CMO 2.0 Perspectives

October 7, 2013 Leave a comment

This post can also be seen on Inside CXM.

I have always been fascinated by how the best marketers combine the science and the art of marketing, and in today’s marketing 2.0 or CMO 2.0 world, successful marketers leverage both aspects to create new equations to address changing customer needs. In this era of empowerment, customers are shaping the experience, driving the brand, and deciding who to do business with more so than ever before. This has created an imperative for businesses of all sizes around the globe to reinvent how they think about and deliver the optimal customer experience.

As I engage with CMOs through a variety of organizations, both online and in person, I find that many of my peers are grappling with how to be a modern CMO and increase their influence on the customer. As the Internet has become the primary customer channel for many businesses, marketers have had to become fluent in and digital savvy with a wide range of internet technologies. What CMOs have been asked to do over the last several years is be more of a full business partner to their CEO, and a full-fledged peer in revenue generation with the head of sales, or Chief Revenue Officer.

In order to do that effectively, it’s become imperative that the CMO have both business acumen as well as the analytical and technological skills to be a peer with the other senior execs at that table. So for some, it’s been a reinvention, and for others it’s been evolving their capabilities and learning new skills in the area of marketing science and technology.

Many of my peers that I have talked to are certainly up for this bigger challenge. Not everybody, however, wants to have increased responsibility and accountability to drive predictable contributions to revenue growth. It takes a drive for understanding more than just the numbers and the data; you have to have the insights and the judgment to know what to pay attention to, what to change, and at what magnitude to act.

The most successful CMOs are also driving much closer alignment with their sales counterparts, from planning and prioritizing investments, to segmenting customers, and driving engagement, pipeline contribution, measurement, and continuous improvement. Alignment is not an event, it’s a process and it’s inevitable that you will get out of alignment, up and down and across the organization, so you have to keep focused on re-enforcing or refining alignment to maintain a solid working relationship with sales.

One of the more interesting challenges for marketers today is to drive the customer agenda. By that I mean, what is the strategy for targeting, acquiring, engaging with, retaining and growing customers? Paul Hagan at Forrester has written about the rise of the Chief Customer Officer. There may be 2,000 companies around the globe that have designated a Chief Customer Officer, but there are probably hundreds of thousands of companies that don’t have one, and marketing is better positioned than any other function to lead this charge. Marketing generally has control over significant budgets, communications, the web and social channels and consequently has the ability to extract the best information and insights about the customer. Marketing can’t do it alone, but can certainly lead the customer agenda at most companies.

In order to own the customer agenda, marketers need to become much more analytical and data-driven. Some CMOs have put a lot of this responsibility in their Director or VP of Market Operations. While it’s important to have this function at any company of scale, I don’t feel that the CMO should just delegate this responsibility. You have to be able to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, and so you have to dig in, get your hands dirty, and truly understand how all this works at a granular level.

Grasping the data alone, however, is not enough to get the leverage you need to outgrow the competition. You need to understand customers in depth and create customer profiles or personas to embellish behavioral and purchase data. You want to go deeper if you can and understand the whole person. For example: what do they like to do when they are not at work? What keeps them up at night? What do they think about when they have free time? Where do they hang out, and in particular, what social channels do they frequent? You’ve got to know what’s important to them, and then you can understand the holistic person and have a better chance of effectively communicating in a resonant fashion and ultimately build a mutually beneficial and lasting relationship.

In my view, there’s never been a better time to be a CMO and have a seat at the table with the rest of the executive team, to help drive innovation and growth of the company, and lead efforts to improve the customer experience. If you’re up for the challenge, it’s certainly going to be hard, but it should ultimately be rewarding as well.

Categories: CMO, Organization, Sales

Should the CMO be the Chief Customer Experience Officer?

September 18, 2013 Leave a comment

This post can also be seen on Inside CXM.

Given the rapidly evolving role of the CMO, it may be a natural extension for a CMO 2.0 to assume primary responsibility for customer experience management in an organization. Before assessing the merits and cautions associated with such an expanded customer responsibility, it’s worthwhile to first understand the market and structural drivers that are causing companies to rethink how customer experience is managed and who “owns” the customer experience.

