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Driving Sales and Marketing Alignment During Planning

Don’t you love when meetings collapse into finger pointing and frustration?

Me neither.

One of the common mistakes you can make during the planning process is to assume sales leadership is on board with your plan.

And if that alignment never happened, looking back at the end of the quarter can be painful.

Sales & Marketing alignment is essential—and it can pay dividends:

Companies with aligned sales and marketing generated 208% more revenue from marketing.” – HubSpot

With Q4 planning in full swing, let’s dig into some tips on how to align and work toward a common goal.

Be Efficient Yet Effective

Sure, we all know that end of quarter is tricky for Sales: they’re busy closing business and don’t have time for marathon planning sessions.

While it’s important to communicate the marketing plan, don’t forget the pressure they’re under.

As things settle down, Sales will appreciate that sensitivity and (should) return the favor by engaging in a plan review.

During the review session, cover the following:

  • Revenue Targets
    If you’re not in alignment on revenue goals for new business and/or expansion business, stop what you’re doing and see to that.
  • Personas
    Brush up on your target personas and key accounts. Make sure your plan aligns to targeting and converting the right people.
  • Themes
    Don’t go over your plan in painful detail, and avoid jargon and acronyms. We’ve mastered MQLs, TQLs, SQLs, and AQLs, but no one else has. Instead, focus on the larger campaigns and themes you’re focusing on, any events you’re participating in, and expected outcomes at a high level.
  • In-Quarter Check-Ins
    Establish a bi-monthly or monthly check-in to discuss progress, lead quality, and where any adjustments are needed. Better to avoid surprises at the end of the quarter when it’s too late to turn it around. Use Sponge to measure progress against your plan and share relevant reports with Sales.

And this: be vocal and confident. You’ve been respectful of time constraints, but that doesn’t mean to give up communicating.

Communicate the plan with confidence, iterate when it makes sense, and don’t rest until you get sign off.

Do those things and you’ll avoid fraught meetings at the end of the quarter.

Set (and Reset) Expectations (Early & Often)

There’s nothing worse than having to make constant changes to your plan because you aren’t meeting Sales’ expectations.

And you’ll definitely hear about it if they think they’re light on leads. So set expectations up front about marketing’s contribution to revenue, lead and opp targets, account engagement, and other key metrics—and continue to reset those expectations throughout the year.

Zach Benard has outlined a few key questions:

  • Does each department have the same definitions for the terms you’re using? For example, when you say “leads,” what do you mean?
  • Do your marketing team’s goals line up with your sales team’s goals? Do they also mesh with your company’s goals?
  • Does anyone have questions about SLAs? Clarity is a must-have, and any gray areas should be addressed before moving forward.

And here’s something else that tends to get overlooked: outline what you’re going to need from Sales throughout the quarter (or year, for annual planning).

For example, lay out a time frame during each quarter that looks like this:

  • Assumptions we made
  • Where we hit targets
  • Where we fell short
  • How we’ll adjust

When changes need to be made, be forthcoming about how these changes will affect the plan.

If leadership requires a shift of focus, strategy, or marketing budget, be very clear about how any changes will impact lead flow, opportunity targets, or planned campaigns.

No one else in the organization understands this better than marketing. Outline exactly where and how any changes will be experienced in “real life” and how they’ll impact the marketing plan.

Sign Off & Own It

As mentioned, it’s critical to ensure Sales & Marketing are on the same page—and have taken ownership of SLAs and responsibilities.

And you can’t do that until you’re sure both teams are working from the same sets of numbers.

Sales has a spreadsheet to come up with their quotas, and you probably have a spreadsheet to come up with lead goals. Compare those numbers!

In the name of all that is righteous—make sure everyone is working off the same set of numbers. Otherwise your Sales & Marketing check-ins will devolve into spirited debate over who has the right data.

Here at Sponge we work with clients of all shapes & sizes, and the question of “the right data” is one of the most common problems we see.

Organizations typically have disparate data from their marketing automation platform, CRM, and a slew of other data-generating systems (including SQL or some other database, where that one super nerd presents numbers that no one else in the company has ever seen).

Take the time to straighten this out (or drop us a line and we’ll do it for you), so that Sales Ops and Marketing Ops are working from a common set of numbers and tracking the right KPIs.

Frankie Say, Relax

One last note: be honest with yourself and never sign up for an unrealistic plan. There’s just no way that can end well.

