Tish Millsap, Founder of Revenate Marketing, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Tish shares her insights on the maturity continuum of marketing organizations, goals marketers should aspire to when it comes to reporting, and the crawl, walk and run approach to forecasting.
Revenate Marketing is a consulting firm that has been operating for around ten years. The name of the company is actually a combination of the words revenue and generate. Tish has always been very passionate about helping marketers show their value and connect their efforts to revenue.
To be serious as a business leader, you need to speak the language of the business. What are the extremes you see in terms of marketing maturity?
We all know that business leaders care most about the bottom line and anything we can do to help connect our efforts to the bottom line helps sell marketing. So speaking being taken seriously as a business leader, there are certain terms and concepts that are used pretty consistently across businesses. You really need to learn how to speak that language. At the start of this chat, Tish explained what that maturity continuum looks like for marketing.
“I do think that a sign of maturity of your marketing organization is based on what you can report out on. At the very basic level when you are a traditional marketing team, you just report on activities. We had this webinar with this many registrations. We delivered this many impressions.
“Then we get to the next level and you start calculating, okay how effective was my marketing? Therefore, I might want to look at my cost per lead generated or something like that. Then as you get sophisticated, that’s when you start attributing to revenue and it is really a historical look back.
“You are able to say, okay, we did these things and we can say reasonably well these particular activities influence this amount of revenue. But I think the Holy Grail is for a marketing organization to be able to forecast revenue. To take their plan and say, this is what I expect to be able to influence and generate in terms of the marketing activities and what I can influence on pipeline and revenue. I really try to get my clients to a place where they can actually predict what revenue they are going to generate from their marketing plan.”
Now there are many naysayers out there who say this is impossible because there are a lot of things we can’t measure. Tish went on to discuss what we would need to do to impart anything to such people.
“I agree with them to a certain extent. There is a lot of debate around attribution models and things like that. Are they able to encompass all the different things, the secret sauce, if you will? So you have to take the best possible option and say, okay, if you put a lot of rigor into your metrics.
“One of the things that I’ve tried to really implement is making sure it is not a broad metric. For example, it might be here we have this opportunity and we had this marketing thing that happened 12 months ago. We are going to say that that influenced that opportunity. Let’s not do that. Let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot in terms of not having a strong attribution model.
“Let’s do something really tight and say, in sixty days prior to the opportunity creation, these three things happened. And we are going to say those things had influence over that opportunity creation. You would have a lot more credibility if you don’t try to take a whole swath in terms of what you’re attributing marketing activities to.
“However, in the context of forecasting, you do need to have that same baseline agreement on what it is we are doing attribution to in order to do forecasting as well. Therefore, getting everyone on board and saying, okay it’s not perfect, but that is what we are going to agree to is a reasonable dial for us. To say, if we dialed this up, we would get more deals. If we dialed it down, we would get fewer deals. But I think it is really marketing that needs to be responsible and make a very tight correlation between those things.”
I love those points and 100% agree. I’ve always been very vocal about attribution and that it cannot capture everything because not everything is measurable and that’s okay. The goal here should be do we agree we are considering the most influential touchpoints? Are we ingesting all the core data that we can that is influential? And can we get that cross-functional buy-in?
Sometimes (rarely) marketers use attribution to optimize campaigns. You may not need to incorporate things like sales signals, channel referrals, and all those product signals. However, when you are trying to argue your contribution to the business as a share of other people’s efforts and you’re ignoring other people’s efforts, that gets a bit harder to sell. Tish says that certainly resonates with her.
“Yeah. One of the problems with attribution these days is looking at it like a one-size-fits-all. There are different kinds of models to use in different kinds of calculations. So if as a marketer, I want to look at and understand which campaigns are influencing opportunity creation, I might take a longer look back window. I might also look at not just contacts that are attached to the opportunity, but contacts that are attached to the account. Therefore, I might take this wider view because I was able to drive engagement with the people that are at the right kind of company. That became an opportunity. So that gives me a broad view of what is working and what’s not.
“However, if I am going to my C-Level executives and I am saying, give me more money and I am going to drive more engagement revenue. Then I am going to really tighten that window up. I am going to look at a very narrow band of time and a very narrow band of people. Maybe I only look at the primary contact. What did they do and what was the last thing they did? And that is when I am going to say, hey, I can really see a correlation between this marketing activity and revenue creation. Let’s do more of that.”
What are some of the goals marketers should aim for when it comes to reporting?
Tish talked at length about some of the goals marketers should aspire to when it comes to reporting.
“I cannot overemphasize how important it is for a marketing team to get together on a regular basis. I always implement a weekly reporting meeting. The first part of the meeting is usually, these are the KPIs, how are we tracking against the goals? It’s very rigid. This is what we want to look at every week.
