The Accidental Marketer

I entered the marketing profession quite by accident. Over 30 years ago I graduated from university with a degree in computer science, having also worked the four years I was earning that degree at the university data center. I finished school with a diploma that provided evidence that I had the academic underpinnings to develop software, and a resume that included highly relevant experience. Despite the relatively poor job market when I graduated, I had three good offers. Surprising myself, I chose the one with the lowest starting salary, at IBM, because I liked the culture and upward mobility there. IBM didn’t see me as a software programmer, but instead put me in a sales and marketing branch office. I never wrote a line of code from that day forward, and I didn’t regret it.

I was immediately drawn into the world of sales and marketing, and I learned everything I could from IBM, one of the best in the business at marketing its solutions. Through a series of job changes, each one pulling me deeper into the marketing profession, I learned from mentors and experience (mistakes) about how marketing works in the real world. My analytical programming background, however, never left me. As fascinated as I was with marketing, I was also troubled by how little was known about how to connect my marketing efforts to business results. I have seen marketing get credit for business results it didn’t necessarily produce, fail to get credit when it did produce results, and get blamed fairly and unfairly for its lack of contribution. In almost every case, judgments about marketing were based on opinion and conjecture, not data. This bothered me.

The inescapable conclusion from my journey in marketing was that the determination of marketing’s success was too arbitrary, too subjective. Even if marketing was performing brilliantly, without data to prove it, the CFO could still cut marketing’s budget. The CEO would call into question marketing’s contribution. The rest of the organization could easily view marketing as a luxury, not a necessity. When reviewing other corporate functions, such as development, HR or sales, they each had a specific set of metrics that created clarity about how well they were getting their jobs done. Not so in marketing. If marketing were to get taken to court and tried for its performance, what evidence could the defense provide in favor of marketing? Very little, it seemed.

What marketing needed was a set of metrics that moved the determination of its success out of the realm of subjective conjecture and into the world of objective fact. As a marketing leader, I know we needed more than the ability to say that we had churned out X number of assets or managed participation in Y number of trade shows and other, similarly vague attempts to connect our work to something the C-suite cared about. These attempts at accountability left questions in everyone’s mind about how well marketing was truly performing. The solution was analytics with a set of metrics that provided meaningful data about marketing’s contribution, so that even for those who might disagree with marketing’s methods, there was no argument about the results.  I shared these views publicly enough times that they came to the attention of a publisher who asked me to write a book on the subject.  This work is now a fait accompli: “Marketing Analytics Roadmap: Methods, Metrics and Tools” published last month.

Marketing Analytics Roadmap: Methods, Metrics, and Tools

This book was born out of my past frustration and experience with how marketing manages its performance and how that performance is judged. I’ve written this book for the marketing organizations that have not yet started their analytics journey, but know that they need to, and are trying to figure out where to begin. What I intend for this book to do is inspire marketers and marketing organizations to get moving, and point them in the direction they should go. The advice contained here will provide them with a roadmap, as the title suggests, with recommendations on methods, metrics and tools to consider on that journey. What this book will not do is provide detailed, turn-by-turn directions from start to finish of the marketing analytics journey. The reason is simple: each organization’s journey must be different. The things that define the speed, vehicle and even detours of that journey vary from company to company.

This book is not for those who have already achieved maturity with their marketing analytics process, unless perhaps they want a nostalgic tour of where they’ve been. But that still leaves a broad audience for the direction this book provides, as a study I completed in partnership with VisionEdge Marketing just as this book went to publication reveals that just one in five marketing organizations have an effective analytics process in place. For everyone else – the 80 percent – this book will provide some encouragement and advice for starting and completing the marketing analytics journey. As the Chinese proverb attributed to Laozi states: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I hope this book helps many marketers take that first step.

About Jerry Rackley

An avid reader, mostly non-fiction, I read great books and think how the lessons of history have contemporary application. Most of these thoughts are work related, but sometimes about faith or family. This blog is my first attempt to allow some of these thoughts to escape the rather thick skull in which they were born.
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