How to demonstrate marketing impact in terms your superiors will love

If you’re among the solid majority of marketers who find themselves scratching their heads (and maybe wiping sweat from their brows) each time their Quarterly Business Review (QBR) rolls around . . . well, take heart in knowing that you’re far from being the only one in that boat.

In fact, the vast majority of marketing professionals face a QBR with at least some trepidation, because they know the hard-nosed higher-ups they report to may look upon marketing as a little too mushy. The challenge is an age-old one for marketers. How do you plumb the intangibles of marketing to come up with the dollars-and-cents data every CEO and CFO wants to see to measure marketing return on investment (MROI)?

Incredibly, the answer is that nearly two-thirds of marketers don’t even try to make a hard link between marketing and ROI in their periodic reports to executives, thinking perhaps that marketing impact is too difficult to demonstrate. That’s the startling statistic cited in a recent blog post from Datorama, a global leader in helping companies connect and integrate multiple data sources. Another stat from the same post reveals why that’s so: nine out of ten marketers have received no formal training – none – in calculating MROI.

That can leave them at a decided disadvantage when it comes time to justify marketing strategies and tactics to the numbers folks. The good news is that it’s finally possible to do just that, in concrete and compelling terms.

New solutions take the guesswork out of marketing

It’s not surprising that the QBR can be an awkward dance for marketers and executives alike. In many ways, they have traditionally spoken different languages and dealt with different realities. And, because of that gap, at least 70 percent of top executives look on marketing with skepticism according to Datorama. It’s a big expense with an indeterminate return, they feel.

Well, not anymore. Today’s data visualization tools – powerful integrated dashboards that turn raw data into an accessible and concrete narrative – have the capacity to actually prove marketing impact. To understand how they do that, think about the traditional barriers to proving marketing ROI.

  • Marketing initiatives tend to be multi-faceted. They play out over multiple platforms and employ a range of targeted tactics. That makes it tricky to coordinate all of the data coming in from different directions and extract the information that effectively tells the story. Dashboards overcome that problem by integrating any number of data sources and tracking various KPIs to present the big picture, showing not only relevant metrics, but also how they relate to one another and to the overall campaign. The result is a visualization of MROI.
  • Marketing data can be a moving target. Campaigns seldom fit neatly within the period covered by a QBR, so marketers frequently find themselves faced with incomplete or rapidly changing data just when the QBR arrives. Dashboards offer the advantage of providing real-time KPIs and analytics at any point in a campaign. That provides not only accurate and persuasive data for a review, but it’s also a powerful tool for monitoring and optimizing marketing initiatives in day-to-day operations.
  • CEOs don’t want soft data. If a campaign leans heavily on vehicles such as social media, for example, or is focused largely on an objective such as brand awareness, it can be a challenge to translate activity and results into revenue figures. Given that, it’s little wonder that they have often been a sticking point during QBRs. Again, dashboards offer a solution in that they can draw a line from soft engagements such as social media likes through qualified leads and sales, showing direct relationships that were previously only hinted at.
  • Presenting marketing data can be challenging. It’s all too easy – and all too common – for a QBR presentation to descend into abstractions and jargon, in the absence of quantified and integrated data and information. Hence the reticence, noted above, that marketing professionals have about trying to tie marketing activity to ROI. Customizable dashboards make the complexities of a marketing campaign visible, simple to understand, and concrete. In fact, their utility for designing effective, targeted presentations goes well beyond QBRs, making them valuable tools for tasks such as financing proposals and stakeholder presentations as well.

There’s one more benefit to proving marketing impact

In a field in which seven out of ten CEOs have at least a few reservations about the impact of the work their marketing department does, and the money it spends, having the ability to quantify that marketing impact in the terms the boss knows best is an obvious benefit. But even more than that, that ability is also incredibly empowering for the marketer himself. Along with it comes the power to plan, implement, monitor, and optimize every strategy, tactic, and campaign with a new level of confidence and competence.

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