“But the second half of the meeting is usually on an ad hoc basis. So somebody has been interested in asking, how many more calls are we getting on each MQL? Let’s run an analysis of what happened in the last two months. Then we get an opportunity to dive in ask additional questions and maybe manipulate the data in other ways.
That is where I really love having the Head of BDR or SDR team in there too because we can start to have that back and forth. For instance, this webinar happened last week, those leads got into the hands of your team, what was the feedback? How is it going?
We use those sorts of metrics reporting meetings as a way to collaborate across the organization too. Speaking of revenue, in those meetings I try to make sure that everyone is very aware of the quarterly revenue goal. I just can’t believe how many marketers don’t know the numbers. And I tell them, you are not part of the business. I know you’re worried about how many clicks your ad on Google Ads will generate. I get it! You do need to worry about that. But the endgame of this business is revenue. If you aren’t tracking where we are, even on just revenue, not pipeline, great!
“You should know where the business is and what the goal for the year is. So always try to use that meeting to reemphasize we are $2.3 million off or whatever. That creates urgency for marketers and empathy for them with the sales team.”
I love that Tish said weekly because if you are looking retrospectively at the end of every quarter, it is too late. If you are looking consistently and can spot a gap, you can make a decision to allocate your budget differently. That also requires understanding, what is more, revenue-generating vs. initial acquisition name, and acquisition type, right? Tish agrees.
“Yeah! And getting familiar with your numbers and what’s tied to which stage of the journey and being able to interact with them. That is really powerful too. If you know that the MQL goal that you have created for September is 350 MQL and it’s the 15th and you’ve generated only 170, you can then do something about that. But after the month is over, you can’t do anything. So creating that weekly cadence and meaning allows your team to be more agile as well.”
We touched on forecasting briefly for those out there who are intimidated by the word forecasting. There are a lot of different ways you can do it and there’s the crawl, walk, run. So let’s say we don’t have attribution in place. What are some of the things we can start measuring to and find the correlation and conversion rates?
Tish went on to provide her insights on the crawl, walk, run approach to forecasting.
“I want to take a step back from that to get a bit more rudimentary since I’m so passionate about marketers forecasting their revenue. I think number one, if you want to forecast revenue, you’ve to have a really good handle on actuals. That monthly/weekly meeting where you are looking at actuals, that everybody trusts those numbers. They agree with those numbers and you need to have had a significant number of months that you have been tracking actuals. Otherwise, you cannot forecast.
“The other thing is and I hate to say this, we are at December 14th, the end of the year and you got a plan. You got to have a plan. I can’t tell you how many marketing teams I work with who don’t have a complete plan for Q1 right now. I tell them, you have to know what you’re going to do. And it’s not even that it is what has to happen exactly. I am not talking about a rigid plan, but you can only be agile and responsive if you actually have a plan in place. Otherwise, everything will be ad hoc. So in order to forecast, you have to have a plan.
“Then once you have that plan in place and you have three or four months of actuals, forecasting isn’t that hard. You just look at the plan and say, I’m going to run a webinar and I am going to promote it in the same way I did before. I am going to send these many emails. I am going to do this many e-blasts. I am going to do this many Google ads. Let’s look at what happened last time.
“Okay, last time we had 1,000 to 1,500 registrations and that’s what we did. This time, I’m going to look at this really carefully. I’m going to say, I am doing the same sort of promotion, but I have this jazzy speaker who is well-known and I have a really catchy title. Therefore, I am going to say, that’s going to give me 10% more registrations.
“So I’m going to forecast 1,650 registrations from that. It’s as simple as that. Use your head. Think about what the baseline was or the similar programs that you have run before and then calculate how is this going to be different or the same. Then start laying out what your engagement is across those channels. Then you have to figure out what’s your conversion rates in order to predict the revenue. Here’s where it gets a little tricky.
“I am assuming most of our listeners are on Salesforce. So we all know the problematic conversion rate from MQL to opportunity. There are ways to do it, though it’s sort of manual, and a little wonky. You’ve to pull down all the records and figure out what became opportunities, but you can do it. I would just say there should be at least a couple of people on your team who know how to run that conversion rate.
“Therefore, you can track it really closely and understand what’s happening month after month. Then you take your response goals and understand what your qualification criteria is for an MQL and then look at your conversion rate to opportunity. Now the conversion rate through the funnel, once it becomes an opportunity is usually pretty standard. Your organization knows 3:10, 5:1, whatever it is. And then you can just apply that. There you go! You have got a revenue forecast!”
For more expert interviews and advice, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.