Strategic Marketing Analytics: CMO Dashboards That Rock!

An extraordinary amount of time, effort, $$$ are spent on building dashboards/scorecards for CMOs… Yet, the end result, nearly always, is a useless data puke.

It turns out boiling the ocean is hard.

To build an effective big picture scorecard for the CMO, that is not data pukey, there are three crucial challenges that have to be solved:

Represent the full span of the CMO’s world. Marketing broadly tends to obsess about Paid Media, they have to care about Owned and Earned Media as well – the latter will be the source of 70% – 75% of the incremental conversions!

Deliver a roughly apples-to-apples comparison. How do you compare $10 spent on Paid Search vs. $10 spent on TikTok?

Build an evolutionary journey to nirvana. Every company is at a different point in their People, Process, Tools journey. CMO dashboards end up being useless when capabilities exceed needs.

In our strategic consulting practice at Croud, we work to solve all three of these problems, with the end goal being simple CMO dashboards that dramatically accelerate the journey to building a data-influenced organization.

In this article, I want to share the think that powers our initiatives in the hope that you’ll end up with fewer data pukes. In an approach that simplifies complexity, I’ll share the actual solution, with specific recommendations for KPIs and blessed methodologies, and do that inside a framework that allows for direct comparisons across dramatically different Marketing initiatives.

[Personal Bias: I prefer the word Scorecard over Dashboard. The latter is a fine word, but it has acquired such negative branding… I’ve switched to Scorecard, to get a fresh start. In my writing, in my keynotes, you’ll hear Scorecard.]

We’ll apply the methodology to Paid Media today – both Brand and Performance Marketing. If you are a TMAI Premium subscriber, or become one, you can also get the solution for additional Marketing initiatives – including Growth (Email, SEO, Referral, In-App Promos, Product Integrations), Events, Content Publishing, and Public Relations.

Setting the Foundation: Solving Comparability.

To build any big picture scorecard for a CxO, you need to solve the comparability problem. (#1 above.)

Perfection is impossible, but in our work we successfully switch from comparing apples to watermelons to hamsters to comparing green apples to red apples to yellow apples. Imperfect, but enough to allow us to make significantly smarter business decisions.

My solution is centered on organizing data/metrics/methodologies into a ladder of awesomeness (which solves for #3).

Here are the levels of sophistication in the ladder of awesomeness that’ll form the foundation of the CMO’s big picture scorecard:

Level No (Red): Most companies are here. Easy existence. Also, not all that great.

Level 1 (Yellow): At the minimum, focus on these metrics.

Level 2 (Green): These metrics/methods get you to learn actually useful things.

Level 3 (Blue): Analysis Ninjas live here. Hard stuff, massive and magical insights.

Level 4 (Black): Insanely cool and glorious business impact work that is certain to deliver a competitive advantage for your company.

This approach ensures that we do not lump together elements (metrics) that should never sit next to each other. Don’t mix Organic Social Impressions with Cost Per Individual Lifted (CPIL)!

The levels also ensure a clear-eyed assessment of where you might be today as an organization. They also help ensure that you appropriately distribute the work among the analytics resources you do have available. Agency does green, you do blue, no one does red. Or, as your resources/strengths dictate.

Finally, the levels will show that for some Owned, Earned, other initiatives… there are some questions you simply can’t answer. This is a good dose of reality – for example, for your Organic Search team that is “proving” to you the incremental impact of organic search investments via matched market tests!

Now that we have a simple ladder of awesomeness that solves for comparability, let’s go build ourselves marketing’s big picture dashboard.

Application #1: Paid Media CMO Scorecard Module.

Paid Media is typically broken into four clusters:

1. Brand-leading

2. Performance-leading

3. Channel Marketing (3rd parties to take your products to market)

4. Retail Marketing (Selling through a Target, Sainsbury's, Isetan)

For each, I’ll share recommendations for exactly what you should include in your CMO scorecard. The recommendations are in the format Metric | Methodology, what to measure and how to measure it.

For your Brand-leading initiatives, identify your level of awesomeness, and pick the Metric | Methodology for your CMO scorecard:

brand leading best metrics

[Special Note: For simplicity’s sake, I’m skipping Level 4 – super advanced measurement. If you are a TMAI Premium subscriber, email me for edition #338 of the newsletter.]

Band-leading Marketing.

These are your big marketing initiatives on Television, TikTok, Hulu, The New Yorker. Typical objectives are to solve for metrics like Unaided Awareness, Consideration, Intent, (god forbid) Brand Love, etc.

Leverage true test-control methodologies as you measure Brand Lift (expressed as a percentage – Level 1), then # of People Lifted, and the delicious Cost Per Individual Lifted (Level 2). This ensures you can demonstrate incremental impact (yea!), and showing all three of those metrics add invaluable context to results delivered by your large brand dollars.

I recommend against using Pre-Post campaign surveys for any level, as they entirely lack the ability to causally identify the impact of brand-leading initiatives. I would like to say they are better than no measurement, but they really are not.

For Level 3, you’ll work to identify the impact of all the brand marketing you are doing at a portfolio level. So, not just measuring the lift from Facebook, lift from Hulu, lift from YouTube, lift from Billboards… But, the lift from all of them put together.

Why is Level 3 Analysis Ninja level? Because, you’ll usually use Matched Market Tests (MMTs) and they are fun but difficult. AND. You’ll discover that 4 points of lift from FB, 5 from Hulu, 6 from YT, and 7 from Billboards equals a portfolio level lift of 3 points!