Once you’ve achieved true alignment—and you’ve crafted a plan your team is comfortable with—you’ll breathe much easier during the quarter.

According to HubSpot, “When Sales & Marketing are in sync, companies increase their closing rate by 67%.”

We’ve all seen how tumultuous the relationship between Sales & Marketing can be, but we’ve also seen what happens when both teams work together productively.

Focusing on alignment and building a strong relationship will always result in greater success for everyone.

 

Want more on alignment and revenue marketing? Don’t miss this on-demand webinar:

how revenue marketers own their metrics

The Impact of a Great Webinar Program

Webinars are still a big part of the marketing mix, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.

And by now, most of us know how to create content and webinars that serve a higher purpose than simply promoting products and services. After all, when someone is truly interested in what you’re selling, they’ll find a demo on your website.

A webinar program (and every other kind of content) is about thought leadership, sharing insights, and providing access to expert knowledge that can help people do their job better.

Inbound marketing (synonymous with content marketing in many ways) is not a new concept. Most mature organizations have learned that inbound leads from content promotion can be pretty “top of the funnel” and have a demand waterfall in place to separate the noise from the good stuff.

If you’re great at creating compelling content—promoted through a mix of channels—you’ll certainly stuff the top of your funnel with new contacts, but not necessarily your top prospects.

That’s where lead scoring should kick in, routing leads through your funnel depending on demographic data and behavior.

Demos and trials, for example, are high value activities that immediately trigger sales engagement, where content downloads, visits to your website, and webinar registrations are usually scored and routed differently.

So let’s talk about how to create a webinar program that does three important things:

  • Attracts New Contacts

  • Serves Every Stage of the Funnel

  • Creates Sales Opportunities

Start with a Three-Part Webinar Series

It doesn’t matter what you’re marketing—a cybersecurity product or healthcare services—you can create a three-part webinar series that casts a wide net at the top and works down to niche topics that indicate more serious interest in what you’re selling.

Let me clarify with a real-world example from a previous company.

They sold analytics software to companies who want to embed analytics in their own products. Their ideal prospect was a product manager—a decision-maker who was charged with product ownership.

Ironically, one of our key challenges was that literally EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE WORLD cares about data analytics. We could spin up tasty dataviz content, promote it with Outbrain, and get thousands of downloads.

The problem was conversion: tons of new names in the database but abysmal conversion to opportunities or even to MQLs.

The same was true of webinars. We could easily get 1200 people on a webinar about designing data dashboards, but many attendees were already using Tableau or other competitors’ solutions. They would never be our customer.

So we decided to do a Summer School series of three webinars:

  • The first was a “fan favorite” on dashboard design, meant to attract a large number of top of the funnel registrants.
  • The second was a little more in the weeds—still offering high level info—but getting closer to our message on the value of embedding analytics in a product.
  • The third was directly targeted to our ideal prospect, offering go-to-market strategy for an analytics software product. The only people who would care about this are the very people we wanted to talk to.

We knew that the number of registrants would drop dramatically from the first webinar to the third, but we welcomed that drop off.

The registrants of the second and third webinars were perfect for our SDRs to follow up with, and to track carefully through the funnel.

The registrants of the first webinar would drop into Marketo engagement programs for further nurturing.

The Set Up

Assuming you’re using a marketing automation platform integrated with a CRM system, this type of program is relatively easy to set up.

If you’re already running webinars, then this is super easy to set up.

In this example, we were using Unbounce for landing pages, along with Marketo and Salesforce (WebEx was our webinar platform, for better or worse).

Like most teams, we would send the first webinar invite two weeks before, a second invite the week before, and various reminders to folks who didn’t open and so on.

Hmmmmm

So the question is, do I create one landing page to promote the series, or separate landing pages for each webinar in the series?

The answer is, do all the things.

To get the most bang for your buck, create a landing page for the series (where folks can register for as many as they want), and create separate landing pages for each webinar. This way you have flexibility in how you promote, and you’re still able to send an email invite before each one.

This also gives you the ability to experiment with promotion and channels: maybe you’d promote the second and third (more in-the-weeds) webinars through channels where you can be more targeted (LinkedIn sponsored content and InMail, for example).

Since these webinars are designed to attract your ideal prospect, think about the watering holes where they’d likely consume content.

If you need ideas or practical guidance on how to set up a program like this, talk to us. Here at Sponge, we love to talk demand gen, campaigns, and marketing ops.

