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Forrester: Marketers improve use of data but need to prove value of marketing

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B-to-b marketers are getting more adept at using data and analytics, but they need to make a better case to financial and business leaders at their companies to demonstrate the value of marketing, according to a report from Forrester Research. The report, “B2B Marketing Measurement Needs an MBA,” was based on an online survey in May of 174 b-to-b marketers, conducted jointly by Forrester, the IT Services Marketing Association and VisionEdge Marketing. The survey found that while 60% of respondents agreed that marketing has become more adept at using data and analytics to improve its efforts, only 51% said business leaders see the financial value of marketing. “While marketing's stature in the business may be growing, the numbers that it reports aren't getting the attention of senior management,” said Laura Ramos, VP-principal analyst at Forrester, in the report. The survey found that 86% of marketers agreed that the link between marketing activities and business goals is well-defined at their organizations, while 72% said their company's leadership clearly sees marketing's impact on the business. However, only 45% of marketers said they feel confident they know which metrics and business outcomes matter most to key stakeholders. “The large amounts of data flowing from CRM and marketing automation systems make it easier to track and report results,” Ramos wrote in the report. “But using this operationally focused information still proves challenging.” The top challenges for marketers when it comes to using analytics to improve marketing effectiveness are poor data quality (33%) and a lack of formal processes to collect and manage data (29%). Other challenges include knowing how to apply analytics to improve marketing effectiveness (25%); acquiring and using the right tools to analyze data (24%); and accessing the right analytical skills (22%). “Most [marketing metrics] are usually easy to collect, but the trick is turning lead-based data into a decision engine that helps predict business outcomes like new market opportunity, pipeline growth, sales cycle length and purchase propensity,” Ramos wrote. In order to help prove marketing's value to the C-suite, marketers need to focus on leading indicators—such as rate of market growth and share of wallet—and business consequences, not outcomes, Forrester advised. “To outrun the competition and capitalize on market changes, CEOs, CFOs and board members want greater contributions and accountability from all functional areas,” Ramos wrote in the report. “To deliver on this expectation, b-to-b marketing's performance metrics must connect the dots between customer behavior, marketing activity and business outcomes.”
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