In the always on, wirelessly connected, information rich world we live in, the customer is completely in charge of who they engage with, how and when. And their expectations of how they will be served—i.e. exactly in the manner they wish or they will go elsewhere—have risen to such a level that companies have no choice but to transform their entire approach to customer experience in order to attract and retain customers. This dramatic shift of power to the consumer has significant organizational ramifications, and companies are rethinking every aspect of how they deliver an optimal customer experience, from the technology they deploy, to their culture, value systems, business process, staffing and training philosophy and practices.

One thing is clear: having a fragmented organizational approach to delivering a unified, tailored and contextual relevant customer experience won’t work. Companies need to orchestrate all customer touch points across organizational silos and find ways to deliver experiences that demonstrate a connected approach rather than a disjointed one. Keep in mind, the customer never asked for a disjointed experience; it’s just that most companies are organized along functional lines (i.e., sales, marketing, services, support, finance, etc.), so it’s naturally difficult to have a coordinated, cross-functional approach that enables the organization to holistically manage the customer experience across the entire customer journey, from pre-purchase to post-purchase.

There are various organizational approaches that companies are adopting to attempt to solve this operational dysfunction. Some companies have appointed a Chief Customer Experience Officer or a Chief Customer Officer. These executives typically have either specific organizational responsibility or operate in more of an advisory role. In the former case, the “customer experience owner” who has staffing and budgetary resources is much better equipped to drive the organizational changes required to effect meaningful change in how customer experience is managed. In the latter case, an advisory position that has the mission to drive customer centricity and optimize the customer experience, but lacks staffing and budget, will struggle to effect change even if the individual is part of the senior executive team. This may depend in a large part on the influence or personal power of the individual chartered to “own” customer experience. However, without direct control over people, budgets and systems, the gravitational pull of functional imperatives to, for example, do what’s right for sales, marketing, or service inhibits the advisory executive’s potential impact on customer experience.

What’s a company to do when there is no designated company-wide customer experience owner? It is still possible to begin the journey towards customer centricity by aligning functional objectives across two or more functions, such as sales, marketing, and services. Someone needs to at least own the cross-functional responsibility to ensure that goals and benchmarks are established, and regular measurements (such as continuous or periodic tracking) are taken to record progress against the stated objectives. In many companies, since marketing owns key elements of the customer experience (e.g., communications, Web, social media, customer loyalty programs), it is a likely group to lead the effort to align functional groups and drive initiatives to integrate customer experience management. Customer experience ownership is a journey that has to start somewhere, and it often starts with one person raising their hand to tackle the inherent structural impediments of functional organizations vs. customer -centric ones, and to drive change that improves customer experience in every interaction.

Just because marketing is now empowered if not expected to drive more of the customer experience to help support customer acquisition, expansion, loyalty and retention goals, are they necessarily best suited to become the chief customer experience officer? I believe so. As one CMO I spoke to recently put it: “I need to prescribe the ideal customer experience at every touch point—Web, call center, product, store, etc.—regardless of organizational reporting structure, so I’m providing leadership and guidance on how to drive a better customer experience, so our company can optimize every interaction.”

There are many roles other than the CMO that could assume responsibility for becoming the de facto chief customer experience officer, including the COO, head of Sales or Service. The CMO, however, is in the best position to take on this responsibility due to the increasing influence they have on the entire customer experience across all touch points. So CMO, the opportunity awaits you and the question is, are you ready to take it on?

Categories: CMO, leadership, Organization

The Evolving Role of the CMO – Part II

This post can also be seen on 1to1 Media.

Part two of an ongoing series in which Pegasystems CMO Grant Johnson sits down with other CMOs and Industry experts to talk about burning issues that are top of mind for B2B and B2C marketers.

In the first part of this series published on February 8 I covered three of six key elements that define the new CMO. In this second part, I delve into the other three: achieving alignment, becoming a business partner, and being customer driven. As before, I include insights from three CMO thought leaders on what it takes to succeed in an increasingly digital world: David Cooperstein, vice president, CMO Practice Director, Forrester Research; John Ellett, CEO of nFusion and author of The CMO Manifesto; and John Neeson, managing director and co-founder, Sirius Decisions.

