“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill
Marketing is a science and an art, with the science side of this equation often getting a lot of the “press.” The primary implication is that marketers will experiment, collect results, analyze those results and then make decisions based on the insights.
- Selecting KPIs is a critical function of leadership.
- Reporting on what matters most, and accurately, informs that leadership.
As marketing leaders, our purpose is to maximize the potential of our teams. The selection of Key Performance & Predictive Indicators (KPIs) directly impacts our fulfillment of that purpose. Done correctly, the right KPIs foster harmony and collaboration. They empower our teams and focus their effort where they have meaningful impact. Misstep here, though, and the wrong KPIs create dissonance and drain creativity out of our teams.
A KPI Roadmap is the strategic roadmap of specific KPIs your team should adopt for data-driven-decision making:
- It ensures your team is generating the right insights by focusing them on the right measures.
- It provides the framework for defining process and data structures that support these measures and ultimately generate reliable insights. You can’t lean on the data if you don’t trust your data!
- Finally, it provides a timeline for when a BI tool will be necessary, reigning in the premature purchase of a shiny new BI system if it’s unwarranted or providing the strategic justification for the acquisition of this tool.
What is a good KPI?
Simply put, it’s any goal you can benchmark and measure to determine the success of your efforts. But your KPIs should be relevant to core business objectives!
Let’s start with a minor example. Let’s say you have a fresh blog post with some original content you think will resonate with your market. A good KPI here could simply be a goal for how many people read it, which will allow you to market to them at a later time with new content through remarketing.
Other potential KPIs (depending on what you want a person to do) could be webinar registrations, PDF downloads, or even contacting you.
Now, let’s take a much larger example with significantly different outcome.
In this case, you’re a CMO and are deciding what to invest marketing dollars in for the next fiscal year. It could be upgrading your CRM, improving the integrations of a marketing automation platform, etc.
What is a good KPI on your investment?
Here, the KPIs are return on investment, marketing-sourced revenue, increased customer value, etc. The KPIs are significantly different based on the core objectives … and the question(s) you’re trying to answer.
(Hint: If you’re well-versed in revenue marketing, then you can probably provide a more thorough answer!)
No matter what it is, having clear key performance indicators is a must to chart a successful course and knowing if you made a wise investment.
SIX STEPS TO BUILD A RESULTS-REPORTING FUNCTION
“Far too often, we see firms rush out and buy the latest in reporting software as if it were a panacea for all their reporting ailments.”Justin Yopp
I’ve seen CMOs pursuing vanity metrics – metrics that “prove” the value of marketing instead of empowering better decisions for better performance. An example leads to a definition of two types of reporting:
- Activities Reports: opens, clicks, visits, CTRs, visitors, duration, bounce, deliverability, etc.
- Results Reports: New leads, MQLs, SQLs, opportunities, renewals, new customers, bookings, Revenue, CLV
As a leader, activity reports do me no good! But to the team in marketing operations, the activity reports can be exactly what’s needed to improve upon each customer interaction to provide a better overall experience.
Most marketing teams can build a half-decent activity report. But the really strong ones can tie their activities to sales-oriented figures through results reports … and not nearly enough teams do it today.
Here is a six-step process we’ve developed for creating a results reporting function.
STEP 1. DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO MEASURE.
This is not as straightforward as you might imagine.
You need to engage with the marketing team, determine their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and find out what decisions they want to inform with these metrics. Are they trying to become more efficient, more effective, redirect resources and budget? Are you going to measure marketing influence and is there an attribution model for that? Now prioritize these metrics and KPIs based on impact to the business.
Notice we did NOT discuss how to measure them, where to measure them, and broader data, process and system requirements. That comes later!
STEP 2. DETERMINE WHAT REPORTS YOU WILL NEED TO MEASURE THE KPIS AND METRICS YOU SELECTED.
With the metrics and KPI requirements in hand, determine what set of reports are required to effectively provide that data. What are the parameters and dimensions that define these reports? In what systems will the reports be generated?
STEP 3: IDENTIFY THE DATA, PROCESSES, AND SYSTEMS THAT YOU NEED TO CREATE THE REPORTS.
- Are the fields present and collecting data currently in the systems you wish to run the reports in?
- Are new integrations or file transfer required?
- Do your teams currently update the data in a reliable way?
- What data import processes need to be redesigned to support these reports?
- Will your existing technology stack support the reporting you need for effective decision-making?
Oh, and will you use Excel, a marketing automation platform, a CRM, or some combination of all of these to produce the reports? (Far too often, there’s more than one “source of truth” and it creates all kinds of misalignments!)
Related: Read when its time for a more robust B2B marketing attribution solution
STEP 4: COMMISSION SOMEONE TO BUILD THE REPORTS.
