Marketing execs forecast a great number of top and bottom line results in order to get the budget to automate the lead-to-revenue process, fuel content marketing, and drive the marketing flywheel for lead production. Unfortunately, benefits don’t always happen according to plan. In fact, they don’t always happen. This leaves marketing leaders in a risky situation — no safety net, no assurances, and no soft landing — when it comes to accounting for the return on all that investment.
The L2RM benefits results chain identifies the relationship between benefits. The L2RM results chain make it easy to see the causal relationship between benefits at the tactical execution level (e.g. improve campaign performance) the strategic level (e.g. increase marketing contribution to pipeline) and the business level (e.g. increase profitable revenue). Using a results chain to model your L2RM benefits can take some time, but the end result is an artifact that makes the link between new L2RM initiatives and benefits incandescently clear.
We recently wrapped up our first ever evaluation on lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) platforms. In this 75-criteria evaluation, we identified the nine most significant solution providers in the category, and researched, analyzed, and scored them. I want to extend my sincere thanks to each vendor in the report — Act-On, Adobe, CallidusCloud, IBM, Marketo, Oracle, salesforce.com, Salesfusion, and Silverpop — for committing to and participating in the often grueling Forrester Wave™ evaluation process.
In the analysis, the Forrester team looked in detail at how the vendors support traditional business-to-business (B2B) lead management capabilities — lead capture, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and lead promotion — as well as meet the emerging needs of B2B marketers in cross-channel execution, social campaigns, and real-time, contextual triggers, optimization, and analytics.
The Forrester Wave process is extensive. Here are some of my key takeaways after having scored 675 criteria, reviewed the transcripts of 30 interviews, watched 18 hours of vendor demos, topped off with 9-plus hours of vendor strategy presentations:
The L2RM Platform Buyer Needs To Exercise Deep Due Diligence When Making A Platform Selection
My eighty-six-year-old mother called me last night to tell me that she’s been “boiling eggs wrong all my life.” It seems she’d watched a cooking show and received some “best practice” advice. My mom is an excellent cook, so this made me realize that no matter how seasoned a veteran you are, there’s no harm (and often some good) in a review of the basics. In that spirit, I am going to share some advice for a question that comes to me quite frequently:
“What are the best practices for leveraging an industry or business award?”
First, deal with the basics: the press release.
Issue a press release. Be sure to include a quote from the awarding body about their judgment process and criteria. If the award is based upon a customer story, work really hard to include a quote from the customer in the press release. It’s OK to use the template that the award giver has probably given you, but make sure the press release is search-engine-optimized for your keywords.
Get aggressive on press outreach. Focus on reporters or social influencers (bloggers, analysts) who have been diffident or unresponsive in the past. If you can offer up an interview with the co-award-winning client, you have a very good chance of getting some coverage.
Post the news on all your social media sites.
If a customer was involved, try to convert to a “customer case study” press release. The barrier to this might be lower now that the customer’s use of your product/service is already public knowledge.
For B2B marketers, June 30th can have a ‘last day of school’ feel about it. It’s a chance to catch our breath after a full slate of Q1’s kick-offs and launches and Q2’s promotions, tradeshows and roadshows. But, like today’s kids, who no longer while away the summer playing in the woods or frolicking in the pool, today’s B2B marketers need to use the summer to improve: to build new skills, expand our horizons, and prepare for the new adventures that await us in the fall. Think of it as Marketing Summer Camp.
If I were the Activities Director at Camp B2B, I’d build a program of reflection, assessment, and improvement with a focus on::
People: Make learning a priority.
Pipeline: Take a hard look at marketing’s contribution to the revenue pipeline.
Process: Identify your conversion weak spots and remediate.
B2B marketing leaders are striving to position their companies as “thought leaders.” And why not? If you do not have a truly disruptive technology, product, service or idea (in which case you actually are a thought leader) being seen as a thought leader gives your company strategic differentiation. It helps you stand-out in the cacophony of messages that your customers must sift through to find you. Given the complexities that B2B buyers face when making decisions for sophisticated solutions, your thought leadership might just be the most important part of your marketing program. It becomes part of your brand value. It converts you from a commodity supplier into a trusted advisor who can lead the customer to achievement of their vision.
Your thought leadership only matters if people read it, see it, or hear it.
I’ve been having a lot of conversations, recently, about sales and marketing alignment. (Well, honestly, who working in B2B marketing hasn’t?) In Forrester’s most recent Marketing Organization and Investment Survey, we asked the respondents (522 B2B marketing execs from companies with more than 100 employees) about the quality of collaboration between sales and marketing. Fifty-seven percent of marketing execs reported weak or mixed collaboration with sales when "defining lead qualification criteria" and "administering leads and lead pipelines." Those numbers underscore the much-storied rift between marketing and our colleagues in sales.
