A couple of decades ago, I was speaking at B2B marketing and sales conferences on the topic of: Bridging the Marketing and Sales Gap. My subtitle was Marketing is from Mars and Sales is from Venus, which I paraphrased from the extremely popular book (at that time), Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. The theme was that marketing and sales weren’t speaking the same language and did not have common objectives.
Much has happened in the intervening years in terms of media, social platforms, promotional techniques, and so forth. However, as Ardath Albee’s recent CustomerThink article discussed, a fair number of B2B salespeople still shun the results of marketing initiatives, including accepting marketing qualified leads (MQLs). There are two harmful consequences of this situation. First, the tremendous amount of waste of people and financial resources, and what this costs a company in revenue and profitability.
Consequence two is equally harmful – the loss in executive confidence in the marketing department and its leadership. If you are the marketing leader and allow your value to the organization to be denigrated by your counterparts in sales, it will be a painful experience for you and your team. Your working life will be less pleasant as you spend more time defending what you are doing, and less time doing important stuff. From an organizational standpoint, this can set the revenue plan back and lead to results ranging from inactivity (due to fear of failure) to outright chaos.
Why Revenue Marketing is the Solution
According to Pedowitz Group Partner and Chief Strategy Officer Dr. Debbie Qaqish, “Revenue Marketing is a holistic approach that helps marketers prove return on marketing investment, create optimal customer experiences, and compete in the digital world. It allows marketing to be viewed as a key part of driving revenue instead of as a necessary cost center within the organization.”
This definition works for me because it contains the essential element of marketing as an investment. There is a reason why politicians always refer to spending tax dollars as an “investment” and not an “expense”. The investment moniker has a positive connotation and you are supposed to embrace anything described with this term. As it applies to marketing – you always want your budget and personnel to be perceived as investments, not expenses. After all, an expense is easy to cut, whereas an investment – not so much!
Here is what a B2B Revenue Marketer knows and acts upon.
- The strategic part of your job is imperative. I’ve seen marketing departments turned into tactical execution engines for projects initiated by sales. This won’t be good for you or the company. Make sure you are spending sufficient time on branding, top-line messaging, strategic alliances, and product marketing.
- You need to accept and explain the time-lag between action and results. This is often a key point of differentiation between sales and marketing. Sales has a quarterly goal that is paramount, while marketing must not only support short-term needs but also look out several quarters/years. In most B2B marketing scenarios, an investment of $1 today equates to a certain amount of future revenue, and although this may not happen as quickly as desired, it is reality.
- Empathy is crucial. In marketing, we talk about empathy in terms of understanding what motivates prospects and customers. The same is true when it comes to your counterparts in sales. Get to know them. Sit in on a few of their sales calls. Celebrate when the deals come easily and commiserate when they are hard.
- Communication is essential. As a revenue marketer, you have two audiences. First, the external audience like suspects, prospects, and customers. Second, the CEO, executive suite, and peers in your company who will either appreciate and embrace what you are doing, or ignore you and/or make your life miserable. Stay top of mind by frequent communication to share activities and results.
- You need to understand all the numbers. I don’t care how clever your ads are, or how nice the trade show booth design, or how many articles you got published. You also need to understand the numbers in the entire lead-to-revenue cycle. And yes, this means the sales forecast and pipeline. Leads don’t buy anything – prospects and opportunities do – so make sure you understand what is happening at the end of the process.
To tie the numbers together, let’s go back and look at the point made in Ardath Albee’s article – that B2B sales reps are denigrating and ignoring marketing qualified leads (MQLs). You probably can’t win an emotional argument on the importance of following up on every lead (e.g. how reps need to find the wheat hidden in the chaff). However, if you can present data that shows that eight percent of MQLs end up as customers and that by ignoring these leads, the company will lose X dollars in revenue, your CSO and CEO will be inclined to side with you, as well as acknowledge your status as a revenue marketer. The key is to have objective data and stay out of subjective arguments about lead quality based on anecdotal impressions.
The Role of the CEO in Supporting Revenue Marketing
Over my career as both an in-house marketing executive and marketing services consultant, I’ve worked with CEOs that support marketing and sales synergy, and unfortunately, a few that tolerate (or even encourage) disharmony. The latter are much more difficult to work with and usually less effective.
B2B expert Ruth Stevens talked about this in her recent column titled, B2B Senior Leadership: It’s Time to Face the Truth About Sales and Marketing: “The truth is, if the senior sales leader and the senior marketing leader in your company don’t truly like and respect each other, all is lost. Nothing is more important to set the tone and establish the culture of cooperation than a solid relationship between the two leaders. And that goes for the CEO as well. The two leaders need to report to someone who respects and likes them both and who will defend them both and their teams, and demonstrate that attitude consistently across the board..”
CEOs have their natural proclivity towards one function or the other, but they need to appear to be impartial. When the CSO and CMO know this, they will each quit trying to pit the boss against their counterpart and invest their energies toward crafting solutions that best leverage both functions towards a common purpose – driving revenue for the current period and beyond.