Defining Success: Three Ways To Improve Your Marketing Effectiveness Strategy

I often hear well-established brands say things like ‘we need more data’ or ‘we need a new marketing mix model’ when talking about how to improve their marketing effectiveness strategy. However, this is rarely what they need.

The near-time data and marketing measurement tools available today mean most brands have what they need at their disposal. Instead, improvements fail to materialize because of how these datasets and tools are set up to enable them to deliver value to the business.

To fix this, there is a need to understand the importance of defining success and putting the right foundations in place. Adding more datasets or a new measurement tool is like adding more players to a football match that you don’t have a game plan for.

What Defining Success Means

The process of defining success starts with your overall business goal. For most companies, this is profitable and sustainable growth. There are exceptions – some digital-first businesses pursue scale over profitability, at least in the short term, for example.



Whatever your company’s goal is, the business and the marketing organization should be united behind a single vision for how they are going to achieve it. In turn, this vision must be supported by clear KPIs. The specific role that marketing plays can then be clearly defined and a marketing effectiveness program, which enables marketers to demonstrate how their investments contribute to business growth, can be created.

This process of defining success is the first of four key areas you need to focus on to deliver a successful marketing effectiveness program. As laid out in a new white paper from WARC and Gain Theory other three are:

-          Data excellence

-          Advanced measurement

-          The power of foresight

In my experience, defining success is overlooked or rushed by many marketers. Here are three things I recommend you do to enable you to do it well: 

  1. Align Stakeholders Around A Clear Set Of Priorities

Creating a hierarchy of metrics is the first step you should take to clarify marketing’s role and to inform your marketing effectiveness strategy. As Justin Bell, Head of Marketing Measurement at UK-based banking group NatWest, explains:

“Business objectives need to be very clear for marketing to align and support them. Marketing objectives then naturally flow from the business objectives. All your metrics should ladder up to these objectives. There has to be a red thread that clearly connects a [marketing] metric to a business objective.” 

Depending on the goals of a business and the role that marketing plays within it, every hierarchy will be different. 

The next step is ensuring you get agreement from all relevant stakeholders. This is ‘non-negotiable’ for three reasons:

  • It provides clarity around how marketing will contribute to growth.
  • It enables you to determine what data is needed and how it should be measured.
  • It helps to create a shared language – between stakeholders in the marketing department and between marketing and other key stakeholders, notably the c-suite and external agency partners activating your strategy on your behalf – that helps to mitigate any disagreements about how marketing is performing.

Data from the WARC and Gain Theory white paper provides evidence of what can happen when there is a lack of agreement or clarity: 20% of C-level marketers rated their own company’s marketing programs 1 out of 10, the lowest possible score.

        2. Benchmark Your Current Capabilities

Understanding the strength of your marketing effectiveness capabilities is another important step. By identifying your existing level of maturity, benchmarking can point the way towards future opportunities for and barriers to growth. By comparing your capabilities with those of your competitors, benchmarking can also help you to get ahead of your rivals.

Maturity is assessed by measuring capabilities against external benchmarks. Companies that demonstrate a clear understanding of where growth will come from, are aligned around a common set of goals that will help them to achieve this growth, and can clearly demonstrate that marketing has delivered it, have a high level of maturity.

Based on where your strengths and weaknesses lie, you can develop a roadmap to plug any gaps, plan for how to grasp new opportunities, and set your marketing organization on the path to helping the business achieve its goals. It is vitally important that the roadmap is communicated to the wider business so that everyone knows marketing effectiveness is a priority. 

         3. Strengthen Your Effectiveness Culture

A strong culture – that’s to say the values, beliefs, and behaviors – in which marketing’s role in driving growth is fully understood by all marketers and actioned using data-informed insights is also critical if marketing is to succeed, and your business is to grow over the long term.

However, the WARC and Gain Theory white paper reveals that a significant number of organizations are struggling with this: 40% of marketing practitioners do not agree that the majority of marketing investment decisions at their organization are supported by data or insights. 

Strengthening your effectiveness culture requires time, effort, and commitment from a wide range of stakeholders. This is particularly the case if results from the benchmark reveal significant changes are required.

Developing a robust program of training and upskilling so that all marketers have the required capabilities is a good place to start. But to really drive data-informed decision-making, employees need to be incentivized, evaluated, and rewarded to do it.

It’s also important to remember that any transformation must secure the support of marketers at every level. Following best practice, such as McKinsey’s influence model, can help to shift mindsets and behaviors in this regard.

An Essential Undertaking

To deliver a successful marketing effectiveness strategy it’s vitally important to know where you’re going and to have internal alignment before deciding what data and measurement tools you need. A strong effectiveness culture will help to ensure this process happens more quickly and becomes embedded over the long term. It might not be the most obvious or fun task, but defining success is an essential undertaking if you want to succeed.

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