Marketing Measurement Is A Design Problem

Measurement Is A Design Problem

What’s the problem with marketing measurement?

Is it that we don’t measure?  Well, no, because in our last Content Marketing research study we found that 81% of us use analytics to measure content’s performance.

Is it that we don’t understand what all those metrics mean? Maybe. In this year’s Content Strategy & Management research (this is a tiny sneak preview for you) about half (56%) strongly or somewhat agree that they can extract meaningful insights from data and analytics. That’s down from the previous year – but still a meaningful half.

Perhaps our challenge with measurement is that we don’t have enough tools or technologies?  Okay, stop laughing.  I can’t think of a marketing technology that doesn’t have some kind of “measurement suite”.

So, if we’re taking the time to measure, and we have a generally good understanding of what goes into those metrics, and we have all the tools necessary to measure, well then what is it?

My take. The problem is that we see measurement as an engineering challenge, rather than a design challenge.

Design thinking is different, but related, to engineering thinking (please note that I realize that engineers can be designers and vice versa – it’s the approach I’m discussing). There are any number of opinions on the differences, but a relatively simple explanation that I like is in this LinkedIn post.   

One of the primary differences is in how the processes begin. Engineering thinking typically starts with deductive reasoning – where there is a known challenge, and the engineer is problem-oriented. The process is to narrow the range of options under consideration until only their engineered conclusion remains.  Design thinking, on the other hand, starts with inductive reasoning. It is needs-oriented. It focuses on the user of a yet to be invented solution and how it might meet unrealized needs. The process is to include experience, and observations on what can be learned from the needs of others to synthesize and generate a shared, general truth.

The problem that I often see with marketing measurement strategies is that businesses assume that measurement is a generally known challenge – and that what is required is to simply deduce the way to construct the optimal solution to it.

However, what is lacking is not a shared definition of what a share, visitor, click, download, subscription, or conversion is. Instead, what we see is a complete lack of shared purpose around what the actual value of those things really means to the business.

For example, it’s not uncommon that executives in the business value profitability growth, and therefore look to measure growth in existing revenue potential of the pipeline as a proxy for progress toward that goal. The sales team may believe they understand this and focus on pushing more deals through the pipeline as fast as they can, missing opportunities to create a higher revenue per sale. In some cases, we even see average sales price even drop as quantity goes up.  Marketing teams may believe they understand that, and attempt to measure value by the number of leads they can pour on top of the sales team.

So, marketing measures by number of leads they flow into sales, where Sales would actually value higher revenue generating deals. And Sales values the number of customers they can close, where senior executives would actually like to see improved profitability.

In order for measurement to truly work, we not only need the unambiguous proof points (e.g. metrics) that we have accomplished a goal, we also need to ensure we have shared purpose on what those metrics actually mean as value to the business.

The way to get there is to take the time to develop a measurement design process. We start with the shared needs of the organization to develop a common understanding of not only what the company finds value in, but all of the various measurements that will inform us that we are all progressing toward that value.  Ultimately a strategic measurement approach to our marketing is not a problem to be solved.  It is an unmet need that needs to be designed.

It’s Your Story. Tell It Well.


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