I would love to hear from you whether you have noticed the same thing? Some (not all) creative types claim they don’t understand or don’t want to deal with numbers. Do you see that with some marketers?
“All the time. You can go into elementary school and find kids who are drawing. My daughter, for instance, loves to draw, while my son excels in math. However, at the same time, drawing isn’t his strong suit. So, yeah. We’re simplifying things, but it is pretty universal in terms of preferences, proclivities and how people lean.”
I’m the kind of person who believes, perhaps naively, that if we practice enough of anything, I think we can learn and adapt. Even if it isn’t something that strikes us as easy to do out of the gate.
“I couldn’t agree more. That is why I said proclivities. It is as if there are things that we tend to lean towards, either because it’s interesting to us or since we’re good at it. Nevertheless, this doesn’t imply that there other things that may be important to us aren’t worth the effort and it just might mean we need to make a little more effort.”
The reason why I wanted to start here, and that’s as close to psychology as we’re going to get, other than maybe the phrase pattern matching. But the reason why I want to start here is that I really want to encourage people to challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zone because we’ve noticed with the evolution of marketing data and technology that understanding and communicating your data as a marketing leader is becoming more and more critical.
“Yes and just like most things that change every year that goes by, it becomes more important. It spreads. Certain things are just inevitable when it comes to how the world is leaning. And the reality is now more than ever with the change of economic conditions and money being a lot more tighter, we are entering the down slope where there’s a lot of pressure on marketers to defend their budgets. The best and easiest way to defend your budget is to be able to quantify the value that you’re adding to the organization beyond the events and the content that’s being put out for the campaigns. Let us quantify. I think that’s where the pressure is. Quantify the impact that you are making for the organization.”
When you coach people who maybe aren’t comfortable, do you have some easier places you could recommend they start?
“There are so many different places to start. I would say like anything else, things that you are uncomfortable with, go in the shallow end of the pool. You don’t jump straight in. There is a school of thought that says you throw someone into the deep end, but it’s going to be an uncomfortable experience for most people, even if it is effective. So what I usually advise and we as an organization have found works much better is to have a gradual approach, whether you call it crawl-walk-run or create phases. And usually, the first or the easiest phase is to start looking to quantify some basics. I find that every organization on the marketing side when we look at digital or even some traditional marketing, they can quantify engagement. So we can quantify ad impressions and ad clicks. They can quantify the number of people at a trade show, for example. So, how do we move one step beyond that? And a number of our organizations already have that in place. The next steps beyond that is the number of leads. How many leads did we generate? And again, if you’re already doing that, great!
“So what’s the next step from there? The next step would be, we’re talking of easy or easier, is to try to quantify the number of leads generated. Let’s say to begin with, what leads that were not discarded by sales, so weren’t disqualified. That is a start. Even better would be if we can figure out how many of them were converted into opportunities or pipeline. Or again, we all know that it can be difficult sometimes, sales doesn’t always convert our leads. Therefore, if you can’t get to a conversation, get to a stage where you are asking questions like how they moved to the stage of “Connected” where a conversation took place with a sales person. So these are the types of steps that we can take.
“How do we get from engagement to leads even if they’re cold leads? Again, if we differentiate cold leads from warm leads, since warm leads are presumably MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads), how do we move one step further and try to quantify how many of those leads sales had a conversation with? The dream is to be able to connect it to opportunities. And there are things you can do that happen in the second or third phase where you try to connect to opportunities. Once you can connect to opportunities, now we’re connecting to revenue and ultimately that’s the language of executives and the language of ROI.”
I think some areas I have been surprised at include when I ask marketing teams whether or not they’re paying attention to pipeline and bookings. How many times do I hear no? To me, that is a great place to flex and start looking at.
I’ve had people ask me how I knew we were going to miss our pipeline goal and my response is always it’s because of how often I look at it. You start to understand what normal pipeline building behavior is, and when the sales team cares about it, and when they’re more focused on closing. The same thing happens when you look at bookings or closed opportunities.
In many organizations with a quarterly goal, the sales team is more focused on closing in the third month and the first month is when they can dedicate time to building pipeline. I think it’s important for people to look at those numbers regularly since marketers do have some levers they can pull to help salespeople hit that pipeline number when they’re behind.
“Absolutely! I feel like it’s in those kinds of situations and interactions where again, it is easy vs. hard. This can also be a part of phase one since if you want to tie yourself to revenue and ROI or at least get closer to pipeline, sales is a critical component. They stand between marketing leads, pipeline and revenue. So using those opportunities to interact is a good place to start the conversation around, how did that lead do? The reality is that salespeople are busy and this is something marketers fundamentally don’t understand. For salespeople, time is money since they have quotas and most sales reps have at least 30% to 50% of their income tied to quota.
“So for them, time is money and they don’t want to be sitting there on the phone telling you how each lead performed. It becomes very easy to say, we know some of those leads aren’t the best. They might be a bit cold. They may not be ready. We’re doing things on our side to improve the quality. What’s going to help us understand about the ones that we send to you, which ones convert, which ones don’t or which ones end up in a connection and which ones don’t. Therefore, even using a simple disqualification status or a status that indicates SAL, SQL connected, whether something happened with it. That can become an automated feedback loop.
“Because once they set something in their sales CRM, you can pull reports from the CRM into your marketing automation system and have it already there. So we can take those steps. That’s a very small step and almost any rep, if you tell them you’re going to give them better leads, they’re going to say, great! What do I need to do? Oh, yeah, no problem, we’ll do that. I’ve made this mistake. We’ve made this mistake of looking at and trying to drive wholesale transformation. And so going back to the beginning of what you said; people hate change. The bigger the organization, the more people there are and the more resistant the organization is to change.
“So when you try to drive wholesale transformation, oftentimes, you’re going to end up hitting a wall and you aren’t going to be able to move past that wall. What tends to be more effective is to do gradual change. Therefore, if you want to turn 90o, that is hard and takes time. But if you turn 1o at a time, over time, you’re going to end up making a 90o turn. So again, take those opportunities. When there is a need for higher quality leads, sales is under pressure. We need quota and inadvertently they come to marketing since it’s an easy scapegoat. Well, marketing isn’t giving us leads. That is a great time to say, yeah, we’re actually working on giving you much better leads. Here’s what you can do for us to accelerate that process. All of a sudden, we’re starting to get that feedback loop. Then, the next time you actually say, if only you can convert the lead into an opportunity and now we start tying ourselves further down. So I do think it’s all about small steps toward big change.”
What I really like about what you’re saying is you’re advocating for understanding that motivates the other party and then leveraging that to get more cooperation. I think that is so smart. Why I recommend looking at pipeline and bookings is because if you understand they’re already knocking their pipeline number out of the park, they don’t feel like they need marketing, you will begin to understand a little bit more about the behavior. You will also be able to anticipate when it is easy to blame marketing, when you’re likely going to walk into a board meeting and get blown up. So everybody wins if marketers look at more data.
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