The Follow Up

OMG the follow up.

Like I mentioned, the drop off in registrants from the “fan favorite” webinar to the third—more highly targeted one—will probably be pretty big.

And that’s ok.

This program is meant to attract a lot of new names at the top of the funnel, and select out your ideal prospects at the bottom.

Here are some tips to drive engagement and opportunities from your webinar series:

  1. Generate a list of people who register for all three webinars.
  2. Craft an email or call script for your sales development team. Since the people on this list are signalling a high level of interest, the goal should be to set a meeting. At the very least, provide an introduction, and more info about your products.
  3. Track the people who attend and craft a special follow up.
  4. Track the people who watch the recording and craft a special follow up.
  5. Send future webinar invites from the rep, making the invite feel more personal (this can be automated in any system).
  6. Remove these folks from any “standard” nurture program, and serve them middle of the funnel, more product-specific content.
  7. Consider a gift card incentive to drive demos after the webinars.
  8. Track carefully and watch sales opportunities roll in!

And before you launch the program, make sure your SDRs and sales reps know about it:

  • Send them the landing page and brief them on the topics.
  • Have them register so they experience the process as their prospect would.
  • Offer to set up notifications of registrations or attendees so they can work the leads more personally.
  • Stay on top of marketing and sales follow up during and after the series to ensure you’re not stepping on each other’s toes or that nothing is falling through the cracks.

Q4 is not so far away (I know, right?). Start planning your series before the holiday season and close the year strong!

In our upcoming blogs, we’ll share more demand gen ideas that create sales opps. Meanwhile, feast on this:

Three Things Revenue Marketers Do Differently

“Let’s see. What campaigns can I run to achieve as little as possible?”

Said no one ever.

From the smallest business in America to the largest enterprise on earth, the purpose of marketing is to increase awareness and grow the business.

But let’s assume we all agree on that and also that marketing has become a fiercely data-driven game.

Marketing with purpose is the law of the land: the democratization of data is transforming the marketer’s role from brand and PR, to data analyst and ops expert.

And not just marketing.

Today’s Fortune 500 CEO is more accountable than ever, largely because the entire organization is focused on data and outcomes.

In its annual report, the Conference Board found that among Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index companies that were at the bottom of performers, the CEO succession rate jumped five percentage points, from 12.2 percent in 2015 to 17.1 percent in 2016. That’s well above the rate over the past 16 years.

Of course it’s not just because of the availability of data, it’s also because the world is watching—and responding—when CEOs behave badly (Uber).

But I digress.

The fact is, no matter the size of the team or industry, the wind of change is here. Marketing is shifting to a revenue center—a role once reserved for Sales alone—and marketing leaders must create new business, expand existing business, and consistently drive growth.

So what do revenue-focused marketers do that’s so different? Let’s focus on three things.

 

  • They Align with Sales Every Quarter

    As much as we talk about sales & marketing alignment, how many of us actually dedicate the time and energy to it every quarter?

    Yep, end of quarter is crazy for sales. But regardless, you really do need to book a conference room and spend an afternoon reviewing the previous quarter’s performance and making sure you’re aligned on pipeline and revenue goals.

    Take the time to dig into the numbers—exploring quality of leads, engagement within key accounts, and tackling questions like:

    • Which campaigns moved the needle?
    • What activities drove the best inbound leads for sales follow up?
    • Are we targeting the right people or do we need a refresher on personas?
    • Were there any surprises?

    As marketers, if we don’t have that solid alignment, how can we realistically plan for the upcoming quarter and remainder of the year?

    Having been in some organizations where marketing avoided (literally) involving sales in planning, it doesn’t work and no one wins.

  • They Create Plans that Make Sense

    And by that I mean plans that tie closely to revenue goals.

    That’s why the first item is so important. Your quarterly and annual plans must work back from revenue goals, which are set by the business and understood by sales & marketing. From that key goal, you’re looking at historical data, conversion rates, and average deal size to figure out how to allocate budget.

    B O N U S
    Not super mathy? Download this Lead to Revenue Template to help you get started. And if that doesn’t quench your thirst, check out the Modern Marketer’s Guide to Planning for a deeper dive.

    A typical marketing org probably has demand gen, digital, content, and ops. Everyone on the team should own their piece of the plan, with individual goals and MBOs that map back to revenue targets.

