Why you’re not getting credit for your marketing efforts — and how AI can help
Are your exceptional marketing efforts going unnoticed? Explore how AI can help turn the tide in your favor.
“It was a great quarter,” the senior executive said as he raised his glass to toast the winning district sales manager. “You guys did me proud.”
The company had just made its full-year quota in the first half of the year and the champagne was flowing. Everyone was ecstatic about what looked like a banner year — except the marketing manager, who knew the company could have done even better.
For months, the marketing manager had been fighting with the CFO to release funds that would allow her to make real changes to how the company managed content, made offers available and created excitement for the brand.
She had obtained a few dribbles of funding that had been put to good use and helped the sales team make the last quarter. But she knew what she could do only if the CFO would fund an annual budget. She was very tired of the quarterly fight for funding.
No matter how many times she explained how attribution worked or how she could tell that marketing was making a difference, she wasn’t able to convince the bottom-line CFO that what she was doing really mattered. The CFO still had a modified version of the old saying from John Wanamaker rattling around in her head, “I know that half my marketing is working. I just don’t know which half.”
In today’s tight economy, more and more marketing managers face this challenging scenario with their financial overseers. Finance departments have widely adopted this “leaked” funding approach in start-ups and established companies. It gives marketing just enough funding to start a program in a quarter; if the program does not return value in that quarter, it is canceled in the next.
Although most companies consider marketing an essential component of overall success, it is often overlooked or not given the credit it deserves for various reasons. Here are possible explanations for this slight and what can be done to elevate marketing’s position.
Was it the last email, event or offer that contributed to that sale?
Attributing sales to marketing is a challenge. How do you account for all the activities and their accumulative and individual contributions to the sales pipeline?
Even when marketing does manage to attribute their efforts to sales, the attribution will inevitably be challenged. A host of other factors contribute to the sales environment, including:
- Product quality.
- Pricing customer service.
- Overall market demand.
And last is the overall performance of the sales team itself. It can be difficult to isolate the specific contributions of marketing efforts from these other variables, making it harder to quantify marketing’s direct impact on success.
But marketers must try. Proving that individual activities have a return on investment is key and foundational to building credibility with the business. How these metrics are presented, however, makes all the difference.
Marketing may have a dashboard that provides statistics for each activity and they may have a view of activities associated with a particular program. However, the best marketers show all activities from a customer’s perspective and how these activities may be guiding or influencing decisions.
The chart below shows how many of the identified potential audiences are responding to marketing activities. This does not demonstrate ROI but shows a percentage of potential audience addressed, interested and sold. It shows the entire marketing landscape within which decisions are made.
As is shown, individuals may interact with different tactics at different times. Marketing must be constantly available to potential buyers when they become interested in your product — not necessarily when you want to sell it.
Here, for example, if marketing participates in a trade show and showcases its latest product, the metrics should be shown with all the other activities happening simultaneously (i.e., direct marketing, sales calls and web visits).
Painting the overall picture of marketing activity can show results and paint a picture of the entire market landscape in which the events existed. Marketers still must provide metrics such as:
- How many visitors did the show attract?
- How many saw your product demonstration?
- How many email recipients responded to your offer of a demo of the new product either at the show or elsewhere?
- How many substantive conversations with customers or potential customers did sales have at the event?
- What is the potential value of sales to these customers?
- How did the event drive potential customers to the website?
- What was the engagement time for those who visited your site?
Showing an ROI for a tradeshow event should include all the possible activities that contributed. In addition, it should be shown as an event that continues to produce well after the actual show.
Marketing is the effect of message accumulation over time
But how do you measure messaging that contributes over time? Start by measuring the same things at consistent intervals.
Because marketing’s primary goal is to build brand awareness, shape customer perspectives and cultivate customer relationships, these goals take time to yield tangible results. Just as a trade show or a well-placed article in an industry magazine does not immediately sell a product, marketing does not immediately produce sales.
