A Full Measure

Uncategorized Posted Jan 20, 2005 by metropolis

From CHEN PR Veep Randy Wambold…

The days when marketing was to some extent insulated from the same bottom line accountability of every other group in an organization are long behind us. An IDC conference held yesterday in snowy New York, “IDC Marketing Performance Measurement Summit for Business-to-Business Marketers,” drove home the point.

In today’s competitive climate, marketers are obligated to show ROI like everybody else. The challenge is, unlike other areas of the business — say operations, or finance of course — where well-understood, widely accepted industry standard metrics exist, marketing lacks these measurement tools.

Of course, if the problem was easy to solve, some 100 or more people from around the world wouldn’t have felt compelled to travel to New York yesterday for a day of meetings on the topic. So in many ways yesterday’s event was about intelligent, thought-provoking discussion on the topic more than coming away with all the answers.

Some particularly interesting points emerged from the discussion:

  • Marketing is being held to financial accountability in a way that was never the case in the past in the tech market.
  • Consequently, if marketers want to have relevance and “a seat at the management table,” they must learn to think and talk in business terms. The “I’m creative so it’s hard to be accountable in that same way” mindset ain’t gonna cut it any more.
  • Though this increased accountability will cause some short term pain — in no small part due to the lack of measurement metrics that were the focus of the conference — longer term, this will help garner marketing the respectability it has lacked in many circles. Or, as one panelist memorably put it, it will help get marketing “out of the ghetto.”
  • Brand awareness is paramount. It was a hot topic for all of the companies represented.
  • Marketing needs to become integrated and compatible with other areas of the business such as sales and finance. The historical skepticism and friction between marketing and other disciplines has hurt marketers. As one panelist nicely put it, “It’s time for marketers to get over our victim mentality.”
  • The customer is king. I’m reminded of the fact that when Scott McNealy of Sun sat on stage with Steve Ballmer of Microsoft in 2004 and answered the question of how two staunch rivals had come to make peace, the gist of his answer was: “Our customers asked us to do it, and the customer is in the driver’s seat.” This same mentality prevailed yesterday. A marketing program that doesn’t rely on customer-focused data will fail on the face of it.
  • Your metrics are only as good as the data they rely on. In the afternoon we broke into small groups to discuss measurement, and my industry colleagues and I talked almost the entire session about the great need and the great difficulty in getting good data to use as the basis for good metrics.

On a more positive note, conference chairperson and IDC analyst Richard Vancil perceptively points out that there is a silver lining in the measurement challenge clouds for marketers. In the boom times of tech, the role of marketers was limited, he argued (rightly, in my opinion). Sure, marketers helped provide sales support and competitive positioning and increase brand awareness, etc. But at the end of the day, companies didn’t really, truly need expert marketing because demand was so strong and capital so plentiful. In these post-boom days, with demand neither nearly as strong, nor capital nearly so plentiful, tech companies truly, urgently need marketing in a fundamental way that they haven’t before. For those of us in tech marketing, this is a real career opportunity. And at a more macro level, it can only benefit the tech market long term to have the industry more marketing-focused.

On a separate note, I applaud IDC for donating $5 to the Make-a-Wish foundation for each evaluation survey turned in by an attendee. Classy move.

And finally, on a more personal note, the hotel in which the conference was held was a stone’s throw from the World Trade Center. Though I have been back to New York since 9/11, this is the first time I’ve been back in that immediate area. I took the opportunity to walk over to Ground Zero on lunch. Though of course the area does not resemble the pile of rubble that is in many of our mind’s eyes from the coverage immediately after the event — in fact very early work has already begun on foundations for the new buildings — the sunken crater was still a vivid, stirring reminder of the tragedy of that day that will be with all of us for the rest of our lives.