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Metric myopia: Balancing short-term KPIs with long-term market vision

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I like numbers. A lot. In fact, at uTest, a hypothesis without supporting data carries much less credence than its quantitatively backed brethren. We track everything within an inch of its life: from CPC (cost per click) to CPL (cost per lead) to CAC (customer acquisition cost) to LTV (life time value) to every conversion rate known under the sun. In fact, we've successfully turned marketing our software testing services into a predictable engine.

The upside to this analytical approach is well-documented. Quantitative marketers can test à measure à optimize their way to phenomenal success in the online age. But is this all that's left for online marketing execs?

I hope not (and if so, count me out).

Yes, of course analytics are vitally important muscles for you and your team to build. I'd even go so far as to call them a cost of doing business in the modern era. And yes, optimization is an important part of your balanced digital marketing breakfast.

But if we become mindless slaves to data, who will tend to that ethereal notion of brand? If we myopically focus on next week's numbers, who will focus on next year's message? Who will read the technical and competitive landscape to predict the tectonic shift that will disrupt your industry in three years?  That's why the role of CMO has become so challenging and so important to both the short- and long-term future of your firm.

Thus, it's become increasingly important for CMOs and marketing leaders to be able to compartmentalize.

For example, at uTest we differentiate rigorously between awareness marketing and acquisition marketing. These two types of marketing activities have distinctly different goals, metrics, resources, activities – and ultimately, their own roadmaps. Both are important, but they're not the same thing.
We also compartmentalize clearly between near-term tactics and long-term strategy. Again, each is vital to the health of your brand, but you mistake them for one another at your own peril.

So as a quick and mildly interesting activity for the marketing gurus out there – take five minutes and fill out this simple 2x2 grid (NOTE: if these aren't the right axes for your particular marketing landscape then ask yourself what the right questions are for you and create your own):


 

Awareness Marketing

Acquisition Marketing

Near-term Tactics

  • Resources:
    • Human:
    • Financial:
    • Other:
  • Top 3 Goals:
    •  
    •  
    •  
  • Corresponding KPI:
    •  
    •  
    •  
  • % of Your Job
  • Resources:
    • Human:
    • Financial:
    • Other:
  • Top 3 Goals:
    •  
    •  
    •  
  • Corresponding KPI:
    •  
    •  
    •  
  • % of Your Job

Long-term Strategies

  • Resources:
    • Human:
    • Financial:
    • Other:
  • Top 3 Goals:
    •  
    •  
    •  
  • Corresponding KPI:
    •  
    •  
    •  
  • % of Your Job
  • Resources:
    • Human:
    • Financial:
    • Other:
  • Top 3 Goals:
    •  
    •  
    •  
  • Corresponding KPI:
    •  
    •  
    •  
  • % of Your Job:

 

Now, ask the key leaders in your marketing org to fill out this same grid and see how well aligned (or not) you are. For the 30 minutes it will cost you and your team, you'll likely be surprised by the disconnects it reveals.

Only by compartmentalizing our distinct lives as brand stewards, lead generators and media mavens, can we help educate others (CEOs, peers, our teams, ourselves), who may think of “marketing” as a monolithic and mysterious blob. And beyond that, only when we bring structure to the diverse animal that is modern marketing can we approach integrated marketing challenges with the attitudes, expectations, priorities and KPIs (key performance indicators) that are appropriate for each industry, brand and situation.

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