I spend a lot of my time doing measurement reviews with clients to help them improve their marketing reporting and measurement. These B2B marketers are all looking to better understand and convey the value their marketing teams contribute to the business.

So, if you’re in a hurry to improve your measurement, develop new reports or build new dashboards, do yourself a favor, stop and absorb this:

No matter how action-oriented the culture you work in, you’ll be wasting time, effort and organizational resources if you begin by digging in, collecting data, building reports, queries, spreadsheets and slide decks. You’ll also get it wrong. And you’ll probably regret it.

Instead, before you do anything, make sure you can answer three important questions. These are the three questions I ask clients to kick off measurement and reporting conversations:

  • Who is the audience for the reporting you’ll produce?
  • What do they care most about knowing?
  • What actions will they be able to take once they know? (Hint: Knowing more or being smarter are not acceptable answers.)

If you can’t answer these questions, what exactly were you going to build? And what are the odds that you’d have gotten it right?

Now the fun part. Turn away from your computer screen and go talk to stakeholders (people) until you work out the answers to those three questions. You won’t find the valuable feedback they can give you buried deep in the data.

The biggest mistake people make when developing marketing measurement is to view it as primarily a technical challenge.  While there are technical components, many of the foundational parts of measurement are social. People need to speak with other people to work out the issues. Once you determine who the right people are, and what they care about, everyone can start thinking about what they’ll do with that knowledge. And with that, you’re well on your way.