Thursday, May 1, 2008

What's the Biggest Obstacle to Marketing Performance Measurement?

In work with my own clients and discussions with other people, I have found that the biggest obstacle to marketing performance measurement is the lack of necessary data. But when I mentioned this in passing to a marketing measurement expert whose opinion I greatly respect, he challenged me. He said that his experience had shown cultural, skills and experience gaps to be more important.

This really didn’t sound right, but there’s no point debating opinions. So I looked around for some more objective evidence in the form of survey results. I found two sets of results:

- In its 2007 Marketing Performance Measurement Benchmarks for Midsized Companies (free with registration), The Marketing Leadership Roundtable found that “lack of quality data” was by far the biggest factor contributing to dissatisfaction with marketing measurements. It was cited by 84% of respondents, while the next most common factor, ‘inability to generate predictive results’ was cited by only 56%. Score one for me.

I do have to note, though, that when the same survey asked about challenges to improving performance measurement, improved data came up in third place (70%), behind improved reporting systems (81%) and improved linkages to financial results (74%). Quite frankly, I don’t know what to make of the discrepancy. I suppose that marketers answering the second question were addressing the practical issue of what could be done within existing constraints.

Incidentally, this study also proves a very detailed list of the metrics people use in different areas, with percentages to show how often they are employed. Such lists are apparently quite popular, so if you’re into that sort of thing, it’s well worth a look.

- Aberdeen Group reported in its February 2008 study CMO Strategic Agenda: Demystifying ROI in Marketing
(requires payment) that the number one challenge to identifying marketing return on investment was lack of data (48%). Again this was substantially ahead of the next-ranked issue, timely access to relevant information, cited by 36%. Other issues ranked fairly close behind: lack of human resources, difficulty in identifying the right metrics, and communication between sales and marketing.

For what it’s worth, there is also another Aberdeen study from the same series, CMO Strategic Agenda: Automating Closed Loop Marketing, which is available for free for a limited time. Data also comes up as the top issue in this one, although the question is implementation challenges for closed-loop marketing. Specifically, the study shows 47% of respondents citing data consolidation as a top challenge, compared with 36% citing lack of technical skills and 32% citing continuous access to actionable information. Although this is a significantly different issue, it does confirm the general proposition that lack of data is a big problem for marketers.

Of course, none of these studies is definitive. But I think that despite my respected colleague’s comments, I’ll continue to maintain that lack of data is performance measurement Issue #1.

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