Assess How Great Your Marketing is

It’s said that self-reflection is a good thing. It helps us to understand ourselves more clearly. How we go about that self-reflection, however, determines the value of the effort. Do we give it cursory attention afraid to know the real truth or do we look at all the evidence revealing a great many things we’ve forgotten we do very well and the areas that need some attention?

In times of market velocity and economic volatility, it’s essential that every organization routinely evaluate its effectiveness. Is it doing the right things in the best possible way to deliver the results needed today and tomorrow?

Nowhere is that more crucial than in marketing. Not only because the discipline is undergoing rapid transformation but also because what defines marketing differs dramatically based on the company’s and its industry growth stage. Unfortunately, for most marketing organizations what should be an annual exercise typically happens only when a new leader arrives.

There are many approaches you can use to conduct a marketing assessment; the one we have used with clients for years is evidence-based. It works because over the years we’ve built a comprehensive master template that is easy to customize and quick to complete.

The assessment process evaluates strategies, plans, activities, investments and their results as evidenced by artifacts. Documents, files, information, and/or tools are artifacts specifically developed to accomplish an activity; they either exist or they don’t. Each assessment area has between 20 and 100 specific evidence artifacts that we look for, evaluate and then score.  An artifact is objectively assessed based on completeness, adherence to modern marketing and industry best practices including:

  • Appropriateness for the company and market maturity.
  • Soundness and completeness.
  • Resource allocation rationale.
  • Use of metrics to manage and measure ROI.
  • Identification of data integrity, process integration, and skill/competency gaps.

A marketing assessment for an early stage company in an emerging market will be more heavily weighted on mindshare, reach, content and influencer activities than a mature company in a mature market where demand generation, customer loyalty/evangelism and market share are the number one priorities.

Below is a summary assessment of a very mature company that engaged us to conduct a detailed assessment as part of preparing their digital transformation plan.  The blue lines are the total median scores from each assessment category; the green line is the target state. This large client had a lot of work to do to embrace digital marketing and modern marketing best practices. The drill down details under each category in the diagram was instrumental in developing a realistic and achievable prioritized plan.

(C) 2018

Contrast that with the assessment results for a technology start-up in an emerging market.  The green line is the target ideal state while the orange is the actual score.  There is no one size fits all, every company and its situation are different. Assessment approaches must compensate for this otherwise the results run the risk of being unachievable and unrealistic, defeating the very purpose of the evaluation.

(c) 2018

It’s key that each assessment category can be drilled down to a detailed list of all the assessment points, descriptions, scores and where the artifacts are stored.  Below is the next level down for the “Demand Creation” category from the graph above.  The orange is line represents the company’s actual scores while the green line is the target.

(C) 2018

Where does the evidence come into play? The focus is on the information and analysis, not on the artifact’s format.  Let’s look at the Lead Scoring sub-category:

Definition: Defined and used consistently across inbound, outbound and Sales.  Segmentation and scoring model is updated every 6 months to reflect changes in buyer behavior, buying team engagement, journey map, market dynamics, and CTA/tollgates synchronized with dynamic web forms to improve score accuracy.

A partial list of artifacts sought:

  • “Ideal” lead profiles
  • Documented and agreed upon definitions and criteria for each lead stage/type
  • Lead scoring, nurture and retargeting definitions and algorithms
  • Consistent use of lead definitions by sales, marketing, ops and in reports
  • Weighting of each tollgate CTA – in aggregate or by persona/role
  • Lead journey stage calculation based on % engagement alignment with journey maps

Care must be taken to make sure there is no double counting of artifacts by duplicating them in more than one subcategory. The focus is less on is making sure the artifact in the right category but a comprehensive list.

For each category and list of attributes, we work with marketing team members to find and review the attributes. The review consists of completeness, alignment with best practices, currency and consistency of usage.  Using the lead scoring subcategory, we’d look for a document(s) that defines ideal lead profile(s) that is current, has been signed off and consistently used by marketing and sales, and used as the initial screen of inquiries.  In the case of lead journey stage calculation, we’d look for a series of documents starting with outside-in developed detail journey maps by markets and at the persona/role level.  Additionally, are key CTAs (gated assets or registration required events/engagements) tied to key micro-moments or tollgates and weighed (vs. weighting content interaction). Are the algorithms for calculating lead journey stage documented and tested quarterly? Are systems capturing data to support the algorithm(s) random tested for accuracy quarterly?

Evidence is complemented with cross-functional interviews to understand the underlying processes and methods. We’ve learned over the years to only share anonymized interview highlights with leadership teams. Otherwise inevitably someone succumbs to the temptation to share or worse confront team members with comments made in confidence.

The final report should include a review of the assessment process, strengths/successes, root causes of improvement areas, recommendations, alternative courses of action, and suggested timelines  We recommend a more detailed presentation be shared with the marketing team and afterward that the team presents a summary recap to the rest of the organization.

The advantage of an evidence-based approach is its objectivity. The objective is to not find fault or blame but to help marketing stay aligned to customers, company strategy, and best practices.  As growth and maturity comes from self-reflection, so to for organizations – especially during times of uncertainty, volatility and velocity.

First published in MartechAdvisors.

Leave a Comment