You will never do brand marketing, and analysis, the same way again.

There is, of course, an entire ocean-full of brand metrics you can include. Leave them as diagnostic metrics for your agency, your creative team, and other contributing teams. The CMO simply needs the above to understand impact very close to the bottom line.

Paid Media KPIs: Brand, Performance.

Performance-leading Marketing.

These are your PPC ads on Bing and Google, your AT&T TV commercials with a free iPhone 14 Pro, your catalogs, and BUY NOW ads on Instagram.

Lno and 1 are pretty straightforward.

Performance marketing has too much focus today on Overall Conversions and Cost Per Sale (or CPA). This is both irritating, and wrong, as it is claiming credit for results your Performance team/agency did not drive.

Hence, for Level 2, I recommend a focus on Incremental Conversions and Cost Per Incremental Sale (CPIS).

You can easily measure this at a channel level on all digital platforms using the built-in functionality of conversion lift studies (CLS). You can use matched market tests (MMTs) for non-digital platforms. [TMAI Premium subscribers, review how-to in editions #333, #334.]

If today you are reporting 10,000 Conversions from Search at a CPS of $85, be prepared to see 2,000 Incremental Conversions and a CPiS of $425! It is the reality check you desperately need to set higher expectations of your Performance team/agency.

To achieve Level 3 status, I recommend the same incrementality metrics, except at an x-stack level (to identify inefficiency by your Performance team/agency across platforms).

Ex: Today: 100 Incremental Conversions from Facebook, 120 Incremental Conversions from Instagram. When you measure x-Stack Incremental Conversions from Facebook AND Instagram put together, you’ll find the x-Stack Incremental Conversions = 90. (Or, 140 or 170.)

It is not hard to visualize just how dramatically your investment strategy will change, and with it will come far higher standards for your Performance team/agency to achieve.

[Note: If you are getting the feeling that Level 2 is the minimum viable point of existence, you are reading this article right. :) ]

Paid Media KPIs: Brand, Performance, Channel.

Channel Marketing.

Channel marketing is third-parties taking your products and services, and bringing them to market. Say a company that makes construction equipment or IT products. There are private dealers and resellers who sell these products. Often, this reduces marketing costs for the manufacturer, while ensuring a greater diversity of marketing tactics and broader reach.

When we invest in channel marketing, we have less than optimal access to relevant data. Usually, all we see is money going out of the company, and all we can report is Spend by Channel Partner.

If you give this problem some thought upfront, you can write your contracts with incentives to get a minimum amount of data back. Ex: How are they spending your money, Spend by Channel.

You can use this to build trust across the ecosystem, and continue to ask for more data back that helps you identify Level 2 metrics, Attributable Sales (because your partners do have this data).

In my experience, there really is no option for Level 3 analysis. I welcome your suggestions.

In an exciting bit of development, if you spend material amounts on channel marketing, you can do Level 4 analysis for your Channel Marketing spend.

Retail Marketing.

You are Lysol.

A material chunk of your budget is being funneled into retail partners like Target, Costco, Walmart, and others. You are doing retail marketing! Those custom Apple stores inside Best Buy? Retail marketing.

You and I are likely not working for companies where we can get a lot of data back from our retail partners, in which case you might be stuck at Level No and report expenses like Spend on Fixtures.

Or, not that much of an improvement for Level 1 when we report data we do have Spend Per Partner. Though if you are lucky and a large volume is going through particular partners, you can always do welcome surveys – if your products allow for that engagement – and do some simple models to assess Sales by Partner.

As with Channel Marketing, you can build incentives for data exchange. At the very minimum, your channel partners will provide you with Return on Incentives and In-Store Sales, both really valuable for Level 2 analysis.

Level 3 is where there is a lot of fun, identifying incrementality. You will use MMTs to identify Incremental Sales and Cost Per Incremental Sale by, at least, each Retail partner.

Bonus: If your retail budgets are large, I recommend leveraging a/b/x experiments connected to your retail fixtures – content, layout, pricing, product mix – and use, in the US, DMA level slicing to understand the online and offline sales impact. Very cool.

Rest of the Story.

A CMO scorecard should empower them, as simply as possible, to understand the effectiveness and efficiency of the entire business of Marketing.

Hence, don’t stop with Paid Media, continue the journey… Here's your let me pick the very best KPIs for my CMO scorecard, depending on our level of Analytics sophistication chooser thingy…

Marketing's Big Picture Scorecard

[High-resolution image, right-click, "open image in new tab" or "save image as".]

And, here’s a special bonus… If your analytics practice is at Level 4 in the ladder of awesomeness, your CMO scorecard will look like this:

CMO Level 4 Marketing Scorecard

Simple. Powerful. Transformative.

It 1. completely covers all Marketing, 2. presents approx directly comparable KPIs, and 3. is at the level where you are in your analytics sophistication.

Not easy. But, nothing insanely profitable in life is easy. :)

[TMAI Premium subscribers, see #338, #339 on how to get to the above scorecard.]

Bottom line.

If your scorecard/dashboard is a data puke, the only winner is the person/agency who billed you tens/hundreds of thousands to build it.

In service of building a data-influenced CMO (/org), you will be strong, you will resist temptation, and you will build a scorecard that prompts strategic questions about Marketing’s incremental impact on profitability.

And, now you know how.

Carpe Diem!

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