    If Sales Development falls under marketing, review performance and brainstorm new ways to optimize and recharge. Do a sanity check to make sure SDR outreach is a complement to sales and marketing activities, and not drowning your prospects in over communication.

    As a team, there’s no better feeling than celebrating marketing’s impact on a great quarter. Cheers!

  • They Know Which Metrics Matter

    And have a way to get at the data without entering the 10th circle of Excel hell or waiting for ops to pull reports. (by the way, Sponge includes great dashboards made for marketers so you’ll never have to retrofit Salesforce again).

    Assuming you’re using marketing automation and a CRM system, have these metrics in your back pocket:

    • Lead to opp conversion
      Sure, this metric relies on sales follow up and performance, but it also reflects lead quality. Track this conversion rate monthly but also go back a year or two and observe trends.
    • Campaign opportunity influence and ROI
      Whatever you do, have access to a dashboard that shows which campaigns and content are influencing opportunities during the quarter.
    • Email performance
      Opens and click-throughs are a great way to check the temperature of your nurture campaigns. Email is still the best way to engage leads once they’re in your database. Poor performance could be a sign of exhaustion, lack of compelling offers, or crummy content.
    • Funnel velocity
      Work with marketing ops to ensure you have a way to track lead flow from beginning to end. When the CEO asks, “How long does it take a lead to convert to an opportunity?” you should probably have the answer ready to go.
    • Happiness
      Remember what happiness and fulfillment feel like? Don’t lose sight of your team and your customers. Don’t get so caught up in data and hitting your numbers that you sacrifice quality and sanity.

Want more on metrics and revenue-driven marketing? Don’t miss this on-demand webinar:

how revenue marketers own their metrics

Marketing’s Shift from Brand to Revenue

When you really think about it, doesn’t it blow your mind?

I’m talking about how the digital age has completely changed marketing and sales—especially buyer behavior. By now we’re all well aware that research happens quietly online, long before a human becomes a “lead” and lands in your funnel.

Imagine talking about a funnel 15 years ago.

Nope, we were sitting in conference rooms talking PR, events, collateral, and swag. We were thinking hard about corporate colors on the website, not about SEO, real-time web personalization and conversion.

Enterprise sales reps were scheduling golf outings and sending monogrammed BBQ sets to their top prospects (wait I guess that’s called ABM now).

Ah the simple days.

Fast forward to 2017 and there’s so much data on any given prospect, that our role as marketers barely resembles what it looked like even 10 years ago. Brand, PR, and events are still a thing, but what’s the real driver of increased marketing budgets over recent years?

It isn’t brochures.

It’s the rise of MarTech, the democratization of data, and the need for specialized talent to manage it.

According to the Gartner 2016-2017 CMO Spend Survey, 75% of marketing leaders say they now own or share responsibility for P&L. And sales leadership? According to a 2016 HubSpot survey, 57% of sales reps believe buyers are less dependent on salespeople during the buying process.

Marketing is now the keeper of critical data and insights that propel growth. If revenue discussions were once reserved for the CEO, COO and sales leadership alone, those days are over: marketing has earned a strategic seat at the revenue table.

Yet even with the martech explosion and availability of data, the average B2B marketer still spends hours every week aggregating data, wrestling with Excel, and struggling to unpack some pretty important insights, like:

  • Length of time leads spent in various funnel stages
  • Campaign performance in aggregate, comparing campaigns to others
  • Comparing plan vs. actuals—what assumptions were accurate and which were off
  • How to forecast impact on revenue based on historical performance and how to adjust accordingly

Most organizations have a way to track leads and opps or engagement within accounts. It’s not the lack of data—it’s the ability to do meaningful things with it.

In spite of sophisticated technologies and increased responsibilities, many teams still struggle with the ability to connect data to revenue or forecast marketing’s impact on the bottom line.

According to The CMO Survey, sponsored by Duke University, Deloitte, and the American Marketing Association, marketers say barely a third of available data are used to drive decision making in their companies. The second largest barrier that prevents them from using analytics is the lack of people who can span the world of marketing analytics and marketing practice.

Of course we need analysts and business ops talent, but the real need is for the marketing team—in its entirety—to be focused on contribution to revenue.

