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How Marketing Can Earn a Seat at the Revenue Table

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Who is in charge of revenue at your company? In most B2B companies, the sales department owns the revenue pipeline. As a result, Sales holds the most political power of any function.

In contrast, Marketing too often gets left out of the revenue process. There are companies where Sales holds weekly revenue calls, and nobody from marketing is on the call. The executive leaders of these companies think of Marketing as a cost center, not a strategic asset that drives growth.

As one marketer lamented in a recent CMO Council report, "My group is perceived by upper management as the people who do color brochures."

Marketing is suffering from a crisis of credibility. So what can marketers do so they are seen as part of a machine that drives revenue and profits, not just the people who throw parties and buy swag?

1. Forecast results, not spending

Marketers must forecast and predict leads, pipeline, and revenue with confidence. Sales and Marketing must sit together at the revenue table to contribute to next quarter's and next year's forecast.

Marketing's role is to predict how many new qualified leads will enter the marketing funnel, how those leads will move through the funnel, and how many of them will become "sales-ready" in any given quarter.

2. Make hard business cases for spending

Marketing also must make a hard business case for the resources it needs to deliver on those forecasts. This requires knowing what it takes—in money, time, and effort—to acquire qualified leads and nurture those leads until they are ready to talk with Sales.

Marketers who use such rigorous methodology to determine marketing spending are also able to make justify and defend their budgets. If the CEO wants to cut marketing spending by 10%, the CMO can specify exactly what impact that will have on next quarter's revenue.

3. Use marketing metrics that matter to the CEO and CFO

Soft metrics like brand awareness, impressions, organic search rankings, satisfaction, and quality are all important—but only to the extent that they eventually connect in a quantifiable way to hard metrics like pipeline, revenue, and profit.

The Marketing dashboard must measure the impact of all marketing activities, whether hard or soft. But keep all but the most critical metrics internal to Marketing.

When talking with other executives, make every effort to demonstrate how changes in soft upstream metrics impact hard downstream metrics that matter to the entire organization.

By speaking the same quantitative language as CEOs and CFOs, CMOs will better communicate Marketing's value and impact.

4. Employ standardized best-practice methodologies

There are two main benefits to using a documented, best-practice methodology.

First, it provides a common language for consistent communication inside and outside the department. Consistency is critical for reliable rollups and forecasts, and for accurate comparisons of value between different leads and opportunities.

Second, a best-practice methodology improves performance by helping every marketer perform more like the top marketers—regardless of their experience with any given tactic or channel.

For too long marketing has been seen as an art and not a science. Implementing a consistent best-practice marketing methodology will go a long way towards changing that perception.

5. Deploy marketing automation technology

Sales force automation (SFA) technology has become a "no-brainer" for most companies. The estimates for penetration in the US vary from about 50% to 75%. The SFA solution is a key enabler of the activities that tie Sales to revenue; without SFA, sales executives would find it much harder to roll up forecasts and implement best-practice methodologies.

Unfortunately, most marketers have found it impossible to implement marketing automation technology to support their activities and funnel. The problem is that traditional marketing solutions are expensive, require up-front capital investment, and need lots of IT resources to implement and maintain.

Fortunately, with the rise of on-demand software, there are now solutions that work with realities of today's marketing budgets and IT support. These solutions provide the automation and support that Marketing needs to predict results, plan spending, measure impact, and improve performance.

* * *

Marketing can and must earn a seat at the revenue table. Earning a seat requires acting like other departments that already have a seat:

  • It requires making forecasts, planning spending, and measuring results using hard business metrics like pipeline, revenue, and cash flow.
  • It requires implementing a best-practice methodology—supported by marketing automation software—that delivers consistent communication and improves performance.
  • And, since better accountability necessitates better performance, it requires that Marketing delivers on its promises by delivering more, better leads to sales.

Only then will Marketing be seen as an equal partner with Sales in the effort to deliver revenue for their organization.

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Phil Fernandez is president and chief executive officer of Marketo, a global leader in revenue performance management solutions, recently named one of "America's Most Promising Companies" by Forbes. He is also the author of REVENUE DISRUPTION: Game-Changing Sales and Marketing Strategies to Accelerate Growth.

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