In contrast, other factors like financial performance or operational efficiency may have more immediate and visible impacts on a company’s success. As a result, the long-term benefits of marketing activities may be undervalued or overlooked, especially when looking at one point.
Success is rarely achieved alone or solely due to marketing efforts
True success often requires a collective effort from various departments within a company, including product development, operations, sales, customer service and finance.
Since success is seen as a team accomplishment, credit may be shared across multiple functions. This often leads to marketing’s contribution being overshadowed, like the scenario of a blowout quarter depicted at the beginning of this article.
For example, goals set jointly by sales and marketing and measured together give credit to the team. There will always be the “most valuable players” who brought in the mega-deal from sales. But even in the Super Bowl, each of the winners on the team gets a ring. Marketing and sales need to understand this dynamic and reward the team effort.
Dig deeper: How to align B2B sales and marketing teams
Perception is often an unwanted reality
Because marketing is often associated with advertising, promotions and brand building, the contribution is seen as “fluffy” or less tangible than other business functions. This perception can lead to a devaluation of marketing’s strategic importance and a lack of recognition for its impact on a company’s success. How do you counter these perceptions?
First, you must acknowledge that perception is real and then research exactly how this perception is affecting marketing’s recognition. Perceptions are best dealt with by raising a mirror to the overall image.
Greet the perception head-on, acknowledge it and then portray how you would like to change it. Market your marketing. And remember that changing people’s minds is difficult. You want to start with changing their perception of the situation and let them do the work of changing their minds.
Does data really drive insights?
Often, organizations have a lack of data to prove marketing’s success. With advertising, for example, it’s always been difficult to pinpoint which ad in which place caught the buyer’s attention. In some cases, marketing teams may struggle to measure and communicate the results of their efforts effectively. Without robust data and analytical tools to demonstrate the impact of marketing campaigns, it becomes challenging to showcase the direct contribution of marketing to a company’s success.
Remember, however, that it’s not a tool that drives an understanding of data. The real factor in driving insights is those who understand both the customers’ wants and needs and how your product satisfies those. Too often, marketers use a spreadsheet or a CRM tool to gather “insights” about their market and marketing efforts. Data doesn’t drive insights — insights are derived from looking at all aspects of the data.
For example, your weekly marketing reports show that your recent press release drove an uptick in the number of visitors to your website — or at least that’s what it seems like. However, an energetic intern has pointed out that one of your engineers has written a blog published in the same time frame.
The blog was slightly controversial and generated thousands of comments from employees and customers. The blog is not a marketing tactic. Should marketing take credit for the uptick in visitors?
It’s important to note that the recognition and credit given to marketing can vary across industries, organizations and individuals. Some companies value marketing and acknowledge its role in driving success, while others may have different priorities or perspectives. In both kinds of organizations, marketing has a place and can be greatly aided by new technologies.
Using AI to show marketing’s value
Enter AI. How can a digital algorithm help marketing teams get long-overdue credit for their efforts? Let’s look at five ways AI might help get credit for your marketing efforts.
Customer behavioral patterns
Use AI or machine learning to extract from customer data buying patterns, patterns of returns or patterns of usage. This information is helpful when the business goals are to maintain or expand customer buying or usage.
With marketing campaigns aimed at customers ready to upgrade or buy the next version of your product, marketing can be the primary source of revenue. With the help of AI, marketing can identify the right customers at the right time and present special offers that can clearly be traced back to marketing efforts.
Diversity of messaging
Using customer data, AI algorithms can be built that allow marketers to tailor messaging to specific market segments. The right message can be available for the customer who logs into your website, expresses interest via email or calls your call center.
Algorithms can describe product offerings in various ways depending on the audience. Audience selection and messaging can generate customer interest that could turn into leads.
Also, AI algorithms can determine the best cadence for delivering these messages. Most marketers deliver email messages weekly, monthly or during a particular event. But what if your data analysis shows that a specific delivery cadence generates the most response?
For example, your data may tell you that the best time to message a customer who is up for a support contract renewal is 60 days before expiration. Then, using your AI expertise, you can determine which customers follow the 60-day rule and which vary from it. Delivering messages to customers against their internal time frames generates additional revenue and customer satisfaction.
