Marketing Metrics - are we missing the fundamentals?

At a recent gathering of marketing execs, I informally polled the group on how they were measuring Online Marketing effectiveness.   It seems that metrics are not keeping pace with our new reality.

Online Marketing ROI 
The majority are using web analytics tools, like Google Analytics and Omniture, to track page views and navigation paths.  About a quarter are working with a social media agency, or using a social media platform (like HubSpot) for tracking.  But hardly anyone is using CRM to track lead-to-sale metrics (like Google AdWords for Salesforce).  And some are using no tracking at all. 

It's true that many of us need to use a hodgepodge of tools to keep on top of our programs (I use Google Analytics, LeadLander and Salesforce, along wtih Google AdWords for Salesforce), and it's no fun to spend more time number crunching results than generating leads in the first place.  But if Marketing remains a nebulous science, we're not doing ourselves any favors by avoiding metrics altogether.

Making CRM Live Up to its Promise: Tips for Marketers

Despite CRM's vision of "Knowing Thy Customer", CRM for most companies has not evolved beyond Sales Force Automation.  As a Marketing VP, I've been on the hook for customer experience, outreach and acquistion, and had little more than stone-age CRM tools to work with.  To help other Marketers avoid the same tool-related injuries, I've been writing a series of articles Lies, Damn Lies and Dashboards for Marketing Profs both to share cautionary tales and to provide action plans for making CRM projects work.

Here are my tips for Marketers to take control of the CRM lead machine:

1.      Get Marketing on the CRM Steering Committee – if it’s not already.  Most CRM deployment projects are driven by the sales team.  Marketers need to be involved up-front to define the systems, project plan and measurement criteria.

2.      Become a CRM Expert – Get Your Hands Dirty!  When your programs are under scrutiny, the last thing you need is another action item -- but understanding how your CRM system works is critical to your success as a marketer.  Take advantage of online training and webcasts.  Make your administrator your IM buddy (I did, and all I had to do was ask).  Focus specifically on the data fields and reports in the campaign management function of the system so you can quickly get your hands on the data you need.  Or deputize an ambitious, tech-savvy member of your team to do the digging for you and keep the whole group informed.

3.      Don’t Expect a Solution Out of the Box -- Allocate Budget for Marketing Automation Tools Most CRM systems are not designed for campaign management (despite what they claim).  To track lead to revenue (which this is about, after all), to consolidate leads from all sources (web leads, search engines, outbound campaigns), and to nurture leads over time, you will need Marketing Automation tools to supplement your CRM system.   I know a few marketing departments that assign a person to import leads from other systems and export data to Excel™ to create custom reports – but it’s not anyone’s favorite job. 

4.      Don’t Stop Learning – Keep Evaluating and Tuning the System. No one gets it right out of the gate.  Be prepared to evaluate your progress monthly – not just when you have a reporting deadline.    Challenge yourself and your team to find new ways to measure your progress – and to find holes in the process that could hinder you moving forward.  Have a working lunch with the sales team (and offer to buy the pizza) to test your reporting metrics and question your assumptions.

5.       Be Proactive -- Set Realistic Expectations for Upper Management. Just because you can access reports instantly, doesn’t mean you’ll instantly impact the revenue line.   If you have a six-month sales cycle, a real-time dashboard won’t close the deals any faster. Expect to proactively walk through the lead nurturing process and the lead-to-sale process with your management team.