In my new role working in marketing and almost exclusively with marketing professionals, I have been immersed in a changing landscape, but also observing an interesting paralysis. There is so much being broadcast, written and talked about as of late regarding the new age of marketing, metrics and tracking. There are countless articles available in everything from Ad Age to Information Week that speak of the tools of modern marketers. It is absolutely true that there has been tremendous progress in the past few years. As traditional marketing has given way to modern marketing, there has been no shortage of companies offering their tools and services to track every minute aspect of marketing programs. Twenty years ago, the traditional marketing channels were relatively limited and static; including things such as direct mail, broadcast, print media, and telemarketing, just to name a few. Modern day marketing techniques include advanced web sites and stores, email, mobile applications, and the rapidly evolving social marketing ecosystem. These new digital channels are extremely dynamic and responsive, and they are being touted as directly connecting every marketing program to documented results.
Here is the issue. With marketing executives are being pressured to measure every dollar against return, against their CEO backdrop mantra of “show me the Marketing ROI”, the reality is that level of perfect connectivity and data doesn’t currently exist, and won’t for the foreseeable future. This is not to say there hasn’t been tremendous progress into the efficacy of campaigns and results. The sheer nature of the digital channel provides an ability to create microcosms of testing, more directly linking programs to group. In addition, the instant feedback nature of digital channels has tremendously reduced the inherent latency in analyzing programs. It is very beneficial, but it simply cannot tie every click to sales dollars.
Consider the multi-channel, multi-touch nature of current day digital marketing. Potential consumers may receive an email campaign, open it, and investigate your products or services. Two weeks later, they may walk through the airport and see a billboard you have placed in a concourse reminding them of you. Four weeks after that, they may “friend” your Facebook page. We absolutely can track the individual impressions, and in the case of the digital channels, there are advanced techniques that many times allow us to connect the individual touches of a digital prospect together, if not aggregate their behavior into digital patterns. But beyond the age-old questionnaire, what we cannot do is connect that individual to a buying action in a local dealership, or at a major online retailer, or auction site.
The cold hard fact of the matter is that for most marketing organizations, there are still gaps in the analysis of multi-channel marketing. Put simply; those gaps require marketing executives to take a leap of faith. It is a much shorter leap than it was twenty, or even ten, years ago, but it is still a leap. Yet we see marketing executives now paralyzed by their insistent CEO command of “show me the ROI”. Or worse, marketing executives are manufacturing nonsensical targets in an attempt to safeguard their initiatives.
As marketing executives, we must remember there are some non-metric based components of your job; taking calculated risks, making the leap of faith, going with your instincts … these are what you are paid to do. For all the Moneyball quoting CEOs out there, if your marketing team is not passionately pursuing at least a few initiatives that don’t have concrete outcomes, they are not doing their jobs and your organization has stopped innovating. If you feel as if you are stuck trying to prove everything, you may simply be stuck … get moving, push the boundaries, and explore the possibilities.