 

Achieving Alignment

Alignment used to mean that the CMO needed to inform sales on what new products or services were about to be announced, and what new marketing campaigns would be running in the quarter. We could approach alignment in a siloed fashion, seeking it where needed, such as for budget approval for major expenses, and avoiding it where unnecessary, such as testing messaging to increase response rates. It’s a lot different nowadays. Today, as John Ellett states, alignment means, “getting the rest of the C-suite unified around a central strategy. It’s about aligning sales, customer service, operations, and support around delivering a superior customer experience across every touch point.”

As CMOs, we are expected to contribute to the shape and trajectory of the business and bring ideas, energy, and inspiration about how to grow more profitably and compete more effectively. It takes a lot more effort and cycles to drive companywide alignment than functional alignment, especially when any significant change is contemplated. It also takes someone with more business savvy (i.e. typically an MBA or advanced degree is required) than marketing may have been expected to possess in the past. It also takes a lot more gravitas today, both in and outside of the boardroom. As David Cooperstein says, today’s CMOs have to “earn the right to the C&O (chief and officer), and not just the ‘M’ part of our titles.”

It’s about achieving alignment as well as sustaining it. With increasingly dynamic markets and competitive pressures, it’s easy for an agreed-upon strategy to be compromised, so refining and re-aligning are required more frequently. Plus, CMOs must continually demonstrate not only well-conceived strategies, but also deliver consistent, predictable results. In a 2012 Sirius Decisions marketing survey, John Neeson found, not surprisingly, “that the top challenge was demonstrating marketing ROI.” CMOs are more accountable than ever and also better equipped, with proper executive alignment, to demonstrate the value that marketing delivers.

 

Business Partner

In order to fully achieve alignment, a CMO must be adept and proficient at becoming a full-fledged business partner. While the opportunity to impact business results has increased for CMOs, the expectations have also risen commensurately. As Cooperstein says, the CEO now expects the CMO “to tell them about the things that are coming down the pike and bring new ideas forward,” so they can better navigate fast-changing global markets and seize opportunities more rapidly, and to have “a constant pulse on the customer to gauge how they are reacting or changing, and what that means for the business.”

The CMO is uniquely qualified to optimize the customer experience, but to do so successfully requires substantive insight into customers to fully understand their preferences, predict their behaviors, and drive measurable outcomes to marketing initiatives.

In the past, marketing could sometimes speak in a slightly different language, just as engineering might have. Today, however, as Ellett believes, “the biggest thing that a CMO can do is to talk to what they do in the language of business results. They need to connect marketing language and programs to key corporate objectives and priorities.” They also need to spend more time in crafting, articulating, and refining strategy to be the business partner that others in the C-suite now expect. Neeson believes that the tide has shifted and more CMOs are coming to the table with “very good business skills and a more pragmatic view,” which is a lot different than when their role and scope was narrower.

He believes that the “CMO comes to this role because it’s the one place where you can touch every part of the business. You can change market perception, your business, and have an incredibly positive impact on the longevity of the business and really move the needle more than in any other place.”

CMOs also have to have complete command of the metrics that drive success for both the marketing organization and the business. They have to have facts and figures at the ready on every aspect of what they do, from cost per lead and relative program success to customer engagement levels and website effectiveness—all to instill confidence and demonstrate marketing ROI.

 

Customer Driven

As I’ve alluded to earlier, being connected to the customer is more critical than ever for today’s CMOs. As Cooperstein says, “the roles of marketing have been revised, and CMOs are much more customer focused than before. How customers consume messages is being considered more significantly now. It makes the role a lot more fun if you are customer driven, but not so much fun if you aren’t.” In mostly all companies, the CMO does not have direct control over the entire customer experience, but he or she must somehow understand every contact the customer and company have with each other and drive, or at least influence, how to shape and orchestrate the right experience at every moment.

