6 Ways To Improve Marketing Performance Today

April 23, 2019

As marketers, we talk a lot about the pursuit of excellence. 

How you run marketing influences how you do marketing. But how exactly can we run marketingbetter How do we figure out where improvements will make the most impact, what those changes should be, and where do we even start  

In order to stand out above the crowd, to capture our customers’ attention, and then to convert that attention into action, we are continually striving to do better marketing. 

Just as they continually aim to create better customer experiences, so the most successful marketers also seek ways to better manage the investments that go into making this execution happen because thoughtful spending leads to better decisions. In other words, they strive for excellence in marketing performance management (MPM). 

Ways to #RunMarketingBetter 

The Marketing Performance Maturity Model is a framework that breaks down marketing performance into six dimensions. It’s a useful tool to assess your organization’s maturity in each of these areas, and help you identify next steps for improvement. 

Here, we’ll take a brief look at each one, and provide some examples to spur ideas as you identify your next steps to #RunMarketingBetter. 

  1. Executive Vision

Executive vision refers to marketing leadership’s ability to articulate and get buy-in for exactly what the marketing organization is trying to achieve. When executive vision is strong, leaders can envision and communicate what the organization will look like in 2, 3, or 5 years—and beyond. It’s important to remember that the vision has to relate to the department’s marketing performance and how the department will proactively manage and optimize it’s inputs and outcomes. 

While this is one of the most important dimensions in how your marketing organization is run, it’s the one over which an individual marketer has the least direct control. Still, there are definitely steps one can take to help run marketing better in this area. 

How to recognize a challenge in this area: 

  • Do you struggle to identify a set of tactics that will move the needle for your marketing organization? 
  • Do you feel that your marketing team’s goals are too narrowly-focused, or too short term? 
  • Do the various marketers on the team appear to be working towards different goals? 

Examples of how an individual marketer can #RunMarketingBetter in this area: 

  • Define an “executive vision” for your own (or team’s) “charter”. Even if you don’t have a team-wide perspective for success, create one for yourself. 
  • Where appropriate, challenge leadership to broaden their definitions of what success looks like for the marketing organization. Be the canary in the coal mine: when you ask questions about the vision, it should become clear to leadership that there is a need for more clarity in this area. 

“At Box, any marketer around the world can see what the rest of the marketing organization is planning to do, and align their objectives to the corporate objectives as well. This helps us to run marketing better.”

Tim West, Senior Manager, Marketing Operations at Box 

  1. Organizational Talent

This dimension is all about the fit between the people on your marketing team and the challenges at hand. A team can buy great technology, have ample budgets, and have a clear and powerful vision, but without the right competencies to execute, it will be left with missed opportunities. 

How to recognize a challenge in this area: 

  • Are your company’s marketers able to make efficient use of the tools and data at hand? If a marketer has difficulty surfacing insights from their data, its quality might be at issue, but it might also be a lack of skills or training. 
  • Do you sense an over-reliance on certain marketers because they’re the only ones who possess certain skills or competencies? 
  • Do you feel that the company arms you well with ongoing training and professional development? 

Examples of how an individual marketer can #RunMarketingBetter in this area: 

  • Be proactive about your own learning. Most companies have a professional development budget; never let that money go unspent. 
  • Whether you’re a CMO or just getting started in your career, find industry peers to learn from. 
  • Invest in yourself. Choose a specific topic or technology (for example, SQL, Marketo, or copywriting) and take a class or teach yourself. 

“Using a marketing performance management tool] makes my job easier because when I’m improving the experience for the budget editors, making it easier for them to keep track of their budget, I’m also improving the data that I’m feeding my stakeholders. Those two things are not in competition, they’re very much complementary.”

Zoe Marquardt, Marketing Investment Programs Manager at NI (formerly National Instruments) 

  1. Alignment

Like nearly all other departments in a business, Marketing depends on its peers in other parts of the organization to execute on the company’s objectives. 

Where inter-department alignment is strong, Marketing is a trusted ally and partner to their closest collaborators: Sales and Finance. Where such alignment is weaker, the different departments operate in silos and have differing goals that do not seem to serve a common purpose. If Marketing hits its objectives, but is disjointed from the rest of the business, chances are it has not truly created the impact the company needs. 

How to recognize a challenge in this area: 

  • Are marketing budgets being cut? This could be a symptom of a lack of alignment between marketing and finance. (When there is strong alignment, marketing leadership can readily advocate for maintained or increased investment.)
  • Could there even be a lack of alignment among the various teams, regions, or functional areas of marketing? 

Examples of how an individual marketer can #RunMarketingBetter in this area: 

  • Communicate proactively. If you are running a project that needs to involve a counterpart from another department, bring them in early and communicate often.  
  • Build alignment by starting on a micro, individual level. Find a counterpart in either Sales or Finance and take them out to lunch. Learn about their job, priorities, metrics, motivations, and how they look at the world in general. Getting even one person’s perspective will go a long way toward building a sense of understanding for their department. 
  • Alignment works within the marketing department as well. Make sure plans are shared across the team. Using a tool other than Excel or PPT is a great step forward with this. 