Don’t send the initial reports to a wide audience because it is highly likely you will uncover unknown data issues and process issues. Also, there is a risk that the reports won’t conform to a widely held view of how things are, and you need to be pretty sure the data and the reports are spot on before you start that battle.
You don’t want to lose reporting credibility just as you are getting started.
STEP 5: DETERMINE HOW TO INTERPRET THE REPORTS TO GENERATE MEANINGFUL INSIGHTS.
Reports alone will not provide the answers and insights necessary to make better decisions. You need these reports visualized and contextualized to facilitate analysis.
- What dimensions should be used to slice the data into something meaningful?
- Is there an ideal time series that should be used to present the data to unveil trends – week over week, month over month, quarter over quarter?
- Are some metrics and KPIs better presented together?
In this step you’re doing the critical work of making your data consumable for key decision makers.
STEP 6: DRIVE THE CHANGE
Start the cadence of daily, weekly and monthly reporting. Push your teams to provide data evidence to support their claims and decisions. Model this same behavior yourself. Also, be prepared to adapt the reports to what the teams really wanted in order to make decisions (there’s nothing like seeing the report you asked for to help you really understand what you wanted).
This regular distribution and consumption of the reports is critical to truly embedding data-driven-decision making into your marketing organization.
Related: How to build a modern B2B marketing organization
EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP AND SUPPORT FOR THE CHANGE
Getting teams to the point of analyzing the data and making data-based decisions on a daily basis will not only happen organically.
Leadership has to lead in this practice and drive it down into the organization. Provide the training and resources necessary to bring the team up to speed. And allow time for the organization to acclimate to these new expectations.
It’s a satisfying experience to attend a marketing status meeting and hear the broader team excitedly talking about changing their immediate plans based on last week’s or last month’s significant shift in a trendline!
COMPONENTS OF YOUR RESULTS REPORTING PROCESS
- Metrics / KPI requirements – What decisions do they want to make based on the data?
- What is the right frequency for updating those decisions?
- What is the context for the data to support a good decision (comparison data?)
- Data Sources: what data is needed to support those decisions and metrics?
- Reporting technology: Where are the reports run? Do these systems support the output desired, subscription and distribution, have access to all the data required? Does your data architecture support running the reports you want in specific systems or was reporting a forgotten afterthought?
- Roles: Who owns, maintains and modifies the reports? Don’t assume that the report author is the same person who is familiar with the data – the data czar. Also the person who interprets the report might be yet a third person – a marketing business analyst. All 3 roles may need to be in the room when an important data-driven decision is being made.
- Standards: If your report creation is centralized it may not be as big an issue, but if you are global, and want to be able to roll up marketing reports from each of the regions, you have to drive standards for data collection, report building, naming, and presentation. The same business rules (think filters on the data) need to be applied and visible on the printed reports so people know they are comparing apples to apples.
- Media: What media will you use for delivering which reports? Are they online, emailed, PDF, Excel, Business Intelligence (BI) system, or MAP/CRM?
- Distribution: How can individuals subscribe and unsubscribe. How can you secure confidential reports? Restrict access and printing?
- Archival: Many firms don’t have a BI system and as a result some reports, which are snapshots of the results at an instant in time, are the only record of the data at that instant. Ie the same report cannot be re-run a month later, showing the exact results at that prior time for comparison to the current run. As a result there may be a need to archive all “runs” of a report, for comparison purposes in the future. How is this done without a BI? Build your own SQL database or use Excel? Obviously this can be laborious so it deserves attention and planning to keep it manageable.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR DATA-DRIVEN DECISION (3D) MAKING
Data-driven decision making requires a set of guiding principles to be effective.
You are probably already getting results reports. So ask yourself:
- Which of my teams are using these reports, how often, to make better decisions?
- What decisions are the reports informing?
- Are they vanity reports or reports for helping improve marketing performance?
As a fellow leader, I encourage your to engender an inquisitive and investigative nature in your organization. Don’t be afraid to leave room for exploration and discovery of patterns … I’ve seen the occasional “rabbit trail” lead to a discovery that bettered everything marketing was hoping to achieve!
Don’t fall into this One trap
You don’t need to measure everything.
Pick a few primary metrics to measure for a given campaign, project, or process … and stick to those! Too often, marketers get bogged down in too much data. Focusing on irrelevant data is almost as bad as having none to begin with!
As I like to say:
“Too often marketers forget the ‘key’ part of the phrase key performance indicator.”
You are measuring trendlines and reporting progress – so make sure what you focus on is pertinent, and keep it as streamlined as possible.
So, what now?
If you aren’t sure what KPIs you may need, enroll in our introduction to KPIs course (it’s free, and totally online) first!