How do you get there? Here’s a simple breakdown:

  1. Marketing and sales alignment to define a shared understanding of revenue goals
  2. A marketing plan that makes sense and tracks back from revenue goals
  3. An efficient way to track marketing’s performance throughout the quarter
  4. The agility to adjust if you’re not meeting your goals
  5. Understanding key metrics to track and what to report to different audiences
  6. Team ownership: providing every member of your team with a way to measure their activities’ impact on engagement and revenue

Sharing ownership of a portion of the P&L means aligning with sales and setting realistic goals based on revenue targets, average deal size, and average conversion rates. Once you’ve reached agreement on revenue goals, create a marketing plan that works back from those goals—setting lead and opp targets the team can realistically achieve given your budget and resources.

Need guidance on creating a revenue-focused marketing plan? See The Modern Marketer’s Guide to Planning.

In the real world, it’s pretty easy to gloss over goal setting and funnel modeling, but lead & opp (or ABM) targets that tie back to a revenue goal is key to creating a marketing team that consistently contributes to pipeline and drives growth.

Otherwise, aren’t we just committing random acts of marketing?

In our upcoming blogs, we’ll share more detail on planning and execution within a revenue-driven framework. Meanwhile, dig in here:

3 Marketing Programs to Kickstart Summer

Too early to talk Q3? Nope.

For many companies, Q3 is slow. Summer vacay is in full swing, and those of us back in the office are itching to pack it in early. And Europe? Literally the entire continent is eating gelato at the seaside until mid-August.

Yes, it’s summertime and the livin is easy (as Gershwin wrote and Billie Holiday turned into magic—you really should listen right here). It’s everyone’s favorite season but Q3 can be the toughest time of year for B2B. So why not plan ahead and take advantage of the lull?

Here’s three ideas to kick start your Q3 plan (or recharge marketing any time of the year).

1. The Summer of the Sprint

For those familiar with agile project management, scrums and sprints are a big deal. While the marketing team isn’t responsible for product development, which is usually the context for agile, you can still apply the idea to marketing.

Pick three sprint themes to tackle this summer. Maybe your customer onboarding needs a refresher, or nurture emails that have been running on autopilot need some love, or you’ve been meaning to connect with new influencers to expand your reach but haven’t had the time.

No matter what you have going on, I’m pretty sure you can find a few projects that dropped off the radar, and those will be your sprints. From there, it’s all about planning and execution.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how a sprint runs:

  1. Identify sprint theme
  2. Pinpoint goals and scope the work
  3. Select team members and responsibilities
  4. Schedule kickoff meeting and daily scrum
  5. Go
  6. Meet at the end for a project review
  7. Move on to the next sprint

Week-long sprints are great because they’re so fast. On Monday you kickoff, and by Friday you’ve achieved something. The momentum never has time to wane, and before you know it, you’re on to the next thing. If you have a bigger project, try two or three-week sprints.

By the end of the summer, the team will feel great about crushing a few big projects and you’ll have results to show for it.

2. The Summer of A/B Love

You only need to attend one conference a year to feel cosmically bad about the A/B tests you’re not running.

When it comes to email marketing, web presence, messaging, and pretty much everything else we do, A/B testing is the one thing we should be doing, yet tends to get kicked to the curb. A shame, since A/B testing can actually help identify valuable insights that can’t be found by other means.

Build a few important A/B tests into your Q3 plan. If that doesn’t sound like fun, divide into Team A and Team B and see who wins.

If you can find a way to gamify the tests, you’ll get the whole team writing better copy, tightening up messaging, and re-imagining landing pages for better conversion.

Regardless of what you’re testing this summer, take the time to do it right. Also take the time to listen to this podcast, where two wicked smart economists discuss data and causation.

And speaking of gamification, don’t forget to pick a nice outdoor patio for happy hour to celebrate the winning team!

3. The Summer of Trying Something New

Even if summer isn’t a slow time for your organization, it’s a great time to kick the tires on a new tool or platform. If you wait to start assessing vendors and doing demos until Q4, it could be too late to sign a deal and get up and running in time for the new year.

So think about the tools and initiatives you’ve been meaning to explore and get into it.

Here are a few solutions we love:

Engagio

Pretty sure we might have hit maximum overload on ABM about four months ago, but while many are familiar with the concept, most are far from implementing it or understanding how to measure ABM success.

Over the past few years, digital and inbound have matured and we’ve learned a few lessons. Namely, when you stuff the top of your funnel with folks who downloaded a piece of content, it might take an act of divinity to move those folks through the funnel.

Without exactly the right mix of content, campaigns, and sales outreach, you can forget about decent conversion rates or a healthy funnel.