“I probably spend more time in our marketing performance management tool thank in our ERP because it has the full picture, from budget to actuals to results, and I can’t get that elsewhere… certainly not in a meaningful timeframe. It helps me help marketing make better decisions.”

Carey Rutigliano, Financial Planning & Analysis, Cloudera 

  1. Data Visibility

When we talk about data visibility, this means both access to data and clear metrics that help run the marketing business. When data is fully visible, every marketer can get easily see how their activities and investments are performing, and feel confident about what to do next because they have a data-informed sense of what’s working and what’s not. 

Organizations who are mature in this area go beyond tactical performance measurements. Additionally, they routinely capture business impact measurements–those higher up on the hierarchy of measurements. 

How to recognize a challenge in this area: 

  • Do marketers seem to operate mainly based on gut feel or intuition about what’s effective and what isn’t? 
  • Is performance measurement done on an ad-hoc basis, rather than as a systematic and organized part of daily business? Do marketers spend undue amounts of time on Excel “gymnastics”? 
  • Are Marketing’s KPIs out of sync with the overall priorities of the business? 

Examples of how an individual marketer can #RunMarketingBetter in this area: 

  • Find the metrics that matter to your marketing organization. That might be as simple as a conversation with your boss and access to a dashboard, or it might be a longer conversation to drill in to what matters to the executives for your team or group. 

“Every marketer in your organization is in charge of contributing to pipeline and revenue targets. It’s not just the CMO and marketing operations anymore. And the way to achieve this is to centralize all your data on one platform where it is linked back to plan and budget. It has to be a self-service system, and every marketer needs visibility, not just the power users.”

René Bonvanie, CMO, Palo Alto Networks 

  1. Data Cleanliness

A close cousin to data visibility, data cleanliness refers to the quality, accuracy, and completeness of marketing data. Where data cleanliness is strong, there’s a single view of the truth shared not just by all groups within marketing, but also by other departments such as Finance and Sales. 

How to recognize a challenge in this area: 

  • Do measurements coming out of different systems (for example, marketing automation vs. CRM) produce different results? 
  • Do measurements coming out of different departments (for example, marketing vs. sales vs. finance) or geographies produce different results? 
  • Is there a lack of a common marketing taxonomy among the different regions, theatres or groups within marketing? In other words, is everyone capturing and reporting their marketing data in the same way? 

Examples of how an individual marketer can #RunMarketingBetter in this area: 

  • Rather than trying to tackle a data cleanliness issue wholesale, start by trying to solve one specific specific measurement challenge where you suspect a data cleanliness issue may exist. 
  • Be accountable for your data! Whether its setting up the proper campaigns or inputing data with the correct tags, everyone is responsible for clean data. 

Uptempo allows us to maintain data quality and data integrity, and also change that as quickly as anything changes in marketing.

Danielle Evangelista, Marketing Operations Analyst, FireEye 

  1. Technology Adoption

Last but not least comes the dimension of technology adoption, which refers to the appropriateness, sophistication, and connectedness of your marketing tech stack. Marketing technologies allow teams to achieve scale and efficiency, and are truly a difference-maker for the best organizations. 

Strong technology adoption means more than just having licenses to all the latest and greatest tech tools—it means that there is intention and strategy behind their selection, and that the integration points between them are clearly documented. They’re highly automated, available to marketing end-users on a self-serve basis, and are purpose-built for the job at hand. 

How to recognize a challenge in this area: 

  • Are you spending excessive time using tools not designed for Marketing, such as Excel and PowerPoint? 
  • Do you observe marketers or leadership expecting “silver bullet” technologies or holding unrealistic expectations for the tools they buy, only to be let down post-purchase? 
  • Is marketing technology brought into the organization without a clear map of how it will integrate into the rest of the marketing tech stack? 

Examples of how an individual marketer can #RunMarketingBetter in this area: 

  • Audit the technologies you are using today. Are there some you can live without? Sometimes less is more. 
  • During the software evaluation process, choose marketing technology vendors who are true partners to your organization, not those who simply provide a tool, and then leave marketers to their own devices. 
  • Look at tasks that are particularly time-consuming. Can any be automated? Are there tools out there that can help you focus on higher value activities? If so, that may be a gap for you or your team to fill.  

“We used to operate within a bunch of Excel spreadsheets with the data in a finance format and a minimum of six week lag time, so it was really difficult for us to have a good feel for what was going on in the business today, and being able to react within the quarter, let alone the year. This led me to figure out a better way to get out of spreadsheets, to have a collaborative platform for my global marketing team… it wasn’t just a technology for us, but a way to make sure that we were able to develop and bring along the organization to get to our shared goal.”

Sean Hiss, Director of Marketing Operations, Equinix 

No matter the size or scope of the marketing organization, these common aspects of the MPM journey offer real opportunities for marketers to optimize their processes, methodology, and approach. And it’s important to remember that it’s called a journey for a reason—improving your marketing performance is not a one-time thing. As your organization improves how it tackles the customer experience challenge (or the ‘do’ side of marketing) and also as it naturally grows and evolves, there will be many points at which you and your team can pause to evaluate how you run marketing, and identify some next steps. 

There is always a next step to improved marketing performance. Find yours, and take it. 

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