For a while I have been saying that a managed lead-to-revenue process will catalyze a new collaborative relationship between sales and marketing. It makes sense to the point of being incandescently obvious; calibrating sales and marketing around a shared revenue goal is the basis for true alignment. But, until there is proof, it’s a hypothesis. And, now there’s proof.
In our study, we found that companies who have implemented a marketing automation solution (a proxy for a more managed process) reported significantly higher levels of collaboration between sales and marketing, across a number of different dimensions.
I recently stumbled upon a very old quote from Peter Drucker, which completely nonplussed this lifetime marketer. Mr. Drucker observed (in his 1973 book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practice) that the fundamental purpose of a business enterprise is to create a customer. And because of that, he said, “The business enterprise has two - and only these two - basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”
Today’s B2B marketing execs know that Drucker’s statement is a fragile hypothesis that gets tested at least every budget cycle and often every quarter. You know that if you are not able to quantify the business impact of the budget dollars spent on advertising, trade shows, and promotion, your CFO looks at marketing as a cost center: one of the first places to cut when the business indicators dip, and one of the last to be renewed when things turn around.
Revenue is the lingua franca of the modern enterprise
That’s why demonstrating the revenue return on marketing investment (ROMI) is the No. 1 issue for B2B marketing executives. In Forrester’s most recent B2B Marketing Organizations And Investments Survey, when we asked marketing execs to identify the most important metrics for their marketing organization, 56% identified a revenue-related metric — compared with 44% for customer satisfaction and 40% for brand awareness.
A long time ago, a savvy marketing consultant told me, “The role of the sales person is to teach the customer how to buy”. That is still true, but the wisdom has morphed a bit with the times – as wisdom is wont to do. Today’s B2B buyers control their own journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s sales person controls the selling cycle. Although it varies with product complexity and market maturity, today’s buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out for a sales person. For many product categories, buyers now put off talking with sales people until they are ready for price quotes. This new dynamic changes the role of B2B marketing in a fundamental way. “Lead Generation” was generation 1.0 of “Lead-to-Revenue Management”. It’s no longer enough to provide qualified leads to sales. It’s still necessary, but it is no longer sufficient. In 2013, it’s the role of marketing to guide the customer through the early stages of the buying journey. Today, marketing owns a much bigger piece of the lead-to-revenue cycle. B2B marketers must take responsibility for engaging with the customer through most of the buying cycle. This new remit is not without its challenges: vision, resources, organization, skills, process to name a few. That’s why I am getting more and more excited as my colleague Peter O’Neill and I toil on creating the “just for marketers” track at the upcoming Forum for Sales Enablement Professionals in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 4th and 5th.
Oracle announced today that it will acquire Eloqua, a SaaS marketing automation provider. Oracle’s stated motives address, head-on, the zeitgeist facing the 21st century marketer. Today’s buyer definitely controls the buying process more than today’s seller controls the selling process. Digitally active and socially connected, buyers demand consistent, seamless, and seemingly sentient engagement across multiple (online, offline, digital, physical, social) channels and touch points. I agree with the assessment of my colleague Rob Brosnan, in his blog that this is a move that has large ramifications for the future of all customer relationship marketers and marketing vendors. In this blog, I wanted to ponder some of the near term implications, the WIM – What it Means – as we like to say at Forrester, especially for the B-2-B marketer. I see some clear winners, but it gets a little hazy after that.
Oracle presented a grand vision -- a comprehensive customer experience cloud that enables business to create an integrated, end-to-end process of marketing, sales, service, and support with the goal of delivering a delightful customer experience. Oracle made a big bold move to deliver on that vision. They have picked up a company with a robust product, happy customers, and (arguably) the best brand in the B2B marketing automation space. For B2B marketers, Oracle is now the first vendor to actually have a shot at providing a unified automation platform for the end-to-end lead to revenue process.
I’ve seen too many lead-to-revenue initiatives underperform because insufficient attention was devoted to process. And, I’ve seen an equal number stall because the attempt to document the current state and define the future state leads to analysis-paralysis. It’s not fair to say that marketing organizations run their demand management completely without process. What most marketing organizations don’t have, however, is a consistent, end-to-end process to manage a single customer from lead origination to purchase, which is the heart of lead-to-revenue management. And for that, I blame the funnel.
The “lead funnel” (the universal model for demand management) gets well-deserved celebrity for giving B2B marketers a metaphor to communicate the relevance of marketing activities to revenue production. The funnel’s clearly defined stage gates (MQL, SQL, SAL, etc.) give marketing the basis to collaborate with sales on lead management. The funnel makes it easy to snapshot the health of the end-to-end pipeline. But, as a construct for thinking about the lead-to-revenue process, the funnel fails spectacularly. In this blog, I'll introduce an alternative metaphor, the Lead-to-Advocate Escalator. But, first, here’s what wrong with the funnel (and funnel derivatives like the waterfall).