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Marketing Accountability: Are You Trying to Measure Abstract Objectives?

Posted by on July 8, 2009


Yesterday I wrote a post for marketing profs entitled, “Forget Social Media ROI, What About Marketing Accountability?”  If you haven’t read it yet please do, here’s a brief snippet:

“There has been a lot of much needed discussion around social media ROI but I think this is just a small topic in the overall world of marketing accountability. Here are a few things for you to consider…

  • A study by the CMO council found that LESS than 20% of top technology marketers surveyed had developed “meaningful, comprehensive measures and metrics for their marketing organizations.”
  • 68% of marketers were unable to determine the ROI of their initiatives (according to the last major survey).”

I wanted to expand on my post a little bit and talk about the importance of creating objectives that you can tie metrics too.  It’s easy to sit down with a marketing team and come up with a whole list of objectives but you have to be able to come up with metrics that you are going to use to measure your success for those objectives, if you don’t have metrics then how are you going to measure success?  I think one of the problems with marketing today is that there are a lot of abstract objectives floating around that we don’t know how to measure.  We’re all guilty of using them (include yours truly).  Here examples of abstract objectives vs clearly defined objectives.


  • We want to be the authority in X

Clearly defined:

  • We want to increase the number of online conversations about our brand by 25%


  • We want to improve our customer service

Clearly defined:

  • We want to improve brand sentiment and customer satisfaction by 15%


  • We want to increase revenue

Clearly defined

  • We want to decrease the customer purchase cycle by 10%, increase the average transaction amount by 12%, and increase the amount of new customers by 15%

Do you see the difference between the objectives listed above?  Essentially the abstract and clearly defined metrics are talking about the same thing but one is measurable and the other is not.  Keep in mind that in order for you to measure these objectives your client or company has to have some sort of existing data to begin with.  If you’re working with someone that doesn’t know what the customer satisfaction rate is or what the customer purchase cycle is, then how on earth are you going to increase it?

Make sense?  What are your thoughts on this?

  • Jacob,

    I spent 12 years in the corporate world and have been a consultant for the past 11. I wish someone could help me understand why every marketer, in fact every department head, balks at creating measurable goals. They are easy to create and achievable when realistic. Furthermore, metrics represent the best ways to get our budget approved and to be seen as important parts of the revenue machine. I have never understood the resistance. Thank you for helping us both see how easy it is to set the measurable goals and for encouraging us to measure for success.

    • I think one of the big problems is marketers are brought in after everything else is done and biz dev says 'here you go, now make people love it'. This weakens a marketers understanding of said product and also devalues their knowledge of that organisations customers.

      Second point and probably more relevant to your comment Lewis and that is Marketers don't set goals because their peers don't perceive goals the same way as we (marketers) do.

      For example if I say to my production manager I need 12% more productivity out of his plants he can say yes it will be done, no it can't or yes but here is how much. Its a goal with a highly likelihood of a getting a predictable outcome.

      Now with marketing you can say I want to increase customer purchase cycle by 10% (as Jacob points out) but I can't promise that this goal is very likely to occur like the production manager can. This means when i don't succeed and we as marketers do fail often, then our neck is on the line. No one has a clue that the failure was probable.


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