The Five Stages of Marketing Accountability

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by: Jon Miller

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. Anger

"You just don't understand how marketing works. Why is marketing held to a higher standard than everyone else?"

The CMO may become angry at the CEO and board as well as co-workers in Finance and Sales that are forcing them become accountable. Or, they may become angry at themselves and their teams for their inability to measure results.

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?

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