Marketing performance: an equation with several variables

perfomanta marketing

After a series of recent studies, it seems that the evaluation of the marketing activity performance (including process management) is situated on one of the top positions of companies’ biggest challenges, alongside with financial management and, nowadays, human resources performance. Yet, we will only deal with the marketing area as we go on here below.

Many of those running companies often state that they do not know the real-time performance of the marketing activity and that they do not know how to measure it. Or that they do not know if their marketing team does their job right and how they could evaluate this aspect. Thus, they do not know either how much money to allocate to the marketing budget and how to measure the ROI (”return on investment” – and here we can see how beautifully the concept refers to an investment, not to a cost). Which leads us inevitably to a sporadic marketing activity, on short term(s), with “heigh-ho” periods and activity peaks followed by long pauses of relaxation, which are not even of a maintenance nature… From this point of view, the marketing activity I think can be compared to a sport activity, as it is in vain if you go to the gym once a month and do it all, as long as you do not get and stay into a constant rhythm and a consistency to keep up your tonus.

It is true though that the structure and measurement of marketing activities has become more complex and more difficult than ever, considering the explosion of digital channels and the multitude of options regarding the actions we choose to execute in marketing. But when things are complicated, the best thing you can do is to try to simplify them, building a control structure.

So, for an easy reading and understanding, I have identified 6 big areas which should be the basis of any decent dashboard with marketing indicators, useful for any general manager, CEO and anybody who wants to understand well and fast how things are on the marketing side of their business:

1. Points on the ”client journey” map (CDJ – customer decision journey):

They show us if a prospect has heard of the respective business/brand before, has entered into contact with it, has started any relation with it, has considered buying it, has bought it and finally, has become loyal or even recommended it to others. It is a very useful tool to reveal where business is lost, more exactly where do clients get lost on the way. It is very important to evaluate where the biggest losses are and understand the reasons behind them. Do your potential customers in the market know about the products you sell, have they heard of them? Is your brand one of the first options of your clients? Do they recommend your products also to others? Think about these things and turn them into objectives. The most used indicators in this category are the awareness level, purchase intent, number of transactions and net promoter score, but they can be completed in depth by many others – for instance in e-commerce businesses the entire conversion channel can be measured and optimized.

2. The image of the products or services range:

Most of the companies monitor and measure in a way or another the attributes related to the products or services they sell, such as the perception related to price or quality. They must be placed into a proper context yet in order to have a full perspective. Is your product/service perceived as having a high price or a rather affordable one? By clients or by non-clients? Is this according to the desired positioning? Transform these questions into measurable aspects related to products/services. A map of the relative perceptions towards your own brand and towards your competitors helps building the diagnosis.

3. The communication mix and the budget assigned:

A good marketing strategy should define which are the communication channels used for promotion. And I do not mean only the ”paid” media, but also to the brand own channels such as the website, the PR or even the sales force, being known that in many B2B businesses, sales people act also as a sales channel and a communication one. Which of these channels has a bigger potential to get to the clients and why? Is the distribution of the marketing budget in compliance with this prioritization? Any business should have a clear perspective on the channels used and on the distribution of the budget and define performance measurement indicators also according to the objectives set.

4. Clients’ satisfaction:

Knowing the elements that generate clients’ satisfaction is crucial. Be it the purchase experience or the feeling of belonging to the community you created, you should identify and measure these elements in time. Still, knowing the elements that cause satisfaction is not enough and sometimes knowing those causing dissatisfaction is even more important. Usually they are different and they influence the clients’ behavior in various ways (read more about clients’ satisfaction and dissatisfaction here). Their constant monitoring and measurement will show you what the clients do and how they feel and will help you be able to intervene in time and improve things. They must be measured and interpreted with care, because they are „lagging” indicators (as most of the marketing and branding indicators) and they can show you in a certain moment a past reality (read more about it in my article Perception is NOT reality). Satisfaction and dissatisfaction are very sensitive indicators and they can grow a business if managed correctly or they can tear it down.

5. Brand engagement:

Would your clients miss your brand if it disappeared? Do they trust your brand? Do they feel proud to buy your products or services? It is proven that this emotional connection increases the sales of a brand. Its creation is yet not easy because it implies a deconstruction of the relation and its conscious and consistent construction. Most of the emotional connection indicators are cumulative actually, because they express a multitude of past experiences and perceptions. One of the most important is trust which, though general, is a very powerful feeling which can be deconstructed in various elements for a specific business whose understanding is crucial as to build trust. An interesting example which deserves mentioning here is the price dynamics of some products: though the price is at first sight a „rational” indicator, it can trigger extremely emotional reactions and behaviors and „playing” with prices in a inconsistent or chaotic manner can profoundly impact the feeling of trust in a brand or product. This because before it all, price is what a client pays in exchange of the value perceived of a product, it is the essence of the transaction he/she chooses to make offering „trust” and money in exchange. So if the price flows meaninglessly, the value perceived loses its consistency and for instance, the quality perception decreases.

6. The unity of the brand personality (last but not least!):

Does your brand express itself differently on different channels? Is it easy to recognize, even in small parts, no matter the channel it expresses itself on or is it rather schizophrenic and has multiple „faces”? A unitary brand identity must first be defined and then constructed and monitored. It is probably by far the most artistic act and in the same time the most structured in the entire marketing domain. Distinction and clarity sell. The elements forming the brand identity and to what extent they are recognized by consumers should also be monitored and evaluated.

It is a close relation between all these areas. The first four are more „functional” and most executives have an idea of their performance, while the last two are related to the emotional part of the brand and usually only marketing specialists know them, though it is also known that they massively contribute to the improvement of the performance of the functional ones. So any CEO should have an idea about how his/her business is doing in every such area, as most of them depend on the entire team, not only on the marketing department. A concrete approach for each area is yet specific to each type of business.

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