Better marketing metrics: three pitfalls every marketer should avoid

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SAP is known as the King of Big Data, so it should be no surprise that Madhur Aggarwal, SAP's VP Marketing Strategy, Office of the CMO, is a marketing metrics guru. Aggarwal focuses much of his work on the area of marketing analytics, fundamentally leveraging the science of marketing to influence the art of marketing. According to Aggarwal, marketing analytics—from segmentation, to closed-loop reporting and early insights into the buyer decision journey—is conducted ultimately to win the hearts and minds of the buyer. Measuring and understanding marketing analytics is a science that inevitably produces enhanced marketing results.

What do you see as the most important things for marketers to consider related to marketing analytics?

Aggarwal: There are three pairs of things that marketers should consider—orientation and culture, data and infrastructure, and insights and execution. If you only have the best of one of these things, without all three working together, it does not work. Let's take a look at each set:

  • Orientation and culture. The organization must be data-oriented and have a data-driven culture to make it work. It must ask, “Do we have the right skills? Do we have a performance culture?”
  • Data and infrastructure. The organization must make it easy for people to get to the data and use it. The better you provide access to the data and the ability to make use of the data, the better are your chances of being successful.
  • Insights and execution. The organization must understand what it is looking for and what it will do when it has obtained the data. It's important to begin with asking, “What am I trying to accomplish?” And, “What is the business objective?”

Ultimately the data doesn't replace human or business judgment and actually leads to the need for better decision making and accountability.

What are some of the pitfalls marketers must avoid when leveraging marketing analytics data?

Aggarwal: The first pitfall that I see is when people who are enamored by data create data silos in their organization. These people are “all things data” and they miss that data needs to lead to insights and, more importantly, to action. Data must influence the creative. Instead, the data silo and the creative silo fight with each other.

The second pitfall is not recognizing this is a journey. Most people want to go from 0 to 100 mph right out of the gate. They need to have in mind a journey with a 3 to 5 year horizon to get to where they want to be. Your aspirations will change over time, so you will always want more. You need to have persistence and a long-term strategy. That is not to say that you are inactive. To the contrary, you need to have a bias for action—choosing speed over accuracy. You may not have perfect data, but it may be the best data you have available today.

The third pitfall is having a culture that promotes action over outcome. You have to move from being an action-driven organization to being an outcome-driven organization. You should ask questions. “What is the outcome? How does it impact the brand awareness, the brand image? Am I just doing a lot of activities or am I making an impact?” You need to be the voice of the company out to the market, and the voice of the market back into the company. You need to move away from helping sales sell to helping buyers buy. And you need to reward people for behaving in ways that support this journey.

What metrics does your CEO put the most value in? How have you leveraged that to enhance the marketing team's value to the company, grow your team, and increase spending in key areas?

Aggarwal: At the corporate level, our CEO cares about the holistic impact of marketing all the way from brand to demand and from voice to choice. As a result, our corporate metrics tend to be business-outcome-oriented by nature (as opposed to activity-centric). These metrics focus on three areas: brand health, impact on revenue and operational efficiency.

As an example of those measurements, we have been recognized among the top 25 most valued brands by Interbrand. And approximately 30% of SAP's software license sales can be directly attributed to Marketing Generated Opportunities (MGO).

What key trends or advancements do you see over the next 2-5 years for marketing analytics?

Aggarwal: The biggest movement will be the move from the current “Display. Decide. Do.” marketing decision mentality. Currently lots of marketing analytics efforts are focused on providing time-shifted visibility into what has happened in the past and then making decisions to move forward based on the past. For marketing analytics to become mainstream it must move from being a center of excellence to being mainstream. It needs to come into the CMO suite where decisions are made based on data. That is part culture and part technology.

On the culture side, business leaders need to recognize that data will never be complete and technology will never be advanced enough. The most important point is whether they have the courage to make decisions based on imperfect data.

At the same time, technology has to move from reporting what happened in the past to predicting the future. Both structured and unstructured data will be important, and tools like sentiment analysis and Web analytics will continue to count and report. Yet, the future is in linking bean-counting to decision-making and eventually automation.

Lisa Dreher is VP-marketing and business development with Logicalis Inc. ( She can be reached at [email protected], or via Twitter at @LisaDreher.

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