Marketing accountability is top goal, but measurement, analytics remain tough nut to crack

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Justifying budgets to senior management by quantifying the effectiveness of marketing campaigns is of the utmost importance to marketers today.

In the Association of National Advertisers’ third annual ANA Marketing Accountability Study, more than half (57%) of senior-level marketers said they had established a formal marketing accountability program this year. The study was released in July and conducted by Marketing Management Analytics, a research and analytics services provider.

These marketers are learning what traditional direct marketers have known all along: Test various creative elements, offers and lists; measure the results; and adjust results according.

The marketing mix continues to grow, with direct response vehicles online such as e-mail, search and RSS being added to mainstays like direct mail and telemarketing. However, customer tolerance is decreasing for advertising and marketing that is not relevant to them, especially since they have so many other alternatives. As a result, there is even more demand for measurement and more sophisticated data analysis.

Despite that, many marketers are still not taking advantage of such direct marketing tools as data mining, modeling and predictive analytics; centralized marketing data warehouses or data marts; and Web analytics; as well as more advanced tools like marketing simulation techniques.

Thirty percent of marketers polled in the ANA/MMA study said they have no plans to deploy data mining, modeling and predictive analytics technologies. Another 22% said they were planning to, while 16% were either piloting or rolling out data mining, modeling and predictive analytics.

Even marketing services companies haven’t cracked the code yet. Alterian, a marketing software company, surveyed marketing service providers at its annual Think Tank Summit regarding the top challenges they face. The No. 1 challenge cited was analytics, followed by data acquisition, database management, lead management and tracking ROI.

For those interested in using analytics and measurement tools, there is a dizzying array of newly developed or recently upgraded technology.

MMA, which conducted the ANA study, is set to release the third version of its analytics tool, Avista, which it launched initially in July 2005. Avista is an on-demand Web-based analytics tool that incorporates “what-if” scenarios in its modeling template. MMA has deployed Avista at 10 Fortune 500 companies, according to Ed See, COO of MMA. “It uses continuous monitoring rather than simply using a model to look back at what happened,” he said. “The power to build a what-if scenario gives marketers the ability to move money around and adapt tactics” rather than basing budgets on historical data as a means to predict future behavior.

Analytics are becoming mandatory, particularly as behavioral targeting grows in popularity. Even marketing tools that are not primarily analytics products are building that into the functionality, particularly for analyzing online programs.

Two weeks ago, Harte-Hanks released the latest version of its Postfuture e-mail messaging platform: Postfuture Enterprise Edition Version 5.0. Enhancements to the product include new e-mail testing functions, analytics and behavior-based targeting.

In another announcement last month, IBM Corp. and Coremetrics said they have formed a partnership to develop a comprehensive e-commerce analytics software program. Under the agreement, IBM and Coremetrics, a Web analytics company, will develop Coremetrics for IBM WebSphere Commerce. The package will provide a closed-loop marketing system to deliver e-commerce and Web analytics, according to the two companies.

That's what the marketplace is asking for. "The impression I have is analytics trumps the broader suite of tools right now," said Laura Ramos, VP at Forrester Research. "Measurement is the No. 1 thing b-to-b marketers told Forrester they struggle with.

“Analytics is the thing companies are trying to build, partner [with] or acquire," she said.

Unica Corp. last month released a new version of Affinium, its enterprise marketing management software that includes several new capabilities, including integrated Web analytics.

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