Content development and delivery
Nearly everyone is familiar with or has used a generative AI tool like ChatGPT. These tools are great for generating bite-sized content that is most attractive to today’s buyers. AI tools can help you turn complex data into digestible insights that benefit your customers.
For example, suppose you are marketing services for arborists, those guys who come around to trim your trees. Your data shows that the next two months are crucial for tree growth in your area.
With the help of a generative AI application, you develop three scenarios for trees in a specific market area. The AI application generates three paragraphs of general information regarding a specific time of the year, September:
1. Evergreen Trees: It’s best to avoid significant pruning evergreen trees in September. Pruning can stimulate new growth, which may not have time to harden off before winter, making the tree vulnerable to frost damage. It’s usually better to prune evergreens in late winter or early spring.
2. Fruit Trees: If you have fruit trees, September can be a good time for light pruning. This helps with fruit production, air circulation and reduces the risk of disease. However, major pruning of fruit trees is typically done in late winter or early spring when the trees are dormant.
3. Deciduous Trees: Many deciduous trees, which shed their leaves in the fall, can be pruned in September when they are still in full foliage. This allows you to better see the tree’s structure and address any issues. Common deciduous trees that might benefit from trimming in September include maples, oaks, elms and birches.
(The above paragraphs were generated by ChatGPT.)
Marketers — armed with an AI application to determine which houses in each area have the most evergreen, fruit and deciduous trees — can then tailor a direct marketing message that provides information to the customer while selling specific tree services. AI can help generate the messaging and deliver it at the right time to the right people.
Reduction of time on repetitive tasks
AI is best known for driving chatbots to accomplish repetitive tasks. Marketers using AI-driven chatbots can save hundreds of hours of tedious work.
Here are a few things that AI chatbots can do for marketing beyond the obvious customer support and service:
- Lead generation and nurturing. Chatbots can engage with website visitors, qualify leads and collect contact information for potential customers. They can initiate conversations, ask qualifying questions and route hot leads to sales teams. Chatbots can also automate lead nurturing sequences, sending follow-up messages and content to prospects based on their previous interactions
- Personalized recommendations. AI-powered chatbots can analyze user behavior and preferences to offer personalized product or content recommendations. This boosts cross-selling and upselling opportunities.
- Content distribution. Chatbots can deliver content such as articles, videos or promotional materials to users based on their interests and interactions. This helps in content marketing and customer education.
- Feedback and surveys. Chatbots can collect feedback and conduct surveys to gather valuable insights into customer opinions and preferences, aiding in marketing strategy refinement.
- A/B testing. Chatbots can facilitate A/B testing by delivering different messages to different users and measuring engagement and conversion rates.
Enhanced data quality
AI algorithms can help with several tasks to enhance customer or marketing data quality. Here are just a few that can be incredibly helpful to customer data managers.
- Data cleansing and deduplication. AI can automatically identify and correct data errors such as missing values, inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Deduplication algorithms can identify duplicate records, determine the most accurate record and merge the information from each into one record.
- Data validation. AI models can easily evaluate entered data against established patterns to ensure consistency. For example, email addresses, phone numbers, postal codes and states can all be managed by AI algorithms to ensure that the information entered is valid.
- Anomaly detection. AI-powered anomaly detection algorithms can identify unusual or outlier data points that may indicate errors or fraud. They can also help detect data quality issues by flagging data points that deviate significantly from the norm.
- Data imputation. AI can predict and fill in missing data points using imputation techniques based on statistical models or machine learning. This helps maintain data completeness and accuracy and provides new data fields for analysis.
- Data standardization. AI can standardize data by converting units of measurement, normalizing date formats or aligning categorizations to ensure that data is consent when analyzed.
Although marketing may still suffer from a lack of recognition for all its efforts, having AI aligned with marketing tasks can add another dimension to marketing and contribute to the overall welfare of the company.
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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.