In the last three years, there has been a tremendous transformation in marketing. We have infinitely more data to tap and analyze, many more tools to use in each stage of the funnel, and new, fast-changing ways to engage customers.

What hasn't changed, though, is the prevalence of the age-old question, "What does marketing do, and why do we spend so much on it?"

As marketing budgets and buzzwords increase, the question is more prevalent than ever.

Unlike development and engineering teams that produce tangible products, and sales teams that close deals, Marketing often lacks a clear line of sight between action and outcome. When resources are scarce or when growth slows, it's not uncommon to look at Marketing and question the investment, thus making Marketing a lightning rod—that is, unless the marketing team has communicated (within the company) its goals, metrics, actions, and progress... and it delivers against those goals.

The following tips can help you set great goals, communicate them within and beyond the marketing team, and ensure you achieve them.

1. Align to company goals and measure Marketing by them

Instead of defining inward-facing goals about marketing, set goals tied directly to the results the company needs to achieve. Measure marketing outcomes directly tied to company outcomes; doing so will help you make a real impact and keep the team from confusing marketing programs and spending with marketing results that matter.

2. Motivate and mobilize your team

Lay out your vision for Marketing's role in helping the company achieve its goals so the team understands how its work fits into the big picture. Make sure each person's role and responsibilities for the big picture are clear. Share your personal intent to achieve the goals, and ask for the team's commitment and engagement in that achievement. Break goals into quarterly, monthly, and weekly; make sure they're always visible to minimize distraction.

3. Plan the work and work the plan

Every marketing team has an abundance of opportunities for its time, but many are distractions; make sure your team's efforts are wholly aligned to goals. Set aside plenty of time quarterly, monthly, and weekly to actively engage in planning, and review the work plans on how the team will achieve the goals—your best opportunity to prevent bad surprises later. Then monitor week-over-week progress against the work plans, so the quarter doesn't slip by you.

4. Set up execution and achievement dashboards

Real-time transparency maximizes your ability to lead and to recover quickly by shifting dollars or resources when campaigns don't pan out. The dashboard needs to show you—at a glance—your progress towards achieving your goals with information that includes due dates, percentage of work still outstanding, and red flags or roadblocks. The sooner you address the red flags, the faster you can recover and reallocate resources.

5. Hold the team accountable

Use the dashboards and weekly progress reports to hold yourself and the team accountable for results. Marketing is highly threaded work—an asset relates to an ad that drives leads that drive revenue—and a lost month of execution can undermine a year's goal, so accountability is crucial. If a team member doesn't deliver on commitments, the team tailspins and results suffer (as does the impression the rest of the company has about Marketing).

Rather than ignore performance issues or avoid low performers, use the weekly progress reports and execution dashboard to help people stay aligned and on track continuously. They provide the facts and the trigger for frequent, direct feedback.

6. Communicate with, and commit to, the rest of the company

The rest of the company won't know what to expect from Marketing unless you tell them. Take every opportunity to communicate your goals, including how they align with the company's objectives and how your team will achieve them; also report on progress toward the goals.

Use your dashboards to show the level of effort required from Marketing, the work involved in execution, and the progress against goals. Doing so can help foster a broader awareness and appreciation for what Marketing does and what its impact is.

* * *

I rely on Salesforce for my goal achievement dashboard, and on Workboard for my work-execution dashboard. Because I have real-time facts about work in progress and progress to goal, I can spend more time leading and looking for answers or reacting to bad news. I've incorporated both into executive staff meetings, meetings with the CEO, and even board meetings—and cut the prep time for those meetings. Now, the company has confidence that we're goal-aligned and Marketing is helping to achieve company goals.

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How to Answer the Age-Old Question, 'What Has Marketing Done for Us Lately?'

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image of Rani Hublou

Rani Hublou is CMO of OneLogin. She is responsible for accelerating revenue and engaging prospects, customers, and partners through a highly targeted portfolio of market-facing initiatives. Rani holds both a Bachelor and Masters in Engineering from Stanford University.

LinkedIn: Rani Hublou