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Actionable Data in a Tight Economy
Marketing must show its strategic value—or else.
Posted Feb 23, 2009
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Proving ROI has never been a simple task for B2B marketers nor has it ever been so vital to their careers, especially in today's shaky economy. To add gasoline to the fire, at the helm of many businesses and corporations are sometimes short-term focused c-suite executives who don't necessarily view marketing as a vital investment that drives brand preference, revenue growth, and customer loyalty. These same executives often view marketing in simple tactical terms such as PR, events, and advertising. So how can B2B marketers educate and convince these executives, who frequently climbed the ranks through roles in finance or sales, of marketing's strategic value and contribution to both the top and bottom lines of the company? Actionable data.

Traditionally, it's been hit-and-miss or educated guess, but nothing accurate when B2B marketers have tried to show a return on the marketing investment (ROMI). According to Forrester Research, $24 billion will be spent on interactive marketing this year. But 48 percent of interactive marketers-nearly half-say that their interactive marketing organization struggles to prove the ROI of its efforts, and 69 percent agree that their organization is understaffed. Essentially, this means marketers today are overwhelmed by the volume of possible metrics available to them and fail to combine metrics to get a holistic understanding of the success of campaigns. B2B marketers are often fooled into thinking lead management technology solutions equipped with dashboard reporting features will automatically give them accurate metrics. In fact, it's the data and analytics in the dashboard reports that make them accurate, and not all dashboard reporting features are created equal.

Bad data can stifle your entire marketing program and skyrocket the cost of implementing lead automation and CRM initiatives. The right data can help you proactively prove your worth by capturing the metrics that matter most to your c-suite executives.

For starters, your dashboard should include insightful marketing information on where demand is generated, as well as graphic summarizations of various key lead-funnel metrics. There are several other must-have data for B2B marketers who are concerned about getting it right.

Implicit Data

Explicit data is a given, as all good campaigns will incorporate it. However, explicit data alone is unreliable and incomplete, and must be supplemented and enhanced. For reasons ranging from annoyance to secrecy, people reluctant to reveal personal details will enter incorrect information to download your white paper or attend your Webinar. It's also quite common for people to greatly exaggerate firmagraphic data like company revenue and employee size. These factors make collecting explicit data alone a poor marketing approach for B2B marketers.

The most effective campaigns capture a prospect's behavior, also known as implicit data. Web site visits, white paper downloads, email opens, and clicks tell you what your prospects are actually doing and what they are interested in, which increases your ability to deliver personally relevant marketing messages. In sync, explicit and implicit data provide the two most important aspects of a lead management solution: accuracy and effectiveness.

Recency and frequency data

Perhaps the most underrated form of data, recency and frequency tell you how often and how recently a prospect took an action. The quality and value of a specific lead changes over time as more or less interaction with the prospect occurs. To get a true picture of someone's actions, you have to measure how recently and frequently they have taken those actions. B2B marketers who fail to incorporate this data open their lead management program up to a host of inaccuracies, which can lead to a high number of unqualified prospects being routed to the sales organization, negatively affecting sales productivity and close rates.

ROI-by-campaign data

In addition to the overall success of marketing, c-suite executives frequently want to know if a specific campaign lost money, broke even, or turned a profit. Having an ROI-by-campaign feature in your dashboard report can easily help you defend successful campaigns and shed light on unsuccessful ones. It can greatly boost the effectiveness of the marketing team.

As economic pressures mount, marketers in general are sure to feel the brunt of it. Did we optimize our marketing spend, ending underperforming programs, and reallocate the savings to the highest-producing campaigns? Which campaigns were successful? What worked? What didn't work? You can give a secure response if the right data has been captured in your marketing campaigns. Since data can be collected on just about anything, you have to make sure you're keeping track of the right data, which is information that supports your marketing budget allocations and helps keep the most successful programs fully funded.

About the Author

Loren McDonald (lmcdonald@silverpop.com) is vice president of industry relations for Silverpop, an email marketing services company. He is an email and B2B marketing expert with more than 24 years of experience in consulting and strategic planning. For more information, visit www.vtrenz.com.

[For more on CRM amid the economic downturn, see the February 2009 edition of CRM magazine, The Recession Issue.]

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

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