We marketers are sure living in "interesting times," as the old Chinese curse goes. Your marketing department can be successful and still be perceived by the rest of the organization as an absolute failure.
This critical disconnect is due to one simple deficiency: visibility. A unified view of how to measure marketing success is something widely disagreed upon but highly desired. However, with the right mindset and processes, it doesn't have to be that way.
What's Marketing up to?
Keeping your counterparts and teammates in the loop of what Marketing is up to is of the utmost importance. That's why calendar views are so important, why you see such emphasis on editorial and campaign calendars. (Everyone loves a good calendar.)
Get used to people wanting to know what is going on with Marketing. It's always one of the first budgets to be cut. Sure, you're doing more than ever, but the impact is often less clearly defined than other roles. Marketing is attributive, not a straight line.
What most organizations want is Sales reaching out to people directly, but that process has changed quite a bit with the growth of digital channels.
Marketing is finally starting to get that legitimized view, considering all the technology and money people are spending on it. But, organizations still aren't clearly defining success and are trapped in a one-dimensional view of what successful marketing looks like. They are trying to reinforce opportunity creation. Which I think is a logical area where Marketing comes into play.
The problem is that there is still a disconnect between Marketing and Sales. Marketing wants people to know that it generates the lead, but Sales wants the credit because it spent six months talking to the lead to get him to the close.
Marketing, like Sales, is increasingly becoming an equation of influence, meaning that you can get a very hot lead and send it over to Sales... but Marketing doesn't stop there. The yin and yang work together to move the buyer closer to the goal. When you're measuring marketing success, having metrics that will provide those insights are key. So is getting buy-in for those metrics.
Lead generation should be part of any good marketing process, of course, but it shouldn't be the sole focus. Influence is just as important, albeit less sexy, a concept, but with today's modern buyer, nurture is how results are cultivated.
Metrics for measuring success
In the past, success was measured by the month and how many net new leads were generated. Today, that view is archaic.
The modern marketer considers not only net new lead creation but also leads and even former prospects that have re-engaged through ongoing conversations. What's more, the window of this influence is widening, up to a year. Sometimes, it's even more, depending on the details of the solution being offered and the associated sales cycle.
At LeadMD, our sales cycle is 23-days long, but the average length in nurture is over a year. We know there is a large consideration period, a catalyst for pain identification, and an incredibly swift buying process that occurs for our services.
Things like the differentiation between Automation Qualified Lead (AQL) and Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) are starting to better define those influences. Based on the newest Sirius Decisions findings, AQL seeks to better define buyers who have met scoring thresholds facilitated by automation, but have not yet "raised their hands."
This designation alone speaks to the emergence of marketing attribution at a different level. Previously, buyers were forced to fill out forms or attend an event to express interest, not the accumulation of light interactions that today can qualify them for a tailored follow-up.
Marketing deserves credit for those interactions, and the first step in that process is exposing the visibility of the touches themselves. Without that, it's just another name in a database.
You can start to see that this all leads up to an often difficult way to measure framework. The easy thing is to fall back on number of leads. And that really goes against a lot of the things being preached in marketing today about awareness, thought leadership, and brand building that don't have a "right now" influence over a net new lead or opportunity.
We have to be able to measure those conversations that now take place over a huge amount of time. Just the way you'd research for a while before getting a new car, the process with B2B software is much the same way.
With as much lip service as these new methodologies get inside the marketing community, we often do a terrible job at educating the other departments in our company.
Be a champion for marketing
The organizations that we see succeed with good alignment and technology have someone who is a marketing champion that cannot be muted. It's up to you to be that champion, especially if you use such methods like marketing automation and content marketing.
Marketers need to make it clear that engaging a buyer is impossible if you're focused on net new lead creation because to do that, you're going to default to things like PPC and content syndication.
Paid methods can give you a download but not much more, and that's the opposite of engagement. If you call me after I download your whitepaper, I'm never going to download another one again because I know there is a phone call looming.
Though the role of the champion is absolutely key, there is one downside: When a champion gets a new job, the organization slides back to where it was.
* * *
Bottom line: there is no better way to align process than to provide visibility into it and create other champions by indoctrinating them. Bring in stakeholders from all areas to get buy-in. Be transparent; document your process and share it with your peers.
Never be afraid to over-educate and over-communicate. It's never just what you are doing in a campaign, it's always the why. People want to know why it's a good investment, and it's up to you to show them why.
As marketers, we have to have to be open and honest. Many marketers paint a vivid picture of all the things they are going to do, but when the stakeholders are gathered, the canvas is blank.
Never be afraid of bringing the bad with the good, and work tirelessly to create understanding about what you're aiming for and how long it's going to take.
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