Why achieving marketing accountability is harder than it seems

marketing accountability

By Avtar Ram Singh, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen an interesting and encouraging trend in the marketing and advertising industry. There’s a clear demand for higher accountability from marketing teams.

In my initial conversation with every marketing team, I often hear a version of the statement, “We’re accountable for greater business outcomes every year, and our remit has been constantly growing.”

It’s often said with a smile and a splash of pride, but behind that obviously positive emotion there is often an underlying thinly-veiled sentiment – dread.

Digital – The Great Problem Solver

As more marketing teams adopt a greater undertaking in digital marketing, they’re put under immediate pressure to show results, because isn’t that what digital is all about?

There’s content floating around on the internet that claims that digital marketing is a daily undertaking and that results are immediate and completely trackable.

There’s not a lot wrong with those claims, but what is immediately trackable varies greatly for organizations. e-Commerce companies can (and should) track revenue and order growth on a daily and weekly basis, because the nature of their business allows for them to do so.

But if Porsche decided to track how many Cayennes are sold each day via their marketing on Twitter, the marketing team is put in… well, a difficult spot, to say the least.

With digital, because the consumer journey is supposedly contained within an ecosystem that promises the ability to track each engagement at every touchpoint, the accountability to optimize that journey to the required end-state has become paramount.

Accountability in a Silo

But while there has been a greater demand of accountability, in most organizations it is also been mandated in a silo. Marketers have been told to be more accountable to business outcomes because they’re running social media pages and have access to Google Analytics on the company’s website.

Okay fine. I exaggerate, but only slightly.

Greater accountability is seldom accompanied by better connectivity in the organization. The sales team’s data and processes aren’t made transparent and available, the operations team isn’t connected with the marketing team for a weekly update on comments and complaints from customers (that might be overlooked), and the marketing team isn’t given a greater budget, or greater flexibility in achieving their goals.

It seems obvious, and many organizations claim to do so, but the implementation is often flawed and skewed against the marketing team, purely because of one simple reason.

They aren’t given greater authority.

Greater Accountability Must be Followed by Increased Authority

If marketing teams are given greater accountability, it is almost a given that it should be followed by increasing their level of authority in the organization.

Take for example:

  • If the marketing team is tasked with increasing the number of daily orders, they must be given access to inventory data to know what to push, and what not to push. Conversely, a communication pipeline needs to be opened with the purchasing department to inform them of what the marketing team feels will be in high demand in the coming weeks, and dictate the level of stock that should be kept. This is a lot harder to do than it sounds.
  • If the marketing team is tasked with increasing the conversion rate of website visitors, they must be given a flexible budget to achieve this task, which shouldn’t be hindered by organizational structure or purchase policies. If the marketing department feels that they need to hire a freelance website designer for six months to test different layouts, they should be allowed to do so without having to make a case for it. If they feel they need to invest the entire budget in four different kinds of tools that make tracking easier on the website, then that decision should be left to them.
  • If the marketing team is tasked with up-selling products to existing consumers, they should be given access to current purchase and sales level data in the organization, a free communication channel with the sales and product teams, and the ability to inform the approach around discounts and packaging products together.

The above scenarios seem obvious. A few people are perhaps working in organizations where this is commonplace, and it seems like everyone should be doing it. But a resounding majority will feel that in the first place, this should most definitely be done, and secondly, it is a lot harder than it sounds.

For the above scenarios, here’s what happens most often:

  • Marketing is asked to increase the number of daily orders, in a silo. They’re told which products to push, and what kind of promotions they should be running and pushing. End of story.
  • Increase the conversion rate of website visitors with the team that you have. At most, you’re given a greater paid media budget to drive more traffic from Facebook and Google, but the incremental traffic expected is not proportionate to the percentage increase in budget. Optimize.
  • Up-sell products to existing customers based on the directives given by the sales teams. The most profitable product or segment to have consumers in is X, so push X, regardless of the demand or requirements from the consumer.

Playing the Victim isn’t a Solution

Now of course, playing the victim in marketing is easy.

We’re not given access to the right data. Or the right people. Or the ability to make the right decisions. But that’s because we’re currently in a system where that has always been the case.

In many organizations, marketing has operated in a silo and in the past, it has often worked. But due to the increasing complexity of how business is done, the integrated way in which departments within an organization today work, and the level of impact marketing teams can have on processes and the way work can be done, it is integral for us to find a way to get involved.

If it takes making a case, then so be it. That’s what this article is meant to be.

Would you rather make a case for having greater authority and the ability to make decisions, or make a case every single time for every single marketing decision you make?

avtar-profileAvtar Ram Singh is the Head of Strategy at FALCON Agency, a performance-led, business results oriented marketing agency that operates in South East Asia. He’s built marketing strategies and performance frameworks for brands on global and regional levels, across a variety of industries. You can find him on LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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