Marketing has traditionally led cross-functional strategies and tactics around the customer lifecycle, from contact to acquisition and from cross-sell to retention. But leading an organizational shift to become truly customer driven is a much bigger undertaking, and one that requires both fortitude and stamina. But there’s no going back. In the Web 2.0 world, customer experience and loyalty have become the key differentiators between leaders and laggards. While the importance of delivering great experiences for customers is generally understood by most companies, executing well (and consistently) across all customer touchpoints remains a challenge and thus an opportunity for CMOs to make a major difference.

In today’s so-called customer-driven era, many companies are approaching this shift to a more empowered customer by driving greater integration in customer management across functions and systems. The CMO is naturally one of the primary executives that companies are asking to orchestrate a cross-functional, strategic initiative to enhance customer lifetime value and operational efficiencies across many functional areas, including sales, marketing, service, and support. Without appropriate department, process, and systems linkage, however, the impact will be diminished, so taking on this critical leadership role is no small task for CMOs. But that’s precisely why we are all evolving; figuring out how to increase our contribution to the business, what to do differently, what to discard, and what to amplify is what makes this role intellectually challenging and rewarding, both on a daily basis and over the long term.

The Evolving Role of the CMO

February 4, 2013 1 comment

Part one of a multi-part blog series in which Pegasystems CMO Grant Johnson sits down with other CMOs and Industry experts to talk about burning issues that are top of mind for B2B and B2C marketers.

The CMO role is rapidly transforming, in large part due to the rapid pace that social, mobile, cloud and big data mega trends are becoming pervasive and changing the very nature of business. In this first installment, I spoke with three CMO thought leaders to better understand the most significant aspects of the new CMO role and what it takes to succeed in an increasingly digital world:  David Cooperstein, VP, CMO Practice Director, Forrester Research; John Ellett, CEO of nFusion and author of The CMO Manifesto; and John Neeson, Managing Director and Co-Founder, Sirius Decisions.

It became clear during the course of several dynamic conversations I’ve had recently that six key elements define the essence of the modern CMO, and how well they are put into practice can largely determine whether he or she will succeed in shaping company success or be relegated to the historical role of merely owning branding and communications.  I share many of the same views that my counterparts and I discussed, and there are many take-aways from each interview.

In the first part of this article, I will cover these first three key elements:  Old vs. New; Marketing Science; and Marketing Technologist.   In the second part, I’ll delve into the other three: Achieving Alignment; Business Partner; and Customer Driven.

 

Old vs. New

The old CMO was focused primarily on corporate marketing and strategic communications, without full operational responsibility or a regular seat at the table in the C-suite.   The new CMO is, according to Neeson, a “more cross-functional role that touches every part of the business.” CMOs now must be “constantly looking at things and evaluating from a strategy standpoint to determine what they can do better.”   To succeed in the new world requires not only a firm grip on navigating the complexity of the business environment, but also, according to Ellett, the ability to influence C-suite peers and “share insights across the organization that help shape both corporate strategy and operational excellence.”  It’s a balancing act to maintain an operational focus the keeps the engine running smoothly, while regularly looking over the horizon to what’s coming next, what to pay attention to and what to ignore, but the new CMO is figuring out how to do enough of both to increase impact on organizational growth and success.  It’s not for everyone, and becoming increasingly more digital and influential in business operations and outcomes is invigorating for many of us who are renewed in this process of evolving.

 

Marketing Science

In the old days, marketers could assert that “half of my marketing spend works, but I just don’t know which half.”   The rise of digital media, combined with the ability to measure the effectiveness of the increasing amount of digital marketing spend, means that marketers are now being held far more accountable for the results of marketing expenditures.  But it goes beyond just measuring marketing ROI.  Modern marketers need to become experts at understanding digital customer behaviors and in data mining so they can architect a customer strategy that maximizes the efficiency of how their company targets, acquires and grows customers and increases market share.  We are in the customer-driven era and the age of customer empowerment. According to Ellett, “this dramatic shift in power to the voice of the customer” means that marketing needs to become more science, and marketing needs to lead the company to “build out the capability organization-wide to be more responsive to customer voice and experience.”  He continues, “Marketers have traditionally been quite strong at persuasive communications and ideation.  The best ones have also excelled at understanding the customer mindset and leveraging agency partners to drive demand and increase influence.  The new CMO must now become as adept at analytics and data-based decision making as they have been at the more subjective art of branding and communications.” As Cooperstein states: “today, more than ever before, CMOs are being held fully accountable for the results of marketing activities.  This means we have to be more metrics oriented.  A lot more is required.  We’re seeing that working together is much better than working apart.”

