

Don’t miss the opportunity to benchmark your Marketing Performance Management. Take the ITSMA/VEM/Forrester Marketing Performance Management survey before April 30, 2013 and we’ll send you a copy of the report. Click here to access the survey.


  1. Eric Lannert

    Great post. In regards to the right metrics, this is particularly a challenge for us in IT Marketing. For most in our space, the sales process is long and complex. For digital marketing, this presents a huge challenge for metrics. CIOs don’t complete ‘lead forms’. We are discovering however, that they do read blogs, and they do click through to learn more about a firm’s services/products. Measuring that ‘conversion rate on content’, and specifically using that data to align and inform the content strategy is a must-do for IT marketers. I’m also bummed I missed the survey by one day :-(

    • Julie

      Thanks Eric. You are so right. Long and complex sales cycles only add to the difficulties marketers encounter when trying to measure and report their performance. Establishing goals and creating data chains from marketing activities to lead behavior to business results can only help. Sorry you missed the survey. We will publish a complimentary summary of the findings and if you want, you can purchase the full report. Check back at my blog for discussions of the findings. Julie

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