5 Ways To Know Your Marketing Metrics Don't Suck

Just as Billy Beane changed baseball from a game of hunches to a business of stat-driven decision making, leading marketers are also upping their game by increasing emphasis on metrics that matter.

Whether or not Brad Pitt wins Best Actor later this month for his sublimely subtle portrayal of Billy Beane in Moneyball, the man who transformed baseball from a game of hunches to a business of stat-driven decision-making should be a source of inspiration for marketers in any field. Pitt as Beane is a sympathetic character with a problem familiar to most CMOs—how do you compete effectively despite limited resources, and thereby keep your job?

The answer for Beane and his Oakland A’s was to reinvent the math of baseball, creating new statistics that had a closer correlation to winning games and letting those guide decision-making. Similarly, today’s marketing leaders are putting an increased emphasis on metrics, simultaneously improving the effectiveness of their activities and extending their job tenure. Having spoken with a number of heavy hitters, I’m pleased to offer these 5 ways to know your marketing metrics don't suck.

1. Your CEO Doesn’t Accuse You of Speaking Dothraki*
Not too long ago, the language barrier between CEOs and CMOs was indisputable. CEOs rolled their eyes when presented with the latest charts on brand awareness and purchase consideration, while CMOs blanched at the emotionless plea for qualified leads and measurable ROI. Today, according to a recent poll by The CMO Club, a staggering 84% of senior marketers believe they have the success-supporting metrics their CEO will understand.

When asked about the survey, Pete Krainik, founder of The CMO Club, expressed some surprise at the number of CMOs who claimed to have the metrics they need to defend their jobs, but not the trend itself. "I think CMOs are in a much better position than they were just two years ago.” Krainik said. “The best CMOs agree upon metrics with their CEOs at the start of the year and then share results along the way, establishing a common vocabulary for success.”

2. Your VP of Sales Wants to Buy You Lunch
Forget the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry—when it comes to divisiveness, the usual battles between the heads of sales and marketing are legendary. Dan Marks, the CMO of First Tennessee Bank, set out to change this relationship four years ago with a new marketing metrics program. The goal, explained Marks, was to “more precisely quantify the link to revenue and to be able to quantify the revenue impact of different marketing approaches.”

Marks now believes that 84% of his marketing mix can be measured and linked in some way to revenue generation. Acknowledging that there are “several layers of precision,” Marks comes back to the need to make metrics understandable. “When you are talking to sales and you can show a stack ranking of your marketing programs, all of a sudden you’re talking their language because they stack rank their salespeople,” explained Marks. By connecting marketing metrics with the “core bottom line,” Marks has made strong allies with his counterparts in sales.

3. You Have At Least One Number Cruncher on Staff
In MoneyballJonah Hill plays Peter Brand, a young Harvard “genius,” whose statistical analysis helps Beane and the Oakland A’s win more games than the Yankees despite having a payroll one third the size. And though Brand is a made-up name for the movie, the real guy, Paul DePodesta, was a game changer who helped Beane overcome the odds.

Similarly, today’s enlightened CMOs add staffers who can help them glean meaningful insights from the mountains of available data.

One such CMO is Janet Roberts of Syniverse, a global provider of roaming, messaging and network services to the mobile ecosystem. Though not well known outside their industry, Syniverse has doubled sales over the last few years through a consultative approach supported by rich content on their website. "Our website is the centerpiece of our communications, so it is important to understand what’s resonating with our audiences, [which is why] we’ve devoted an expert to analytics," says Roberts.

4. Your Dashboard Is Not Just in Your Car
The pursuit of meaningful marketing metrics is all well and good, but unless you have access to this data regularly (if not in real-time), then you might as well forget about winning, much less keeping your job. Not surprisingly, Brian Kardon, CMO of Eloqua, a marketing automation firm that helps companies set up real-time dashboards, is a big fan of having access to up-to-the minute data. The advantage to CMOs, remarked Kardon, is that “your CEO doesn’t have to ask you how you did—he or she can actually see it through transparent dashboards.”

Another dashboard fan is Shane Lennon, VP of Marketing for DimensionU.com, a start-up in the educational gaming space. Lennon has a real-time dashboard with 25 KPIs that allows him to “drive the business based on data from marketing efforts along with quantitative and qualitative input from our users.” This dashboard is in no way static, however. “We are continuously optimizing the mix, testing ideas, ramping them up, retiring them and bringing them back where applicable,” he said.

5. You Can’t Be Replaced by a Computer (Just Yet)
In a pivotal moment in Moneyball, Pitt fires two players whose numbers are actually very good. Pitt’s seemingly irrational move, however, paves the way for the team’s future success and highlights the fact that intangibles still play an important role in successful decision-making. The same holds true in marketing: while having clear metrics is essential, some important elements may still be beyond the reach of math geeks.

“While we have a very clear set of metrics, sometimes the numbers don’t tell the whole story," said Catherine Davis, a former senior marketer at Diageo and current president of Vizeum U.S., a global media consultancy. "Building brands that really resonate with people is part art, part science. I think this is particularly true for a brand positioned around innovation, like we are."

So although marketing execs may remain in the hot seat, it is unlikely that a computer will take over their jobs any time soon, as there is still a place for carefully calculated intuition.

*Dothraki is the language spoken by nomadic horse warriors in the mind-blowing HBO series, Game of Thrones. HBO actually commissioned David Peterson of the Language Creation Society to make a full language out of the few words used in George R.R. Martin’s book series, on which the TV show is based. And speaking of interesting challenges, be sure to check out my interviews with CMOs Dan Marks and Janet Roberts on how they learned to speak fluent marketing metrics at TheDrewBlog.com.

[Image: Flickr user Thomas Hawk]

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1 Comments

  • McKay Allen

    Great article! I would add--having a variety of marketing dashboards like web analytics like Eloqua, Google Analytics, LogMyCalls, Marchex, etc is key too. Thanks!