GUEST COLUMN: Get more engaged with your Company’s Marketing Activity: Move from Assessing Perceived Impact to Analyzing Actual Performance

Mark Hurkamp, Acentia

By: Mark Hurkamp, leader of Marketing and Communications at Acentia.

There are many ways to measure marketing success, not all of them scientific. In my role as the Marketing and Communications lead for a premier government contractor, some of the most powerful input I’ve ever received was based on nothing more than kudos from FCL’s (Friends of the C-levels). “I read the article. I liked your new website content. I saw the company mentioned. I heard your ad.”

When you can get it, personal feedback is a great source of “feel good” validation, but you certainly can’t rely on it to measure and manage marketing performance, or determine
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“personal feedback is a great source of “feel good” validation, but you certainly can’t rely on it to measure and manage marketing performance…”

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return on investment in terms of business outcomes. Government Contracting is all about managing to results. Senior Executives in Operations and Business Development must justify individual actions and investments and link them to specific returns. It’s natural to apply a performance-based model to every aspect of the business, including the marketing function. And many have. As they say, “books have been written.”

As a former CIO, I understand the value of driving business results based on advanced data analytics and market intelligence. As a current CMO, I understand the need to hold the Marketing organization accountable for both top-line and bottom-line numbers. I recently completed two activities that required me to re-visit the metrics around performance-based GovCon marketing. One was developing my company’s annual Strategic Marketing Plan, and the other was formulating a Statement of Work for a public relations partner. Each of these efforts required me to define outcomes as a measure of success. The process reminded me that marketing is not an ancillary corporate function, it is the ambassador of the company’s brand, and it is integral to the company’s aspirations and achievements.

So how can you get involved in analyzing and improving the effectiveness of marketing efforts? For starters, read your company’s latest marketing plan. Likely it maps to the company’s overall strategic plan, but see how well it addresses your sector or your area’s growth. For individual projects, ensure that the plan includes elements important to you and will produce results supporting your customer and stakeholder needs. Beyond tactical requests for PowerPoint presentations and tradeshow support, establish a dialogue with Marketing, and get access to reports and deliverables that will help you monitor marketing performance. Give corporate Marketing a window into your big picture positioning, and discuss how existing or prospective metrics can influence your strategy and help grow your business.
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“Give corporate Marketing a window into your big picture positioning, and discuss how existing or prospective metrics can influence your strategy and help grow your business.”

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Almost every direct or indirect marketing project or public relations initiative should have very specific objectives with expectations clearly documented as metrics or service level agreements. These types of projects include paid advertising campaigns, disruptive studies and surveys, trade shows, webinars, speaker bureaus, micro-targeting, and search engine marketing. Without a measure of yield or effectiveness, projects like these could never be sold to senior management. What’s worse, it would be difficult to determine what constituted a successful top-line performance outcome.

In addition to strategic projects, Marketing leads many activities that comprise ongoing external communications. These initiatives include earned media (articles and brand mentions), social media, press releases, and website content. In my company, this messaging activity is supported by structured themes within a formal Messaging Architecture. Messaging does not occur specifically to generate a measurable end result—it’s intended to establish credibility and enhance brand equity. As a holistic measure, your company’s signal is a key performance indicator for marketing.

Measuring the so-called “signal-to-noise” ratio is an inexact science. Typically, marketing leverages web analytics tools to tabulate website and social media metrics and to quantify brand mentions and other earned and unearned media placements. A monthly dashboard that trends quantity (your signal) and predicts quality (your signal strength) should be produced. Get access to this report. Then provide your CMO with feedback centered on both corporate and departmental objectives.

As a GovCon executive, you should be a vocal partner with your company’s Marketing organization. Keep tabs on both marketing projects and activity. Project-based analytics and activity-based metrics alone won’t tell you how well your company is doing, but they are an important sign of life and a valuable indicator of progress. In a business environment dictated by political pressure and uncertainty, the marketing function can create a strategic advantage and optimally position you and your company in anticipation of a rising tide.

 

 

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