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Importance/performance matrix

Use this framework to work out how to improve the effectiveness of marketing programs

I can guess that a couple of million years ago Wilma and Fred Flintstone were sat in front of their cave and Wilma told Fred that he would need to up his game and bring in more food otherwise they would starve. In other words, there has always been an importance/performance framework.

We had to wait until the late 1970s for the importance/performance matrix to be introduced to marketers. In 1977 John Martilla and John James (respectively a marketing professor and a consultant out of Washington DC), wrote a paper in the Journal of Marketing called "Importance-Performance Analysis". It was based on a study for a car dealer that attempted to find out how it could improve the loyalty of its service department customers. Fourteen attributes were measured to find out the importance of different aspects of service and how well the dealer performed on each. The results were analysed in a grid which showed where to improve performance.

Importance Performance Matrix.jpg

The starting point for this framework is therefore to list all the attributes that are thought to be of some importance to customers. Then it is necessary to ask customers two questions:


  • How important is this feature?

  • How well does the supplier perform in delivering this feature?


The average scores of the answers to each question can be mapped to show which features are vital to continued success and where improvements are required. It may also show where resources can be saved because they do not contribute to an improved performance. This simple and effective framework is a predecessor of the SERVQUAL model which is a matrix of customer expectations mapped against supplier performance (see SERVQUAL). Where possible it is always good to have data from customers for an analysis of this kind.  However, if these aren’t available, simple heart-searching on what are believed to be a company’s customer strengths and weaknesses would make a good starting point and no doubt point to areas requiring improvement.

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