The Math Matters
Why today’s marketing leaders need to know the value of data, and be analytically oriented
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What kinds of leaders does the marketing organization need? What type of leader do you have to be? How does analytics affect your interaction with your company’s C-suite? …Depending on the industry, marketing leaders may have come from the brand, creative, or more traditional ranks in marketing. While that is still the case for some leadership positions, marketing leaders also emerge from more technical or analytical backgrounds. It’s simply not enough to do things the way we used to. Today’s marketing leaders need to be technically savvy, know the value of data, and be analytically oriented. I’m not saying that the visual or brand components aren’t valuable as well. That’s still a big part of the job. But just having those skills is no longer enough. To lead today’s modern analytical marketing organization, you need to understand how to assemble the multiple skills and disciplines inside your organization and, by playing together, create beautiful music in the form of superior engagement with your customers.
Because you now have the data and the analytics to bolster what you’re pitching, it’s easier to back up the stories you are telling your team and peers in other departments. Everything we are doing in marketing now is more measurable than ever, which means we can truly analyze the effectiveness of our methods. Our level of accountability is also much higher. The data, numbers, and results allow us to set, track, and hold people to objectives in a discrete and deliberate way. The insight and prediction that marketing now provides influence change and strategy.
Leading a modern marketing department also requires tenacity and the willingness to embrace constant change, because we’re bombarded with a constant, daily stream of new information and emerging channels. You need to encourage your team to change with you by being honest and direct with them. Don’t allow complacency; reward risk taking, and empower your team with change management support.
That means encouraging them to take risks—and to fail—while also having the courage to ask what went wrong and why, so they can learn from the experience and try again.
But it’s also a constant balancing act between not being complacent and not freaking out about the constant, overwhelming sense of change. A leader needs to let people know that change is OK and necessary. But it can be difficult to find a balance between pushing people too hard and giving them time to get where they need to on their own....
Everyone has a different style in communicating and consuming information. Some people talk to think; others need time to absorb, process, and then talk. Some people are energized in chaos and brainstorming; others are overwhelmed.
Know your leadership team members—how they process, how they communicate, what their strengths are, and where they need a different style, especially in contrast to your own. When implementing change, be sure to overcommunicate and allow for opportunities so folks can test assumptions and share their concerns…
Leading by Example
As a modern marketing leader, you need to lead by example and use the same technology, data, and analytics tools your team members are using to tell your stories. Your job is to make them look good.
What’s probably more challenging is effecting change across the entire organization, including the leadership, by defining a clear set of objectives and then utilizing the right technologies, tools, and processes to enable accountability and consistency. Some people have a system that shows the reports and gives the information, but they also have spreadsheets that don’t match up. A long time ago, I told my organization, “You can keep all the spreadsheets that you want, but don’t show them to me.” All the data, all the analysis, all the information goes into the system of record, so that’s the place where we’re going to make decisions...
The other big issue we’ve faced, especially in the last several years, is tight budgets and limited resources. We have to be very selective with our investments. When people come with new ideas, approaches, or investments, my first questions are: Where is the data that supports your direction? How are you going to know that you’ve been successful? What can you show me to indicate this is the right direction? Are you willing to fail? What does that look like? When you have to be selective, you have to have metrics in place that really analyze what you can expect. The only way to answer that question is with the right data, analysis, and testing, followed by the ability to measure results and initiate change.
As an example, figure 5-1 shows a report that I look at every few weeks to understand how our different channels are performing.
This report, which we call “Response by Channel,” tells us the total number of responders across channels in our marketing mix. When we dig deeper into the analysis, we gain insight into how each channel is performing and get answers to the following questions:
How is e-mail performing (clicks, conversions, opt-outs)? Is content syndication providing the expected value on investment? How many impressions and conversions are we getting from online advertising and paid search? How many net new contacts are coming from marketing campaigns?
Because of the power of our data, we can also dive deep into any of these channels to look at performance from many different lenses. For example, if we are running a campaign on data management, we can drill down to see what channels are responding best to the campaign. We can also look at which channels are underperforming and then try to find out why.
I look at this data every two weeks or so, but it’s always updated and available, which makes it even more valuable to the team members who are measuring the effectiveness of their campaigns and constantly adjusting them to boost their results. For me, this report is an example of analytical information I can use to influence our overall mix of investments and to identify areas where we might need to make changes. It’s not about assessing whether something is right or wrong. Everything is fluid and always changing. Rather, I am looking at indicators in order to try different angles to drive results.
Much of my career in marketing has been directly tied to sales organizations. I learned a long time ago that sales leadership is motivated by results, metrics, and targets. So, in turn, we as a marketing organization have also embraced a marketing metrics approach.
Telling Your Story
Sometimes our team needs to engage in shameless self-promotion. We need to tell stories about the interesting things and projects the team is involved in to ensure that the rest of the organization understands our value. We have to deliberately build credibility for marketing. My job as a marketing head is to ensure that sales, IT, finance, and other departments know the value we are delivering by communicating early and often about the efforts that are affecting our shared success.
Brenda Hodge, a marketing executive with a leading health-care innovation company, agrees that we need to be responsible for building our own credibility with other leaders and departments, and that’s something we can do through storytelling. She said, “You can share the big-picture numbers, but then you need to bring it down to the level where you are giving them examples of deals that you closed and the activities those prospects engaged in before they became customers or renewed their contract. You have to make the data come to life. When you can connect the dots for people and share those stories, you’ll start to see light bulbs going off.”
We also engage in some joint storytelling with other department heads we are collaborating with to drive new sales and deeper relationships with our customers. For example, my counterpart in IT and I share the story of how we are working together to help drive bottomline results through our partnership in providing the data and tools that are landing new deals. We objectively show that the investments we have made in a certain technology are empowering us to a particular result in our sales pipeline. Both departments show that we are more than just cost centers and are absolutely critical to the success of the organization. With the help of the data, we demonstrate our impact.
One way I know for sure that this approach has value is when leaders use what I gave them to tell their own stories. If you can get your CMO or CEO to tell the data and analytics marketing story for you, then you know it was highly valued.
You can only change behavior when you change someone’s objectives, and then make it very clear that you are going to measure that person against those objectives. Of course, we have always had performance metrics. But in order to track our own performance objectives as a marketing organization, we have established a set of reports we can monitor daily via a dashboard. We can look at how team members are progressing toward their individual performance objectives, and then the channels, campaigns, and departments to see how we are tracking against our goals at each tier. Figure 5-4 shows an example of the global-level goals and metrics that we track.
The key is to ensure that individuals don’t chase their own goals at the exp-
ense of our goals as an organization.