“If you cry “Forward” you must be sure to make clear the direction in which to go. Don’t you see that if you fail to do so and simply call out the word to a monk and a revolutionary, they will go in precisely opposite directions.”
– Anton Chekov, Short-story writer, playwright 1860–1904 (from Balanced Scorecards and
Operational Dashboards with Microsoft Excel by Ron Person)
Most data-driven marketing strategies fail to capture and communicate how the strategic goals of a marketing team are to be pursued. This results in the selection of poor key performance indicators (KPIs). Whereas metrics represent the measurement of any business activity, well-designed KPIs measure strategic value drivers. As you plan for 2014, remember that it is absolutely critical your marketing scorecards measure the activities that, when executed properly, guarantee future success.
A Strategy Map – a diagram used to capture and communicate objectives and illustrate how the strategic goals of a team are to be pursued – is the first step in translating a data-driven marketing strategy to action. Moreover, it is the perfect tool to help bring focus to your planning sessions and make sure you’re measuring real business value. In fact, I think the process of strategy mapping — the first hypothesis you’ll make about what will drive success this year – is an absolute prerequisite to successful data-driven marketing.
By the end of this post – which includes a Strategy Map Template Download and a short video overview of the Anatomy of a Strategy Map – you’ll have all the information you need to start creating your own Strategy Map today.
Strategy mapping: A clear path to success
Marketing teams need a clear, shared path to success. Taking time to strategy map will help bring laser-like focus to your planning sessions while at the same time align your marketing team around a single strategic vision. As I like to say, there is no such thing as data-driven in all directions.
To me, the very idea that a marketing team can be “data-driven” while at the same time not aligned around clearly stated goals and objectives should be filed under the ‘I shudder to think’ category. Before we can measure and optimize a strategy we must come to a consensus as to what the strategy will be.
Data-driven is about the power of focus. It is about selecting a destination. It is about putting a specific, explicitly stated plan into action. And, last but not least, it is about staying true to the now popular marketing adage ‘what gets measured gets done.’
With that, please take a quick moment to download this (un-gated) Strategy Map Template and then continue reading below for additional context and explanation…
Key features and benefits of strategy mapping
There are many benefits inherent in the strategy mapping process. Listed below are some of the key features and benefits that I think go a long way in helping marketing teams build successful data-driven marketing programs.
1. Differentiating goals, objectives, and initiatives
The process of strategy mapping helps create much needed clarity around the critical and interconnected concepts of goals, objectives, and initiatives. Each plays an important and specific role in a well-executed data-driven marketing strategy. To be data-driven we must clearly differentiate goals from objectives and the specific actions we take to arrive at our “future state” destination. Strategy maps help us do this successfully.
To help clarify, marketing goals should be focused longer term (e.g. year end) and represent big picture intentions or aspirations. Objectives, on the other hand, are specific, observable — and of course, measurable – outcomes that represent achievement of an overarching marketing goal. Properly stated objectives should be “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) and have clear targets associated with them. And – a really important point here! – key performance indicators (KPIs) are directly tied to objectives, not goals.
Finally, initiatives are the specific strategies and tactics, or actions, that marketing teams execute on an daily basis. For example, the marketing campaigns and channel optimization strategies we deploy each quarter.
Follow this link for a great comparison chart showing the important differences between goals and objectives.
2. Defining strategic themes
Strategy maps force marketers to identify and develop strategic themes, which are used to focus energy and resources in key strategic areas. A good marketing strategy will settle on no more than 3–5 strategic themes that will drive customer-centricity. Typically, when developing a strategy map the marketing vision statement is broken down into key strategic themes – an important step that creates an essential link between your marketing vision and execution.
For example, Strategic Themes in 2014 for your marketing team might include Content Marketing, Optimizing the Buyer Journey, or growing a stronger Social Media Presence. By explicitly stating areas of focus we can better align our internal processes and galvanize the team efforts that, at the end of the day, can make the difference between marketing success or failure.
3. 4 fundamental perspectives
The strategy map – as its inventors Robert Kaplan and David Norton intended – aligns with the four fundamental perspectives of a Balanced Scorecard: Financial, Customer, Technology & Operations, and Learning & Growth. These four perspectives represent a marketing strategy from different, essential points of view. The best marketing strategies are “balanced” across all four of these perspectives. We should always carefully consider and analyze our marketing strategies from each of these four perspectives, or vary the perspectives depending on our business model or culture.
For example, the Customer perspective is highly dependent on the Technology & Operations perspective. Marketing teams need the right tools and technology platforms in place if they are to deliver the exceptional customer experiences that drive Financial success. Likewise, team Learning & Growth objectives support all other perspectives… which is a nice transition to the final benefit discussed today:
4. Direct cause-and-effect relationships between objectives
Last but certainly not least, a well-designed strategy map shows how marketing teams intend to create value by connecting strategic objectives in explicit cause-and-effect relationships with each other. The causal links represent the effects that one objective has on another and, moreover, are what you need to execute to accomplish your strategic themes.
Identifying and mapping these cause-and-effect relationships is the foundation for well-defined, actionable KPIs. If there is no direct causality between the objectives you choose and the business value you’re trying to generate, then KPIs won’t effectively measure progress towards goals. If this happens, you will have completely undermined the very purpose of a data-driven marketing program. You will have published a scorecard filled with tactical metrics, not KPIs.
When all these pieces are put together the Strategy Map represents a grid where we categorize and plot explicitly stated strategic marketing objectives. Once our strategy map has been finalized the next step is to define and select the KPIs that best represent the objectives you’re selected.
At the end of the day, where the rubber hits the road is the extent to which a data-driven marketing strategy is actually measuring clearly defined goals and objectives. So, as data-driven marketers, we use a Strategy Map to clarify and communicate the strategic priorities across our teams and then select the right, value-driving KPIs.
Remember, there is no such thing as data-driven in all directions. So, as you plan for 2014, modify the Strategy Map template you downloaded today to help ensure your marketing team is focused and aligned … and greatly improve your odds of success.
Connect with me on Twitter: Follow @RobbMacD01
… and watch this short video overview of the Anatomy of a Strategy Map that provides a high-level, visual walk-through of the template available for download above.
Note: I’d like to acknowledge Ron Person, author of Balanced Scorecards and Operational Dashboards with Microsoft Excel from where I first discovered the Anton Chekov quote used as inspiration for this blog title.Comments