The past 10 years have brought a transformation in our marketing profession like no previous decade.

Don Draper's office is now occupied by a marketing rock star who is much more left-brained, process-focused, and technology-centric.

Marketers have had to adapt or perish in this transition from brand to demand and art to science. They have learned a new language—the Demand Waterfall, SQLs, lead scoring. Not to mention new technologies—Salesforce, Eloqua, Twitter, Kapost.

But what is really required for marketers to survive and thrive in this tectonic shift? Insight!

Most marketing organizations are drowning in data and starving for information. In IBM's 2011 CMO Study, only 41% of CMOs said they are prepared to access the unprecedented growth in the volume of data. As a result, their decision-making remains heavily influenced by gut decisions, team meetings, and HIPPOs (highest paid person's opinions).

Pinpoint accuracy into pipeline coverage, campaign performance, and marketing ROI is significantly lacking.

The Missing Imperative: Marketing Analytics

Most CMOs recognize the gap. In IBM's study, customer analytics is ranked as the second-highest planned technology investment for the next 3-5 years. CMOs know that increasing their investment in analytics is a key to…

  1. Driving the competitiveness of their business in the marketplace
  2. Ensuring the ongoing relevance of their department within the organization

The customer is king (and queen) has never been more true than it is today. Studies reveal that B2B buyers today don't wish to engage with a vendor's sales reps until they are two-thirds of the way through their evaluation process. Extracting insight on the digital body language of a prospect is paramount to driving won deals.

In an age when the majority of CEOs are sceptical about their return on marketing investment, proving marketing-driven ROI and pipeline contribution is a need to have for today's CMO.

Best-in-Class Marketing Analytics: Four Foundational Elements

So what does a best-in-class marketing organization look like vis-à-vis analytics? What are the key areas it needs to get right?

As with many failed technology implementations of the past, a lot of marketing organizations today think that they are on the path to greater insight because they now have analytics technology.

The reality is that it takes a significant investment in four foundational areas to ensure analytics success:

  1. A superior analytics strategy that is well connected to the business strategy
  2. Investment in the people that drive and use analytics
  3. The alignment of processes and standards across Marketing and Sales
  4. The use of world-class technology

Foundation 1: Strategy

The CIO and the CMO must jointly own the responsibility for connecting the analytics strategy to the business and marketing strategies.

Best-practice organizations treat analytics as one of the top business and technology priorities in the organization. Marketing identifies and measures key performance indicators (KPIs) that map to the objectives of the business and their operational unit.

Marketers have a set of KPIs that are relevant to their area and ladder up to the departmental and organizational KPIs to ensure a consistent focus on the operational processes that matter most.

Foundation 2: People

One of the biggest causes of an analytics implementation that fails to meet expectations is the lack of support and investment in putting the correct roles and training in place. Analytics investments must consider what additional investments in people need to be made (e.g., new roles, such as business analysts).

A successful marketing analytics implementation features the following "people processes":

  • Marketing executives must sponsor and use the analytics environment to manage the business—pipeline analysis, ROI analysis, gap identification.
  • Marketing operations is the glue that makes the analytics deployment work. Three roles are key: (1) analytics strategists, who steward the marketing analytics strategies and technologies; (2) report authors, who create "gold-standard" and ad-hoc reports; and (3) business analysts with significant statistical analysis backgrounds, who mine deep data patterns, and current and future performance gaps.
  • Marketing users should be empowered to engage in the analytics environment in a self-service manner. They use "gold-standard" reports to understand their area of the business, using the information to make data-driven decisions that optimize performance

Foundation 3: Standards and Processes

The alignment by Sales and Marketing around a common "lead language" is a required foundation for one version of the truth. Many organizations today are adopting SiriusDecisions waterfall framework: Inquiries, Marketing Qualified Leads, Teleprospecting Qualified Leads, Sales Accepted Leads, Sales Qualified Leads.

CRM adoption throughout Sales is also required table stakes for accurate and complete analytics. The use of marketing campaign tactic codes is respected (MQLs are not closed and re-opened as sales-sourced). The CRM tool is used for forecasting, with sales executives using the forecasting data in cadence calls.

Foundation 4: Technology

Information management solutions are used to capture transactional information (CRM solutions), to unite data from multiple data sources (data warehouses), and to ensure common naming conventions (Master Data Management) to ensure "a single version of the truth". Without this layer, it's not possible to have a strong and trusted analytics layer.

The business analytics layer should...

  • Enable users to interact with various analytics capabilities that best suit their needs: dashboards, scorecards, reports, multidimensional analysis
  • Take advantage of predictive analytics capabilities to model future performance, and hence required actions
  • Deliver analytics to users anytime, anywhere through mobile device support
  • Take advantage of event-driven analytics that push notifications to users and/or systems when certain operations hit predefined thresholds (e.g., re-order notifications when inventory levels drop)

From Data to Information to Insight

The days of marketing remaining focused on "building brand" are clearly behind us. CEOs are now requiring greater accountability with respect to the language that matters to them: pipeline and revenue contribution.

Marketing organizations that make the required investments in strategy, standards and processes, people, and technology are able to reap tremendous rewards. Their payoff is marketing programs and customer engagement actions that are highly relevant and optimized to produce maximum return on investment.

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Four Foundational Elements of Marketing Analytics Success

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image of Mark Emond

Mark Emond is founder and president of Demand Spring, a B2B revenue marketing consultancy that works with brands such as Fidelity, BNY Mellon, Seismic, Rapid7, and Dun & Bradstreet to transform their demand creation practices.

LinkedIn: Mark Emond