Lenskold Article Series

by Jim Lenskold

Change the Culture to Change Marketing ROI Success

Most marketing executives know that with better insight into how current marketing is performing and what is driving (or not driving) marketing effectiveness, they can deliver greater impact with better use of marketing resources. With information available on best practices, numerous success stories, and increased pressure from the CEO and CFO, why are many marketing organizations so slow to adopt marketing ROI and measurement practices? Blame a combination of cultural inertia that inhibits change and artful dodgers who manage to avoid accountability.


Overcoming this significant barrier of organizational culture requires CMOs and marketing executives to understand what drives different types of players in the marketing organization to adopt marketing ROI practices. For example, you need to know what to do with your Champions and how to keep Artful Dodgers and Cynics from derailing your progress. Stakeholders outside of marketing also need to be on board to contribute their expertise to enabling marketing ROI measurements and management.

Prepare for Each Role within the Marketing Organization

If you want to truly improve the financial contribution of strategies and tactical campaigns, the marketing organization must adopt practices for better measurements and ROI analyses. Marketing ROI capabilities can range from basic steps that individuals can take to organization-wide transformations that involve several stakeholders.


Success is dependent on understanding how to manage:


Players within Marketing

  • Champion
  • Sponsor
  • Followers
  • Artful Dodgers
  • Cynics

Supporting Organizations

  • Sales
  • Analytics
  • IT/Operations
  • Agencies
  • C-Suite Executives

Not much happens without a marketing ROI Champion.

As with any significant change initiative, there must be a champion who is willing to motivate action. The champion is someone who is passionate about the potential benefits and wants to push new boundaries to improve marketing performance.


There are three ways that the first steps toward marketing ROI can get underway:


  1. The champion is empowered by executives to rally a team and lead the adoption for the organization.
  2. The champion will work independently to achieve their own small-scale success and eventually either gain visibility to win executive support or build grass-roots support to spread success across the organization.
  3. Executives will mandate that the marketing organization improve their accountability and, without a champion, the organization will move slowly and less effectively toward a basic level of capability.

Clearly, the best option is to find and empower a champion within the organization.


Executive Sponsors drive the scale and speed of adoption.

The ideal situation is where executives within marketing or at the C-level establish a vision for a high-performing, results-driven organization and align the stakeholders to implement change. Sponsors are in the best position to set priorities, bring key stakeholders together, fund required resources, and shift the culture at a faster pace than a Champion’s grass-roots efforts.


If this role is missing in the organization, the Champions must demonstrate how marketing ROI and measurements provide opportunities to align marketing to business objectives, delivering measured results and increased profits.


Momentum and proven processes provide a path for Followers.

When it comes to new processes, adding a quantitative function to marketing, and addressing first-time challenges, you may not find many in marketing fighting for that Champion role. There will be plenty of “Followers” who will take the “wait and see” attitude as others forge ahead.

What is necessary to prepare this group for success is 1) education, 2) success stories from initial marketing ROI initiatives, and 3) simplified tools and processes.


Watch for the Artful Dodgers trying to slow you down.

It’s not uncommon to find “Artful Dodgers” in marketing, who manage to generate excuses and create delays to maintain the status quo. And don’t be surprised to find Artful Dodgers in fairly senior roles within the organization. This is a difficult group to convince since challenges with data, performance measurement, and financial analyses in complex marketing environments make it easy to create excuses instead of solutions.


The best solution to motivate these individuals is executive sponsorship and a mandate to measurably improve performance.


There will always be Cynics and some can be helpful.

The “Cynic” for marketing ROI will go beyond avoidance and proactively stand against marketing ROI practices. There will be some cynics protesting measurements and analytics that interfere with the creative strengths of marketing and others who doubt the validity of the data or conclusions coming from the measurement process.


This latter group of cynics is the one that can provide insight into potential gaps and flaws in the process. It’s best to give them a voice and validate their short comings, but have solutions-oriented people address their concerns.

Gain Support from Extended Team Players

Marketing ROI capabilities involve many different organizations outside of marketing. You’ll find the same roles within these groups that have to be managed accordingly to adjust their culture as well. Here are tips for winning over the teams that can make or break your successful adoption of comprehensive capabilities to manage and improve marketing ROI.

Motivate Sales team alignment with this sales-driven process.

The sales organization can often be the hardest group to win over, yet it is the group with the most to gain. The challenge is overcoming the perception of marketing. In companies with a sales organization, marketing is dependent on the sales team for better tracking and outcome reporting (not a task that is sales-friendly). Sales teams can be won over using ROI scenarios or small scale pilot initiatives that show how ROI analyses and measurements deliver increased sales and revenue (definitely an outcome that is sales-friendly).

Get Analytic resources in place.

Marketing analytic and research teams may or may not reside within the marketing organization. This group is typically an advocate and sometimes the source of Champions. It’s not unusual for this group to be understaffed which might lead to the culture of “no” when additional work to support marketing ROI is requested. Analytic resources can make a significant difference in the pace of adoption, so staff appropriately.

Show potential revenue impact to rank as a priority for IT/Operations.

Companies committed to building comprehensive marketing ROI and measurement practices need the IT organization for 1) access to data and 2) marketing automation for campaign tracking and dashboards. IT prioritization is very often driven by business cases tied to revenue potential, making it challenging for marketing to rise to the top of the list. The revenue potential for marketing ROI and measurements may not be apparent at the start, but a few initial success stories will make a difference to show huge upside potential.

Leverage your Agency’s strategic insights to interpret and act on results.

Marketing agencies vary in their position on supporting marketing ROI measurements. There are Artful Dodgers and Cynics that push against adoption and Champions that step up to motivate clients to assess and improve ROI. The most critical contribution an agency can make is adding a strategic perspective on expected and actual campaign outcomes (i.e., how is marketing influencing customer behaviors and ultimately their purchase activity?).

What marketing organizations must do to make agency involvement constructive is to not use ROI measurements as pass/fail assessments. Marketing ROI measurements are intended to provide insight to improve strategies and tactics. The agency and marketing groups must work together to constantly increase marketing effectiveness.

Set expectations with the C-Suite.

Finally, the C-Suite executives must be properly managed to ensure a successful marketing ROI adoption. Senior executives may demand accountability without understanding the requirements for quality measurements and improvement processes. The key to success is setting expectations that better measurements and ROI insights are necessary to understand the constantly changing customer behaviors, competitive environments, and market conditions. This insight builds with effort and time to become a strategic advantage.

To summarize, the most critical actions that are necessary to create a culture where marketing ROI practices can grow and thrive are:

  1. Empower Champions to build capabilities, conduct pilots for new initiatives, and refine the process for easy adoption by Followers.
  3. Engage executives to serve as Sponsors, align stakeholders, and set expectations that are consistent with an effective marketing ROI process.
  5. Win support from stakeholders outside of marketing using ROI scenarios that show profit potential as marketing ROI insights guide strategies and tactical improvements.
  7. Silence Cynics and Artful Dodgers with success stories from initial pilot projects to large-scale process adoption.