There's a great deal of discussion these days about whether or not the marketing department can be entrusted with measurement of the return on their investments. Some leading academics are advocating that measurement responsibility should be owned by finance, who have both the technical skills and the objectivity to do the job right.
Seems to me that this would be sort of like having auditors count and hold money because banks shouldn't be entrusted to invest it wisely.
True, most marketers today lack the depth of measurement skills to address the finer aspects of the challenge. Also true that many are too blinded by the optimism of wanting a marketing program to work that they struggle to be objective in assessing it. And finally, it is true that over the years, marketeers have developed a bit of a reputation for wanting to build small empires of headcount and budget. But these are all things of the past (or soon-to-be-past).
I suspect the debate is just that... a debate. Anyone who really understood the craft of marketing would know that there are so many subtleties in planning and measuring marketing investments, only one who has achieved a higher level of understanding can appropriately quantify the risks and rewards.
The question arises from the fact that too many marketers hide behind these subtleties in the belief that they somehow defy quantification. Wrong.
Everything can be measured. Given the time and resources, it is possible to quantify the economic value created by any type of marketing investment, in any combination, in any circumstance. So while it may be appropriate to argue that there is simply no time or money to develop a reliable quantitative measure, it is naive to say "it can't be done."
In the end, measuring the return on marketing is about the company as a whole gaining a higher level of confidence that its marketing strategies and tactics are having at least the desired effect on the marketplace. The implication is that marketing and finance should be working together to determine when and where costs of building higher-certainty measurement processes are worthwhile, and focusing their collective expertise on those critical questions.
Finance is going to continue to turn up the heat in search of understanding of the payback on marketing. As marketers, we have two choices: 1) to work with them to inform their perspective on the best ways to do that; or 2), to spend an increasing amount of our time and energy "fighting them off" and baffling them with marketing-speak. In the long run, only option 2 holds the prospect of the CMO keeping their job.
What do you think? Can marketers be entrusted to measure their own effectiveness and efficiency? Should the responsibility lie elsewhere? How does it work in your organization?