Or, you can stop thinking solely in terms of leads and start thinking about engaging the right people at the right accounts. This is where ABM comes in, and Engagio is leading the pack. Because ABM requires tight alignment between sales and marketing, Engagio has built a great platform for marketers and an equally great Salesforce widget for your reps to track account activity.

LinkedIn for Lead Gen and Retargeting

Okay so LinkedIn just rolled out native forms. If you run sponsored content programs already, you can now point to a LinkedIn form instead of your own.

I like being an early adopter so I’ve been giving it a try for one of my clients. I’m recommending it here because I’ve seen a boost in conversion: forms are pre-filled with the person’s LinkedIn data, thus removing friction, and the experience is seamless because they’re not leaving LinkedIn and bouncing to your landing page (you could also argue there’s less connection with your brand).

That said, the new lead gen forms are not without bugs (you can’t download leads in Chrome—only works in IE or Firefox), and the UX is not at all intuitive: you need an account manager to walk you through it once or twice.

Another huge offering from LinkedIn is retargeting through Matched Audiences. You can engage key accounts, prospects, and audiences with three new capabilities: website retargeting, account targeting, and contact targeting.

If your database is loaded with contacts who’ve gone cold and email isn’t cutting it, this is an effective way to reach them through targeted ads and content. And for visits to your website that haven’t converted, you’ll expand your reach on LinkedIn, which has the potential to be much more targeted than Google Display.

Plus LinkedIn is up to 500 million members, so.

Sponge

Welp, if I didn’t believe in this product I wouldn’t be working here. Sponge is the only solution that ties planning with performance and analytics, and really helps even the most non-mathy marketer become revenue-focused and quantitative.

After a simple integration with Salesforce, login to Sponge and start playing with revenue targets and model budget scenarios to see marketing’s impact on the bottom line.

Sponge also provides reporting made for demand gen marketers, so you won’t have to rely on Salesforce reports and waiting around for the ops team to get you the data you need. Since Sponge gives you one place for plans, campaigns, and analytics, the whole team will be addicted before you know it.

If you’re a semi-neurotic serial refresher (no judgment here)—tracking campaign performance by the minute, running conversion rates, and contemplating the health and velocity of your funnel—Sponge is your new nerdy best friend.

Rybbon

If you use gift cards or other incentives to drive webinar registrants, survey completion, or any other point of engagement, I bet whatever you’re doing is pretty manual and not easy to track.

Rybbon changes all that. You can order through the Rybbon portal, set up your campaign, grab a token for Marketo, and you’re done. You can track when a gift is redeemed and schedule a sales follow up. The ease of use is one thing, but the lack of risk is also huge: if your allotted giftcards aren’t used, you can return them for a refund or order new gifts in any increment you need.

Try a survey that helps you get a better read on your customers and prospects, then offer the anonymous results in a follow up campaign. It’s a great way to boost engagement and get valuable insights at the same time.

So there you go, a few ideas to rally the team and try new initiatives that can move the needle in meaningful ways. Whether your summers are slow or not, a smart Q3 plan can set you up to crush Q4 and end the year strong.

Happy Hour Will Resume After Q2 Planning

FML it’s end of quarter again.

It’s late. I have so many tabs open I’ve lost track of where I am. This would be waaay better with wine (yanks laptop off docking station, runs for door).

I’m pretty sure you can relate to late nights during end-of-quarter planning. Of course we track throughout the quarter, but the EOQ round up is a big deal—and rightfully so. Your plan for the upcoming quarter is only as good as your audit of the past.

It helps to focus on a few key questions, like:

  • Did the company achieve its revenue target? What was marketing’s contribution?
  • Which campaigns generated the most leads? The fewest?
  • Which campaigns had the highest impact on pipeline?
  • How did the funnel perform compared to your assumptions?
  • Did anything unexpected happen? What and why?

Whether your team adheres to a lead target, an opp target, or an ABM strategy that focuses on engagement within key accounts, ask the right questions, get the answers, and document that data in your quarterly plan. When you gather the team for a marathon planning sesh, the “Look Back” slide should be your starting point—inviting the team to unpack what worked and what didn’t.

In this on-demand webinar, three CMOs discuss how they set the marketing vision, inspire their team, and create plans that drive growth. Watch Planning for Growth in 2017 now.

Stop. Start. Adjust.

