According to many marketing leaders I speak to, B2B marketing budgets are coming under increasing pressure. These marketing leaders are being asked by their Managing Directors and Chief Executives (and let’s not forget their Finance Directors and CFOs) to justify what their marketing budgets are actually buying them. Many, as a result, are having to do more with less, and being asked to demonstrate marketing’s contribution to revenue.
For traditional marketing departments, this has been a necessary - if sometimes unwelcome - wake up call. For others, it has represented a great opportunity to rethink the relationship between marketing and the rest of the organisation - particularly sales - as they seek to transform marketing from a cost centre to a revenue centre, and to make their contribution to the top line more visible (and better appreciated).
Improving sales and marketing alignment is, of course, a necessary foundation for achieving this transformation from a cost centre to a revenue centre. But the truly transformational gains come from thinking of both marketing and sales as parts of an integrated revenue generation engine that spans the entire journey from awareness to revenue.
Internal alignment is not enough: both marketing and sales need to come together around a common agreement about who their most valuable potential customers are, what really matters to them, and how and why these prospects make buying decisions. Armed with this consensus about your ideal prospects, about the problems you solve, and about your prospect’s buying decision process, marketers are in much better shape to determine which actions actually influence revenue.
The scope for improving the return on marketing resources is significant: studies by the American Marketing Association and Forrester suggest that the vast majority of today’s marketing activities, sales tools and sales meetings contribute little or no value in terms of positively influencing buying behaviour and intent.
Get your focus and processes right first
So my first recommendation - one that requires no upfront investment in new technology - is to map out the key stages in your prospect’s buying decision process, to use these (rather than sales activity) as the basis of managing an integrated marketing and sales pipeline, and to map your current marketing activities and sales tools against this Buyer’s Journey.
If your experience is anything like that of other organisations that have been through this process, you’ll probably uncover a couple of things:
Many of your campaigns, activities and sales tools cannot be mapped to a specific stage in the buying decision process. They serve a generic and sometimes undefined purpose. But if you cannot clearly define the purpose of any one of these initiatives in moving a prospect from one stage in the next in their decision process, you ought to be asking why you are doing it at all - because you certainly won’t be able to measure its effect, or the impact on revenue.
You’ll probably also uncover yawning gaps - stages in the buying decision process that are inadequately supported by relevant, targeted marketing activities and sales tools. These represent your opportunities to improve revenue performance. A few carefully targeted initiatives can often have a significant impact on eliminating bottlenecks and encouraging prospects to move forward to the next stage in their consideration with your organisation.
In summary: systematically eliminate any marketing activity or sales tool that cannot be clearly mapped to (and shown to be effective at) a specific stage in the buying decision process - and implement carefully targeted initiatives to facilitate and accelerate common choke points in the Buyers’ Journey.
Automate in order to amplify the benefits
The marketing automation vendors may promote their solutions as the way to implement revenue performance management. And, of course, when well implemented, these tools can have a powerful impact. But all too often, I come across organisations that had been persuaded that technology was the solution - and of course, it isn’t, and can’t be, in the absence of well-defined processes.
Many of these organisations ended up disappointed at the results of their marketing automation investments, but this isn’t an inevitable outcome. Get your core processes clear first, then use marketing automation to measure, monitor and refine them. You’ll be able to better judge the impact of your initiatives in affecting revenue performance. And you’ll be well on your way to transforming your marketing from a cost centre to a revenue centre.