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Performance management has been applied to various parts of a business for quite a long time, particularly when it comes to manufacturing, logistics, and product development. Applying the concept to marketing is finally coming of age.

Essentially, performance management is the process of measuring progress toward achieving key outcomes and objectives in order to optimize individual, group, or organizational performance. A performance-driven marketing organization is one that has a set of measurable performance standards, a pointed focus on outcomes, and clear lines of accountability—all of which are important if a marketing organization wants to prove its value.

Three elements play a critical role in managing marketing performance: data, analytics, and metrics. Each of these is actually highly related to the others, with data being the foundation for the other two. You cannot define the data and analytics you need without knowing the metrics, and you cannot leverage the metrics without data and analytics. Each drives the other.

The use of data and the ability to draw actionable insights from data—analytics—is no longer the domain of select power users. This ability is now a critical competency for marketing professionals as companies attempt to deal with increasing market pressure and competition. Marketers who embrace data, analytics, and metrics will be in the best position to improve business performance and demonstrate value.

Success depends on two things. The first is understanding the organization's priorities and business outcomes. One this is understood, you will know what metrics are important and what data you will need in regards to the market, customers, competition and your own company. Second is the ability to connect what the business is trying to achieve with the work that Marketing is performing. Making this connection requires data and analytics.

Today's challenge isn't data. Most of us are wallowing in data. The challenge is generating insights and meaning from the data. This is the realm of analytics. By applying analytics to the data, we can glean the necessary insights needed to facilitate better and faster fact-based decisions.

One of the most valuable applications of data and analytics is in leveraging your metrics. The metrics are what enable continuous improvement as you strive to achieve and set new performance standards.

Therefore, an initial step is to define an effective set of performance metrics and the associated data and analysis that will be used to determine where the organization should focus to maximize quantifiable results. Too often marketers measure marketing activities and tactics, such as response rates, impressions, and number of participants in an event, and so on, rather than metrics that link marketing to business outcomes such as those related to customer acquisition, retention, and product adoption.

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image of Laura Patterson

Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.

Twitter: @LauraVEM