Driving Marketing Success for B-to-B Organizations
Marketers are smart, creative and critical to the success of their respective organizations. No marketer would dispute these claims. But do they really know the impact of their initiatives? In days past, it was difficult, if not impossible, to effectively quantify their efforts. But in today’s business environment, data and technology allow marketing teams to maintain visibility through the entire prospect life cycle. This should create a feedback loop that results in optimized results.
But does it?
In his recent report, The Pipeline is Less Than Half Empty, Forrester Research Analyst Peter Burris uncovered the unfortunate truth: on average, less than one-third of B-to-B technology pipeline opportunities are generated from marketing-sourced leads. That research takes a bit of the wind out of marketing’s sails.
The story doesn’t need to end here, however. Marketers can increase their contribution to their organization — and in doing so, their budgets — by implementing a more informed, strategic approach to their marketing programs. With the following six-part process, marketers can transform their efforts from simply creative-driven into a creative- and insight-driven revenue generating machine. Starting with the data, the process provides a logical blueprint for success:
1. Data and insights. Data might not seem sexy, but it's critical to success. Most B-to-B marketers don’t take advantage of the vast amounts of available customer data to drive their marketing efforts. Understanding who your best customers are can help you establish acquisition targets. To start, organize your data and take care of the fundamentals — e.g., capture techniques, data hygiene, standardization and matching. Starting with the data will ensure that you're focusing your effort and scarce dollars where they will yield the best return on investment.
2. Strategy. Clearly your strategy should align to the financial goals of the business, but it should be driven by customer insight. For example, knowing which lead sources produce your best opportunities (and ultimately result in sales) can help you focus your efforts and allocate your resources more effectively. Behavioral data can help you determine which types of content and channels are preferred by customers. Establish a long-term (18 months to 24 months) plan to find and address critical gaps or areas of improvement to achieve your performance goals.
3. Effective processes. Know the buying process and how your customers buy. Then map out your prospect life cycle from prospect to customer, along with the behaviors associated with each stage as your prospects become more engaged.
Define the activities that offer the highest return across the different stages of the customer life cycle. Regularly review how effectively leads move through your funnel and establish programs to improve the pace at which they move. This could either mean strengthening your weakest link or building on your strengths. Coordinate activities with sales. Leverage the resulting improvements to build a stronger relationship with sales. Don’t push leads to sales too soon. Part of your process should include setting up service-level agreements with sales for lead handoff and opportunity development.
4. Organizational alignment. Just as a marketing organization can't succeed with staff that are all right-brained (or all left brained for that matter), you need to know if you have the right people in the appropriate roles within your marketing team. Creative contributors can't drive success in a vacuum, and data-driven contributors can’t succeed simply by understanding their target. Having both in place and working symbiotically is essential to generating better results and higher revenue.
5. Enabling technologies. New companies with hot technologies are continually emerging with the promise of solving all your problems with the click of a mouse. The right technology empowers marketing, but technology must follow — not lead — business requirements. CRM technology combined with appropriate monitoring and analytics tools provide insight into your customer and can help you apply best practice strategies for acquisition. Marketing automation tools help you execute effectively, quantify the results and feed back into the strategy. Finding the right tools to better manage your process will reap substantial rewards. Tools that force you to adapt your process to them will lead to tears.
6. Measurement and optimization. Measurement is often talked about but rarely done well. Not enough thought is given to the few critical measures that really drive success. It's essential that your marketing measurements lead to sales conversions, revenue from new customers and other business-driven objectives. It’s no longer simply page visits and response rates, it’s revenue-focused key performance indicators (KPIs) that demonstrate real marketing contribution and business value.
What’s on your dashboard?
Now that the foundation for revenue generation has been established, it's crucial that KPIs are tracked with a well-designed marketing dashboard. Each organization needs to determine what its critical KPIs should be. The following metrics are a good start, however, you should prune or add as needed:
- program ROI;
- customer acquisition costs;
- quality and value of sales-qualified leads;
- quantity and value of marketing-sourced pipeline leads;
- average sales cycle of marketing-sourced leads (against all other sources); and
- revenue generated per marketing dollar spent.
Ultimately marketing can back up its claim of contribution by pointing to key measurements such as:
- forecasted pipeline generated from marketing activities;
- percentage of marketing leads to closed business;
- revenue of marketing leads to closed business; and
- year-over-year increase/decrease in marketing results and revenue.
With a framework of marketing tracking and measurement in place, not only will both right- and left-brained marketers succeed, but their credibility and relationship with sales will improve. Only then will marketing have a substantiated claim to its contribution to revenue growth and success.
is executive director of client acquisition and marketing at Quaero, a CSG Solution.