August 10, 2015
Accounting for the Immeasurable in a Goal-Driven Environment
By Drew Hendricks
With more and more data at our fingertips, the pressure to use it, and use it effectively, can seem insurmountable. Business has always been goal-oriented, but with the increasing number of tools for analyzing data and tracking progress, there seems to be little room for anything that is immeasurable. We have come to view measurable and valuable as synonymous, when in fact the former is simply one way to gauge the latter.
As anyone in marketing knows, there is often a disconnect between these two terms, and the value of many marketing initiatives is not always directly measurable. According to marketing reporter Patrick Spenner, “The key is: How to secure consensus among senior, non-marketing decision-makers on which marketing activities are worth measuring and which aren’t, but are still valuable to do.”
This may be true, but another question arises from the other side of the equation: How can company leaders ensure that everyone on their team is in fact contributing something valuable if the value of certain teams cannot be directly measured in the same way as others?
1. Maintain company values across all teams.
To a certain degree, accepting strategies that aren’t directly measurable comes down to the faith you have in your team. If you can hire employees who are truly stellar in their field and have a certain degree of raw intelligence, it will be much easier to trust them with decisions and strategies that are not directly measurable.
When hiring, keep a list of qualities that are absolutely non-negotiable. Take, for example, the talent network Toptal. The company prioritizes goals reached, not hours worked, so finding team members that are goal-oriented is of the utmost importance. Toptal has always prioritized hiring engineers to maintain this goal-driven environment, and continues to prioritize problem-solving ability even in positions that are less analytical.
If you can make sure every member of your team is on the same page with the rest of the company in terms of long-term goals, then it is easier to be confident that they are on the right track when it comes to strategies that are less measurable.
2. Understand what customers value.
As a company, of course you care about things like large-scale user acquisition, clients, and sales increases. Your customers value other things entirely. According to Harvard Business Review, “A small but growing number of suppliers in business markets draw on their knowledge of what customers value, and would value, to gain marketplace advantages over their less knowledgeable competitors.”
How can understanding what your customers value aid your business on the road to success? Well, first of all, you can create and focus on customer value models. These data-driven representations can help you figure out the worth of what it is exactly that you are providing for your customers by comparing their costs and benefit.
But before you can do this, you must understand what you are talking about when you talk about value. According to HBR, value in business markets can be defined as “the worth in monetary terms of the technical, economic, service, and social benefits a customer company receives in exchange for the price it pays for a market offering.” If you can figure out a way to add more value to your customers, whether it’s in experience, service, or something else, you can improve their perception of your business independent of price.
Although it may seem relatively abstract, this method of understanding what customers value can help when attempting to measure the immeasurable.
3. Poll your employees.
Employee sentiment for your brand can often reflect how your customers feel about your brand as well, and employees are often much easier to track and poll. After all, they are right there in your office.
When Jonathan Copulsky served as CMO of Deloitte (News - Alert), he created the Practitioner Confidence Index, a tool that measured how confident employees were in the company’s ability to be the best at what it does. Copulsky came up with this idea based on the belief that there’s a high correlation between employee advocacy and customer advocacy. According to Copulsky, “Employees who understand, advocate, and are loyal to the brand create a good platform [for] customers that feel the same.”
If you can find out what your employees think about your brand, it might teach you something about how your customers perceive it as well. Some CMOs value this metric so much that they even disclose employee advocacy numbers in annual reports.
Many of the things that seem immeasurable in B2B marketing can actually be streamlined and measured if you are creative enough, but this should not bring a pressure to measure every single metric all the time. Data and evidence is important, but you must also realize that not everything in marketing is measurable in the same way something like customer acquisition or sales is. As a CMO or other marketing executive, you must be clear about this with other c-level executives, while continuing to measure and automate what you can.
Edited by Andrew Bindelglass