How productive are your marketing efforts?

Not every CMO can provide an accurate picture of their efficiency. According to BrightTALK, the majority of marketers rely on overall lead volume as their top metric for success. This leaves executives with few tangible ways to measure ROI, individual campaign success, or even the basic efficiency of their marketing department.

Here’s how:

According to a 2014 study, 93% of marketing executives felt pressure to create more ROI for their efforts, while about half of B2B marketing executives found it challenging to establish the link between their marketing activity and the direct revenue it creates. According to HubSpot, over a quarter of marketers found budget issues their top marketing challenge overall.

But identifying the link between marketing productivity and your ROI is about more than justifying the marketing budget—it’s also about improving the strength of a marketing team.

According to the Association for Talent Development, companies that fail to focus on training their employees and making them more productive are 40% more likely to see turnover within the first year. But becoming more productive as a marketing team requires more than busywork. As Ernest Hemingway once said, “Never mistake motion for action.”

Marketing productivity should be measurable, defined by clear objectives that help CMOs track their progress. That includes:

  • Tracking: HubSpot notes that marketers who simply make the effort to calculate their ROI are 60% more likely to receive higher budgets.
  • Planning: Planning is one of Aprimo’s Five Marketing Essentials. By measuring marketing productivity and marketing campaign objectives and tracking KPIs, CMOs can more tightly align an organization’s marketing goals with its core business objectives.
  • Automation: Automating core processes makes it possible to reduce workload while improving marketing results. Regalix found that 64% of marketers say they saw the benefits of marketing automation within six months of implementation.

Click here to read our CMO Guide to Marketing Automation.

With the right plan in place, marketers can boost the productivity and efficiency of their team before asking for a larger budget. Let’s look at five different ways you can do just that.

1. Set Clear Goals and Objectives

When a Harvard MBA study examined goal-setting, they found that only 3% of respondents had a written goal and a plan in place for achieving that goal. 13% had written goals without a plan—and 84% had no goals at all. After 10 years, a revisit of the respondents found that those with both written goals and plans out-earned their counterparts.

But not just any goals will suffice. To boost your marketing efficiency, use S.M.A.R.T. goals, as recommended by the Management Review:

  • Specificity: The specificity of a goal makes it concrete. Goal ambiguity reduces focus and can lead to “busy work” that has no bearing on marketing productivity.
  • Measurability: An increase in ROI can mean anything from 1% to 100%—but a goal of 25% more ROI sets a clear standard, making it possible to assign objectives and milestones along the way.
  • Achievability: Setting an achievable goal enables marketing teams to generate a plan within the confines of scheduling, budgeting, and staff constraints.
  • Relevance: With the right goals in place, a marketing team should not only justify its budget, but reveal its value to the company as a whole.
  • Time-binding: A time-bound goal creates urgency while establishing the parameters for daily work.

With S.M.A.R.T. goals in place, your marketing team can then focus in on a specific set of variables, helping you discard the strategies that have no bearing on your campaigns and focus on the objectives that drive results.

2. Use the Right Marketing Automation Tools

From SEO to email marketing and content, there are plenty of marketing automation tools that can boost efficiency and automatically track your marketing efforts. Making full use of these tools can reduce the strain on your campaigns, helping you create campaigns that partially manage themselves.

To increase productivity, here are some suggestions for automation tools to help:

  • Sprout Social: A Forbes study found that salespeople using social media outsold their colleagues by as much as 78%. Sprout Social automates the process of gathering data and engaging customers via your social media platforms.
  • GetResponse: This email marketing platform automates processes such as gently reminding customers to complete their purchase. GetResponse also lets you set the variables for your customer workflow and watch customer interactions in real time.
  • Quill Engage: If you already run Google Analytics, Quill Engage will help you quantify and analyze your data for more insightful conclusions about where your marketing needs to improve.
  • Sweet Process: When you need to automate a repetitive marketing process, Sweet Process helps you make a system of it. It can even help new employees and team members learn how your marketing systems work.
  • Aprimo: Aprimo’s Campaign feature makes it possible to utilize repeatable and automated targeting to increase the efficiency of your marketing efforts. All your data will import to an easy-to-manage “Executive Dashboard” for quick access to this information at all times.

Using a tool like Aprimo can provide the structure you need to boost productivity. In one instance, Bank of America was able to use this tool to reduce time on project proposals by as much as 27%.

3. Don’t Silo Your Sales and Marketing Teams

Productivity doesn’t happen without free and open communication. Research shows that improving communication alone can increase a team’s productivity by 25%.

Nowhere is this more important than in integrating the sales and marketing teams. According to the Harvard Business Review, “There is no question that, when Sales and Marketing work together, companies see substantial improvement on important performance metrics: sales cycles are shorter, market-entry costs go down, and the cost of sales is lower.”

