Case Study: Setting Marketing Priorities

Posted on May 2, 2011

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I  introduced, in an earlier blog entry, the extremely versatile  Analytical Hierarchical Process (AHP) Framework and proposed that marketers use the framework to help prioritize marketing goals and  objectives. In this post I want to share my personal experience using  the AHP framework and how it helped my team and I to quickly arrive at a set of prioritized marketing goals for the year.

Let  me begin by setting the context. My company had recently completed a large acquisition. The acquisition was so large that overnight the size of my company doubled. We have read about challenges of rapid growth; this was beyond rapid growth, this was instatenous growth and the challenges were correspondingly daunting.

  • Firstly, we had to support two distinct product lines – the original  product line that I knew and was comfortable with and the acquired product line of which, in the Marketing context, I knew very little.
  • Secondly,  the marketing team expanded and as new marketers from the acquired company joined. This was going to create tension because the  “original” and the “new” marketing team members were equally keen on maintaining focus and attention on the their businesses and ensuring success.
  • Thirdly, Executive Management wanted to quickly capture scale of economies and my original marketing budget did not grow all that much though we were now expected to support twice the original revenue.

It was in this scenario that the marketing team met and I decided to use the AHP framework to help the team arrive at a consensus on the priority of our maketing goals.

At this point I will urge you, if you have not already read it, to read the earlier post as it will help you better understand our decision making process below.

The team started out by listing a set of goals it thought important and worthy of focus for the coming year. Almost every member of the team suggested goals for consideration and the team brainstormed to a shortlist. The key criterion in shortlisting a goal was to discuss and agree if the achieving the goal would change the Game for the Company or dramatically improve Executive Management’s perception of Marketing’s contribution.

The shortlisted goals were a combination of revenue related goals, tactical campaign related goals and people related goals. The following list of 10 goals, in no particular order, were chosen for discussion:

  1. A specific theme based campaign (important to achieve the company’s long term business goal) to provide 10% of “original” product portfolio’s marketing manager’s target.
  2. Product Marketing Managers to spend a minimum of 15% of their time on product development activities
  3. Coverage in 2 out 4 Big publications – mentioned as part of industry story.
  4. Improve media/analyst engagement outside North America – 50% Compounded Monthly Growth Rate in coverage value.
  5. Achieve quarterly sales lead targets – both new leads target, but more importantly, the lead maturity target.
  6. 5 hours of training per BU per quarter in Americas.
  7. # of marketing ops related issues down by 50%.
  8. Spend 25% of marketing budget on campaigns to improve Company brand recall/ awareness/ differentiation rather than generate sales leads.
  9. Overachieve the 3 year market share goals of the acquired product portfolio by 100%.
  10. Overachieve the 3 year market share goals of a lagging product line from “original” product portfolio by 100%.

The team now brainstormed and agreed on the following set of 7 evaluation criteria to prioritize the goals.

  1. Increases the awareness and recall of the Company and/or product portfolio.
  2. Helps establish Marketing as a significant contributor to the Company’s success.
  3. Contributes to increasing the sales lead pipeline.
  4. Increases revenue/market share in 12-24-36 period.
  5. Increases Marketing’s efficiency.
  6. Increase Sales’ efficiency.
  7. Help meet Company’s 12 month financial goals

The next step was to prioritize the goals in pairwise combination using the following scale

  1. Same Importance
  2. More Important
  3. Moderately More Important
  4. Much More Important
  5. Definitely  More Important
This was the most important step and this is where most of the discussion happened. It allowed each member to express an opinion on the importance of each goal and also allowed him/her to express his/her thought process and at the same time understand other’s opinions. It was amazing how each discussion started with seemingly diverse opinions but quickly converged to a consensus.

The scorecard of the pairwise prioritization discussion is below:

Goal 1

Goal 2

Goal 3

Goal 4

Goal 5

Goal 6

Goal 7

Goal 8

Goal 9

Goal 10

Goal 1

1

1/4

2

1/3

1/5

4

1

1/5

1/5

2

Goal 2

4

1

2

1

1/4

4

1

1/3

1/4

2

Goal 3

1/2

1/2

1

1/3

1/5

3

1

1/2

1/4

3

Goal 4

3

1

3

1

1/2

3

2

1/2

1/3

3

Goal 5

5

4

5

2

1

5

3

2

1/3

3

Goal 6

1/4

1/4

1/3

1/3

1/5

1

2

1/4

1/4

1/2

Goal 7

1

1

1

1/2

1/3

1/2

1

1/3

1/4

2

Goal 8

5

3

2

2

½

4

3

1

1/2

3

Goal 9

5

4

4

3

3

4

4

2

1

4

Goal 10

1/2

1/2

1/3

1/3

1/3

2

1/2

1/3

1/4

1

We then followed the steps of the AHP Framework (read the earlier post for the details of each step) and arrived at the prioritized list of goals. These are in the table below:

Overachieve the 3 year market share goals of the acquired product portfolio by 100%.

24%

Achieve quarterly sales lead targets – both new leads target, but more importantly, the lead maturity target.

19%

Spend 25% of marketing budget on campaigns to improve Company brand recall/ awareness/differentiation rather than generate sales leads.

14%

Improve media/analyst engagement outside North America – 50% Compounded Monthly Growth Rate in coverage value.

10%

Product Marketing Managers to spend a minimum of 15% of their time on product development activities

8%

A specific theme based campaign (important to achieve the company’s long term business goal) to provide 10% of “original” product portfolio’s marketing manager’s target.

6%

Coverage in 2 out 4 Big publications – mentioned as part of industry story.

6%

# of marketing ops related issues down by 50%.

5%

5 hours of training per BU per quarter in Americas.

4%

Overachieve the 3 year market share goals of a lagging product line from “original” product. portfolio by 100%.

4%

The results are useful in themselves as they allowed the team to identify and stay focussed on what were the most important goals. However, there are other more important benefits as well. In this specific case the team as a whole agreed that:

  • Success in the “acquired” product portfolio business was more important than success in the original portfolio and therefore the  acquired businesses should get a larger share of the marketing budget.
  • Marketing’s job is to generate sales leads; everything else is fluff.
  • Improving the Company’s brand recall/awareness/differentiation was more important than incremental tactical campaigns and hence the former should get as much as 25% of the marketing budget.

As the year rolled on, this agreement was immensely important to avoid conflict and heartburn amongst individual team members. It was also easier for managers to decide how to best deploy resources and how to best measure the efficacy of individual activities. I won’t say that the team had no challenges or conflict through the year but it was easy to resolve them because we could always fall back on the AHP framework output.

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Posted in: On Marketing