Stop, Start, Adjust is an annual and quarterly exercise that forces brevity and clarity around where you’ve been and where you want to go. Assuming your lead and opp targets don’t fluctuate wildly from quarter to quarter and you know your goals, dedicate a session to outline the practices that need to go away completely, that need to begin in earnest, and that need to be optimized for better performance.

Here’s an example of how the exercise can take shape:

Once you’ve nailed Stop, Start, Adjust, move on to budget. Do you have the budget to support new initiatives or fine-tune what you already have? Can you reallocate anything from the Stop column? Here’s a few practical tips that’ll help you stay on track:

3 Guidelines to Throw on Your Whiteboard Right Now

1. Be bold enough to kill anything that isn’t working

Seriously. Do not be afraid of losing leads. If you have campaigns or channels that generate leads with abysmal conversion, take them out back and shoot them. Free up that budget to try something new. You have nothing to lose.

2. Revisit your target personas

Funny how we lose sight of who we’re actually marketing to in the midst of all the number crunching. Make sure everyone is clear on who your target personas are and aren’t—and evaluate whether your programs do a good job of reaching them. Be prepared to abandon generic offers that cater to everyone and no one.

3. Budget with agility

Start with the big buckets and assign budgets accordingly, then follow through with a budget review every two weeks and adjust as necessary. Give your team the freedom to spend smarter on campaigns that move the needle.

 

Planning doesn’t have to be painful. Read The Modern Marketer’s Guide to 2017 Planning and learn how to create effective plans, inspire your team, and put some damn fun back into B2B marketing.

 

Staying on Top of Your Metrics

Marketing plans vary so wildly from team to team, it’s amazing we have a common language at all. Yet how we codify our roles and our contribution to an organization are very similar—whether we’re B2B, B2C, or in entirely dissimilar industries.

What’s one thing we all have in common? The very real need to change quickly when we have to.

Marketing goals are tied to the goals of the business: if leads are lagging or not converting, you need to spot the problem and make changes. Access to real-time metrics is key to data-driven, agile marketing.

When planning for the year ahead, any marketing team should consider flexibility. Let’s say you plan to roll out two big campaigns in the first half of the year with multi-channel programs rolling up under those campaigns.

What if your campaigns are on track, but you’re not hitting the number of leads you planned? Your goals and themes won’t change, but your channels and strategies might have to—and that’s what agile marketing is about.

Apply the 80/20 rule to your marketing plan: 80% of your campaigns and activities should be planned in advance, while the remaining 20% can be committed later as you test, learn, and iterate.

For example, if social is proving ineffective for driving leads, you’ll need to rethink your social strategy or consider replacing it with another tactic to close the gap. A tight relationship with sales and a pulse on real-time metrics are key—if something’s not working, you need to react quickly to turn things around while there’s still time to impact pipeline.

The diagram below shows an example of opp targets, lead targets, and two BACs (big ass campaigns), with channels for promotion:

Your marketing plan will most likely include an estimate of how many leads you’ll generate from each channel for each campaign.

But what if the leads you bring in from content syndication don’t convert? And what if you hit a snag in your email marketing due to list exhaustion or a blacklist? Take it from experience, it can happen, and when it does, it’s ugly. You’ll need to find a way to close the lead gap as quickly as possible.

Looking back at the end of a quarter with a shrug, “Welp, that didn’t work. Should’ve done something else,” helps no one. But using the 80/20 rule, staying on top of your metrics, and planning for agility can. It’s your best bet at staying on track—no matter what comes your way.

What key metrics should you measure? Why should your marketing plan start with company revenue goals? Here you go: The Modern Marketer’s Guide to 2017 Planning.

Revenue-Driven Marketing

As marketers, we have seen the days come and pass where marketing was a necessary expense on the balance sheet. We now are tasked with answering the question, “how are you creating revenue?” This might be daunting to some, but to those ready to adopt the analytics side of marketing and answer this question, it can be very rewarding. Showing the brass at your company you are able to provide return on investment can give you more bargaining power for things like larger budgets and say strategic decisions.

The problem that most marketers are facing is how do they go from driving demand for their company, to instead focusing on driving revenue. There might not be any perfect answer to this question, but there are however a few best practices for marketers to keep in mind. In this post we will be covering five things marketers need to do in order to drive revenue.

