The Marketing Proof Gap

May 14, 2021 | Chris Kervinen

The Marketing Proof Gap

Age gap, thigh gap, pay gap and even “mind the gap” (as regularly heard on the London tube) these are all probably familiar to you… But the marketing proof gap? Well, probably not something you have been dropping into conversation on a daily basis.

If you are in the marketing business though, it’s actually one of your biggest problems and we finally got a term for it when Mark Hurd used it in his time CEO of HP.

What does marketing proof gap really mean?

Marketing proof gap means the difference between what marketers do and achieve and what the C-suite see of this in the form of empirical evidence.

That’s because providing direct evidence of the value and effect of your work isn’t as easy as it is for other departments. Take sales, for example, if you make a deal, well, it’s self-evident -- things get signed, contracts made or items swapped for money.

If you put an advert out into the world, however, away from online metrics --- do you know what effect it has? Or, importantly, how to show the effect to others? (Yes, this is the marketing equivalent to the age-old question about the tree falling in the woods).

That is where the gap is most damaging, between you and others. Don’t get us wrong, it’s important for yourself too -- you need to feel satisfaction in knowing that what you do is driving great business results, as well as the fact that knowing what does and doesn’t work helps you to make better decisions in the future.

But when others don’t know that your marketing efforts are actually bringing home the bacon, well, then the whole department can be written off as “marketing fluff” and budgets, as well as less concrete but equally important things such as respect, move away in other directions.

We’ve all heard departments such as finance begrudging a hefty marketing budget after all.

Other issues that the marketing proof gap causes:

  • Erratic budgets
  • Budgets spread too thin
  • Distrust or resentment between departments

The thing is, it’s not that marketing value can’t be proven, it can, it’s just that it poses a lot of issues -- time-lag, traceability, knowing where to attribute value, not knowing or understanding the others factors at play. It’s not simple stuff, which meant for a long time that people simply didn’t do it.

And it’s not even always the case that you don’t have the metrics to show, it can sometimes be a case of misalignment between departments about what metrics actually matter.

But now two things have changed:

  1. Technology.

    To be fair, it’s changed a lot of stuff, including our inability to watch TV with scrolling at the same time. But for marketing, it’s also been a game-changer. We are much more able to track what we are doing, analyse the results and hand it over as proof to the people that matter (so the ones doling out the budget basically).

This is largely and specifically due to technology that is able to accurately measure marketing ROI, because, let’s face it, business is financially driven and often the thing you need to prove is what part your efforts are playing on the bottom line.

It's the difference between saying “By investing X€ for this Instagram campaign we got a 1,000 new Instagram followers and our engagement rose by Z%” and ”By investing X€ to this Instagram campaign we got Z€ more sales, resulting a ROMI of 250% for this channel" . Same marketing activity, huge difference in how impressive that marketing activity is deemed to be.

  1. The power and ease of this technology (ok, so this is kind of a subset of number 1 but it’s still important).

When technology first enabled this sort of activity it was slow and laborious and often even done manually with things like… *shudders* excel… but now, not only is it better, faster and more powerful, but the more data you have (which before meant more work), the more insightful it can be and the better you look to your boss.

So, maybe you didn't really know that the marketing proof gap is a thing, but now that you do, let’s make it a thing of the past:

First of all, get stakeholder buy-in!

As with any big (but worthwhile) project, you need everyone on board. And when you really think about it, it only makes sense — tracking congruent metrics has benefits that stretch beyond the marketing department (oh hey Sales and Finance, we’re talking about you) so they should be involved from the start. By talking to other areas of the business about their needs and wishes you can better decide what the outputs your new venture should be in order to have multiple use cases.

Speak to IT

As a general, day-to-day rule, we always recommend having IT on side. Those guys hold a lot of office power — such as the ability to keep you at the bottom of a waitlist when your computer crashes. And with a project that has a lot to do with data and analytics coming up, then being in their favour is even more important. Start talking to your IT department and analysts early so you can reserve their time before things get started.

Get your data in order

We’ve talked about a lot of the great stuff that getting rid of the marketing proof gap can do for you. But guess what? It does require something from you too. And that’s data. But not just any data you find laying around in one of those… *shudders again* legacy excels… that your predecessors have used to explain the results in the stone a— in the past.

No, data that is in good shape at a granular level. We’re talking about every sales transaction and marketing activity from at least the past 2-3 years. In fact, both data cleanliness and granularity will lead to more reliable results. And while it can be a little painful at the start, you’ll thank yourself later.

You do all this, get some new friends while discovering there’s life outside the silos and take the ring to Mount Doom, then what? You can’t just give the data away, after all the trouble it has become so, so precious.

Now you’ll need to decide whether you have the resources and capabilities to work it out yourself, or do you need to take it outside.

In-house data analytics

This approach usually includes basic to intermediate level sales modelling (depending on how many resources you are able to put behind it) and can range from a Marketing Manager looking at the correlation between sales data and different marketing activities, to an inhouse data science team building models that will more accurately attribute sales uplifts to the relevant marketing activities.

This approach can work for both small to large companies depending where on the resources scale you choose to land.

Of course, having your own in-house team means your resource is focused (no vendor dependency) but it is also a big investment in terms of both time and finances. A whole Data Scientist team doesn’t come cheap.

External media agency

Commissioning an agency to do the modelling can be an alternative to building your own inhouse team. Not only do they tend to have specialists with years of experience but it also cuts down the lead time for the project since they have the resources in place ready to go.

However, it also decreases the transparency of the modelling since some data may be restricted when shared without outsider parties. For example, margin data may be held back for security issues. Additionally, the brightest stars within these agencies are usually great at planning and executing amazing marketing campaigns.

They know people from all media houses, they have the vision about the campaign before you do, and they excel at managing the campaign. But the top-of-the-class analytics requires data science, which is its own art form. The result? A less accurate picture.

Bonus option: Sellforte Marketing Analytics Software as a Service

As the name implies this is software developed solely with ROMI modelling in mind and it continues to develop constantly, with machine learning models providing exponentially more power and more insight, trumping the human-driven inhouse teams and external agencies in both lead time and cost-effectiveness.

This AI-powered software is able to analyse millions of rows of data (a task that has been previously possible for only the top tier consulting agencies) by implementing advanced modelling technique, Bayesian modelling (this method is also embraced by Google, which tends to be quite advanced when it comes to analytics).

However, technology of this power is best suited to large companies (>100M€ yearly turnover) since they are the ones likely to have the amount of data to really make use of it and deliver the results needed to justify the monthly fee.

Feel free to look further -> Overview of our product

So there you have it, the reason why your promotion keeps on waiting itself and how to get a step ahead.

Curious to learn more? Book a demo.


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