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Revenue Marketing, Sales & Marketing Alignment, Marketing Leadership

Revenue Marketing in 2021: Demand Spring Survey Results and CMO Recommendations

Demand Spring has just released our annual Revenue Marketing B2B Benchmark Report.  As this year’s results made clear, now more than ever, CMO’s need to deliver on the promise that marketing can do more than just “influence” pipeline. As our tech stacks grow and our ability to measure marketing improves, increasingly we need to prove that we can go beyond influencing pipeline and measure our ability to actually create it. In fact, 70 percent of marketing leaders in this year’s Revenue Marketing Benchmark survey confirmed that initiating sales pipeline is their raison d’etre.

With increased pressure to measure ourselves against initiated pipeline also comes the added challenge of signing up for increasingly higher percentages of pipeline to drive.   50 percent of this year’s Revenue Marketing Survey respondents shared that they are responsible for more than 30 percent of initiated pipeline for the business.

This is not to say “marketing influenced pipeline” is a thing of the past for modern marketing organizations focused on revenue generation. Despite advancements in tech and measurement cultures, we have not yet fully conquered the multi-touch attribution measurement challenge. The buyer journey is a long and winding road, and while we can often leverage buyer journey data to prove our influence on creating and nurturing a lead, we are still challenged to prove that marketing alone initiated that journey and the associated pipeline that comes with it.

On some level, this argument over whether marketing can fully initiate or otherwise only influence pipeline doesn’t serve the organization well in the first place. If the ultimate business goal is growth, then the most important imperative should be for marketing and sales to achieve the kind of collaboration, accountability and trust necessary to work as one integrated revenue driving entity for the business. If marketing (and sales) are neither perfect-art nor perfect-science, then we are not likely to solve the multi-channel attribution measurement challenge anyway. So the degree to which we can truly measure our ability to influence the pipeline will never go out of style.

Shared Accountability Creates Marketing and Sales Alignment

This is why I like the trend in the next set of survey results: When it comes to the percentage of pipeline that marketers are expected to influence, that percentage keeps rising. This year’s survey revealed 41 percent of marketers expect to influence over 50 percent of pipeline – an increase from 36 percent last year. This means that we are leveraging our tech stack, our measurement culture, our ability to drive alignment with sales and our need to show up –with purpose and intent– wherever our customers actually are to drive engagement that impacts the pipeline.  This is all about marketing driving strategy, guiding the business, partnering with sales and measuring the outcome of our collaboration all the way through to pipeline growth.

For marketing leaders and CMO’s, this kind of collaboration is more than just shared accountability for a number or a growth target. This is about shared accountability for reaching the destination AND the rules of the road along the way. There’s a lot more to reaching that destination than simply driving the car at top speed until you either get there or run out of gas trying. It’s about servicing the engine, agreeing on the route, and getting honest about the fact that the navigator is as important as the driver to get to where you’re going.

This is where we see SLA’s making a huge difference for best in class revenue marketing teams and their sales team counterparts. Clarifying your shared goals, aligning on definitions of what a campaign or a lead really is (and isn’t), setting and enforcing clear expectations around lead qualification and lead scoring parameters– all of this is critical to achieve shared success.

The ABM Batting Average Improves

It’s also worth noting that this is where ABM initiatives have paved the way for better sales and marketing alignment in the past few years, as both sides have resigned themselves to the fact that neither side is in control of the journey their buyer is taking.  The buyer is in charge of their own journey, and this year’s survey results reinforce that truth: 62 percent of our respondents are executing ABM programs, trying to reach their account level buyers where they are, as their buyers interact with both marketing and sales in a largely nonlinear way.

As ABM initiatives become more common and marketers get more “at bats” experimenting with what kind of ABM campaigns work best to reach their buyer (1:1, 1 to few, 1 to many), the results of ABM initiatives continue to improve. 49 percent of survey respondents have seen positive ROI from their ABM initiatives— up from only 25 percent a year ago.  

There are probably two ways to interpret this steep rise in results from ABM initiatives from one year to the next: First, the technologies that support ABM continue to improve, with Marketo continuing to be the leading platform used by survey respondents for ABM. Secondly, ABM takes experimentation to get right, but with an agile, iterative and collaborative approach, marketing and sales teams can “fix the wings on the plane while it’s flying” and adjust ABM programs in real time, driving results faster than ever before.  When it comes to ABM in 2021, for CMO’s and marketing leaders, you’ve got to be in it to win it, as ABM is truly a “fail fast and fix it” opportunity you can’t afford to miss.

One other critical point to make about ABM: Our 2021 survey respondents improved their ABM ROI from 25 percent to 49 percent on average in just one year’s time—and this happened in the middle of a pandemic when marketing budgets were largely flat or decreasing. In fact a whopping 82 percent of our survey respondents said their budgets either remained flat or shrunk this past year, yet they achieved incredible ABM ROI results nonetheless. This probably speaks to the natural alliance that exists between ABM and digital marketing – a partnership that not only survived but thrived in a year where we often had no choice but to shift to digital to reach our buyer.

Live Events Still Cancelled, and that’s not All Bad

When it comes to that shift to digital marketing, nowhere did marketers feel the shift more than they did with the death of live events. The pandemic has accelerated our digital transformation, and in many cases, the ONLY way to interact with a buyer this past year has been via digital engagement. 46 percent of respondents are replacing events with digital marketing activities, and 68 percent indicated they have morphed their live events strategy into a virtual one – for now and for the foreseeable future.

The good news is that the results from well planned, well run virtual events have often exceeded expectations. The bad news is that there’s no guarantee those live events many still pine for will make it back onto our calendars anytime soon in 2021. The smartest CMO’s are embracing this truth and making the most of it. It’s not about lock-stock substitution of a 3 day live event into its exact digital replica. It’s about honoring the digital attention span, balancing the truly live with the carefully pre-recorded, involving customers as part of the show, not just part of the audience, and accepting the fact that when it comes to length, less is often more.

The CMO’s who embrace these truths as part of their live event transformation to digital are delivering on their revised event goals. They are also recognizing events—whether live or digital — for what they really always have been: a tool in the multichannel engagement toolbox, a continuation of a dialogue, a step in the customer journey, or otherwise, a means to a marketing end, not the end in and of itself.

We hope you enjoy the fresh data and insights and in our latest Revenue Marketing Benchmark Report. More importantly, we hope you use the data to help you make decisions to drive better results from your marketing in 2021 and beyond. Reach out if you have any questions, want to further discuss the results, or if you’d like to see how Demand Spring can help your marketing organization make 2021 its best year ever.

Julie Zadow

Senior Vice President, CMO in Residence

Julie brings over 20 years of marketing leadership experience to her role as Demand Spring’s CMO in Residence. She has served as the head of Marketing and CMO for various software, services, and advisory organizations in the New York and Boston regions, and she is also the Founder of PinchHitCMO, a fractional marketing leadership firm.

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