Marketing effectiveness has long been in a state of waiting for that perfect metric, the tell-all KPI. David Hartley of D2D looks at this myth, and instead suggests three ways to build a culture of effectiveness.

With the IPA’s EffWeek drawing to a close last month, marketing effectiveness is currently a hot topic for marketers. Ostensibly, it’s philosophically simple; the objectives of marketing within an organisation have to first be defined, followed by creating a set of KPIs which can measure performance against these objectives, to which marketers work towards. What complicates it is, as always, the people factor.

It’s clear there’s no easy consensus on approaches to take. For example, research out from the IPA and ISBA this month demonstrated a significant minority of marketers (25%) believe marketing effectiveness is the responsibility of insight divisions. At the same time, the debate around the usage of theorems such as Binet and Field’s 60:40 brand-vs-promotional-spend rule showcases the diversity of thought and marketing priorities amongst organisations.

For any business, measuring the impact and ROI of marketing is key. But to achieve significant marketing effectiveness, brands must go beyond measurement and metrics.

For us as a marketing effectiveness consultancy, helping our clients build an internal culture with the principles of marketing effectiveness ingrained at its very core is a key focus. But what does this actually mean? And what practical steps can be taken to create an environment where marketing teams live and breathe effectiveness, never losing sight of their mission to create sustainable commercial value?

Testing clearly defined aims

A lack of understanding about what an organisation actually means by marketing effectiveness is still a huge barrier for many marketing teams. Most marketers now agree there is no single killer KPI. Instead, a measurement framework is required with a suite of KPIs that monitor short and long term success across existing customers, new customers and prospects.

The explosion of data availability leaves those organisations with a lack of clarity around their true marketing aims and how to measure success against them in a dangerous place. We can all find some metric that has gone up, some piece of data that suggests we are performing “above the norm” – but is it a metric that matters?

The path to success lies in a systematic, data-driven approach to defining the marketing performance metrics that correlate with desired short and long term commercial success, however that is defined in an organisation. Once marketers are clear about what they are trying to achieve and how they are going to measure success, they can be empowered to test, learn and repeat.

Instilling a culture of curiosity, a culture of “innovate and learn” is at the heart of what marketing effectiveness is all about. The data and analytics is the apparatus in this science experiment - it is the marketers who make the dogma-defying breakthroughs.

Open (Data) Highways

With a trend towards category and regional consolidation and larger and larger portfolios of brands, even with relatively clear sets of marketing KPIs defined, insight divisions can still quickly become awash with a sea of overwhelming analytics and data. These often become entrenched territorially within different teams, which leads to a dissipation of any holistic view of marketing performance for any given brand.

As such, this highlights the importance of not just centralising data repositories within an organisation but also democratising access to this information. By discouraging silos, and expecting every single marketer in the organisation to be able to access and understand the data and analytics, we can provide the whole organisation with a holistic picture of how marketing is working, right now, for every single brand and market.

Allowing heads of marketing to define causal patterns of behaviour change and to isolate and monitor for KPIs that measure behaviour, pre-defined KPIs can then be laid out in every campaign brief. This promotes complete transparency throughout the marketing planning community, from internal marketing teams to creative, media and comms planning agency partners.

Promoting collective responsibility, rather than a silo-ed obsession with specific metrics, is vital to allow creativity to flourish. It’s absolutely true that we all win, fail and learn together.

Board level buy-in

Board-level support for marketing effectiveness initiatives is critical for driving an organisational measurement culture. Finding a sponsor and being clear about the timelines for implementation, how the new programme will impact governance around marketing decision making and the expectations on everyone within the organisation are vital to ensure the programme is not seen as another tick box exercise. 

Ultimately, this means directly linking measured marketing performance into the annual budgeting cycle. The benefits and cost of zero based budgeting have long been debated but the rise of this kind of approach in hybrid form is now more common than ever, and for good reason. It fosters collective responsibility across the organisation which is vital for promoting culture change, but this kind of budgeting approach must be set up as redistributive, as a way to invest in growth rather than simply cut costs.

Building a marketing effectiveness culture is, at its core, a communications endeavour. Measuring marketing effectiveness allows you to discern what does and doesn’t work, and allows the adjustment of spend and effective budget allocation accordingly. By incentivising knowledge of its function throughout the organisation, promoting clear and actionable KPIs that are adjusted to reflect marketing performance, and moving away from data gathering for data’s sake, businesses can come together to drive that most important of business outcomes, sustainable growth.