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Trust is Everything in Analytics

Posted September 20, 2022

Ryan Salazar, Director of Analytics at VTS, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Ryan shares his insights on why an overwhelming number of CEOs don’t trust CMOs, an analyst’s top responsibilities if they want their reports to be believed, and why shared attribution models between sales and marketing are key to marketing’s success.

Ryan has been an analyst for nearly 10 years now. At the moment, he leads analytics at VTS and specializes in everything from product to go-to market and financial reporting support. Ryan has also managed go-to-market teams in the past. 

There’s a statistic that was published in the Harvard Business Review and in Forbes: 80% of CEOs don’t trust or aren’t impressed with their CMOs. At the start of this chat, Ryan weighed in on why he thought this was so.

 

Why do you think CEOs are often unimpressed by their CMO, or marketing organization?

“What it ultimately comes down to is really understanding and defining what that interaction between CMO and CEO looks like. Obviously, I think what we should define is what the CEO’s expectation is of a CMO and vice versa. How granular, how tactical, how strategic do we want to go? I’d love to start talking about how do you see the role of the CMO, especially where the CEO’s visibility is concerned?” 

What investors and the rest of the executive team are really looking for is somebody who can identify problems and respond to them quickly. Oftentimes, that has to do with understanding what your data means and how you can impact it. Some companies require that their North Star be their MQL number. While for others it’s pipeline and revenue. But rarely are companies quite evolved enough to understand that marketing is touching all pipeline and revenue. It takes a degree of brand awareness to make that conversion more palatable between prospects and sales.  

When presenting to the board, it pays to start with the early indicators. Is engagement hitting in the right direction or what do our MQL numbers look like? Then, you should really spend most of your time focusing on pipeline and revenue. Ryan agrees.

“Yeah. That’s first off. When we talk about a lack of trust, what I’ve seen and where I have seen the pressure from an analytics perspective is a shared definition. We really need to understand what a shared definition of what the funnel looks like and where ownership lies. Ultimately, when we’re considering either revenue targeting, revenue forecasting, or in-period health checks, understanding we budgeted for this, this won’t be an impact until X or Y is done and ensuring everyone’s aligned.

“I never want a senior sales leader telling me MQS were going to be this and right now my sales team is very dry. That just sends shivers down my spine because there’s clearly a lack of clarity and we just need to take ownership. Ultimately, what we need is a CEO that’s invested in the marketing organization and invested to the point where they’re willing to spend the necessary time to understand what the organization’s marketing lifecycle looks like and what they are indexing on to see success. I think it’s education and trust. Without those two things, it falls apart relatively quickly.”

 

What steps should analysts take if they want their reports to be believed?

Here is an interesting scenario. A marketing leader comes in without understanding what their current ecosystem looks like and what it’s capable of in terms of reporting and how much work needs to be done to get it there. We come into the business making promises about hitting certain KPIs and we can’t even report on them. That hurts your credibility with the executive team when you’ve to go to them and explain, oops! We actually can’t measure that, but it will be my new goal this quarter. Ryan explained why this is the case.

“I’ve seen the exact same thing and I think it fits nicely with what we see as analysts. Our top responsibilities are to drive that alignment, document it, and come up with a shared understanding of, I hate to call it a sales funnel because it involves both marketing and sales. Well, we will call it a sales funnel for a lack of a better term. Understanding what the funnel looks like and that includes the levers to see success and ultimately the time it takes to get there. I’d say it is making sure you do drive shared ownership. Just because we’re seeing a lag in one avenue, whether it be the top, middle, or bottom of the funnel, it doesn’t mean there’s an easy fit. 

“There has to be a hand across the aisle, dragging people across the line and whether it takes additional support and additional dollars. Or just a redefine of what success looks like. As analysts, we need to reach across the aisle, but at the same time, we need shared ownership.”

Often, investors ask analysts to define engagement and what they are really looking for is an awareness of where your business is. If you are defining those things in alignment with the exact stage the company is in, then that’s fine. Working with an analyst, you should be able to ask the right questions and ask what you are really looking for. If you aren’t being asked the right questions, just know your CMO isn’t setting expectations with the rest of the organization in mind. And if they don’t understand how press releases hit your indicators that you can then measure, then they’re going to set the wrong expectations. When it comes to defining an MQL, you need cross-functional buy-in. You need to define it across the organization. But you also need to work with your CMO to ensure they understand what it is and communicate it back to you.

 

Why is a shared, multi-touch attribution model important for marketing’s success?

Ryan also went into detail about why a shared multi-touch attribution model is critical to a marketing organization’s success.

“What I’ve seen is again going back to that shared understanding. Knowing what’s “unknowable” at certain points allows for progress moving forward. When we talk about marketing’s brand aspect, it’s very much intangible and hard to measure. What is ultimately crucial to any marketing team’s success in knowing the unknowable is attribution modeling.

“I hate to say this, but we need at least a shared definition even if it is imperfect. In some instances, we can begin pushing forward and drawing the line. This comes in the form of again giving a wide reach that marketing can have is multi-touch attribution. Assigning values and ensuring we have a standardized process for capture, collection and, eventually, benchmarking these metrics. I think you get into this weird net region of what constitutes a marketing activity at a specific point. However, the starting point is a shared attribution model for success.

“That’s the key crux of any marketing reporting really. Moving further down the line, my ethos in the context of analytics is we’re here to help drive a decision, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be the perfect decision. There are always going to be gaps in knowledge. Ultimately, as long as those gaps are consistent, it will be okay. What we are trying to do is empower stakeholders and those subject matter experts to make decisions.”

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For more content on marketing analytics, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.