Neeson, too, agrees, noting CMOs must not just “measure results, but also effectively communicate marketing’s value.”   Becoming more “scientific” can be daunting, however, having the evidence to objectively demonstrate marketing’s contribution to the business can also be very empowering.

 

Marketing Technologist

From a career path perspective, marketers traditionally have educational backgrounds rooted mostly in liberal arts, fine arts and communications, rather than science.   Some have progressed or transitioned into marketing careers from a more technical underpinning, such as computer science or engineering, especially in technology markets.   With the rapidly increasing role that technology plays in helping companies optimize their operations, engage with and convert customers, and build lifetime customer value, technology adroitness is now a mandate that all marketers can’t ignore.  According to analyst firm Gartner, by 2017, CMOs will spend more on technology than CIOs.  Regardless of whether this prediction comes true, marketers have no choice but to become well-versed in technology.  They need to not only understand the broad range of technologies that can help the company compete more effectively (e.g. predictive analytics, social media monitoring, marketing automation), but also how to create a technology adoption roadmap.  Except for CMOs starting out at new companies, most of us have a technology infrastructure that is a collection of capabilities and not fully capable or integrated to serve current business mandates.  So it’s now required to closely partner with CIO peers to articulate a cogent roadmap to acquiring, improving and integrating marketing technologies that help the company meet its strategic objectives.  As Ellett states,  “technology has changed the way customers interact with information and how they choose to interact with companies,” so CMOs must now drive how technology is utilized, just as they drive marketing strategy and tactics, to ensure their company can successfully engage with the more empowered, digital, and social customer.

Because of these reasons and more, there’s been no better time to be a CMO.  Sure, current-day challenges are formidable.   But as all three interviewees note, the stakes are much higher in this era of digital marketing, and marketing has an increased ability to demonstrate intrinsic value to the entire organization.  I’ll hit on this and more in the second installment, focusing especially on how this new approach is driving several things, including tighter alignment of marketing, and the expanding role that customers are playing in marketing strategies, tactics and more.

Categories: CMO, Marketing

‘Tis The Season

December 11, 2012 1 comment

As we move closer to the holidays, many things are once again cropping up, just like clockwork.  Some – including the airing of The Christmas Story and It’s a Wonderful Life – are always welcome.  Others, like frenzied mall traffic and egg nog, you want to forget.  And then there’s the blitz of year-end predictions – just like holiday songs, they can be a mixed bag.

I promise I won’t declare 2013 “The Year of fill in the blank”.  But as we look forward to the New Year, there are some trends that CMO.com highlighted earlier this year that are worth revisiting. In fact, it’s my view that three are going to be increasingly important for B2B CMOs to pay attention to as we look toward 2013:

1.      Show Me the Money – I mean it.

With the economy teetering on the edge of what many are calling a “Fiscal Cliff,” I can’t stress enough how important marketing ROI has become in our field.  As I noted previously, what matters most is what has the most measurable impact on sales and customer retention.  Did sales increase, did sales velocity increase, did average customer value increase? What about marketing to sales qualified lead conversion ratios and customer retention rates, and what was marketing’s measurable impact on any and all these numbers?  There are many ways to objectively demonstrate relative contribution by marketing.  Getting agreement on what to measure and what success looks like is key to showing the true value that marketing contributes.

2.      The Silos are Broken

Marketing is no longer viewed as a stand-alone function. It is now expected to strategically drive more of the customer experience to help support customer acquisition, expansion, loyalty and retention goals.  As one CMO recently told me, “I need to prescribe the ideal customer experience at every touch point – Web, call center, retail store, etc. – regardless of reporting structure.  I’m providing guidance on how to drive a better customer experience so our company can optimize every interaction and drive positive word-of-mouth momentum.”  This new dictate applies equally well to B2B and B2C marketers.

