The KPI framework as a driver of marketing ops

Frans Riemersma
November 21, 2022

This blog was adapted from BrandMaker’s: “Marketing Ops Now” podcast. Each installment discusses valuable ideas for both management and marketing executives. You can listen to this 20-minute podcast here.

One could argue that marketing ops originated from KPI frameworks. Some 20 years ago, someone in marketing had to make sure that all data aggregated for the monthly reports. That someone was a marketing ops person. The position came with an incredible advantage.

It gave the marketing ops person access to the data that enabled evaluation of what was invested and what were the results. Better still, marketing ops was the first to know: “Is this working what we do?, Are we doing the right things? Was this a success or a failure? What should we do more of? What should we do less of?”.

Defining a KPI framework – start with dashboards?

There is this dilemma when facing the pile of Big Data scattered across the organization. “Should we define our KPI framework first? Or should we start with integrating the data into one dashboard?”.

We see that companies often opt for the second option, developing the dashboard. However, not rarely it leads to that one reaction once the dashboard has been fully integrated: “What does it say about the client? How does it tell us what next steps to take?”. Bringing data together certainly can have value. Not as a strategic direction, but rather by applying data science to find new insights and discover new opportunities.

The shift in customer KPIs

We touched upon two KPIs that frequently circulate in marketing meetings: lead generation and brand awareness. In recent times, brand awareness was probably one of the leading KPIs by which the marketing organization as a whole was being evaluated.

With the rise of digital, the gradual shift came towards lead generation as the primary KPI, because everything online can be measured. Digital marketing changed the whole game due to its direct engagement with  with the audience. It is also a more direct way to correlate marketing activities to P&L performance.

But brand awareness matters. In fact, depending on the nature of your business, brand awareness matters a lot. Brand awareness is one of the blind spots that digital marketing created. With the recent rise of digital television, radio, billboards, narrowcasting, as well as the convergence of print and mobile apps, many traditionally offline channels become measurable. Let’s see how this plays out for Brand Awareness as a KPI.

Mind the operational KPIs

Lead generation and brand awareness are campaign performance KPIs. Next to this there are also team performance KPIs. These are the operational KPIs and they are concerned with the infrastructure of marketing – productivity, skills, campaign lead times, budget spending, agency performance, etc.

Operational KPIs are a special creature. Whereas customer KPIs are tracked quarterly and the focus is short-term, operational KPIs also include the long term. Tracking operational KPIs is easier and more reliable with a digital asset management tool. It allows the department to optimize the standardization, production and delivery of company assets across the organization. An asset management platform is also a general investment. Assets are the carriers of the brand value.

Let’s also think out-of-the-box about operational KPIs. Think of calculating the Return on Content, where the conversion rates are traced back to specific asset types, or even specific assets.

Defining a cascading KPI framework

To create accountability is to define success. The CMO has to decide what the is and what marketing wants to achieve in a specific year. Then marketing ops comes in to help define the specific KPIs and targets.

Marketing ops should help the CMO defining the right framework, including benchmarking against past performance or competitive performance in the industry. Ultimately, marketing ops should be doing the heavy report lifting throughout the year.

In essence a KPI framework cascades or ladders up. Defining a KPI framework starts with the CMO or even the CEO. They should define two or three goals at most. From there it starts laddering further down into the organization, following the particular functional leads within the marketing organization. Here are some cascading cues.

  • “How does the CEO know that the CMO is doing a good job?”.
  • “What is marketing accountable for at the highest level?”
  • “What should demand generation deliver?”
  • “When is my loyalty program manager successful?”
  • “What organic traffic should we deliver to the website?”

Each functional lead should be clear about two things.

  1. What do they ultimately have responsibility for?
  2. What do we consider a quantitative measure?

It is great when that can be a quantitative measure that is very precise. But there are cases where it’s less precise. Don’t hesitate to use some sort of proxy mechanism. You might want to take it one step further and allow the team to experiment. Why not have a framework in place by which we can run semi-controlled experiments to demonstrate what has impact on the correlations that matter?

Please join us

BrandMaker’s “Marketing Ops Now” podcast series has officially started. In each podcast industry luminaries and deep thinkers share valuable marketing ops ideas for both management and marketing executives (some worth stealing).

For every podcast in the series we’ll do a blog post to share the highlights with you. You can listen to this 20-minute podcast here.

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