So what steps do you need to take to build sustainable accountability into your marketing strategy?
#1 Treat your measurement as a foundation, not an afterthought. A strong measurement framework should be the foundation of each marketing strategy. Without a clear definition of your media goals, KPIs, and success metrics for each tactic under the umbrella of your media plan, you could be setting yourself up for failure. There should be intentional, measurable accountability at each stage of the marketing funnel, understanding that each touchpoint takes a different role in driving business outcomes.
For example, YouTube may not result in immediate sales, but could be a critical point of engagement during the discovery phase for the consumer. The only way to know that is to have a strong measurement framework in place signaling each channels’ impact.
#2 Look for incrementality, not instant results. It’s time to set the record straight. The key to digital marketing is accountability -- which does not, and should not, equate to attribution. Attribution, while a helpful tool in evaluating campaign performance, is limited in its ability to accurately capture the complexities of campaign success. Relying on it exclusively would be akin to using a bellwether and a thermometer to predict tomorrow’s weather - you might get close, but at the end of the day it is just a guess.
Instead, marketers need to analyze for incrementality. Measuring incrementality works by testing for different variables, adjusting them one at a time to see the impact they have on the bottom line.
This is where the effect of upper-funnel tactics, like our YouTube example from above, will become apparent. This data will allow you to move forward with confidence that each tactic in play is contributing to overall marketing ROI.
#3 Acknowledge, but don’t accept, failure. Part of getting to a profitable ROI is through a test and learn approach. That doesn’t mean jumping on every new trend or throwing all your dollars at various tactics and hoping something sticks. Instead, put together a researched and data-driven plan.
Do the research to get to know your audience. Design strategies catered to their unique needs and behavior, then monitor and optimize based on performance. And make a hypothesis about what you think will happen as a result of your marketing campaign. Use this as a learning agenda to support or refute your hypothesis just as you would from a science experiment.
Just as you would not consider a science experiment that doesn’t support your hypothesis a failure, view your marketing campaign in the same light. For the tactics that are not working as predicted, it is important to give yourself a timeline for when you need to decide to keep moving forward or abandon it. There is no shame in having something not work, as long as you put in the work to pivot and make progress.
#4 Remain in touch with organization-wide goals. As a marketer, it is your responsibility to have a pulse on what’s going across nearly all core competencies in the organization. Having widespread knowledge, with a particular focus on your relationship with the sales team, will help position you as a thought leader that represents the voice of the people of your brand. If you isolate yourself and fall behind in understanding of your company goals, then you should be held accountable for your marketing efforts no longer aligning with desired outcomes.
So, yes, the ultimate goal is for marketing to drive meaningful impact on your bottom line. However, the grander goal should be to make sure each component of your marketing strategy has accountability in leveling up to your desired outcomes and that you are gaining INSIGHTS each step of the way. That’s the true definition of marketing ROI.