3.      Word of Mouth Spreads

As CMO.com notes, social has proven to have vast benefits for all companies that become adept at it.  While that’s a big “if” in some cases, the role of social media is relentlessly increasing as it becomes more prevalent.  Companies that once turned a blind eye to certain channels like mobile or Twitter or LinkedIn are now being forced to embrace them all – simultaneously. Or else they risk losing impatient customers who can go elsewhere for better customer experiences.

There’s little doubt that B2C organizations – especially those with millions of customers that come into daily contact with consumers – have more opportunities to show they’ve embraced this. At Pega, while our target-account approach differs from many other B2B organizations, social has become an integral and formidable medium for us to leverage throughout our marketing and communications. We’re active on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to ensure we’re engaging with our customers appropriately, but also so we can continue building our brand awareness. As we move into 2013, we’ll continue to increase participation in these areas, with the objective that we’ll be drawing more attention to our increasingly known brand.

For all organizations, the key to getting ahead in this area will not only be proactive listening.  Companies mastering social will be continually participating in opportunistic ways to drive customer engagement and improve business outcomes.  That ultimately impacts the way enterprises respond, what solutions they sell, how they sell them and their relative market success.

Sure, this is no easy task. But then again, neither is enduring those long lines and packed parking lots.

Are You a CMO 2.0?

October 5, 2012 1 comment

Over the past few years, I’ve connected with  dozens of CMOs via peer groups, such as The CMO CouncilThe CMO Club and Forrester’s CMO Group, and everyone I talk to is striving to become more “2.0.”   So what does it really mean to be CMO 2.0?

Conventional wisdom says that you have to embrace the mega trends, including big data, cloud, mobile, and social.  You need to immerse yourself into the new ways of pervasive computing and continuous communications that Generation C – or the connected generation – view as a way of life.  You need to be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc.   You need to meld traditional competencies in communications and creative ideation with quantitative analysis and insight-producing analytics. But, while all this is true, it overlooks the change in operational approach and style that is equally important for a CMO 2.0.

Just because a CMO is in the “C-Suite” doesn’t mean he or she will be more successful at influencing peers than VPs of Marketing who are not part of the most senior executive group.   Success requires a commitment to building and maintaining strong ties to other C-Suite members, so you can count on their support for strategic initiatives.   As John Ellett, CEO of nFusion and Forbes blogger, said in a recent blog: “I found that effective marketing change agents take time early in their tenure to forge strong relationships with their C-suite peers. They don’t wait until they unveil their strategy and hope to build alliances at that time; they seek out their peers and develop the trust needed before it’s time to align on a plan for change.”  Leading change is a key success factor for CMOs, so this advice is critical to maximize the probability of success of any key initiative.

Another key dimension of being a CMO 2.0 is the ability to not only learn about and embrace mega trends, but also to determine how these trends are affecting your business, and how to use them as a catalyst to drive growth and revenue. Best-selling author and technology guru Geoffrey Moore definitely gets CMO 2.0.  In his talks about the future of IT, he articulates how systems of engagement are replacing systems of record, so that we are moving from an era of: command and control to collaboration; from transaction-oriented to interaction-oriented; from data-centric to user-experience centric; and from user learns system to system learns user.

To be CMO 2.0, you have to not only drive marketing, but also drive change in the systems the company uses to connect with and engage customers, and continually revise the policies and processes that govern all customer interactions, whether or not you have authority over these functions (e.g. sales, service, support) that touch customers.

Many observers have said that the CMO 2.0 is ideally suited to take on additional responsibility and have an increased impact on organizational success.  But this won’t happen by simply synthesizing the mega trends – it requires a deeper insight into what to do about them and the formulation of a transformative plan to drive organizational change.  In his recent book “Everywhere”, Larry Weber, Chairman of W2 Group and Pega board member, explains that you can’t just say your company is going to embrace social media, you actually have to change the company at the core:  “To develop a social enterprise, management has to be intentional about creating a culture that values openness, transparency, collaboration and innovation. Although many social forces are making this directional move inevitable, it often goes against the grain of how companies have traditionally been run.”  To be CMO 2.0, you therefore have to be just as involved in culture building and culture change as the head of HR and the CEO are.

