Mark Twain once said, “To stand still is to fall behind,” and nowhere is this perspective more relevant than in today’s marketing environment. The expectations of target audiences are constantly evolving, technology is changing on a daily basis, and competitors are continuously raising the bar for quality, speed, and customer responsiveness. Tactics that worked perfectly even a few months ago may already be outdated, so B2B marketers must keep up not only with the latest industry developments, but also with the performance of their own audience marketing initiatives.
Years ago, effective monitoring and evaluation of marketing results required a team of data scientists — not true today. Now, we have tools available to produce and distribute relevant data to individuals in various marketing roles, as well as to non-marketing executives and stakeholders across the organization. That’s a good thing, because keeping a finger on the pulse of our marketing results is not only a good idea — today, it’s an absolute necessity.
Why Metrics, and Why Now?
Establishing marketing performance metrics offers brands the opportunity to achieve:
- Greater agility: Satisfying customers according to their needs today is the goal, and metrics give us the information we need to create a detailed roadmap for reaching it. By monitoring how real customers respond (or not) to our marketing efforts, we can gain a clearer picture of what they want from us; then we can get to work on delivering it.
- Stronger branding: By evaluating our individual marketing efforts as moving parts of a cohesive whole, we can identify areas where our positioning may be out of line with our company image. Metrics let us see which initiatives are reinforcing our brand, and which areas have room for improvement.
- Proactive positioning: To keep pace with a rapidly changing environment, marketers must be proactive, anticipating and planning for changes before they become disruptive. Consistent evaluation of our data lets us monitor trends, and respond strategically instead of reacting passively.
- Closer alignment with business goals: When we begin monitoring and evaluating marketing efforts, we can develop and pursue goals that align with our overall business strategies.
How Monitoring Benefits Marketing Performance
Marketing teams who collect and analyze their marketing metrics can frequently and consistently build on their marketing performance in four key areas:
- Increasing competitive intelligence: When marketing teams utilize intent monitoring and other outward-looking evaluation tools, they can better anticipate competitor reactions to their new and upcoming marketing strategies.
- Assessing strengths and weaknesses: By monitoring real-time customer responses to their marketing, teams can more accurately assess marketing assets, such as brand equity, and gauge the effectiveness of these assets in building influence among target audiences. Conversely, they can also become aware of shortcomings in their marketing strategies and address those weak points before they turn into problems.
- Making calculated budgetary decisions: Marketing metrics become particularly vital when organizations begin the planning and budgeting process for the coming quarter or fiscal year. Rather than trying to guess which areas need more resources, and which can be safely downsized or eliminated, marketing teams can look at real-world results to make a strong argument for allocating and reallocating budgetary resources where they can deliver the greatest return.
- Building a strategic knowledge base: The need to make strategic decisions doesn’t just come around during the annual planning process; it can arise at any time, driven by changing market conditions, new technologies, and other factors. By monitoring and evaluating marketing metrics on a consistent basis, teams can build up a knowledge base that can be accessed any time decision-makers need reliable data to make a sound business decision.
Choosing Your Marketing Metrics
When we talk about analyzing marketing metrics, we’re actually referring to an array of practices, and it’s up to each marketing team to determine which ones make the most sense in achieving their goals. Here are just a few examples of metrics many major brands use to prioritize and allocate their marketing investments:
- Marketing return on investment (marketing ROI) measures the effectiveness of your marketing efforts as a whole in terms of revenue generated.
- Return on marketing investment (ROMI) measures the effectiveness of a specific marketing campaign in terms of revenue generated.
- Return on marketing objective (ROMO) broadens the concept of “return” beyond dollars-and-cents revenue to include qualitative results such as increased brand awareness, lead nurturing, or customer loyalty.
Best Practices in Evaluating Marketing Metrics
When choosing which KPIs to monitor, make sure your selections align with your overall business and management goals. If, for example, you recently launched a product targeted at a higher-end market, pick indicators that will help you monitor your progress in reaching that specific target audience, rather than focusing on overly general metrics like gross website traffic.
It’s also vital to measure outcomes from the target audience’s point of view. While meeting internal goals (e.g. number of emails sent each week/month, frequency of blog posts and podcasts, etc.) is important, the main focus must always be on how audiences respond. For a clear perspective on how well your marketing is working, look at metrics such as: email open and clickthrough rates, conversion rates on landing pages, engagement rates on social media, etc.
Because target audience activity can vary considerably from day to day, week to week, or month to month, monitoring must go on continuously. Doing occasional “pulse checks” won’t give you a clear insight into how audiences are responding to your efforts. Choose a tool that lets you monitor on an ongoing basis, and that will alert you to spikes or crashes in any of your KPIs. It’s also important to evaluate metrics frequently, at least once a month, so that we can identify trends and respond to them strategically.
Employ a common scale and document your margin of error. Your analytics reports must make sense, not only to individuals in various marketing roles, but also to non-marketing executives, and they must know how much natural variance to expect when they review those numbers.
Measure all channels together to better understand the overall impact of your marketing on target audiences. If you just look at Google Analytics and ignore Facebook Insights or other social signals, you’re not getting the full range of information you need to optimize your marketing mix. Make sure you’re measuring every channel on which you have a presence, and keep an eye out for emerging channels that represent new opportunities.
Measure Today to Improve Tomorrow… and Beyond
Marketing thought leader Dan Zarrella once observed that “marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.” If our brands are going to survive and thrive in today’s fast-paced, hyper-competitive environments, we must make monitoring and evaluation of our results an integral part of our marketing strategies. As we prepare for the coming year, the coming quarter, or an upcoming industry shift, analyzing our results from today and yesterday will give us the insights we need to be ready for tomorrow.