5 failure points of a marketing measurement plan — and how to fix them

Set up your marketing campaigns for success with a well-thought-out measurement plan. Here's what to consider when creating one.

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I’ve sat through countless meetings where someone has a kernel of an idea for the marketing team, and within a few minutes, it’s a full-blown campaign. Everyone is ready to make things happen.

But with all this buzz and excitement, a key component is almost always missed — a measurement plan. Measurement tends to be an afterthought. You just spent all the time, energy and creativity putting your campaign together. Don’t you want to be 100% sure you know the impact on your business so you can do it again?

A measurement plan is more than numbers in a spreadsheet. It’s a story, a narrative and a decision-making tool. You should always make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. To do that, let’s walk through where things can go wrong — the five failure points — and how to fix them.

What are the five failure points of a measurement plan?

When a measurement plan fails, it’s for one of two reasons:

  • You cannot make decisions with the data.
  • You’re trying to make too many decisions with the data.

When putting together a measurement plan, think about how you will take action with the data, not only collecting the data. Because it’s “just” a measurement plan, teams tend to skip requirements gathering. Even saying “requirements gathering” can illicit a shudder. Why? 

Requirements gathering is (incorrectly) viewed as a tedious process that is a barrier to taking action. But it doesn’t have to be. At the very least, you should be able to answer five questions:

  • Purpose. What is the question you’re trying to answer?
  • People. Who are the stakeholders and what do they care about?
  • Process. How are you collecting your data and maintaining integrity?
  • Platform. What tools are you using to Collect, Analyze and Report?
  • Performance. How do you know if you created the right plan(s)?

The more of these questions you can answer, the less likely your measurement plan will fail.

Failure point 1: Purpose

Why is the purpose a failure point? Because quite often, we don’t define the question we’re trying to answer. Conversely, we’re trying to answer too many questions and a single measurement plan isn’t going to do it.

You want to start with a user story. A user story is a simple statement with three parts that answer five questions.

“As a [persona], I [want to], so [that].”

The statement is your purpose.

  • The [persona] tells you who the people are.
  • The [want to] tells you the process and platform.
  • The [that] tells you the performance.

The challenge is that when thinking about or writing a user story, many stop when they get to [want to].

For example: As a [marketing manager], I want to [measure my campaigns].

There is no “so that”. Why does the marketing manager want to measure their campaigns? What decision can you make with the data? What happens if the outcomes aren’t as expected? What will the team do if the results show overperformance?

The flip side of that is giving people their purpose. When you lack purpose, your people don’t know what to do or why. We all want to know why we’re asked to do something. It gives us a sense of purpose. Share your user stories with your team so they can understand what you need. In return, they take ownership of reaching the outcome.

A measurement plan is only as good as its purpose. If there is no point, no purpose, no decision, the numbers are just that, numbers in a spreadsheet. If nothing else, make sure you and your team are clear on the purpose of the measurement plan.

Failure point 2: People

People are a failure point for a couple of reasons. The first one is that they don’t know what they want. They aren’t focused. Giving the plan a purpose helps to reign in distractions. The next reason is they don’t know why they are being asked. 

As stated above, giving people a purpose gives them the why and gives them a sense of ownership. The last reason is that they weren’t asked in the first place. How do you ask people what they want?

Take the original user story that sets the purpose and have each person involved create their own version. This will give you a better understanding of what they need from their perspective.

“As a [persona], I [want to], [so that].”

The “persona” being your stakeholder, the “want to” being the intent and the “so that” being the outcome. 

For example:

  • As a CMO, I want to understand which channels are performing, so that I know which channels are driving revenue. 
  • As a marketing manager, I want to understand which channels are performing, so that I know where to assign budget and resources.
  • As an analyst, I want to understand which channels are performing, so that I know where to focus my voice of customer analysis.

If we go back to the information we get from a user story, we see that the process and platform in each of these are the same, but the purpose and performance of the data are different.

One of the ways to handle this with your measurement plan is the output of the plan itself. This is where you’re starting to get into the process. Set up individual dashboards for each stakeholder. You’re using the same data, just telling a different story depending on the audience.

An additional failure point of people is keeping the audience too narrow. Some companies want to or are required to share data externally. Some teams use the data for sales and marketing purposes. Other teams may use the data for regulatory purposes. Make sure you’re creating user stories from those perspectives as well.

