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May 12, 2009

How to Be More Accountable for Your Marketing Efforts: 4 Solutions to Top Challenges

SUMMARY: With budgets under pressure, management may expect marketers to be more accountable for their campaigns. But don’t fret -- establishing a process to provide greater accountability for your marketing efforts can give you the metrics you need, when you need them, and help you improve your campaigns.

We dove into the topic of marketing accountability with a senior director of marketing operations from Wal-Mart. She shared the four biggest challenges to establishing a culture of accountability in your marketing department, and offered advice for overcoming those challenges.
Marketers can expect to be held more accountable for their activities as campaign reporting becomes more sophisticated and the economy stays in the doldrums. Every business dollar is being more closely scrutinized.

“In a time like this, you need to make sure that every single dollar you spend is going to take you as far as it possibly can,” says Kelley Quain Troia, Senior Director, Marketing Operations, Wal-Mart.

Much of Troia’s job revolves around maintaining the infrastructure and processes that enable the reporting needed to demonstrate marketing effectiveness. Although it can sound scary, greater accountability does not have to be a bother. In fact, it can be a relief.

Having your job more clearly defined, and having statistics that prove your contribution to the bottom line, can make you feel secure. Those statistics can help prioritize and improve campaigns.

We asked Troia for advice on improving marketing accountability. Here are four major challenges she’s identified, with advice for overcoming them:

Challenge #1. Getting the right metrics

Statistical analysis of campaigns is essential to determining if they were successful investments. While it can be difficult to prove the bottom-line impact of, say, a branding campaign, you should strive to build meaningful statistical reports.

Here are two tips managing your analysis:

- Agree on KPIs.

Key performance indicators should not be selected unilaterally. Marketing personnel and corporate management should agree on how to best measure success. KPIs also should be explicitly defined so that there is no confusion or misinterpretation.

- Start simple, work toward the details.

There are an infinite number of possible metrics to track. Try to keep the reports simple, especially when first starting. Troia works with marketers in departments ranging from financial services to groceries and consumables -- and they all need different reports.

“As soon as people realize that you can start pulling reports, they want reports for everything,” she says. “But what I want to do is start at the top and say, ‘What are the reports that will service all of them?’”

After identifying the core metrics that are relevant to the company’s overall success, Troia and her team then look for more tactical metrics that are unique to each division. However, they still determine whether the additional detail can truly drive a business goal, or if it will be an exercise that produces little actionable data.

Challenge #2. Assigning governance, roles and responsibilities

It is difficult to hold people or campaigns accountable when their roles are murky. Make sure that the goals and expectations of a campaign are clearly documented, and that each team member’s responsibilities are clearly defined.

- Look for overlapping roles.

Making sure that your team’s roles and responsibilities are not overlapping will add clarity to accountability. You can be certain which person is responsible for each task and goal. Also, this can help team members focus on their tasks and create higher quality work -- since they know that they alone are responsible.

- Prioritize campaigns and projects.

The most important campaigns should rise to the top of your to-do list after you’ve outlined the marketing team’s roles. Prioritization can help you make the most of the time your team spends working.

Although direct-response campaigns with a predictable ROI may be easier to plug in to your accountability system, don’t overlook branding campaigns. Wal-Mart’s high-accountability marketing environment has not stopped branding efforts, Troia says. You just have to work harder to prove the value of branding.

“You have to put a pretty significant case study together. You have to benchmark in the industry, take a look at your competitors and how they’re doing compared to you, and put a pretty serious dog and pony together to justify it,” Troia says. “You have to justify it to yourself first and make sure: ‘Should we be doing that?’”

Challenge #3. Creating a strong process

Your team needs information and a clear chain of command when they’re being held more accountable. They need the right metrics at the right time. They need to be able to quickly find the right person to set to a task.

That means a smooth, well-articulated process is essential to your team achieving top performance. For large companies, this may require hiring someone like Troia to manage the process and enabling reporting efforts. For smaller companies, this might involve assigning marketing team members to coordinate with IT to establish a process.

You also should measure and report your metrics at consistent intervals. For example, if you’re measuring the revenue generated during a holiday season, over what dates do you measure? When is the report distributed? Those are some of the parameters that must be identified in advance and communicated to all team members.

Challenge #4. Creating willingness

A good system for marketing accountability cannot go forward without the willingness of both marketers and upper management. Marketers must be open to being closely measured and management must be open to working to improve struggling performers.

One tip: Put down the axe.

Nothing can kill a culture of accountability quicker than immediately axing campaigns and people that do not meet KPIs. Work with people and tweak campaigns before eliminating them.

“It’s great to say ‘Hey, let’s hold people accountable.’ But if you hold them accountable and then kick them to the curb as soon as they make a mistake, you’re going to lose everyone’s interest in being accountable.”

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