From time to time, I’m asked where formal responsibility for marketing measurement should sit within an organization. I have to fight the urge to just blurt out “Switzerland.”

While I’m not seriously advocating offshoring your marketing, Switzerland has an historic reputation of remaining neutral in international affairs. And when it comes to desirable characteristics for marketing reporting, I’d place neutrality toward the top of the list.

Think about it this way: marketing performance reporting should provide a shared view of what’s really happening. It needs to answer questions like: What can be proven? What can be inferred? What can be learned? What’s going well? What must be changed?

It’s important that marketing’s performance is viewed through an accurate lens. Typically, responsibility for marketing reporting is best held within the marketing operations function; however, we understand that this structure may not currently exist within all organizations. Regardless of whether or not your organization has a strong marketing operations function, here are some principles to follow that will create an environment where effective marketing reporting can be produced:

  • Anticipate scrutiny. Marketing reporting should present facts that may highlight the need for hard decisions around programs, investments, functions or people. The information feeding marketing reporting and fueling decisionmaking must withstand scrutiny. This scrutiny can come from within the marketing organization or from outside functions – but it always comes. So, anticipate the stakes and work to remove biases that will compromise the objectivity of the reporting and cause it to crumble under scrutiny. The best solutions begin with acknowledging that biases can undermine the credibility of marketing reporting, and then working to reduce them.
  • Watch the power structure. Marketing reporting works best when power structures don’t introduce bias. When those responsible for reporting feel vested in all the hard work being done by their colleagues, they tend to look for measures that paint their efforts in the most favorable light. This can be prevalent within regional groups that generate their own reporting. It can also happen when the reporting function answers to marketing functions like field marketing, digital marketing or social media teams. Since the last thing team members want is having to consistently report that their boss isn’t producing the required results, look to actively reduce reporting situations that encourage biases. One advantage to a centralized marketing operations function reporting into the CMO is that it can often resist these functional biases.
  • Avoid cheerleading. Emphasizing accomplishments over insights and glossing over shortcomings isn’t part of the marketing measurement job description. If marketing reporting becomes a cheerleading function, everyone loses. Focus reporting on an agreed-upon collection of facts that represents what truly matters for the business – and put away the pom-poms.
  • Build toward a single version of the truth. Regardless of who gathers data, pre-agreed definitions of what’s important to measure help to keep reporting neutral. Work in advance to develop singular definitions of what the accepted truth is composed of, and stick with them. Objectivity is easier to accept when the ground rules have been established and accepted in advance.