How to operate marketing as a profit center (six keys)


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I’m sure that the concept of Profit Center Marketing has been around for a very long time.  I first mentioned it on this blog 12 years ago, and have been ramping up the drumbeat over the past 12 months, but the level of urgency for B2B marketing teams to embrace the idea of marketing as a profit center has been increasing of late.

Gone are the days when marketing organizations can act as the arts and crafts department and get away with it.  Gone are the days when marketing can focus on marketing metrics alone.  Today’s (and more importantly tomorrow’s) B2B marketer embraces their central role in driving measurable, predictable and scalable revenue for their organizations.  They recognize that one cannot buy a beer with an MQL.  They celebrate the freedom and terror and accountability that comes with aligning not with a marketing scorecard, but with the very financial and revenue-centric goals that drive growth, profitability and success.

Profit center marketers speak and understand the language of the CFO, stand toe-to-toe with their sales counterparts, champion a buyer-centric approach, and measure everything on business impact.

This is more than just account-based marketing (though that is a great first step).  It’s more than just spending more time on the sales floor.  It’s more than just building an integrated sales and marketing technology stack.

As I talk more about Profit Center Marketing around the country and learn from B2B marketing organizations who have already embraced it, I’ve found that the following six key attributes and focus areas are present (if not prevalent) wherever it is actively practiced.

1. Objectives & Alignment
Your primary objectives are business metrics, not marketing metrics.  Your scorecard is 100% aligned with the sales team’s goals, and your executive scorecard prioritizes metrics your CFO will recognize (vs marketing-centric acronyms that only your team understands).  You work from a single spreadsheet developed with the sales organization – how many deals, how much revenue, from what size pipeline, derived from how many leads.  It’s more complicated than that of course, but it’s one sales and marketing spreadsheet, one single set of math, not separate and competing metrics that often compete more than they complete.

2. Reporting
Profit center marketers separate their operational dashboards from their executive dashboards.  They know that managing marketing still requires squeezing more performance out of campaigns, increasing engagement on the Web site, etc.  But profit center marketers keep that inside baseball largely to themselves, and focus their cross-departmental reporting on metrics that matter – sales pipeline contribution, marketing-attributed sales, customer lifetime value.  The executive dashboard holds the reporting that really matters, and to which you want your marketing team associated.

3. Culture
I cannot overestimate the importance of culture in establishing and successfully executing a profit center mentality in marketing.  This includes helping junior marketers gets comfortable with the idea that their primary objectives aren’t completely within their control, that lowest-possible cost per lead isn’t in fact the primary end-goal.  It means training the rest of the organization to believe you’re no longer the arts and crafts department.  It may also mean that your head of marketing, who has been comfortable hiding behind marketing-centric metrics his entire career, needs to change his perspective or needs to go.  Some of these take time, some may require hard choices about people, but it’s imperative that you perpetuate a culture of business accountability moving forward.

4. OODA Loops
OODA stands for observe, orient, decide and act.  It’s a constant feedback look of review, evaluation, adjustments and new execution.  You will try new campaigns that fail. You will launch new sales enablement programs that don’t work.  Learn quickly, adjust quickly, and keep moving forward.

5. Transparency & Empathy
Key to making all of this work is how effectively you can make yourself vulnerable, how completely you can lean into the new work of driving not retweets and clicks and open rates but revenue, lifetime value, margin and more.  For the best profit center marketers working today, this means transparency across departments (and especially with the sales organization) on what you’re doing, and why, how it’s working, how it impacts them, etc.  Furthermore, empathy with other departments who face similar challenges is key to working together more successfully.  None of you have the complete map, the complete plan that’s guaranteed to work.  All of you are going to make mistakes.  Just ensure that there’s a baseline of trust, respect and empathy that permeates your work on a daily basis.

6. Accountability
It’s not always pretty.  It certainly isn’t always comfortable.  Sometimes it hurts.  But that is the path to success.  Your sales organization has been on that path since the beginning of time.  They have lived and operated in a crucible of transparency, pressure and – when it works – glory, praise and credit for hard work paid off.  Being a profit center marketer means accepting what happens on the path to success.  It’s leaning into results good and bad, knowing that nobody (you, sales, even the buyer) controls when the deal gets done, but relishing the excitement and terror and responsibility along the way.

If you want to learn more about Profit Center Marketing, this will be a key theme in our upcoming Modern Marketer’s Workshop: ABM: From Strategy to Action and Results.  This live, comprehensive workshop will be complete with strategic and tactical best practices to help you implement and profit from repeatable, scalable account-based programs at the heart of Profit Center Marketing.  Click here to learn more, I do hope you can join us!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.


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