There is no question that digital marketing has had a tectonic impact on how marketers do their job. The manner in which it emerged onto the scene, however, has had its tradeoffs. On the positive side, the variety of discrete options made available to marketers — search advertising, display advertising, social, video, etc. — gave them an unprecedented amount of flexibility and autonomy to execute activities, with very little lead time in many cases. Before an executive could say “what’s going on?”, digital marketing activities were being executed throughout an organization.
However, the organic and fragmented nature of digital marketing adoption resulted in somewhat of a Wild West environment, with very little control and accountability across an enterprise. This was particularly true in large global companies, where different divisions and operating markets (countries) ended up independently adopting digital and social marketing platforms.
As I talk to marketing executives responsible for large brands, it is becoming clear that they realize it is time to provide some standardization and oversight across the enterprise when it comes to the execution and measurement of their marketing efforts. Marketing executives realize that on the execution side, by cross-fertilizing ideas and developing standards, a set of best practices can be developed and an increase in efficiency can be experienced through the sharing of assets and tools.
Marketing executives also realize that it is critical to develop a standardized marketing measurement framework that spans the enterprise. Currently, it is common for different business units within an enterprise (products, brands, geographic regions, etc.) to present the performance of their marketing efforts in different ways. There are many reasons for this inconsistency. One of the big reasons is just history; business units are used to presenting the performance of activities a certain way and they haven’t had the need to change. Another reason is that many marketing activities are executed by agencies and they have their own way of reporting results. And, unfortunately, politics also plays a role. It is not uncommon for the results of activities to be sculpted in a way that makes a business unit look good to the higher-ups within an organization.
Ultimately, having no standard marketing measurement framework does not serve the needs of the overall business well. Without a consistent measurement framework across the entire enterprise, it becomes impossible to have an apple-to-apple comparison across brands, regions, etc. At a basic level, it makes it very hard to know what is really working and what isn’t. But more importantly, the lack of a standard measurement framework makes accountability very difficult. For example, an enterprise cannot set cascading goals from a corporate level, all the way down to individual brands or markets if each one uses a different measuring yardstick.
Organizations need a single yardstick — a standardized marketing measurement framework — to understand the performance of their marketing activities across the entire enterprise, spanning their different operating markets, brands, divisions, etc. Having such a framework delivers the following benefits:
- Improved accountability. Individual teams are no longer able to just present results in a manner that makes them look good. A common measurement framework allows the setting and measuring of performance against cascading goals. Enterprises are also able to map the effect marketing activities are having on business objectives — like sales and brand equity — more easily.
- Increased effectiveness. It is easier to understand what works and what doesn’t, both in terms of current activities across business units and historical comparisons. These learnings can be used to improve the overall effectiveness of activities and the allocation of spend across channels, campaigns, regions, divisions, brands, etc.
- Improved collaboration. A standard measurement framework creates a common language for different functions, divisions, and regions to communicate with. By improving collaboration, overall productivity increases.
- Creation of a data-smart culture. With a measurement foundation in place, marketing organizations can become increasingly data-driven in making both strategic and tactical decisions. A measurement standard allows the marketing organization to optimize for the global maxima rather than be satisfied with local optima.
Here are eight tips to follow when developing a standardized measurement framework across an enterprise:
- Give authority to a centralized team. You must have a centralized team that drives this initiative, whether it is a global center of excellence or a marketing analytics group. Organization-wide, it must be clear that this team has a mandate and authority. This team must also be operational in nature; it cannot act like strategy consultants. They need to partner and work closely with the various business units / divisions during the design and implementation of the framework, and they need to continually monitor progress so learnings can be incorporated back into the process.
- Define company-level business objectives. Company-level business objectives for the measurement initiative need to be defined. These objectives should be small in number (one or two) and may be different than the objectives for a particular product brand or geographic region. They ultimately help set the context in choosing the right set of marketing KPIs and measurement standards.
- Define your long term measurement vision. Think in terms of evolving from channel level executive KPIs (that are sometimes not very actionable) to having omnichannel / campaign-centric measurement and customer-centric measurement. While you can’t get there on day one, it’s important to have a vision to incrementally build towards.
- Start small. Walk before you run by focusing on a small number of KPIs that affect all product brands or geographic regions. Focus initially on just providing visibility into these KPIs; more “reporting” than “analysis”. Think about the business questions these KPIs intend to answer. This exercise will force the organization to collect quality data from the various systems in order to calculate the KPIs correctly and consistently. In addition, it is critical for the KPIs to be tied to the company-level business objectives that are defined.
- Set goals and align motivations. Define goals for the various KPIs you intend to roll out. This may require the creation of “cascading” goals (e.g., a global corporate goal for a certain KPI which is then broken down to individual regions and/or brands, campaigns, etc.). Also, you’ll need to determine how/if you want to flag whether a particular organization is tracking (in terms of pacing) against their goals. For example, if there’s a quarterly goal of X, how do you determine if sufficient progress towards the goal has been attained mid-quarter? This seems like a simple question but for many reasons it’s not. Finally, consider also tying budget allocation or MBOs with KPI goal attainment so everybody’s motivations are aligned. This may be a particularly sensitive topic so handle with care 🙂
- Think global but act local. This initiative needs to be a collaborative partnering endeavor among all of the different business units (product brands, geographic regions, etc.), not one in which everything is mandated in a top-down manner. You want to end up with a foundational, common global measurement framework but it needs to accommodate for “local” derivatives, allowing individual brands and regions to address their unique needs. For example, certain marketing platforms are regional in nature (e.g., some social platforms like Weibo or VKontakte). Also, different markets or brands may have different approaches to how they apply global marketing platforms due to regional or target demographic differences.
- Think through your business and measurement taxonomy. This is an often overlooked, critical and non-trivial part of developing a measurement standard. You need to define the business and marketing taxonomy against which you want to map your performance data, in terms of regional / country hierarchies, business unit / brand / product hierarchies, campaign hierarchies, and naming conventions. This is also true for currency conversions associated with media spend tracking. These then become the lens through which you roll-up and slice-and-dice data, judge your marketing performance, and then ultimately tie it to business results.
- Implement an effective measurement system. An effective systems infrastructure needs to be put in place to centralize and automate the measurement, harmonization, and organization of the raw marketing performance data. Many levels of capabilities are needed in order to make this all happen. Granular data needs to be collected from all of the different systems that are executing the marketing activities. A scalable database needs to be implemented that is based on a data model that can reflect an organization’s unique elements and that can easily adapted as one’s business changes. An intuitive user interface with a variety of visualizations is critical to give marketer’s the ability to understand what’s happening at any time. The list of capabilities goes on and on.
It’s time to leave the Wild West. Before things get out of hand, inject some standardization and oversight into your marketing efforts across the enterprise. By implementing a standard measurement framework, you will improve accountability and will be able to take advantage of the promise of digital marketing by making data-smart decisions with a sense of confidence.