marketing efficiency effectiveness

In this increasingly digital and data-centric marketing era, nearly every brand is chasing quantifiable results.

How do we typically measure marketing results? It varies, but we tend to love our KPIs in this business – particularly the ones that gauge performance. In the name of efficiency, we fixate on cost-per-acquisition measures, along with leads, site visits and the cost of every last click.

Unfortunately, I see first-hand that our analytics-obsessed, quarter-by-quarter mentality can cause too many brands to obsess over marketing performance-driven metrics (which, yes, are important) instead of effectiveness.

Too often, brands track what is easy to measure – or easy to manipulate – rather than which numbers are truly indicative of success. They view their KPIs in isolation, ignoring brand-oriented metrics such as purchase intent and favourability, while focusing solely on direct response figures that lend themselves to efficiency.

John Paul Getty summed up the problem well: “It’s no use sharpening the bit if you’re drilling in the wrong place.”

At its best, marketing should be about driving a company forward, promoting new products, projecting a new vision, reaching new consumers and telling a new story. It should be an active mission.

From our point of view, that mission is best achieved using a marketing intelligence approach. That sort of holistic look at marketing can shed light on the true influence of all customer touchpoints, leading to better conversations between a company’s various divisions and more constructive decision making.

It’s important to note that marketing represents only one part of most companies’ profit-driven strategies. Truly holistic thinking requires each division to be pulling every potential growth lever – not just relying on marketing to do the job. Ideally, the smartest brands are able to isolate the incremental impact of individual marketing channels and make intelligence-based decisions on where to spend.

One common challenge is a lack of organisational alignment on what metrics matter most.

But not every marketer is there. In our experience, marketers can make one of two mistakes when contemplating what strategy makes sense to their brand:

  • They view effectiveness and efficiency as an either/or, when they are clearly complementary.
  • They focus on efficiency before first figuring out their goals. They elect to optimise towards a KPI, without first making sure it’s the right one. Essentially, they do things out of order.

Let’s unpack each of these mistakes.

For starters, marketing is not an either-or decision. There’s a common misperception we encounter: the more that a brand employs sophisticated modelling and attribution techniques, the less it thinks it needs or should care about brand measures.

This couldn’t be further from reality. If done correctly, predictive marketing intelligence is completely customised for each brand’s unique needs, goals, and data availability – incorporating both performance and brand-lift data. In fact, you might be surprised how bespoke this process is.

That covers the big picture. Unfortunately, we often find that it’s in the on-the-ground tactics where effectiveness can end up being ignored in favour of efficiency.

For instance, one common challenge among big brands is simply a lack of organisational alignment on what metrics matter most. This can occur when companies take a bottom-up approach to tracking efficiency versus a top-down one.

In that scenario, each individual division defines success using its own KPIs (the ecommerce team cares about sales, the email team cares about leads, etc).

As William Bruce Cameron famously put it: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

On the flip-side, CMOs can make their own biased decisions – sometimes because they lack an intimate understanding of how different ad vehicles work. For example, we’ve talked to several companies with a history of pouring money into paid search advertising at the end of any sub-par quarter.

This direction often comes straight from the top. If CEOs or CMOs see that search ads pay off with the most efficient ROI, the answer is often to just do more search ads – discounting everything else the company was doing in marketing, and how that might also impact search behaviour.

The fact that there are conflicting points of view within a company about what success looks like can cause problems for brands. You can’t optimise towards efficiency if what you define as efficiency varies.

We see this play out all the time.

From our point of view, the ideal solution is for CMOs to think about and measure marketing in a holistic fashion. The best way to find out what’s really working is to start by adopting a marketing analytics solution that gives you an accurate and complete picture into performance effectiveness across channels. That’s the necessary starting point to be able to then identify ways to optimise and improve efficiency within each channel.

Having the right tools and organisational alignment is essential to being as effective as possible, while still striving towards efficiency.

Mark Gooding is head of growth and client solutions, EMEA & APAC at Neustar MarketShare.