The marketing world has a problem: we don't know what we want to achieve.
Okay, maybe that's too dramatic. Our problem is really tied to ROI. We just don't know how to tie business objectives to marketing efforts. And that can lead to serious accountability problems.
Why do companies hire marketers? Probably to increase sales, expand their customer base and grow. But too often, they don't know enough about marketing to work effectively with their marketing partner. Instead, both sides wonder if those efforts are even helping.
How did we get here? And, more importantly, how can we fix things?
Why Business and Marketing Objectives Are Difficult to Connect
Business and marketing objectives should be connected. Usually, they're pretty far apart, but why?
Some reasons are obvious. Marketing objectives tend to be short-term. A firm spends money and it wants to see results from that spend. So a marketing campaign might run for a month, three months or maybe a year. But business objectives are big picture plans, and they span the five- to 10-year life of a strategic plan.
Compounding on the timeline problem, think about how difficult it really is to connect business and marketing. Your marketing objectives focus around brand awareness, equity and conversions, right? But business objectives build around larger goals like growth. The two seem to be part of the same family, but few people can draw a direct line between them.
And that isn't even the half of it. I'll be blunt: connecting business and marketing suffers because there are too many cooks in the kitchen. There's a marketing team, sales team, leadership team, volleyball team...how can anyone keep up?
What you end up with is a disconnect between marketing and sales efforts. One statistic says it better than most: 52 percent of marketers think they're passing the best leads to sales. The problem? Only eight percent of sales professionals agree.
Business objectives are naturally connected to sales, which build customer and revenue growth. If your marketing can't connect to that, you're screwed.
The Problem with Not Knowing Your Partner
The above reasons are legitimate, but they even affect internal companies. For agencies hired to build marketing platforms, or businesses hiring agencies from within marketing departments, it gets worse.
Let's be honest: in the agency-client relationship, how much time do we really spend getting to know each other? You need more than a 4-hour discovery meeting at the start of the contract. The best agencies immerse themselves into the client's business, over multiple days and on a recurring basis. They learn what each client is all about before building out their marketing.
If you don't take that step, you have a problem. You simply don't know your partner, so you can't possibly know their business objectives or how they're planning to achieve them. When that's the case, you can't tie business objectives to marketing efforts very readily.
The Plight of Vanity Metrics in Measuring ROI
Ah, vanity metrics. They look impressive, but at the end of the day, they don't mean much. Metrics like these are almost always a symptom of disconnected marketing efforts.
Vanity metrics focus on numbers like reach, social media reactions and clicks. They look pretty, but amount to top-level reports and KPIs that don't go very far into the conversion process. But that doesn't mean vanity metrics aren't important. The catch is they don't mean much without the context of conversions, customer growth and revenue.
In other words, vanity metrics don't show ROI, so they don't communicate value.
And yet, marketing agencies tend to default to them because they're easy to present. After all, it's difficult to explain complex metrics to folks who aren't marketing experts. So it's easier share how many people their ad reached or how many Facebook likes their company has.
Don't get me wrong: vanity metrics have a purpose. They help you troubleshoot individual tactics and offer insight into what deserves a deeper dive. But that's about where it ends. If you truly want to tie business objectives to marketing efforts, vanity metrics won't get you there.
What Happens When Marketers Don't Bring Value?
As a marketer, if you fail to connect marketing goals with larger business growth, you're doomed. Yeah, quick-hit metrics that isolate your marketing efforts make sense in the short term. But marketing is a long game, and shortcuts can be devastating to your efforts, as well as to the agency and the client relationship.
When there's a disconnect, clients spend money on marketing efforts that aren't helping. As a result, one of two scenarios play out:
- You're hitting your marketing objectives, but you don't know if they're helping the business overall. It looks good, so the firm keeps powering money into the marketing budget.
- You're not hitting your (arbitrary) marketing objectives, even though you might be helping the business grow. Your marketing budget dries up over time because your efforts look unsuccessful.
Either way, you're not helping yourself or the business. Both sides lose faith in the partnership when they might actually be reaching their goals. Sure, there are plenty of scenarios between the two extremes above. But remember: if one isn't directly connected to the other, any effort to build credibility or continuity with your marketing strategy is undermined by a lack of knowledge.
How Can Agencies and Businesses Work Together?
Enough doom and gloom for one post. Yes, a failure to connect marketing and business objectives is devastating, and the reasons are common and reasonable. But you don't have to fail.
Instead, take steps to ensure an integrated approach. Many of these are straightforward, but some might mean shifting your perspectives or operations. But they all help improve both your client relationship and your overall marketing success.
Take Time to Understand the Business
It's easy to brush aside the initial get together between agency and client. Don't let it get to that point. Instead, take the time to immerse yourself into the business. Understand not just the larger objectives, but the vision of how to achieve them. Then, link marketing into the equation and start talking about how both can work in partnership.
Build Your Sales Experience
Sales objectives are naturally tied to business objectives. But that doesn't mean marketers should leave it up to the other side. What it does mean is building an in-depth understanding of the business and the sales processes used to convert customers, drive loyalty and build revenues.
Once you know what makes a good lead, what objectives are most relevant for sales and what messages are most important during a sales pitch, you can integrate that info into your marketing.
Find Ways to Measure ROI for Marketing Initiatives
Measuring ROI is tough, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. The metrics you measure should lead to tangible return on investment. Whether you're driving product promotions or a larger brand awareness campaign, show the ROI to build credibility and value for your marketing efforts.
Build a Success-Based Approach
Don't build something and hope for success. Instead, define exactly what that success will be, then move backwards to define your daily tasks and tactics. This way, all the decisions you make are based on larger business and growth objectives.
Let Accountability Drive Your Efforts
Hold yourself accountable—not just to your client, but to yourself. Run regular reports, and don't be afraid to match those up with sales reports. When something isn't working, avoid leaning on vanity metrics. Instead, be honest, suggest improvements or changes and keep moving.
Accountability isn't just the key to trust between agency and client, it's vital to ensuring you keep orienting yourself against the objectives you're trying to reach. That way, you're not just chugging along, but actually moving steadily and consistently toward your goals.
Tie Business Objectives to Marketing Efforts for Best Results
Are you ready to tie business objectives to marketing efforts? It's not easy, and you'll get frustrated, because not all questions have obvious answers. Still, in an age of shrinking budgets and increased focus on ROI, you don't have a choice. Marrying both worlds is best way to make sure your efforts are successful, from both a marketing perspective and the big picture of the business.