Henry Wood
Feb 20, 2018

It’s time to fix how we measure

Unless we start from scratch and build systems that give us meaningful insights, we may as well move to the Caribbean, says Henry Wood at Marquis Insight.

Henry Wood
Henry Wood

I was talking to a friend in the research industry where we concluded with the thought that perhaps it was better to retire and open a bar in the Bahamas than continue to bang heads against the wall in terms of the state of measurement in marketing.

It can be highly frustrating to see measurement, whether hard metrics or consumer insight, used for the same thing, which is to track the performance of a campaign and that’s essentially it. Whatever the metrics they’re just indicators of success of a campaign to show to superiors and then move onto the next.

One can understand the challenge. To change the way you measure has enormous implications on how you work, how you structure your team and agencies. It can reach into the very way your teams are rewarded and staffed. I’ve had one prospect simply say ‘I know this is important but, honestly, it seems like a job for my successor’.

It’s far easier and more exciting to go with a rebrand.

Quite simply, agencies cannot change unless their clients do. We’re seeing the effect of this with falling share prices in the major holding companies to the point where one agency sent out a memo asking to delay paying invoices until after Christmas. Agencies do have a responsibility to push change onto clients who genuinely want change but, frankly, it’s far easier to just continue down the road of campaign after campaign with the same tired metrics.

Consider some of the common complaints of CMOs.

  • My agencies are bringing me the same old ideas
  • My teams aren’t working together
  • The brand is feeling tired
  • I don’t know if I’m reaching the right people
  • I don’t know what’s ahead

Plenty of initiatives are put in place before the slow pull to the norm takes over. However, initiatives tend to be top down rather than bottom up. How many companies have rewards and bonuses structured on cross-team performance? Yet, this too can fail if the metrics and measurement platform is similarly not combined into one. If teams can’t see how their work can affect other practices then it seems somewhat arbitrary.

There are clear issues:

  • Most companies are not tracking marketing data properly
  • Business practices are remote
  • Focus is on proving results to C-Suite over strategic performance
  • People view metrics as measuring, not providing, insights

I worked with one company recently that is at least trying to bring together CRM and marketing, teams that are often entirely separate. Simple differences such as quarter-on-quarter measurement compared to year-on-year are difficult to reconcile.

It leads to the increasingly fraught pitch process, increasingly short campaign times, increasingly short production and review times. Everyone is frantically creating noise to maintain metrics that don’t necessarily mean anything.

Companies need to step back and start building a new measurement framework where marketing becomes a process of optimisation and testing as opposed to scattering out content. In a broad sense companies need to realign their marketing under paid, earned, owned and loyalty.

Paid becomes less a media buy budget for a campaign and more an ongoing process for optimising channels, earned for content, owned for e-commerce and apps, and then loyalty for more direct marketing underpinned by CRM data.

Previously when measurement was prepared in PowerPoint it made sense to split the data rather than combine it into one 500-slide deck that no one would look at let alone understand. However now, with increasingly sophisticated data visualisation tools, one can create a single in-depth and interactive dashboard that can be viewed by the entire team.

It’s amazing that the traditionally most conservative department, finance, is further ahead in data visualisation than the supposedly more cutting-edge marketing teams.

In fact, simply starting the process of creating a proper marketing dashboard forces one to think about the very structure of how that data is represented. That, in turn, forces thinking about the structure of your team and agencies.

The goal should be a seamless process of optimising your output and results. The key metrics should be a quarterly brand equity research piece on your consumers, competitors and industry. Are your consumers identifying you with the brand values and USPs you’re putting across? Are you differentiating from your competitors, are you looking ahead to emerging trends and, of course, is it delivering on the bottom line? This feeds the strategy, the performance of which is measured by hard metrics that work together.

Dashboard visualisations are not a pretty toy. They’re a means of organising data to generate real insights. Scale is better represented in shapes than in numbers. Interactivity invites you to dig into the data and ask the right questions that produce meaningful answers.

It reminds me of the cartoon where two people are proclaiming they’re too busy to change as they pull a cart with square wheels. It’s really time to stop applying patches to a broken system and take a fundamental look at how and what you’re measuring across the entire marketing division. It wasn’t particularly possible before. It is now.

Henry Wood is co-founder and chief strategy officer at Marquis Insight.

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