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.

Lack of Lead Gen is a Symptom, Not a Disease

You're interviewing for a VP Marketing gig, and you're asked the question "Do You Do Lead Gen"?  And you begin to suspect that 1)this job is more low-level than it sounds and 2)yikes!this company does not value branding or marketing strategy.Content Messaging 
The suspicion may well be false.  Because in the overall scheme of marketing life, lack of lead gen is just a headache.  It's not a disease, it's a symptom of something much bigger.

The roundabout route that many Lead Gen discussions take is that there are little/no marketing programs in place, the sales team isn't armed and there's no way to measure the marketing to sales cycle.  Which can also mean: No clear, compelling value proposition, and no educational (vs. promotional) content. 

So there's no need to run when the lead gen question comes up.  It's part of a much bigger story and a much meatier assignment. 

And if Lead Gen is not part of your repertoire, you may miss the strategic conversation all together.

Talk About a Tough Crowd... Comedians Have to Be Tougher

At various points in my marketing career, I've been told "You shouldn't be in marketing, you should do stand-up".  I should have taken it as a compliment.  My conditional response to crisis situations is a clear head and a strong dose of humor -- how else to diffuse the stress?

But I believe stand-up is much harder than marketing.  You're lone and vulnerable, developing new material on the fly and trying it out in front of a tough crowd.  Serious stuff.  Marketing and Stand-Up do have commonalities -- coming up with original material, reading the crowd, engaging them with your story...  So perhaps the unsolicited career advice I received wasn't such a stretch.

So how to learn from stand-up without the stress?   Listen to this CD: 

Fresh_air_laughs_2 Terry Gross is one of my favorite radio personalities. Perhaps it's her steady, open-minded, compassion that comes through over the airwaves, but she sounds like she could be anybody's, (or everybody's) best friend.   Fresh Air Laughs includes her interviews with Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Henny Youngman, Phyllis Diller, Bob Newhart and others.  It's a great study in toughness and creativity under pressure, and although it has its share of chuckles, you're more likely to walk away with inspiration than a stitch in your side...

Where Lead Gen and Marketing Programs Miss the Mark

I'm still surprised to see Lead Gen and Marketing Programs completely disconnected from sales -- but I shouldn't be.    Marketers are increasingly focused on metrics, but most often the spreadsheets stop with the marketing department, and never translate into sales.   

The relatively recent discipline of Supply Chain Management tracks a product's journey from raw material to manufacturing to distribution to consumer.   Why not apply the same principle to lead generation?   Leads are only as good as the sales they generate.   And with today's CRM systems, there's no reason not to track them all the way through.    But to do so, Miss_markmarketers need to master both the process of tracking leads and creating an active dialogue with the sales team.    In a March 2007 article for Marketing Profs, Lies, Damn Lies and Dashboards, Part 2: How Marketing Can Plug Into Changing Sales Models, I outlined the following steps to thwart Marketing-Sales disconnect.

How do you make sure your metrics are matched to the sales model?

  • Be part of the sales planning process—even if your schedule is tight.
  • Get advance notice—watch every step of the sales cycle.
  • Stay in sync with the sales reps—sit in on customer calls.
  • Know sales skills and motivations—decode the comp plan.
  • Watch the revenue stream—start tracking average sale value and lifetime value of the customer.

Despite marketing's best efforts, there will always be CEOs who keep tabs on multi-year sales cycles by hitting "refresh" on their CRM dashboard every 30 seconds.   In this situation, I've employed the "stock ticker" analogy: as long as leads are considered "leading indicators" and not the end game, long sales cycles can be managed like a long term investment.  After all, lead-generation IS a diversified investment portfolio, with short, mid-term and long-term returns, not a recurring expense for staying in the game.