As the economy spirals closer to a recession and corporate budgets are slashed, the reality for B2B marketers this year is that every dollar spent is going to be questioned, scrutinized, and will need to be tied directly to revenue. Marketing leaders need to be laser focused on shifting their budget to tactics and programs that align to a buyer’s new reality and partnering with sales to meet revenue goals for the year.
But how will a CMO know if they are investing in the right programs and tactics if they don’t have reliable sources of data and analytics available to them? How will they convince their key business stakeholders and the executive team that marketing is not discretionary spending but an investment in future revenue and a growth engine for the business?
With a curtailed budget and other COVID-19 related constraints, access to reliable data and analytics is more important than ever because they enable CMOs and marketing leaders to prove ROI, tie marketing activities directly to revenue, and test various tactics and channels to determine future investments. Marketers, by nature, are supposed to be storytellers—so why can’t we expect to tell a story with our own data? This should be table stakes—in 2020 and beyond.
The reality is, however, that while marketing leaders may have access to thousands of data points and hundreds of reports, they may not be focused on those that are most impactful to the business—especially when the marketplace is changing so rapidly. I’ve narrowed it down to what I see as the three most critical reports that CMOs need to have at their fingertips right now:
Are your MQLs producing revenue? Can you prove it? It seems like a simple and straightforward concept to be able to track the marketing source of a lead and ensure that the data is ‘credited’ with the eventual opportunity and associated revenue.
However, in reality, B2B sales are long in duration and incredibly complex, involving multiple people on the account and multiple touchpoints and channels throughout the buyer’s journey. In addition, sales is often incentivized to generate their own leads that end up competing with or even overriding marketing-generated leads in the CRM. In order to ensure the sanctity of this data and the corresponding report(s), it is critical that the CMO is well aligned with the head of sales with regards to the process for generating leads and opportunities.
Pro Tip: Whoever initially generated the lead (marketing or sales) should follow through all the way to creating the opportunity in order to preserve the data flow. An additional benefit of this is that you’ll be able to consistently and accurately measure average time to close.
Pipeline Velocity Report
How do you demonstrate—via data—that marketing is aligned with sales? Marketing leaders talk about their close partnership with sales on a regular basis (read: constantly) but need to prove that their marketing qualified leads (MQLs) have a high rate of acceptance by sales, which means converting them to sales qualified leads (SQLs). Marketing organizations that have set up a formal process for sales to accept and reject leads AND collect qualitative data on the reasons for rejection are those that are set up for success in reporting and measurement in this critical area.
For those organizations that are vested in account-based marketing (ABM), this changes the game entirely, because those marketers are pairing their portfolio of named accounts to a salesperson’s portfolio of named accounts. Hence, the goal would be to measure the effectiveness of the combined pair (marketing and sales) effectiveness (producing revenue) vs each individual effectiveness as described above. Most B2B organizations are not (yet) doing ABM reporting on the ratio of MQL to SQL because they have singular reporting structures and, therefore, no incentive to report jointly.
Pro Tip: Change the incentives and reward for both teams, reward both team members on the basis of shared metrics such as the level of overlap between sales and marketing account portfolios, the number of MQLs that convert to SQLs, and the number of SQLs that convert to opportunities.
Content Effectiveness Report
While many marketing teams today have established strong content strategies based on buyer personas, they still struggle to create seemingly straightforward content effectiveness reports that identify high- and low-performing content. While the content itself may be best in class, it is worthless unless marketing teams can demonstrate why it matters and what impact it has on the business.
Normally, marketing reports take a person focus, (i.e. customer journeys or lead lifecycles), to track revenue impact, but you can also consider reporting with a content focus and measuring each asset all the way through to revenue. In a well-constructed system, those touchpoints are aligned via the person’s record. Given our proxy for money is people and our measurement for content is people (and their consumption of content), every content touchpoint can be attributed revenue. It’s the same data that supports the customer journey, just viewed from a content perspective.
Pro Tip: If attributing revenue to individual content items is too much of a stretch, start with attributing content to MQLs. You can rank your content by the number of MQLs each asset created. And you can then weight the MQL division across the content structure.