If you’re a B2B marketer who uses martech point solutions to streamline operations and automate outreach, you generate a lot of data.
Your dashboards and reporting tools provide tons of numbers on marketing activities, and you probably find that data extremely helpful on a tactical level.
But it doesn’t help you prove that your marketing programs are succeeding on a strategic level, and that’s a problem. If you can’t show how your programs deliver revenue these days, your job is at risk.
The “proof gap” endangers marketing jobs across the board, but the risk is especially acute for B2B marketers, who typically deal with longer sales cycles, more expensive and complex product portfolios and larger groups of decision makers.
Today’s CEOs and CFOs don’t buy into yesterday’s conventional wisdom about how difficult it is to measure marketing’s impact. They want evidence of ROI and assurance that if they provide $X in your 2019 budget, you’ll produce $X+ in revenue.
The Limited Visibility Problem
When pilots fly in limited visibility conditions, they need skills and instruments to know where they are and where to land safely. The same goes for B2B marketers – they need a way to clearly see the buyer path to successfully land their campaigns.
For many reasons, there’s a limited visibility problem in B2B marketing today. As Gartner recently observed, buyers are changing. They tend to be more skeptical of marketing pitches and they have greater access to information than their predecessors.
Relying exclusively on tactical metrics inherently limits visibility, which can lead to trouble at critical junctures along the buyer journey. For example, in a vacuum, tactical metrics might generate a false lead when a prospect views a company webinar.
Imagine a prospect who displays interest but is contending with budget shortfalls and shifting priorities. If a tactical metric from marketing triggers an aggressive sales pitch, it can turn off the prospect and make a sale less likely to happen.
Limited visibility into buyer roles can also cause headaches. Marketing creates content based on buyer personas, tailoring messages to match buyer preferences.
For instance, since software developers typically don’t react positively to overt marketing and sales pitches, content for that group takes a different approach to deliver a call to action. But if the marketing team doesn’t know who interacts with content at different stages of the buyer journey, they’re likely to send the wrong message.
Putting Data in the Right Context
In addition to limited visibility, the exclusive use of point solution data also leads to a lack of context.
Point solutions are designed to measure specific activity types – for example, automated email solutions provide reports on open rates and online advertising platforms generate data on impressions and clicks. Marketers also keep track of contacts made during offline marketing activities like trade shows.
The tactical data generated from these activities is important, but marketing needs a way to bring it all together to reveal the larger picture.
Imagine the following scenario: the sales team holds a well-attended presentation and one of the attendees brings sales collateral back to the office for colleagues to read. Every member of that company’s buyer team evaluates the product at their own pace, doing their own individual product research. Eventually, it leads to a sale.
That’s a successful outcome! But if marketing documents the journey with disconnected point solution data, it will prove impossible to accurately identify how the sale unfolded and replicating that success will be hit or miss.
What’s missing is a means to accurately attribute revenue to each touch in the buyer journey, including the trade show, webinar, whitepaper downloads, etc. Without that information, it’s impossible to understand which marketing programs contributed to the win.
Closing the Proof Gap
Martech stacks keep growing as software companies roll out new point solutions to automate processes and outreach. The industry-famous Marketing Technology Landscape originally depicted around 150 solutions in 2011, now displays more than 7,000 helping marketers target prospects more efficiently and generate useful tactical data.
However, point solution data can’t help you demonstrate ROI and keep your job. That requires strategic data – data that provides visibility into the buyer journey that you and your colleagues in sales can use to optimize every interaction.
Strategic information is a must to cultivate top-of-funnel leads and ensures that prospects receive the right message at every stage of the sales funnel. Marketers need a single source of data truth they can use for campaign attribution, from initial touch to completed sale.
To remove the occupational hazard the proof gap represents, you need a way to take point solution data out of the siloes and funnel all of that tactical information into a single repository, using numbers that are credible with everyone from the c-suite to the sales team.
Only in that way can you close the proof gap with a clear answer when asked about your marketing programs’ ROI. With strategic metrics, you can demonstrate that marketing is a revenue engine — and keep driving the train.
About the Author: Prior to joining Full Circle Insights, Bonnie Crater was a five-time vice president of marketing and executive at many software companies in Silicon Valley. Bonnie held vice president and senior vice president roles at Genesys, Netscape, Network Computer Inc., salesforce.com, Stratify, Realization, and VoiceObjects (now Voxeo). A ten-year veteran of Oracle Corporation and its various subsidiaries, Bonnie was vice president, Compaq Products Division and vice president, Workgroup Products Division.
In 2013, Bonnie was named one of the “100 Most Influential Women” by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, in 2015 the Sales Lead Management Association named her one of the “20 Women to Watch” and in 2016 Diversity Journal honored her as one of the “Women Worth Watching.” Bonnie holds a B.A. in biology from Princeton University.