2011 is here. A new decade begins—and, along with it, a new list of resolutions. A key topic of the last decade was marketing accountability in all its forms—marketing measurement, marketing ROI, marketing effectiveness, and so on. It doesn't look like the focus on this topic is going to change anytime soon.

Recent studies by CMO.org and Forbes Insight indicate the emphasis on marketing accountability will persist into the foreseeable future.

Maybe you're asking yourself, What more can I do? As a marketing professional, you're tackling the problem by adding Web analytics tools and marketing-automation systems.

Since 2001, VisionEdge Marketing has conducted research in the area of marketing performance measurement and management (MPM). In the past decade, to optimize their performance, organizations have steadily invested in developing and implementing processes to measure and report their progress toward key outcomes and objectives. But there are still some important gaps to close.

The following five resolutions can help improve marketing measurement and performance as you start the new year.

1. Resolve to create a direct line of sight between marketing activities and business results

Marketing's inability to definitively link its contribution to business outcomes is due to its method of tracking. Commit to improving the link between Marketing and business results. One option is to use a mapping methodology.

2. Resolve to select outcome-based metrics.

Too many marketing programs lack a performance target, and those that have one are typically volume-oriented, output-based metrics related to website traffic, downloads, site behavior or social media behavior.

Most marketers have a tough time defining metrics and measurement from lead-to-pipeline-to-revenue. It's time to focus on metrics related to customer management, lead management, market outcomes, and marketing management.

Move from output-based metrics to outcome-based metrics, such as pipeline contribution, retention rates, referral rates, product adoption, and share of wallet. Vow to include a performance target tied to an outcome-based metric for every program this year.

3. Resolve to focus on business outcomes

As a marketer, when was the last time you marketed to a bucket of revenue? The lack of quantifiable, specific outcomes—such as the number of customers to acquire, retain, and grow in a market or segment—hampers our accountability. If we don't understand what needle to move, how can we prove we're moving it?

Engage your leadership team in the performance-management process and gain more traction with its effort. By collaborating with your leadership team, you can determine clear, specific, and quantifiable business outcomes.

4. Resolve to hone your data, analytics, and measurement skills

You may have the Web and marketing automation tools that provide instant insight into campaigns activity, but they won't take you far if you don't have the data and analytical and measurement skills.

Many organizations have invested in information-centric technology to support segmentation, personalization, content management, customer touch points, and sales force automation. Analytics is the missing link that enables you to truly leverage these investments by evaluating data and making better decisions.

Over the years, researchers from Forrester, Jupiter, Ovum, among others, have analyzed the impact of analytics on performance. They have found that marketers using analytics are able to focus their spending on the areas of greatest return and are able to move from "blind" to "intelligent" acquisition, retention, and value.

5. Resolve to produce an actionable dashboard

The ability to easily collect, track, and report on marketing performance can make the difference between a consistent and effective MPM practice and an inconsistent and ineffective one. Investment in this area is critical.

Systems that allow access to critical data elements and automatically present a visualization of marketing-performance data allow for faster and more frequent assessment of marketing effectiveness. When these systems are not in place or they are deficient, marketers focus on metrics that they can track vs. what they should track.

A good marketing dashboard is actionable. It enables the marketing organization to understand what is and isn't working and make appropriate course adjustments. Having a dashboard is one indicator of MPM maturity.

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Implementing these best-practices requires Marketing to take a more operational approach. Marketing knows what it needs to do as a function of the business, but the lack of data-collection systems, key performance management processes, and well-defined metrics and reporting systems make it ineffective.

When Marketing focuses on what can be done, it may not be working on the things that should be done to enable it to adequately contribute to the business—hence reducing marketing return on investment. A solid MPM practice enables optimizing marketing activities, thereby making measurement more relevant and allocating marketing resources more appropriately.

Make this the year you create a marketing-operations function that will tie together analysis and performance management.

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image of Laura Patterson

Laura Patterson is the president of VisionEdge Marketing. A pioneer in Marketing Performance Management, Laura has published four books and she has been recognized for her thought leadership, winning numerous industry awards.