Need some insights about how to become a successful performance marketer? This article provides actionable takeaways that you, as a CMO, can use to build up your performance marketing capability. (You can also grab a FREE performance marketing ebook to get even more details.)

Start impressing the board with your insight into what activities will drive performance and, therefore, the bottom line.

Performance Marketer Tip 1: Find a Tool That Measures ROI

We have access to reams and reams of data. But data is about as useful as a chocolate teapot if it doesn’t tell us what we need to know.

You must invest in the right data collection and reporting tools.

For example, if social media is a key part of your marketing strategy, and if you use a social media management tool to help you create, publish, and manage your social media content, you likely have access to reporting functionalities.

Those reporting features will allow you to pull data directly from each social network that tells you how many likes, follows, and shares your content is getting.

Most social media management tools only let you collect and report on vanity metrics, however. None of the social media management tools that are available on the market will tell you the ROI–in monetary terms–of your social media activity.

Except for Agorapulse.

Agorapulse is the first, and only, social media management platform that connects to Google Analytics and auto-adds UTMs to every link that you publish. That means that you can track the journey of every single user that clicks on your content and, therefore, attribute activity and spend to revenue.

See it in action and book a free demo.

“The more precise my tracking is, the better I can attribute the results to my marketing efforts. Without good tracking, I can hardly attribute the successes to a source and thus also can’t evaluate the impact of the channel on the overall success.” (Yannick Schmidt, head of B2C for Nerds)

Performance Marketer Tip 2: Collect First-Party Data

But also, don’t be afraid to ask customers for it,

The arrival of dark social and the loss of third-party cookies doesn’t mean that key performance data can’t still be collected and attributed to activity.

You’d be surprised by what you can do with first-party data and an attribution model, for example. And, although it’s a separate topic, let’s not forget, first-party data is a goldmine for personalization strategies.

But why not bring it back to basics, and actually ask your customers where they came from or how they found you?

“You can ask someone, ‘How did you hear about us?’ in a form fill, and then you can use that to help you decide what the real attribution should be.” (Lisa Sharapata, CMO of The Arbinger Institute)

That type of contact gives you the data you need to prove performance. Also, talking one-on-one to customers will also bring in that personal, human touch that we’re all craving in this tech-first world.

Performance Marketer Tip 3: Test Everything, All the Time

As the adage goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got” (or less).

You need to continuously test your content to see what is and isn’t converting. Be ruthless with what isn’t. Pull out the dead weeds to allow your flowers to bloom and grow.

“It’s about looking at conversion rates and establishing where you can optimize. So it’s saying, ‘OK, we’re going to tweak this, do an AB test, and if this is a clear winner, if we’re seeing that this model is working from an ROI and conversion standpoint, then we’re gonna run with it.’

“Demand Gen should be converting into revenue. If you’re not converting into revenue, then something is broken in your sales and marketing funnel, and you need to fix it.” (Lisa Sharapata)

Performance Marketer Tip 4: Educate with Upfront Conversations

As we discussed earlier, not everything we do is trackable or measurable. Not everything we do will provide a return that demonstrates performance.

So, you must manage expectations by having real and candid conversations with your key stakeholders.

“Brand awareness activity DOES drive performance,” says Lisa Sharapata. “When you run campaigns, you may not get an instant hit on ROI, but you might see things like an increase in the volume of traffic on your website, slightly better conversion rates, an increase in LinkedIn followers … You might see that more people are viewing your page or searching for you on Google, etc.

“Some of these things are leading indicators that the brand awareness work you’re doing is working.

“You can use them to say, ‘Look, we can’t directly tie this to revenue at the moment, but here’s what I can see from it. It’s indicating that it’s money well spent and that we’re doing the right things. And, over time, I expect it to turn into demand.’ Then, you track the activity over time, and if it doesn’t turn into demand, then you say, ‘Hey, you know what? I was wrong. This isn’t working. We’re going to reallocate that money. We’re going to move that money over here.’

“It’s about having an upfront conversation about what success looks like, and how best to measure it. ”

Performance Marketer Tip 5: Find Out What Data You Need and Learn How to Utilize It

Before we can collect data that is useful–that tells us what we need to know–we first need to know what we need to know: What would be useful?

As a marketer, you have your own objectives. You know what you want to achieve, and you work your butt off to get there.

But do you know what the CFO’s objectives are?

Do you understand what the board or your investors are looking for?

If you don’t, there’s a good chance that all that hard work you’re doing to meet your own objectives will be a waste of time.

Say one of your objectives was to grow your social media fan base. Posting viral content on all your social networks would probably help you achieve that goal. But if the CFO’s objective was to grow revenue by 8% a quarter, will an increase in followers get them to that target? Will the money you’ve spent on those viral campaigns help?

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It might do, but you’ll need to prove that it does and (unless you’re using Agorapulse to prove Social Media ROI) how will you do that?

It’s worth forming relationships with key stakeholders and working together to make sure that your goals are all aligned and that you’re collecting the right performance data that proves ROI in the areas they’re looking at.