So it’s clear that while embracing Web 2.0 technologies and understanding mega trends and their implications is important, it’s what you can do about this unrelenting wave of change to reshape your company and its operational parameters that will ultimately determine whether you are truly a CMO 2.0.

Marketing Metrics That Matter

Every CMO and senior marketer I talk to these days is striving to improve marketing ROI (MROI).  Most have become proficient in measuring and reporting on marketing effectiveness.  But few believe they have succeeded in proving the value of marketing to their CEO and peers, especially the CFO and head of sales.  Why is this so?   There are a lot of reasons, including not having a complete or robust data set, not constructing marketing dashboards in a manner that is as easy to understand as a standard P&L report, or simply not having delivered sufficiently compelling data to support MROI assertions.   From my experience, however, the primary gap results from not being aligned with the CEO and your marketing peers on what metrics really matter.

To illustrate this point, there’s an entire category of metrics that don’t matter much to anyone besides marketing:  activity levels.  In other works, the quantity and frequency of marketing activities, such as the issuance of press releases, emails sent, campaigns designed and executed, collateral created and delivered, Web site visitors, even the number of Facebook fans and Twitter retweets.   While all of us set objectives calling for increased activity levels in nearly every facet of marketing (other than efforts to stem the tide of negative press or poor social sentiment), the intrinsic value of activities is virtually zero in the eyes of the CEO and C-level peers.   It’s not the amount of activities that matters, it’s the results.

I don’t even think effort matters for much.  What matters most is what has the most measurable impact on sales.  Did sales increases, did win rates increase, did average deal size increase, did retention rates increase, and what was marketing’s measurable impact on any and all increases?  It may sound too simplistic, but determining what the most meaningful metrics that influence sales success is actually very difficult for most marketers.   In B2B firms with simple products or services and short sales cycles (e.g. 30 days or less), these measures may not be that difficult to demonstrate.  But in complex enterprise sales characterized by multi-stage approvals, group decision making and longer sales cycles (e.g. one year or longer), proving marketing’s contribution is very difficult.   With so many influencers and inputs into the equation, proving attribution to marketing (i.e., something happened entirely due to marketing) is next to impossible.  Because of this, I’ve removed the word “attribution” from our marketing vocabulary and instead concentrate on demonstrating “contribution” to sales.

There are many ways to objectively demonstrate relative contribution by marketing, such as percentage of leads generated, percentage of pipeline generated, and for some organizations, pipeline acceleration – i.e. shortening the sales cycle, if truly measurable – as a result of nurturing campaigns and other marketing tactics.  If you can attain agreement on the acceptable numbers and percentages for these and related measures, you are well on the way to showing the value marketing contributes.

Sirius Decisions, as one of the leading firms helping B2B companies improve sales and marketing effectiveness, has developed best-practice guidelines around some of the more meaningful metrics.  To aid marketers in creating useful dashboards, they organize measurements around three elements: metrics, KPIs, and financial.  For metrics, Sirius suggests tracking inbound inquires (the best of which is the “contact me” request) and influencer advocacy (i.e. supporting and recommending your company).  For KPIs, they suggest tracking customer satisfaction and demand or sales waterfall conversion rates.  For financial, they suggest showing reduced cost per lead and where possible, cost per sale.   Any of these measures can help advance the case for marketing and build confidence in not just what marketing does, but how it impacts the top and bottom lines.

So if you’re still struggling with what to measure, how to measure it, and how to report marketing returns to a range of stakeholders, the most important part of this journey is getting agreement from the CEO and your peers on what metrics matter to them and what returns are expected.   Once you have achieved this, you can work on presenting the information in a readily digestible format that conveys facts and figures in a compelling fashion.   The first rule of effectiveness in communications applies equally well here: it’s not what’s said, it’s what understood.  When you achieve their understanding, you are well on your way to proving not just the effectiveness of marketing, but also its worth.

Now on to the next challenge:  how to ask for an increase in the marketing budget.  Let’s save that for another day, because this conversation typically goes as well as it did when, as a kid, you asked your parents to increase your allowance because of good behavior.

Categories: CMO, Marketing
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