Insights - 16.11.23

Universal barriers to measuring the impact of marketing in high growth businesses

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending time with nearly 50 global partners from our IPREX network. We gathered in Seattle, Washington, the largest metropolis in the Pacific Northwest and home to the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Expedia, and of course Starbucks. The city is a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation, so what better place to share learnings amongst agency leaders?

As I spent time with partners from 19 different US states, Canada, Ireland, India and Mexico, it became clear that despite our cultural nuances, the challenges that high growth businesses, agencies and in-house marketing teams face are extremely similar across the globe.

Measuring the impact of marketing activity was one of those challenges. When it’s done well, it’s clear to see how marketing can be a strategic tool that drives the business forward. But it seems that no matter where you are in the world there are some common barriers that often need to be overcome first:


Barrier 1: Marketing channels are treated as silos

An age-old trap that marketeers fall into is treating their email campaigns, paid social, media relations, advertising and other marketing channels as siloed streams of activity. While it is still possible to measure success through discreet streams of activity, there is much more power in being able to see how different streams of activity affect each other. Otherwise, how would you know that the article in The Times led to a 400% spike in web traffic, increased engagement with LinkedIn ads, four new business leads and seven conversations with investors? This is actually a real example of some of our PR activity that could have just been measured by reach. So, whether the different streams of activity are happening under one roof, being looked after by separate teams or involve agencies collaborating across the globe, having a holistic view of your marketing activity is an important foundation.


Barrier 2: Data is confusing or non-existent

The right data helps you analyse trends and continuously optimise your marketing activity. The more targeted your campaigns are, the greater impact your marketing will have on your overall business success. But it’s easy to become swamped by different datasets – website traffic, open rates, enquiries, coverage volume, click through rates. Sometimes having too much data can be distracting, so we are always guided by robust data points that act as forward indicators of overall success.

At the other end of the spectrum, data can sometimes be difficult to gather, may not have integrity or might not be particularly useful – think Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE), reach and impressions. While I was in Seattle, Shannon and Jenn from Gatesman in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, spoke about being able to create data if necessary – by naming files and structuring information in a certain way, or even devising bespoke formulas and scoring systems. This is an interesting and tailored alternative to using generic data points and can really help with impact measurement.


Barrier 3: Lack of investment in the right tools

We have been championing the use of CRM systems and marketing automation for a long time now. If you’re looking to justify your marketing budgets and demonstrate tangible ROI to the wider business, a good CRM is a must. The right tools can force alignment between sales and marketing, provide real-time visibility of opportunities, create efficiencies and enable more targeted and personalised communications. The challenge is that you often need to create a strong business case for investment in this type of technology, otherwise it can be seen as an unnecessary cost. CRM systems have been found to boost sales in 75% of cases, and have the potential to increase conversion rates by up to 300%. But, before making the case or investing, it’s always worth researching the different tools available, doing some modelling for your business and understanding how similar businesses are using these systems to bolster their marketing and sales efforts.


Barrier 4: Failure to establish effective feedback processes

Marketing and sales tools are only going to support business growth if they are fit-for-purpose and used in the right way. We’ve seen it happen a lot where the right tools are in place but there is no responsibility, accountability or rigour around the processes needed to make the most of this technology. Whether or not you have sophisticated tools in place, ensuring regular analysis of success metrics, communication between the business, marketing and sales, combined with subsequent optimisation of activity will supercharge your efforts and increase your chances of success.


Barrier 5: Failing to align with business priorities

Thisis probably the biggest barrier to measuring the impact of marketing. A recent survey from McKinsey found that only 22% of CMOs feel their job roles are well-understood by other executives, highlighting the disconnect between marketing and overall business goals. All too often, we find that the focus is on marketing objectives like increasing brand awareness or generating marketing qualified leads (MQLs) – a lead who’s expressed interest in your brand following your marketing efforts. However, 500 MQLs might look like a success to the marketing team, but if only one converts to a sale is it really benefiting the business? When the board is looking for where to cut costs and where to invest, you want to make sure that marketing is on the right side of the fence, and the way to do that is to demonstrate its worth. Building campaigns and activity around business objectives ensures continuous strategic alignment and means that success is measured on tangible business impact.

Marketing teams are truly capable of driving their business forward, but only if the right conditions are in place. But regardless of whether you are in the heart of Manchester, the hills of Seattle or the bustling streets of Delhi, having a clear understanding of business priorities, exceptional execution and joined-up processes are universally important if you really want to showcase impact. 

If you want to discuss anything further, then drop Lucy a line on