“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” – John Wanamaker, (attributed)
More than 100 years later, marketing executives still feel John Wanamaker’s pain. CMOs are under intense pressure to deliver measurable returns on marketing investments. However, delivering consistent, reliable performance metrics remains a challenge for many companies. It all starts with basic reporting, but many marketers face critical obstacles in doing this. In talking to marketing leaders, it’s clear there are common issues. The complaints we hear most often are:
- “Our data is so bad we can’t get reliable reports.” This complaint usually comes in two forms. First, account and customer data are often plagued by incomplete, inaccurate or duplicate data. Data comes from multiple input sources with no controls so it’s a mess. As a result, there is no confidence in even “simple” customer counts. Second, we often hear about basic data capture issues for marketing campaigns. When this occurs, reporting is extremely difficult or impossible, and marketing leaders are resigned to living with anecdotal evidence.
- “We can’t bring together the data we need to measure marketing results.” Marketing activities generate a lot of data across a variety of systems. Digital campaigns, email outreach, direct mail and telemarketing are typically run out of different systems. Accessing data and effectively reporting across systems is a major pain point. Integrating the information to get a single view of prospect or customer activity is an even more daunting task when “bad data” is put into the mix.
- “Everyone measures things differently so no one believes the numbers.” Calculating key marketing metrics generally requires someone to create rules for handling data. Campaign attribution is the classic example; when a contact engages at two different touchpoints, which one of the touchpoints (campaigns) receives credit for capturing the lead? In many companies, marketing may define key metrics differently than sales, meaning reports do not align. When the numbers don’t agree, confidence in the conclusions suffer.
- “We have a lot of reports, but they don’t tell us anything.” Most organizations don’t have a shortage of reporting; they have a shortage of good reports that provide valuable insights. It’s not unusual to find dozens of marketing-related reports in a company; they come in all sizes, formats and systems, and they are often produced at great effort. Unfortunately, most of them are ignored.
Why does this happen? Because marketing leadership finds no value in the reports. This generally boils down to two basic issues. (1) The reports present facts, but they may be the wrong facts. Senior management cares about different numbers. (2) The reports are just a collection of numbers that don’t provide insight into marketing performance. Good reports provide clear insights that help marketers explain success or diagnose issues. Most reports do neither.
It’s a sad tale that gets told every day in marketing departments everywhere. Thankfully, while it’s often really as bad as it sounds (or worse), it can all be fixed. If you suffer any of the afflictions described above, we suggest developing a measurement framework as a first step to reporting health.