Friday, November 8, 2019

Measuring Marketing is Science, Not Art.

“If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing.”

~ W. Edwards Deming 

When in business school, I had the honor of meeting W Edwards Deming while taking a class on operations management. Deming literally wrote the book on quality and process control, and is known for his 14 Points of Total Quality Management. But only when I entered the realm of product marketing did I realize that many of Deming’s principles can directly apply to marketing process quality as well. 

As a product marketer, I’m always asked about how to set objectives, goals and actions for marketing - for individuals, for teams, and for organizations. My approach is to first ask about what the desired *outcomes* are - the OKR approach (Objectives and Key Results) and then analyze and break-down the stages of the marketing loop.  

I use a “loop” concept (and not funnel) because when marketing is done properly, it’s not a unidirectional process that ends with a sale. Rather it should feed on itself with customer loyalty and advocacy, ultimately helping you generate even more awareness.  When marketers refer to the funnel, it only corresponds to the stages of Discovery through Purchase… so if you don’t include the post-purchase stages, you’ll be blind to monitoring customer experience/use, loyalty and advocacy. Hence the value of the loop concept.

Step #1: Break down your stages / define your marketing processes

I like to use this 8-stage loop that’s specific to enterprise software marketing and purchases - but you can adapt it to your unique product/market circumstances.  In whatever manner you use it, It’s critical that your team crisply define each stage, and even the customer personas and desired interactions at each point in the loop. Work with your team to drive agreement on stages that seem logical to your organization.   For example:

  • Discover: How, when and where potential buyers initially discover your company and products; it’s your first opportunity to expose your brand.
  • Learn: Where and how potential buyers learn more in-depth details of your products and fit-for-use
  • Compare: The first time potential customers begin to consider (and sometimes demo or trial) your offering, pricing etc. in the context of your competition or other close alternatives
  • Choose: Where your decision-maker and influencers ultimately downselect to you over the competition. This could include “bake-off” comparisons, etc.
  • Purchase: When, where and how your customer (and often, their purchasing agent) ultimately transacts (with you or with a channel partner of yours). This might be a one-time purchase, a subscription, site-licensing, etc.
  • Usage: Post sale, where your customer (often many internal users) actually engage with your product - and hopefully derive the intended value you provide.
  • Loyalty: The affinity that your customers develop internal with/for the product, your service, etc.
  • Advocacy: Where, if your customers are delighted, they’ll become advocates of yours, helping drive continued discovery by new potential customers.

Step #2: Define metrics…. And team accountabilities

Once you’ve defined a set of marketing stages that aligns to your unique org, the most critical part of the process is to define “exit gates” (essentially outcome or OKR metrics) from each stage as it flows into the next. Getting these gates and metrics right is critical because they provide you with the process control and trends of each *outcome*.  In this manner you can adjust each stage’s marketing *actions* while keeping how you measure their outcomes consistent.

The example I give here is just that… your set of metrics, naming, etc. will be different.  

But one thing is important to internalize: The metrics measure the effectiveness / outcome of each stage, and *not* the activities in each stage. For example, in the “Learn” stage, we don’t want to measure the number of events attended, blogs posted or papers written.  Instead, you want to measure the number of attendees you achieve at events, blog views, and paper views/downloads. (Think content consumption not content production)

If resources permit, I also recommend that you organize the marketing organization in a way that a single person (or team) is directly accountable for the outcome metrics at each stage.  These individuals need to be singularly focused on the effectiveness - and outcomes - of each stage, working with the other teams to continuously improve the activities (and thus, the outcomes) at each gate.  

During your regular marketing and business reviews, effectiveness trends of each stage should be evaluated, and actions adjusted appropriately.  The key to process control is to precisely and consistently measure the outcomes of each stage - which I’ll explain next.

Step #3: Metric Definition

Finally, the most overlooked aspect of the process is defining exactly *how* your team plans to consistently measure each outcome. It’s not as simple - or as obvious - as it might seem.  For example, how will you count content views? Is it just pageviews + downloads? Which pages and which content? Are “views” limited to your website or will you include YouTube and 3rd-party syndicated content? And if syndicated content, then from which partners? (And, how to *they* measure “views”?)  Getting these details right and repeatable is important because these are the specific outcomes you’ll be trying to impact by continuously improving your marketing activities. 

Your Mileage May Vary
This is just an example. It will probably vary wildly based on they type of product you sell - if it’s a service, or B2B, or B2C etc, the stages and metrics will vary considerably.  My advice? Dissect your buyer’s journey into as many distinct phases as you can, and map your marketing organization’s activities/outcome onto it. That way, you can apply as much process control (and continuous improvement) as possible. 

Other thoughts/ideas? I’ve love to hear them!

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