7 Tips for Building a Lean, Mean, Data-Driven Marketing Machine

July 15, 2018

Data-Driven Marketing Machine

Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by Bob Armour, CMO of Jellyvision.

Not so long ago, marketing was thought of as the realm of glitz, glamour and gimmicks—a touchy-feely, right-brain-driven discipline with gut feel, “creative magic” and emotional connection as its pillars. The only thing marketers paid more attention to than how much they could spend was how much more could they get to spend. The only software that mattered was Photoshop and Illustrator. And the sales department, its cousin twice-removed, was regarded as a generally unacquainted, rough and tumble rival that did its dirty work “somewhere out there with customers.”

Things are very different today. Don’t get me wrong: on-point messaging and eye-catching creative work are still hugely important. But to thrive these days, especially in the world of B2B, marketers need to understand (and truly believe) that they exist to make their sales department successful. The most effective way to do that? Embrace all the incredible new data management and automation technologies available to help marketers reach their audience more effectively, drive more deals, and demonstrate how valuable marketing efforts really are to their company’s bottom line.

If you do that, guess what? You’ll get a bigger budget, year after year after year.

So what’s the blueprint to building a successful, data-driven marketing team? Here are seven steps we took at my company you might find helpful.

1. Work backwards from your overall revenue plan to determine marketing’s piece of it

Yes, you read that correctly: marketing owns a piece of the revenue plan in this new world. I realize this may sound scary. And you may be thinking, “Wait, how does marketing close deals?” Well, marketing won’t close deals; sales will continue to close deals. But to explicitly justify its spend and generate a verifiable ROI, marketing must be able to show how its efforts directly initiated or influenced those deals.  If you’ve never done this before, a simple way to start is to track leads and accounts by initial touchpoint (i.e. did marketing’s action result in the start of a sales opportunity) and follow these leads and accounts through their sales lifecycles.

Almost all CRMs can be easily set up to do this for you. (If you’re looking for a more sophisticated way to do this, see #3 below). Once you know what you’re generating in terms of sales with your current budget, you can back into how many leads you need to generate (and what you’ll need to spend to get these leads) in order to hit marketing’s sales goal. Further, you can use your current marketing-to-sales conversion to benchmark it against industry norms.

2. Assign expected outcomes from marketing activities to every channel

Once you’ve successfully set up a tracking system for marketing generated deals, do the same for all of your unique demand generation channels, paid and unpaid, and share these with your sales pals. For example, LinkedIn may be a paid and/or unpaid channel for you. This is important for two reasons. First, different channels will produce differently: the cost per sale will be different, the lead velocity will be different, perhaps the customer types will be different, and you’ll want to know these differences in order to shift money around the channels based on relative productivity and return on investment. Each channel should be set up to have “top to bottom” sub-activities built in to the tracking. So, for example, if email is one of your channels, your top to bottom sub-activities may include: number of campaigns, sends per campaign, deliveries, opens (touchpoints), click-throughs, visitors, conversions, opportunities, deals and revenue. Each channel will have its unique top of the funnel activities, but all the channels will eventually converge lower in the funnel at opportunities, deals and revenue.

The second reason to do this: by tracking the steps from first touch to close, you’ll be able to get early warning signals that a channel may be lagging its revenue plan. This will give you time to make changes and address the potential shortfall sooner.

3. Track the initial marketing touch and all touchpoints to get a complete ROI picture across all marketing channels

Rarely is a closed deal the result of only one type of marketing or sales activity, or a predictable chain of touchpoints. For example, prospects may discover your company or service in one channel, do research in another channel, ask for a product demo via a third channel and then interact with your sales team to start the sales process. So, which channel is most valuable in this case? It’s hard to tell, as they all moved the prospect forward.

To get a complete picture of the impact of all marketing channels, track all marketing touchpoints for each opportunity and deal. You won’t be able to do this easily on your own as there may be tens of thousands of touchpoints or more; thankfully there’s marketing attribution software that will do this for you. Once you calculate the value of each of your channels (both from a first touch and multi-touch basis), you’ll be able to align your marketing spend more accurately with sales results.

4. Coordinate marketing and sales activity using a “serve and volley” model

It’s not enough that marketing lands a bunch of leads, hands them over to sales and then considers its job complete. Generating leads and interest is just the tip the of iceberg. Every marketing activity should generate a sales response (either automated or in person), and sales responses should generate follow-up marketing activity.

In theory, this seems logical and easy. In practice, it’s difficult because it requires the coordination of handoffs between people and marketing automation and email software, contact scoring, carefully planned timing and rules of engagement across two departments and possibly dozens of people. But the effort is worth it for two reasons: 1) prospects will be more receptive to sales interaction when they’ve already demonstrated interest in marketing activities and 2) valuable salesperson time can be directed to the most promising opportunities.

This “serve and volley” approach requires sales and marketing to be play nice together, sharing data and holding each other accountable for their activities . This approach should continue until one of three things happens: 1) the prospect becomes actively engaged with a salesperson, 2) the prospect is determined to be unqualified or 3) the prospect isn’t ready in the near- or mid-term for your solution.

5. Check your progress against the revenue plan with sales monthly (at least)

Marketing teams should measure results for all the metrics mentioned in tip #2 on a monthly basis and adjust their strategy on the fly if necessary. Often, these adjustments will involve both marketing and sales. For example, if sales has a shortfall in its plan, marketing should be ready to implement campaigns quickly to shore it up. Since these situations come up pretty regularly, make sure to leave some budget in a contingency fund. You’ll always use it.

6. Embed marketing people into sales team meetings, and vice versa, and celebrate sales opportunities in real-time

The best way to get marketing and sales to work more effectively together is simple: have the teams work near each other (preferably in the same area in an open floor space) and hold group meetings that include people from the other team. Being physically nearby makes it easier for both sides to form strong, empathetic relationships and create quicker, more cohesive and more effective campaigns.

Also, make it easy for sales to announce new opportunities and closed deals. At Jellyvision, we use Slack for this. The sales person that either put the meeting on the books or closed the deal explains how they did it, gives shouts out to those who helped, and gets pats on the back in return (usually this involves GIFs and emojis). It’s a fun and easy way celebrate shared wins and get intel on strategy that might be helpful in the future.

7. Hire marketers who get their role as “sales success makers”

Some marketers will bristle at the thought of being perceived as subservient to sales. Don’t hire them. The landscape we work in now requires marketers who 1) will be motivated to achieve shared targets with their sales partners, 2) understand and appreciate that selling is the hardest (and most valuable) activity at a company and 3) be willing to hold accountable (and be held accountable by) their sales partners.

Customer journey data, provable ROI and sales funnel transparency are driving tremendous change in marketing circles these days. The more willing marketers are to get out of their comfort zone and incorporate this exciting technology into their day-to-day, the more valuable they’ll be to their company for years to come.    

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Photo: Joe deSousa