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If you could do one thing to your marketing to make a sustainable difference in your ability to impact the business, it's to change what you measure. —Samantha Stone

You've probably figured this out by now, but measuring open rates and making fancy marketing dashboards will only get you so far. If you really want to make a positive impact on your business (and get ahead in your career), you need to go deeper.

Real value lies in being able to make informed decisions based on meaningful data—and being able to communicate Marketing's far-reaching impact to your CFO and management team.

Those concepts are at the heart of a MarketingProfs Master Class, "A Marketer's Field Guide to Financial Goal Setting and Measurement," kicking off May 11 with expert instructor Samantha Stone.

Stone, the author of Unleash Possible: A Marketing Playbook That Drives Sales, is a revenue catalyst, B2B marketing strategist, researcher, speaker, consultant, and persona coach. She is also the founder of The Marketing Advisory Network, which helps business leaders unleash the possible within their enterprises.

We recently spoke with Stone about the importance aligning Marketing to business goals through financial goal-setting and measurement.

MarketingProfs: How important is it for marketers to align with the business and its revenue goals?

Stone: If you could do one thing to your marketing, to make a sustainable difference in your ability to impact the business, it's to change what you measure. When we measure the right types of things, even though that measurement might be hard, might be somewhat manual, and might not be perfect…when we put our focus on the right business objectives, it creates an environment where marketing is free to make the right decisions for the business and not chase ineffective metrics.

MarketingProfs: How can marketers go from measuring marketing activity to showing their true value to an organization?

Stone: It's easier than we think, but we're scared of it a little bit. Many years ago, I was working for a software company, and marketing was measured by the things you would expect: the number of leads that were coming in and pipeline contribution.

We had done a whole bunch of analysis beyond those two measurements to see what types of things were affecting growth of the business—what was actually making it past first meeting into actual pipeline, what was converting from pipeline to customers. But yet we were still held accountable to the lead number.

One day, the CEO of the company came into my office and he said, "I want you to be responsible for the revenue number with sales in the close and win rate." And I thought, "No way, man. I'm not going to be responsible for what sales is doing. You're crazy."

I sat down and I made all these arguments about why that wasn't the right thing to do. He smiled, he left my office, and I thought, "OK. I'm going to take a deep breath now and let me think about what is the right thing to do."

MarketingProfs: And what conclusion did you reach?

Stone: Once I took that deep breath, I realized, "Do you know what? They're totally right. If I actually share those goals with my sales counterparts, we're completely aligned with what we're trying to do. That may mean I deliver fewer leads, but I affect the business more directly. It frees me to make different decisions than I would have been able to make if I was only held accountable to a league goal, only held accountable to a marketing contribution goal."

And it proved to be true.

Ever since that really difficult conversation, I've taken a step back and build measurement systems that allow us to be in lockstep with the goals of the business. Revenue pipeline is one of those goals. It's not the only one, we also measure other things, but it's critically important if we want to be the best partners we can be for the company overall, and certainly for our sales team.

MarketingProfs: And how do you go about being a key partner for your finance colleagues as well?

Stone: Being able to walk into a board meeting or an executive meeting, even sitting down with the head of the accounting, or your CFO who is setting up your budgets next year, and have a direct line between the activities that we are trying to fund and the outcome that they're likely to have on the business—it changes the conversation immensely. It becomes much more strategic.

Also, it provides a level of flexibility for marketers, so we can experiment, and we don't have to only do the same things that we know predictably are going to deliver X because we have flexibility to do things as the business changes, as their audience changes, as the effectiveness of individual programs change.

Earning the right to have those strategic and flexible approaches to marketing—it really is releasing for a marketing team. It gives us so much more right and trust to be able to do the things that we need to be able to do day in and day out.

MarketingProfs: Life is busy for marketers right now. Why should they take the time to check out this new Master Class?

Stone: I believe this in my core: if there's only one thing we can change that affects the outcome of our marketing program, it's to change what we measure. I have seen it over and over again. In the course, we talk about lots of examples where this change has had a meaningful impact in what marketing is able to deliver to the business.

Plus, the great part about the Master Class format is that every section is modular; you're learning in bite-sized chunks. You can come in and review at your leisure; you can break up and look at a particular piece that's important to you.

My hope is that people will find it very practical in its application, and also very inspiring to give them the confidence to walk into their CFO's office or their CMO's office, even sometimes their CEO or the board, and feel confident in presenting the types of goals and metrics they know are going to make a big difference, and to know that there is research and data behind why those things are selected.

MarketingProfs: Are there any other takeaways you hope attendees get?

Stone: I hope that they build a little bit of faith in data that's not purely automated. Good measurement systems use technology to provide as much insight as possible, but we still need some ways to do some manual reconciliation, and I don't want people to be afraid of that.

And I hope that this course will inspire people, no matter what foundation they have, to not be afraid to measure the things that are going to be really meaningful to them, even if it's not a perfect science.

MarketingProfs: It's great to let people know that no matter where they are within their journey and career, they will get something out of this.

Stone: Yes. I really believe that. At the end of the day, we all want to do good work that makes a difference, and the only way we can know that the work is making a difference, in any way other than a gut check ,is by building measurement systems that tie the work we do to business goals, and also to know what things to measure and what things not to measure.

This course, I hope, will help provide the foundation for people to really figure out how they're going to build these systems, what they're going to present from an executive standpoint, and then what they're just going to use for their own day-to-day marketing decision processes.

Plus, the course is available on-demand, but we also have an opportunity to do the live Watch Parties. I really hope to see lots of people there because I'll be live on those sessions available to answer specific questions that people might have about applying those lessons within their specific organization. I hope folks will take advantage of that opportunity.

Learn more about the Master Class kicking off on May 11, and register here.

Other MarketingProfs Master Classes

SEO for (Non-Techie) Marketers: The Art of Being Found

Marketing Strategy: Finding a Sustainable, Differential Advantage

Customer Journey Maps for Marketers: Understand and Exceed Expectations

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