“I started out in graphic design, but as I climbed my way up the corporate ladder, I realized that I needed to understand the nuts and bolts of the company a little more,” says Lisa Sharapata.

“So, I took time to interview different CFOs, but especially those I worked the closest with. I left my ego at the door and I just asked questions. I got curious. I wanted to understand what they were trying to accomplish, and what information they needed from me, to help them get there.

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“But it can be intimidating to start with. You could boil the ocean with the amount of data, numbers, and analytics we have access to, and it can get really overwhelming. So get started with just a handful of things and work backwards from there.

“Understand what your stakeholders are trying to accomplish and what will make the biggest impact: What do they really need to know?

“Having these types of conversations, upfront, really helps to create a partnership and get people on your side. They’ll then back you up during those tough conversations that center around things like, ‘What happened to this chunk of money?’”

Knowing what data you need to collect is one thing.

The next challenge is to learn how to harness its power and use it to skyrocket performance.

“As a CMO, I’m looking at a content marketer who wants to increase the number of subscribers to their blog series,” says Darryl Praill, CMO of Agorapulse. “Rather than just getting more people to subscribe, I want them to be looking at more. I want them to know who these subscribers are. I want them to be selective and ascertain if they’re an ICP fit or not. They need to understand the data behind who’s going to convert.

“They need to look at who we’re trying to attract and understand things like SEO and say, ‘OK, these are the highest keywords being searched for, we should use this insight to create content that truly hits home.’ I want them to be able to understand the data that’s in front of them and use it to create better content and campaigns.”

It’s not just about creating content for the sake of creating content anymore.

“Content is starting to become a very strategic part of the marketing mix. You need to put serious data and thought behind how you’re approaching what content you create and how you should create it. You can’t just throw spaghetti at the wall and hope it sticks anymore.” (Lisa Sharapata)

Performance Marketing Tip 6: Accept and Adapt to Rapid, Continuous Change

“Yes, it’s a change and yes, change is scary. But there was a point in time when the Internet didn’t exist. (I predate the Internet.) There was a time when I had to learn how to use the Internet to do marketing. But that’s how marketing is: It’s constantly evolving. Especially with technology. Accept that at some point your career will change. It’s about how you face that and adapt.” (Darryl Praill)

As we said earlier, marketing is a conveyor belt of change, it never stops. There’s always something new coming in. Something new to learn about or learn from.

“I stumbled across an article about a CMO that had worked for all the industry’s top names, like Netflix and Microsoft, and I’m like, ‘How does one become the CMO of Microsoft?! That is not an insignificant feat.’ That individual began life as a speechwriter for Bill Gates. So you see, it’s always about reinventing yourself and adapting.” (Darryl Praill)

Change is never easy … and it’s always inevitable.

“It’s a transition from being that brand marketer to being that performance-based marketer. The one thing that’s constant in life is change.” (Darryl Praill)

Take Lisa, for example. She started out as a graphic designer. Now, she’s a multi-time CMO. She got there by accepting change, adapting to whatever came her way, and committing herself to asking all the questions.

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Performance Marketer 7: Combine Performance and Brand Marketing Strategies

Just because the focus is moving towards performance, that doesn’t mean we forget about the brand.

We still need to spend time and money on building awareness and nurturing relationships with existing and future customers. But we need to combine that activity–and prove our worth–with attributable and measurable performance-based tactics, such as influencer or affiliate campaigns.

It’s not “brand marketing” vs “performance marketing.” We need to adopt a more holistic approach and use the benefits of both to crush our marketing activities.

“I started off in brand marketing,” says Lisa Sharapata. “That was where my passion was. But I quickly realized that to make strategic decisions, I needed to understand what was working and what wasn’t. I needed performance data to help me do a better job.

“You can glean so much from data that will help you to better use funds, make better decisions about what channels you should be in, or what words you should use, but you do also need the artistry of marketing, too. You need that balance of Yin and Yang to really master marketing.”


“Folks, if you’re not doing this now, you need to be. Understand and embrace the numbers.” (Darryl Praill)

Performance marketing, for a lot of us, can be a scary place. Suddenly, there’s this huge pressure to justify our activity and prove performance in these cold, hard monetary terms that we’re just not used to.

Our traditional brand awareness campaigns, designed to generate intangible engagement and relationships with customers, can’t be measured, so they can’t be used to prove ROI.

Although we must continue with our brand-led activities, we must now pair them with performance marketing tactics, where we can collect clear data that proves performance. Not only will this stop stakeholders from breathing down our necks, but it will also allow you to make better decisions, try new things, do your job better, and earn respect from inside and outside the company.

Get the right tools, utilize the right data, continuously test what you’re doing, have frank conversations with those above you, and be ready to accept and embrace change.

“My friends, to be in the driver’s seat, you must become a performance marketer.” (Darryl Praill)

Download a free copy of Performance Marketing: Why & How to Shift From a Brand Marketer to a Successful Performance Marketer to learn more.

Seven Ways to Become a Successful Performance Marketer