Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Prediction for 2007… Pain

With all the hype surrounding the resurgence of legendary on-screen boxer Rocky Balboa, I couldn’t help but borrow a line from the old Clubber Lang (Mr. T) in anticipation of what 2007 will bring for marketing measurement. He said, “My prediction… pain.”

In the case of marketers, that pain is likely to be felt most by some of the late adopters to measurement discipline. In fact, marketers who haven’t yet made a concerted effort to get a suitably comprehensive and properly stakeholdered measurement process in place are likely to feel the pain more than ever in 2007. Why?

First, CEOs and CFOs are hearing more and more about how measurable marketing is these days. They’re seeing it at conferences, reading about it in their trade journals and hearing it firsthand from their peers. These seeds, once planted, can’t help but grow up through the most hardened sidewalks of resistance. And when they crack through the foundation of credibility, the crumbling is impossible to stop.

Second, unless you’re lucky enough to be in a high-growth business spinning out exceptional shareholder returns, the die is likely already cast for another year of cuts to the marketing budget. The best you can hope for is that the slashes will be swift and sharp. But chances are, they will more likely resemble death by a thousand small incisions. And you can forget about defending your turf. If you had the insights the CEO needed to be more confident, you wouldn’t be the one who’s budget they look to begin with.

Third, if you’re entering the “opportunity zone” of your tenure with the company (somewhere between months 20 and 30), you may have but one more chance to put a sound foundation behind your next budget recommendation. But you’ll need to start now. It takes a minimum of nine months, and more often 18, before you can really get a good historical handle on marketing performance drivers and be able to correlate them to spending with any predictive validity.

The good news is that, if you start in January while the year is fresh and new, you’ll have a fair chance of making a big difference for 2008. You can build a foundation that will serve you immediately and for many years to come. But by April, your window will close. So the question for many marketers isn’t whether or not there will be pain in 2007, but whether it will be the pain of progress or the pain of avoidance. Either way, the choice is deliberate.

Wishing you the very best (and a full bottle of Advil or Tylenol) in 2007.

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