Marketing under the watchful eye of the C-suite

Digital marketing can be seen as a set of levers operated to improve performance. 

This requires marketing tools built on systematic and real-time data that help marketers understand a number of important performance measurements. These include the best return on investment (ROI), return on advertising spend (ROAS), the role of each platform, being aware of the campaign and content elements in any nurture journey, and the biases that inevitably sit within the native analytics functions in each of the channels being used. 

Marketers increasingly rely on data to optimize the performance of their digital marketing programs in the face of fierce competition for the eyes and attention of customers and prospects, and for the best-possible position in search returns.

Even more interesting though is that the C-suite is also seeking those insights as well.

As one Chief Digital Officer put it to me recently, his CEO and board are less interested in the story woven by marketers and their agencies. They are much more interested in a common set of trusted performance data around results and returns.  There is a real push for greater transparency and governance in digital investment.   

We’re experiencing this first-hand, working with a CEO and his C-suite to rebuild their business as a digital-first organization. 

So if marketers and business owners know they need to make sense of millions of pieces of data, and do so without undue expense or delay, they need to know which levers to pull, in time to make a difference.  

The consequence is that to be accountable, responsive and successful, new levers are needed that allow marketers to trim and change their programs.

Words, pictures, video, performance

The starting point is content. To be effective, content has to be served to audiences, be seen by individuals, and be engaged with. Peer endorsements need to reinforce the message so that search and serve algorithms elevate its appearance. Calls to action need to be tested and tracked so that their effectiveness at driving traffic to websites can be quantified. 

Content performance has to be defined by whether it’s effective, not on whether it “looks good” or “feels right”. 

And to achieve the best outcomes, it needs to be continually refined. 

Where to next, and how fast?

This means that content performance must be measured by platform, content type, budget spent, by return on advertising spend (ROAS), revenue, and by any other objective built into the program. 

The role of content is of course to create a compelling step in the journey for the customer. 

One of the defining characteristics of digital marketing is that it allows customers to travel on the journey from awareness to conversion along non-linear paths. The traditional concept of an orderly sales funnel no longer necessarily applies. Customer journeys start at multiple starting points. The deployment of social media and digital marketing is still typically aligned to different points on these journeys, but is no longer constrained by a defined pathway from top-of-funnel to bottom-of-funnel. 

Customers choose their journey, not brands. 

Data-led measurement

By using data to define a program based on different criteria rather than one pre-defined direction, marketers can start to measure and act on the overall ROI and ROAS at any point.

If marketing is about putting the audience first, then digital marketing is the means of connecting marketers and audiences, and engaging them as customers, based on the preferences and needs of those individuals.

Every channel and platform provides the means of measuring, assessing and analyzing performance, and there are any number of alternative solutions that, to varying degrees, aggregate such data.

The digital marketing levers are there to pull, if this information and insights are available quickly, easily, and promptly. 

Taking action requires insights derived from data, and the mindset and preparedness to act and then to measure the impact. 

And with all of this now taking place under the watchful gaze of the CEO, that means data-led accountability.

(I also discuss this topic in more detail in my paper in Applied Analytics Journal Volume 8, Number 3, published by Henry Stewart Publications, available on subscription at

A version of this article also appears at