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The abrupt changes caused by Covid-19 have shocked both our work lives and our personal lives, upended the economy, and forced all of us to rethink how we do business.

But even in today's brave new digital world—where in-person events, tradeshows, and conferences have evaporated in the blink of an eye—other facets of business have not changed. Though the pandemic has created a scramble for ways to best engage with customers in the current environment, the biggest obstacle facing marketers existed before the pandemic wreaked havoc.

That problem is straightforward: customer experience, engagement, and interactive marketing are the most important strategies and tactics in 2020, marketers agree—and yet those are the very same categories they say they are performing poorly in, our research at ON24 found.

That is what we call the "performance gap."

It's common that business stakeholders cannot agree on what the most important metrics are. But it's a different dynamic when businesses agree on the most important metrics—yet still cannot improve their performance in these areas.

In this article I'll highlight why that performance gap exists and how businesses and marketers can bridge the divide and drive real revenue growth.

Covid-19's Impact on the Performance Gap in Marketing

Let's take a step back. Although this marketing performance gap has been around for years, Covid-19 has created fundamental changes in how we market.

In a digital-first world, sales teams can no longer "press the flesh" and use their own charisma and networks to get their foot in the door with a prospective customer. In the past, sales teams have also been responsible for escorting customers through each stage of the buying cycle, ultimately owning the "real selling."

Nowadays, though, Marketing is the driving force behind guiding the buyer's journey, right through to the decision-making process. Marketers now own the entire cycle, including every stage from awareness through purchase.

That shift brings about another change: The marketing metrics we have used in the past must also adapt as marketers expand their role in driving revenue.

Previously, most marketing data was focused on qualifying prospects and generating Marketing-qualified leads (MQL)s. But just focusing on pipeline does marketers a disservice if they're owning virtually the entire sales funnel. Marketers need to rethink how they can best measure their efforts now that they're taking a holistic approach.

Because performance gaps can materialize if you own the sales cycle while still relying on outdated metrics that measure only top-of-funnel efforts.

The good news is that the best marketers were already making the necessary change.

In fact, before the pandemic, 89% of top-performing marketers reported that their team creates dedicated materials that support the entire customer journey—not just acquisition. Top marketers were also going much beyond metrics such as website traffic, email clickthrough rates, and social media engagement; they were looking at more actionable benchmarks of performance, namely the engagement metrics that are tied to revenue.

Turning Engagement Into Action

The best modern marketers are focused on creating immersive digital experiences that actively engage their audiences—highly interactive experiences that surround attendees in content offers and calls to action. And through such engagement, marketers access the insights needed to guide people through their unique buying journeys.

For example, if prospects download a piece of content, marketers should be measuring that. If they ask a question on a live experience, that should be measured. That sort of engagement in turn provides unprecedented insights for marketers.

But we need to take it a step further—and turn that engagement into action. The days of handing sales teams a name, even a well-qualified name, are over. The successful marketers of tomorrow will be those who put the insights and engagement data into the hands of salespeople, in real-time, to enable them to continue conversations, not start them. Marketing can even set up triggers in a digital experience that will alert the sales team to an opportunity as it happens.

In a post-Covid world, Marketing can fill a key void for Sales operations. That's because Marketing plays a more primary role in collecting the digital body language of prospects and surfacing those insights to sales. That provides Sales with a level of intelligence it needs to be successful in this digital world.

Building a Customer Experience That Mirrors Your Funnel

That engagement shouldn't stop after a purchase, though. It needs to play a role not just in the buyer's journey but also in customer experience.

Post-purchase, your customer experience team should create engaging digital experiences to uncover insights and turn those insights into effective touchpoints; furthermore, you should take steps to align your marketing, sales, and customer experience teams so they're informed about customers' interactions and preferences.

That way you'll be able to reduce churn and simultaneously look for cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

* * *

All those various steps can close the performance gap that hampers businesses today. It's time for marketers to go beyond generating and qualifying leads, and start focusing on building engaging audience experiences across the entire buyer's journey.

In this digital-first world, the true metric for success is not the pipeline you create but the revenue you help deliver.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Sharat Sharan

Sharat Sharan is a co-founder and the CEO of webinar and engagement platform ON24.

LinkedIn: Sharat Sharan