When I started my B2B Marketing career 25 years ago, my job was to keep the food warm and the beer cold for sales closing events. I am, of course, stretching the truth, but only mostly. Much has changed since then. In our 2021 Revenue Marketing B2B Benchmark Report, revenue was identified by the B2B marketers we surveyed as by far the number one metric that they are measured on. But, despite the importance of driving and influencing revenue, most B2B marketing organizations lack a Revenue Marketing System, or framework, for how to drive optimal results.
To be fair, many are making good progress in the results they are driving. They are doing stuff, as my colleague Jessie Coan likes to say. Often the right stuff. They are creating engaging content. Buying shiny technology. Striving to implement ABM programs. Making earnest attempts to better align with sales. But what they are missing is the accelerator affect that comes from system thinking. Identifying interdependencies and sequencing strategies and actions to amplify results.
We started noticing this “whole is less than the sum of the parts” effect a few years ago, and as a result sought to understand and codify a Revenue Marketing System that would look at the major drivers of marketing contribution to revenue and the interdependencies between them.
We developed the Demand Spring Revenue Marketing System and have stress-tested it in many clients—from high growth technology organizations, to mid-sized companies whose growth had stalled, to large Fortune 500 financial services firms. We have put it in front of many CMOs and Revenue Marketing executives who have validated that it is a sound approach to building a more systemic way to plan and execute for enhanced revenue contribution.
The Demand Spring Revenue Marketing System has five dimensions for organizations to optimize to meet and exceed their marketing-driven or influenced revenue commitments.
The foundational dimension to Revenue Marketing success in our experience is a deep understanding of your buyer personas and their buyer journey (as well as entire client lifecycle).
This isn’t about simply understanding their demographics, it’s about having a deep understanding of what they are THINKING, FEELING, AND DOING in each stage of the buyer journey. What are their main triggers for considering changing the status quo and evaluating new solutions? How are they feeling in each stage of the buyer journey? Who is the buying team around them in each stage? What are their information sources and preferred formats throughout the buyer journey?
We believe it’s imperative that organizations conduct primary research and deep data analysis in this area to build marketing plans and sales plays that are grounded in the reality of how buyers actually buy. When you consider how much you are spending on marketing and sales execution, buyer journey research and data represent short dollars to drive more precise plans that yield a much greater return.
With a more complete and precise understanding of the buyer journey, marketing and sales have the means to better align their efforts and create a unified go-to-market approach. This unified approach is essential today since buyers are interacting in a non-linear manner with marketing channels and sales throughout the buyer journey. As Gartner states, “Sales reps are a channel to customers, not the channel”.
There are several areas of required alignment:
- Lead taxonomy
- Lead management processes
- Planning and collaboration
- Pipeline management
- Metrics and compensation: At the end of the day, if your sales reps and marketers are measured and comped on different things they will not act as a unified team.
It’s not only sales and marketing where alignment gaps exist today in many organizations. We see many silos within marketing as well. How well are your content marketers working with your marketing technologists to optimize engagement? Are your segment marketers and product marketers clear on each of their roles and responsibilities relative to the buyer journey? Is your Marketing Ops leader auditing and optimizing your marketing processes and standards, or are they focused primarily on technology?
Developing talent and business processes is the most overlooked Revenue Marketing System dimension by many organizations.
We bring young people, often straight out of university or college, into roles and provide them with very limited fundamental teaching and coaching. They certainly do not learn Revenue Marketing skills in school. In an age where we are on the clock, running from meeting to meeting, it’s time to radically rethink talent management to drive Revenue Marketing results. It starts with a required skills audit for each Revenue Marketing role (be it Content Marketer, Digital Marketer, Marketing Automation Specialist, or Revenue Marketing Manager), identifying peoples’ gaps, and then building a development plan that involves hands-on teaching and coaching.
A similar approach needs to be taken for critical marketing planning and execution processes that yield revenue. What’s required? What do best practices look like? What are our gaps? How do we prioritize our gaps, and then plan to optimize them?
This is the dimension where most marketing organizations spend most of their time. Doing stuff. Creating stuff. Executing stuff.
Optimizing engagement marketing planning and execution involves:
- A strategic approach to account-based marketing that truly aligns with sales actions in top target accounts, and includes a progressive 1:Many, 1:Few, and 1:1 approach based on intent signals
- A content strategy that reflects a deep understanding of the content needs of target personas in each stage of the buyer journey
- A website that is tuned to properly nurture buyers throughout the client lifecycle
- Content assets that educate, inspire, and convert
- Multichannel nurture strategies that leverage data in marketing automation and CRM platforms to deliver highly relevant engagement across your website, email, chat, and paid media.
Where many organizations fall down in this dimension is their failure to work in a truly aligned manner. Lots of people doing lots of stuff. Master orchestration to yield maximum results is often missing. This is where really experienced and skilled Campaign Managers are worth their weight in gold.
Automate and Analyze
It’s not enough to execute engagement strategies that are highly targeted. You have to do it at scale. It’s not about targeting 10,000 personas in your ICP with a single campaign. It’s about targeting 1 person in a highly targeted manner with data and technology, and then replicating this highly targeted approach 10,000 times. In an automated way.
The Revenue Marketing System relies on technologies such as marketing automation, intent platforms, content experience platforms, and CRM to deliver this type of elite personalization. Marketing organizations today must make a commitment to investing in modern, cloud-based technologies that are well implemented and integrated.
Automating engagement is not the only focus of this fifth and final dimension to the Revenue Marketing System. Analysis and optimization are critical to driving Revenue Marketing results. And they are often a huge gap for many B2B marketing organizations. While analytics technologies often abound in most organizations, many marketing teams lack the data science skills to properly gain insight into the data. The result is a perpetual recycling of strategies and tactics without proper visibility into their effectiveness.
Assessing and Optimizing Your Revenue Marketing System
So how do you know if your Revenue Marketing System is functioning well? You should start by looking at the individual dimensions:
- Do you have a deep, research- and data-based understanding of what your buyers are thinking, feeling, and doing in each stage of the buyer journey?
- Are your sales and marketing teams operating in a unified manner, or silos? How about within your marketing organization?
- Do you have a talent management plan for assessing and optimizing the Revenue Marketing skills of your team? How about a plan for assessing and optimizing your marketing processes?
- How mature, data-driven, and multichannel are your engagement marketing practices?
- Can you execute highly targeted strategies at scale with technology and have the data science skills to analyze and optimize them?
Then, most importantly, is understanding if these dimensions are supporting each other in your organization:
- Does your buyer journey understanding inform an aligned marketing and sales effort and highly targeted engagement marketing plans?
- Do your skills gaps influence what you do (and don’t) focus on in your marketing execution—i.e., like a good football team, do you play to your strengths and away from your weaknesses?
- Does your technology deliver on your required lead management processes?
- When you consider your target personas’ preferred content formats, do you have content gaps?
Like most systems, the Revenue Marketing System promotes integrated thinking and a foundational approach for ensuring the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In an age where the sum of your expected contribution to financial performance keeps increasing, it’s a valuable approach to consider how to drive greater yield from your marketing resources. We have come a long way since cold beer and warm food.