Archive for December, 2009
It surprises most agency professionals to learn that many marketers—both consumer and B2B—are intensely interested in exploring a value-based compensation arrangement in place of the traditional hourly rate.
A recent position paper from the Association of National Advertisers states clearly:
“Traditional metrics used in today’s cost-plus compensation agreements (usually based on time) have no relationship with the external value created for the client in today’s intellectual capital economy. Therefore, pricing should instead be based on results and value created.”
In forward-thinking companies across the country, marketing, finance, and even procurement officials are actively engaged in internal discussions around value-based compensation. If the marketing services profession isn’t more proactive in this area, clients may well be the driving force behind a change in compensation practices. And that’s ironic, because almost all pricing innovations come from sellers, not buyers.
Selling outcomes instead of hours
From a marketer’s perspective, the chief frustration with the traditional cost-based compensation system is that they’re not sure what they’re really buying. Are they buying the firm’s time? Dedicated staff? A set amount of work? In the end, they don’t really want to buy any of these things; they want to buy outcomes.
In a cost-based compensation arrangement, the client pays for efforts rather than results. Agency professionals log and charge hours regardless of the outcomes the hours produce. In a value-based arrangement, marketing firms and clients identify specific metrics of success and structure agency compensation around outputs instead of inputs.
Value-based compensation works primarily for one major reason: it aligns the interests of the agency and the client. Both parties are working to achieve the same things. They both have similar financial incentives. Structured properly, value-based compensation agreements can also give both parties similar risks and rewards.
Imagine how this could change the dynamics of an agency-client relationship. Suddenly, the concept of “partnership” takes on real meaning. Clients start to view “risky” agency recommendations differently, because they know the agency has skin in the game. A new level of trust and mutual respect emerges, because both parties have a stake in the outcome.
Value-based pricing is unquestionably where the marketing world is headed. The question is, who will get there first: agencies or their clients?
Do you know what predicts your brand’s success? Most marketing metrics only measure what has happened, using what could be called “lagging indicators.” But imagine the effectiveness of your marketing program if you could identify the “leading indicators” for your brand; the activities, buyer behaviors, and measurements that actually lead to sales and profits.
Progressive marketers and their agencies are exploring this brave new frontier. Instead of just looking in the rear view mirror at historical measurements like sales and market share, they are attempting to look ahead at predictive measures that are the actual precursors of business success. Most “leading indicators” never appear on a financial statement, but they can – and should – be identified, tested, and tracked.
|Transactional||Attitudinal and behavioral|
|A measurement||A measurement tied to a hypothesis|
Identifying the real causes of brand health is vital to successful brand management. For example, most brands with call centers, which includes a lot of B2B brands, commonly measure such things as time on hold and minutes per call. But these metrics don’t measure or predict real customer satisfaction. Research by Convergys shows that customer satisfaction is predicted by two things: 1) Is the customer service representative knowledgeable? and 2) Is the problem resolved on the first call? (Convergys 2008 U.S. Customer Scorecard.)
An important difference
Lagging indicators are simply a measurement. Leading indicators are a measurement tied to a hypothesis, which can be tested and refined, in order to explain or predict behavior. Imagine six friends getting together every Friday night to play poker. Over the course of a year, on person wins 60% of the time – the other players win much less often. These statistics are all lagging indicators; they tell us what has happened. But they don’t tell us why. You might be inclined to think the 60% winner cheats, but in fact he wins so often because everybody else in the group has such a poor poker face. The point is that you learn nothing by observing the result – only by understanding the process that leads to the result.
For example, If you reverse engineer most successful marketing programs, you’ll find that they center around a hypothesis based on a powerful insight into buyer behavior. That hypothesis can almost always be considered a leading indicator.
All measures are not created equal
While predictive is better than historical, this isn’t to say there isn’t a place for lagging indicators in marketing measurement. Some lagging indicators – such as incremental profits generated from a campaign – are important and relevant measures of marketing success. The same is true with lagging indicators like brand penetration and average price per unit.
But many traditional measures of success are the result of historical practices rather than a careful study of cause and effect. Correlation is not the same thing as causation.
For example, while sales is the most common “hard” metric of success, campaigns that focus on reducing price sensitivity are more effective than those that focus on building volume or market share. In other words, we’ve learned that value share more important than volume share.
As Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
Brand health as human health
It’s critically important to measure B2B brand success using a combination of both leading and lagging indicators. You can think of the health of a brand in the same way we think about the health of a human body. A physician would never attempt to diagnose a serious problem merely based on a few outward symptoms. He or she would also likely measure temperature, blood pressure, organ functions, and other things that would give a more complete picture of health. Diagnosing and monitoring the health of a brand involves the same dynamics. Sales and market share alone only tell us the brand is healthy or sick, but don’t tell us why.
Two Different Kinds of Indicators of B2B Brand Success
|Market share||Search engine rankings|
|Market penetration||Online mentions|
|Incremental profit||Positive online reviews|
|Stock price||Customer satisfaction ratings|
|Cost per lead||Brand buzz|
|Cost per click||Website page views|
|Marketing cost per unit||Brand likeability|
|Gross impressions||Brand fame|
|Cost per impression||Emotional attachment to brand|
|Customer acquisition cost||Would recommend to friend|
|Customer retention cost||Would pay price premium|
|Average transaction value||Customer compliments and complaints|
At a time when marketers are looking to prove the value of every marketing dollar spent, their agencies have an opportunity to provide an immensely important new dimension of value by helping their clients develop and test leading indicators of brand success. Far too many agency-client relationships begin only with a “scope of work” instead of an understanding of “scope of value,” a clear distillation of the desired outcomes that combines both lagging and leading success metrics.
Knowing the metrics that matter should be part of the intellectual capital an agency brings to the relationship it has with its clients. By measuring what matters, brands can make limited marketing dollars go much further in these economically challenging times.