We’ve all suffered through one of those conversations with an endless series of questions: “What are you doing? Why? What are you doing? Why?….” As many know, sometimes the only way to end the cycle is to answer with: “Why not?” Well, during the past year we’ve noticed a somewhat troubling trend in marketing data reporting questions that sounds a lot like “Why not?”

We start by identifying the drivers of this behavior. Four market forces are pushing most marketing organizations to improve and increase their reporting of marketing metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs):

  • Increasing focus on marketing ROI
  • Improving marketing processes and skills
  • Increasing implementation of marketing automation platforms, and related systems and tools
  • Increasing number of marketing service agencies that report campaign and program ROI measures

One of the interesting, and some might say unfortunate, consequences of being able to track the results of marketing campaigns, programs and tactics is the desire to search for answers by analyzing and reporting as much data as possible as often as possible. Senior management demands better information and intelligence to make better business decisions and improve results. However, since many companies (especially public ones) run on a quarterly cycle of reporting financial results every three months, many marketing groups have adopted the same reporting mentality. 

The biggest problem is that most of our B2B clients have marketing and selling cycles that last well beyond three months, so they are reporting on marketing lead generation and nurturing activities that do not fit neatly into a quarterly view. The result is usually a potpourri of misleading conversion ratios between program response rates, inquires, marketing qualified leads, marketing sourced pipeline, marketing influenced pipeline, and a handful of other measures. We don’t advise that marketing groups refuse requests for quarterly or even monthly data, but do yourself (and senior management) a favor and put it within the context of the company’s regular marketing and selling cycles. 

Begin by uncovering the decisions senior management is wrestling with and use those to determine which marketing metrics and KPIs impact them the most. Don’t measure and report on everything you can. Generating pages and pages of marketing activities only confirms what many senior managers believe, that marketing has no idea how to prove its return on investment. Report on fewer items and make sure to compare last quarter’s marketing metrics and KPIs to the same quarter of the previous year; don’t compare them to year-end numbers. Prove to senior management you understand their underlying business issues, you are investing in campaigns and programs designed to address those issues, and you can report the right indicators in the right timeframe to show concrete positive results.