The Five Stages of Marketing Accountability

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Posted: August 12, 2007 | Marketing Metrics

The five stages of Marketing Accountability are:

1. Denial

“Marketing is an art, not a science. It can’t be measured. The results will come, trust me!”

At first, the CMO may deny the need to be accountable for results. Becoming stuck in this stage often leads to Marketing’s isolation from other departments and executives.

2. Fear

“What if my marketing activities don’t impact the bottom line? Will I lose my job?”

Taking on accountability can be scary, especially since you don’t really know how well marketing is doing. Marketing accountability is a double-edged sword, shining a bright light on poor performance as well as good performance. Some CMOs may be tempted to avoid accountability just to avoid facing which category they are really in.

3. Confusion

“I know I should measure marketing results, but I just don’t know how.”

The CMO knows that marketing accountability is inevitable, but the path to achieve it remains hidden. Basic metrics such as tracking lead source and cost per lead are put in place, but there is no holistic understanding of how marketing activities impact key bottom line metrics.

4. Self-Promotion

“Hey, come look at all these charts and graphs!”

In a desperate attempt to appear accountable, Marketing measures everything that can be (easily) measured — from website page views to press release downloads to search engine rankings. These CMOs proudly display their results and claim marketing accountability. However, although these metrics are important, there is no explicit connection between them and hard metrics like pipeline, revenue, and profit. The result is a focus on soft marketing KPIs instead of hard revenue growth, on short-term ROI over long-term marketing accountability. Inevitably, this leads to a perception that marketing is a cost center, not a revenue-producing asset.

5. Accountability

“Revenue starts in marketing.”

This is when Marketing truly finds its place at the front of a single revenue pipeline, when marketing stops being a cost center and starts to justify marketing spending as an investment in revenue and growth. This is when the CMO can act and talk like a true CxO-level executive, measuring and forecasting their impact on metrics that matter to the CEO and CFO. This is when marketing truly earns a seat at the revenue table.

Getting to this final stage of marketing accountability is not easy for any organization. It requires top-level commitment, discipline, and investment in the right systems and tools. It can also require a rethinking of marketing incentives and compensation. The journey may not be easy, but the results—in terms of respect and impact on the organization—are clearly worth it for any marketing team.

So, what stage are you and your organization in?

Related Resources

Jon (@jonmiller) is a VP and co-founder at Marketo. He is the author of multiple Definitive Guides including Marketing Automation, Engaging Email Marketing, and Marketing Metrics & Analytics. In 2010, The CMO Institute named Jon a Top 10 CMO for companies under $250 million revenue. Jon holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard College and has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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The Five Stages of Marketing Accountability

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