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Aligning marketing with business outcomes: A guide to speaking in business metrics for marketers

In a world overflowing with data, there's a stark difference between metrics that just sound good and metrics that resonate in the boardroom. For marketers, high impression numbers or skyrocketing click-through rates might paint a picture of success. Yet, when the Quarterly Business Review rolls around, and it's time to justify budget allocation, these metrics can feel insubstantial.

Why? Because while they hint at potential, they often don't directly correlate with business impact. It's time we, as marketers, shift our focus from surface-level metrics to those that underline genuine business value and growth.

The disconnection of traditional metrics Channel-focused metrics like impressions, clicks, and even conversions are fantastic for understanding user behaviour on a micro-level. But when we step into the boardroom, these figures can seem abstract. The question echoing from the top leadership often is, "But how does this affect our bottom line?"

The paradigm shift: Embracing business metrics To echo the language of business leaders, marketers must pivot towards metrics that reflect tangible business outcomes:

  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): This reveals the total worth of a customer over the duration of their relationship with a business. A high CLV suggests successful retention strategies, while a lower one might indicate missed opportunities for upselling or reselling.

  • Cost Per Acquisition (CPA): How much does it cost to acquire a customer? This metric shines a light on the efficiency of marketing campaigns and strategies.

  • Time to Value (TTV): This measures how quickly a customer realises value from a product or service post-purchase, which can impact satisfaction and retention rates.

  • EBITDA & YoY Growth: EBITDA shows a company's operating performance, while YoY growth provides a clear picture of the trajectory a company is on.

Speaking the C-Suite language: Tangible business outcomes How do we showcase our marketing value in terms that matter to the decision-makers? By presenting evidence:

  • Customer evidence: Use testimonials, case studies, and retention rates to showcase satisfied customers.

  • Revenue evidence: Track and display how marketing directly or indirectly drives revenue growth.

  • Risk reduction evidence: Highlight how marketing strategies minimise business risks, like diversifying customer bases or entering new markets.

  • Brand evidence: Display brand health metrics, sentiment analysis, and brand recognition studies to demonstrate growth in brand value.

  • Intangible engagement evidence: Indicators such as average deal size or the number of marketing-qualified accounts can provide insights into the quality of leads and potential revenue.

From theory to practice: Brands making an impact with business metrics

Understanding the importance of business metrics is just one part of the equation. Implementing them successfully and deriving tangible results is the true testament to their significance. Some of the world's most renowned brands have harnessed these metrics not just to validate their marketing strategies but to drive them. Let's delve into a few illustrative examples of companies that have masterfully aligned their marketing efforts with business-focused metrics, showcasing the profound impact this alignment can have on organizational growth and brand stature.

Adobe's CLV transformation Adobe once relied heavily on upfront software purchases. As the industry evolved, they transitioned to a subscription model (Adobe Creative Cloud). This change required a new approach to customer metrics. Adobe now had to focus on Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) to understand the long-term value of subscribers. By emphasising CLV, Adobe tailored its marketing strategies to boost retention, ensuring subscribers stayed engaged and renewed their subscriptions. This shift not only led to consistent revenue streams but also fostered a more loyal customer base.

Airbnb and Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) Airbnb faced fierce competition. To stand out, they needed to acquire users efficiently. By focusing on their CPA, Airbnb initiated referral programmes, incentivising users to bring in friends. This reduced their CPA considerably as referral leads often come at a lower cost than those from paid ads. The result? A win-win where the platform grew rapidly, and users earned credits for future travels.

Slack’s Time to Value (TTV) Slack recognised the importance of TTV. They knew that users who experienced the value of Slack quickly were more likely to upgrade to a paid plan. To minimise the TTV, Slack implemented an onboarding process with prompts, tutorials, and templates. This not only educated users but ensured they saw immediate value in the platform. As a result, conversions from free to paid users saw a significant boost.

HubSpot's intangible engagement evidence HubSpot heavily relies on 'Inbound Marketing'. They focus on metrics like average deal size and Marketing Qualified Leads. For instance, by analysing which content formats (webinars, e-books, blogs) generate leads with the highest potential deal size, HubSpot can refine its content strategy, ensuring that they not only attract a high number of leads but also leads that are more likely to convert to high-value sales.

In summary The landscape of marketing is continuously evolving, driven by technological advancements and shifting consumer behaviours. Amidst this dynamic environment, staying anchored to channel-focused metrics alone can leave marketers navigating without a true north. Aligning marketing metrics with business outcomes not only ensures that marketers are attuned to organisational objectives but also paves the way for more informed and strategic decision-making.

As seen from industry giants like Adobe, Airbnb, and Slack, this alignment is more than just a theoretical concept, it's a proven strategy that fosters sustainable growth and strengthens brand positioning in the market. Emphasising metrics like CLV, CPA, and TTV, among others, provides a holistic view of marketing's impact, beyond just surface-level engagement.

For marketers aspiring to ascend in their careers and drive impactful change, embracing this shift is not just beneficial, it's imperative. In doing so, they not only prove the value of their campaigns in terms the C-suite can appreciate, but they also lay the foundation for marketing to be viewed as a strategic partner in an organisation's overarching mission.

As we look towards the future, let this be our call to action: to champion metrics that resonate, to foster collaboration across departments, and to continually align our marketing strategies with the broader vision of business growth and success.



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