It starts with communication. A survey by Demand Gen found that the largest obstacle to aligning Sales and Marketing was communication. So how do you bring these two separate teams together?

Start by working to align your goals. Both Marketing and Sales can benefit from improvements in the site’s sales funnel or by building accurate customer profiles, enhancing customer lifetime value. Both departments can also benefit from automation, with 80% of users of marketing automation reporting an increase in sales leads.

It also pays to remain open to new ideas no matter where they come from. Dutch airline KLM demonstrated this openness when it introduced a social media payment feature. But this innovation wasn’t dreamed up in a focus group or an executive-level marketing meeting. An employee simply brought up the possibility of this innovation with management.

Because the organization saw the new feature through its implementation, it began generating immediate sales for the airline. That’s the power of open communication and synergy between departments.

4. Outsource Tasks and Projects When Appropriate

It’s possible to boost your marketing productivity overnight—but your team still might not be equipped to take on every task and project at a moment’s notice. That’s when it becomes beneficial for marketing departments to outsource tasks and projects to fill in the gaps. Often, we’ve found that one of the smartest ways to solve the productivity problem is allocating the right resources to the marketing mix.

Outsourcing generally comes in one of two forms:

  • Freelance experts: A freelancer can bring area-specific expertise to the areas in which you find yourself understaffed, including digital marketing, email marketing, content marketing, or even providing branding consultation. You can also hire technical freelancers to perform a wide range of work from data entry to analytics installation.
  • Consultants: Experienced professionals who have helped marketing teams execute project-specific work from graphic design to content creation can be invaluable in getting your next campaign off the ground.

Outsourcing some of this work frees up more bandwidth for your marketing team, giving you the freedom to focus on marketing strategy and oversight rather than the minutiae of project execution.

But perhaps the greatest advantage you’ll find in outsourcing work is flexibility. The more you free up your marketing team’s time, the more you can focus on the high-level tasks that boost your marketing productivity and ROI.

5. Incentivize Your Marketing Team

“Bonuses do increase productivity.”

That was one powerful conclusion of an analysis that examined the overall performance of staff rewarded with quarterly incentives. Not only did incentives work, but increasing the frequency of these incentives had a positive impact on productivity. According to the study, waiting to add up these bonuses until the end of the year saw a “3% reduction in effort.”

That means that bonuses and incentives should have a sense of urgency and timeliness if they’re to be effective. Micro-bonus programs like Bonusly make this possible, allowing team members to reward each other with small, frequent bonuses they can use toward gift cards, donations, nearby restaurants, Starbucks, or other rewards.

Acknowledging achievement in a group setting can also be beneficial. In 2015, 48% of organizations put peer-to-peer recognition to use, and “the perceived effect on employee engagement, motivation and satisfaction” all improved with the use of these recognition programs.

When the Harvard Business Review looked at incentives in the workplace, they referenced a number of what they dubbed “proven strategies” for creating rewards:

  • Prizes in multiple tiers: One study showed that while winner-take-all prize incentives can offer high-quality individual prizes, contests with multiple winners tended to be more effective across the entire team. Rather than focusing on a prize only one “star” can win, using prizes across multiple tiers helps keep the entire team engaged.
  • “Pace-setting” bonuses: Year-end bonuses are nice, but they’re not as effective as more immediate incentives. Based on field data, ditching quarterly performance-based bonuses in favor of a yearly bonus had a detrimental effect on employee motivation.
  • Removing caps on incentives: A study of New York City cab drivers found that these drivers tended to quit after reaching an income target rather than respond to fluid customer demand. Placing caps on marketing productivity, sales commissions, and other incentives also means that when the cap is hit, the incentive loses its power.

Boosting Marketing Productivity For Better ROI

Marketing productivity is often its own reward. It can mean greater efficiency and job satisfaction for the entire team. But boosting the effectiveness of your marketing team can yield benefits that go far beyond these parameters: it can also mean generating a better ROI for your company.

These benefits can also extend beyond the department and affect your company on an organizational level. When Neutrogena used its own shopping cart data to identify product pairings customers might enjoy, the new marketing campaign not only increased sales, but expanded the scope of their marketing to users new to their brand. The results included 83 million impressions and a £5.84 return on their advertising spend.

But productivity like that comes in many forms. It can mean identifying areas at the point of purchase where the customer might want to add something new to their cart—as it did in the case of Neutrogena. Or it can simply refer to setting clear goals and objectives to measure a campaign’s effectiveness in the first place.

Marketing productivity can include increased automation, better employee incentives, lower turnover, or even removing the barriers between marketing and sales that might be getting in the way of progress.

With 93% of marketers feeling pressure to deliver ROI for their efforts, it’s clear that more marketers need to measure their productivity and improve it. It starts with the specific, measurable goals that make these calculations possible. From there, a CMO can increase the productivity and efficiency of their team to run more impactful campaigns, demonstrating just how valuable modern marketing can be when used to its full potential.