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Building an Action-Oriented Scorecard

Every engagement with Element encompasses a scorecard. For our team, the scorecard operates as a way to evaluate whether the story we are telling and the strategy we are deploying is working well, poorly, or somewhere between. However, one of the most common things we hear in the sales process is a disconnect between the data our clients are able to gather and what they wish they could evaluate. This disconnect can come from misalignment internally, misallocated projects in relation to the desired outcomes, or the technology infrastructure available to actually gather and report on the data. Another huge one? Trying to measure everything in a quantitative way, even when a qualitative agreement on what constitutes “good” would be far more effective.

Given this backdrop, it has become clear that education around the development of an action-oriented scorecard is needed in the marketing realm. Let’s dive in.

Build from the business-level down

In their quest to prove return on investment, many marketers focus scorecards on classic performance metrics—things like traffic, conversion rates on ads or specific website pages, and of course, marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, and sales accepted leads. It’s an understandable place to begin. It tries to tie marketing directly to revenue—but that only works in a closed-loop system, and oftentimes neglects today's multi-touch environment, giving too much credit to outdated attribution models.

However, due to the sheer ability to measure, there is often a disconnect between business objectives and what marketing is reporting back. In order to solve this, it’s helpful to think in layers.

Begin by truly understanding what is on the scorecard of your leadership team. The easiest way to get this insight is to ask the executive marketing representative what metrics they own on the leadership scorecard. For example, a performance-oriented VP of Marketing may be responsible for a specific percentage of all revenue growth for the business. In this case, marketing’s number one priority will be to aid in that objective. Once you have alignment with leadership and an understanding of what marketing will be held accountable to at the executive level, you can bring that objective down to a department-level scorecard.

Individual metrics

Keeping with our example above, there are many ways marketing can show the impact on a business’s revenue growth and will depend on your business model. If you are a high-volume e-commerce company, metrics such as unique visitors on your website, bounce rate, and the way visitors are interacting with your CTAs throughout the website can be useful data to collect. Conversely, if you operate in a long cycle, highly consultative sales organization, you will be more focused on things that indicate you are establishing your team as thought leaders. This scorecard could have metrics such as speaking engagements and earned media coverage.

Just be sure to pick the right metric for the right job. If you're looking for brand awareness (or awareness with new audiences) then metrics like impressions, referral traffic, and social media engagement actually matter. But don't judge a channel or tactic outside of its purpose—it may be worthwhile to know the conversion rate of social media, or how many last-touch attributed leads it generated, but if that's not the point of the channel, then don't force it or judge it as a failure if it doesn't perform in that way.

Going one step deeper, each marketing initiative will have steps along the way to ensure progress is being made toward the higher-level goal. While it feels great to set the big goal of specific revenue growth, that dopamine-surged good feeling will not get you any closer to realizing the goal. Day-to-day execution of a plan will.

Once you have developed a department-level scorecard that shows marketing’s contribution to the organization’s objective, you can bring those main priorities into even smaller steps that can be tracked on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Speaking engagements do not appear out of thin air, so how will the department create those opportunities? Answer that question, and then build the scorecard which holds your team accountable for the actions needed to move closer to the goal.

Adapt the scorecard as more information comes in

Two things get in the way of action-oriented measurement: 1) people lack the belief that what they are tracking is actually important, and 2) the scorecard isn’t updated enough to stay relevant. Solving this truly comes down to being honest with yourself. When you tackle a new initiative, it is likely that you will not have complete clarity regarding the appropriate things to measure in order to move toward your goal. Be honest about this with your team, and with yourself. After a period of time (at least one quarter) if the action you’re measuring isn’t proving to be impactful change it. Nothing kills the desire to track like not adapting based on the information you’re obtaining.

Second, when priorities shift for the organization, the scorecard needs to change as well. It is likely that there will be consistent metrics on your scorecard. For example, at Element Three we have measured the weighted average value of our pipeline every week since I’ve been here. That’s, at the time of writing, well over 250 weeks of information. However, many other metrics have moved in and out of my personal and department level scorecard throughout the years. Keeping an eye on when metrics no longer serve a purpose is important in ensuring the efficacy and actualization of the scorecard in the long run.

Now, don't make sweeping generalizations or large decisions based on incomplete information. An email open rate or conversion rate is applicable to just that—email. It doesn't mean email is the most effective tactic. It's just the most effective one you can see right now. "Good data in, good data out" is a great rule to follow, but even when you know your channel data is great, that doesn't make it a complete picture. It takes months, sometimes years, to craft this appropriately, especially in complex organizations. Don't short-change it—stay committed and invest—and you'll be rewarded. In the meantime, treat channel-related metrics as just that.

The scorecard needs to serve you and your organization

In general, marketers are constantly looking for ways to showcase the return on investment for the projects undertaken. After all, business leadership is going to be looking to understand what the money spent on marketing has led to in bottom-line impact. However, this constant focus on numbers has created a world in which scorecards have become self-serving leverage makers. An internal marketer wants to show how many leads were generated from marketing so they can get more budget approved next year - but marketing was focusing on brand awareness and creating a clear position in the marketplace. Executive leadership doesn’t understand the relationship between the numbers being shown in a presentation about the impact marketing played for the organization, so they just end up frustrated. We need to return to a place where there is alignment among all stakeholders - internal team, external partner, and leadership - about what success looks like for marketing at any given time. Using scorecards to force that alignment can be a hugely valuable opportunity for your business.

Joe Mills Team Photo at Element Three

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” This advice has served Joe well as he’s worn many hats throughout his career–from college soccer player to marketing expert to Business Development Manager. He’s passionate about using big ideas to build mutually beneficial partnerships, because “to help yourself is to help others.”