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  • Writer's pictureAndy Friedman

How Do You Know Your Marketing is Working?


I've been engaged in Marketing for many years, and one of the top stressors for marketers and those they are accountable to is whether all the time, expense, headcount and activity is worth it.


Is marketing really moving the business in the right direction?


The answer determines budget allocation, who gets to hire when revenue is in a good place and who survives when it’s not.


One of the most difficult situations I’ve seen is when Marketing teams think they’re moving the needle, but might not be. Examples might be increased website traffic, social media activity and lead generation. Or just “general buzz” in the community.


Maybe those things are making a difference. In fact, they probably are. But I’ve seen many examples of web traffic increases resulting from bots or low-intention SEO traffic.


I’ve seen social media traffic increase with no increase in qualified leads. And I’ve personally put campaigns in place that result in a large number of leads that are comically unqualified.


If you’re a CEO, this is often frustrating when you find out about it; oftentimes you don’t.

If you’re a Marketing lead, you risk being shoulder-tapped at exactly the wrong time to justify your spend. If you haven’t discovered it yet, Marketing is a game of “what have you done for me lately?”


What to do?


It’s amazing to me how many times I’ve seen Marketing and Executive Leadership talking in different terms, with different goals.


That rarely ends well.


I always suggest setting the table ahead of time with agreed-upon objectives and ROI metrics for as many activities as possible.


The higher the funnel position, the harder it is to prove out ROI. But you cannot ignore brand awareness campaigns where there’s no expectation that an individual will make an immediate purchase.


After all, some experts say a decision maker needs more than ten touches before they feel they know the brand well enough to consider a transaction.


So setting expectations for Marketing ahead of time will inevitably make conversations about marketing effectiveness and resource justification much less involved.


An example of a common set of shared goals and measurement criterion would be:

  • Increased website traffic: what sources of web traffic seem to generate the most qualified leads? If it’s SEO, then traffic from social media, for example, is less important.

  • Impressions, reach and click-through rates on advertising: these are all indicators, but you want to make sure you’re tracking the number of qualified leads. Does the rising tide lift the correct boat?

  • Email open rates: I’ve seen companies with great open and click rates, but no activity. I’ve seen the opposite as well. I suggest getting the whole picture.

  • Brand lift: if you can afford it, Brand Lift studies measure who is impacted by your messages and who isn’t.

  • Lead generation: you want a mix of low-intention leads (subscribe to newsletter or download ebook) and high-intention leads (talk to expert). You should have goals and strategies for both.

  • Sales enablement: ideally, you want detailed information from your busy Sales team about how well an event or new collateral has helped drive deals.

To truly measure ROI, you want to have attribution capability. Advanced CRMs and tools like Segment, Domo and Triple Whale can give you a keen eye on the customer journey and where your funnel is working.


If you have a number of separate systems, then you need time-consuming manual activity to figure out what’s working.


To ensure there’s a single source of truth for everybody, I’d recommend putting together a Marketing Dashboard where you can track your KPIs on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.


When it comes to the hard budget decisions around personnel, I’d recommend having visibility into each team member’s attributable value. For example, I recently calculated that one individual on my team has a 469% ROI based on the sales generated from the leads their activity generated. That made for a painless conversation about that person’s future in the organization.


This is what you want to be able to do for your entire department.


Finally, there needs to be profound alighment between Marketing and other departments like Sales, Finance, Customer Service, and Operations. I've seen many examples of Marketing "knowing best." I always recommend Marketing take the posture of providing "internal customer service" to the rest of the organization, even if that means "helping them anyway" on occasion.


And the time to set up this alignment around ROI and vision is .. right now.


Andy Friedman is CMO of Specifi Software and other portfolio companies within WAI Investments. He has an extensive background in Marketing with previous senior roles at the American Marketing Association, Penton Media and Tribune.


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