Failure point 3: Process

A lack of process, rather than the process itself, tends to be the failure point. To have a successful measurement plan, you need to have a process for how you’re going to collect, analyze and report your data. A good starting place is the 6 Cs of data quality These are:

  • Clean. Data is prepared well and free of errors.
  • Complete. No missing information.
  • Comprehensive. Data must cover the questions asked.
  • Chosen. No irrelevant or confusing data.
  • Credible. Data is collected in a valid way.
  • Calculable. Data must be workable and usable by business users.

You’ll also want to know the frequency of the data collection. Is it a one-time pull to see what happened, or are you setting up something daily for a longer period of time? This is an opportunity to introduce automation into your measurement plan. 

As you’re defining your processes, think about short and long-term solutions. If you need to start with a manual data pull and analysis, that’s acceptable. But consider automating your processes to cut down on errors and time spent.

By not knowing all the touch points of your data, the quality of your data and the frequency of your data, your measurement plan will fail. Asking these questions upfront will help prevent that failure.

Digging deeper into the process is knowing how you’ll share the data. Do you need a deck, a spreadsheet, a dashboard, or something else? If you don’t know, circle back to your user stories and people. Setting expectations up front for how you will present the data will also dictate how you collect and store the data. This then starts to inform the platforms you’ll use.

Failure point 4: Platform

With over 11,000 martech platforms to choose from, your purpose and your user stories will help you narrow down the choices.

The platforms you choose can be a failure point for a few reasons: 

  • We choose too many. We try to jam all our data from all our platforms into one single report. This tactic requires a lot of processes around data cleaning and transformation. 
  • We choose the wrong platforms, with the wrong data. You could head in the wrong direction by not stepping back to understand the purpose of your measurement plan. For example, Google Analytics is a standard tool in marketing, everyone knows what it is, and most marketers use it. It comes along for the ride by default. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right platform for your analysis. Look at your goals and user stories. That will tell you which platforms to pick. Google Analytics might not have a role in your measurement plan at all.

If you’re overwhelmed and unsure where to start, you need three basic platforms:

  • One to collect your data.
  • One to analyze your data.
  • One to report your data.

You can start with the basics and build from there.

Another failure point of a measurement plan is making it all-encompassing. What would it look like if you had multiple measurement plans?

Your user stories are like chapters in a book. They all work together to tell the same story, but they also exist independently from each other. This tactic will allow for more platforms and more user stories. You don’t need to jam all the data onto a single, confusing page.

Failure point 5: Performance

In this context, performance is whether or not you made the right plan, not if the campaign was successful. This is where you check your homework before you turn it in.

This step, like the ones above, is easy to skip. You made the plan, set up the spreadsheet and you’re done, right? A better plan is to walk back through the first four Ps:

  • Purpose. Did you answer the original question?
  • People. Did you meet those user story requirements to answer the question?
  • Process. Did you create a repeatable process to answer the question?
  • Platform. Did you use the right one(s) to answer the question?

Before getting ahead of yourself and running campaigns, ensure you have a plan to measure your progress beyond a simple spreadsheet. Setting up your reporting templates, dashboards, processes and expectations ahead of time will save you a lot of hassle in the long run. 

Whether it’s end-of-year planning or just starting a new mid-month campaign, you can follow the 5Ps to set yourself up for success. Requirements gathering might feel excessive for a measurement plan, but it doesn’t need to be exhaustive.

If nothing else, make sure you can answer these five basic questions:

  • What is the purpose of this plan?
  • Who are the people involved in this plan?
  • What is the process to ensure we can execute this plan?
  • What are the platforms needed for this plan?
  • What is the performance metric that helps you know you’re successful?

If you can’t answer these questions, go back to the beginning. Start with a user story and build on your requirements from there. You’ll have a rock-solid measurement plan in no time. 


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Katie Robbert
Katie Robbert is an authority on compliance, governance, change management, agile methodologies, and dealing with high-stakes, “no mistakes” data. As CEO of Trust Insights, she oversees the growth of the company, manages operations and product commercialization, and sets overall strategy. Her expertise includes strategic planning, marketing operations management, organizational behavior and market research and analysis. Prior to co-founding Trust Insights, she built and grew multi-million dollar lines of business in the marketing technology, pharmaceutical, and healthcare industries. Ms. Robbert led teams of Microsoft Partner Software Engineers to build industry-leading research software to address and mitigate pharmaceutical abuse. Ms. Robbert holds a Master of Science degree in Marketing and Technological Innovation. She is a published researcher in the Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety Journal. She is the Corporate Community Manager and Ambassador for Women In Analytics.

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