1) Align Marketing and Sales

You can’t win the war if you are fighting amongst yourself. Aligning marketing a sales is important to ensure that customers are hearing a single coherent message throughout the selling process. To drive revenue, you need to control costs. When it comes to marketing and sales, if you’re unaligned and require large investments in each team, then you are not maximizing your return revenue potential. Simplify the process and minimize investment for both teams by joint planning, sharing goals, and having a clear resource allocation process. Remember that both sales and marketing have a common end goal and should be working together in order to reach it.

Sales & Marketing Alignment

Sales & Marketing Alignment (Source)

2) Scale Marketing Efforts with Results

Rather than thinking your marketing teams needs more investment to reach higher revenue goals, try challenging yourself, and your team, to meet revenue goals in order to receive investments. Sales teams generally have to meet quarterly quotas to get more investment in the team, so try and apply this philosophy to your marketing team. Double the amount of revenue you making and then invest that back into your marketing efforts. Too often we see people think they need more in order to reach goals when it might be a simpler option to try and bootstrap to drive revenue.

3) Measure the Right Analytics

When you are switching from a demand generation strategy to a revenue driven strategy it is important that you are tracking the right metrics. A demand waterfall is a great way to track how well your revenue strategy is doing. If you know that you want to increase revenue from last year by 60% then think about the metrics you need to track in order to meet that goal. Set performance for your waterfall such as site visitors, leads, opportunities, and lastly closed deals. If there is a weak link in your revenue strategy you will be able to spot it.

Demand Waterfall

Demand Waterfall

4) Set The Parameters of SLA’s (Service Level Agreements)

Again, if you are going to be successful in meeting your revenue goals it is important for marketing and sales to be on the same page. One of the best ways of doing this is to define your service level agreements. Maybe it is decided that marketing will provide leads to the sales only if they meet every aspect of a defined set of qualifications. This can help sales tailor their message to these prospects since they will all be from the same background. In return, maybe marketing decides that the sales team has to speak about a certain aspect of the company’s product or service in their sales pitch.

The most important SLA that should be agreed upon is when a lead is passed from marketing to sales. This is usually a high point of friction between the two teams so make it very clear when a lead goes from marketing to the sales team.

Free Service Level Agreement Templates – Download from Tidy Forms

5) The Customer is Still The Most Important Person

It is easy to forget about the most important thing when you are focused on turning a strong profit. The customer always has been, and always will be, the most important person for a company. If you do not optimize your marketing campaigns for the person buying your product or service, then there will not be a market for it. Make the process of buying your product or service as easy and as enjoyable as possible. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about what they want, and then give it to them!

Satisfied Customers

Satisfied Customers (Source)

It is important to keep in mind that not every organization is the same, and yours might have different areas that will help lead to revenue generation. As a whole though, the topics covered in this post are a great starting point for most companies to start making the switch from just driving demand, to generating revenue. Try and strip away all the fluff of driving revenue and make it a simple process. Marketing is on-boarding and nurturing prospects until they are right for sales. If you accept that your end result needs to be a sale and that is the only thing that matter; then adopting a revenue-driven marketing strategy.

We as marketers are facing increasing pressure to show the benefits of our work on the bottom line of the balance sheet. Executives want to see that we’re creating sales for the company. Switching to a revenue marketing strategy is a great way to prove the marketing teams value to stakeholders.

To learn more about how to drive revenue for your company, sign up for The Marketing Machine Playbook, a two part eBook for building an integrated marketing system designed for growth.

The Marketing Machine Playbook

4 Visuals for your B2B Content Marketing Strategy

We all would like to improve on our open rates. How are we supposed to generate lead lists from our content if no one is opening and viewing our content? There is a simple way to get more eye balls on your content and it hasn’t been a secret for a long time. Adding visuals to your content can help not only improve your open rate; but it can also improve your bounce rate, time on page, and shares. All of those metrics are important to your content marketing strategy.

When creating content keep in mind how you can incorporate visuals seamlessly. The four visuals that I have found to be effective are infographics, gif’s, charts, and video’s. The human mind processes information much faster when looking at a graphic rather than reading it from a page. Having a graphic rather than text on a page makes your content more appealing to the eye as well, thus promoting a reader to share or at the least spend more time on the page. Would you rather read an essay or browse through an infographic? Yeah, that is what I thought. Stop pushing bland content! Let’s add some seasoning to your content and give it that kick it needs!

1) Infographic

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past five years, odds are you’ve heard of, or seen, an infographic. An infographic is a great way to supply readers with a large amount of data quickly and in an appealing way. Infographics are useful for more than just presenting information, they also do a great job at showing trends as opposed to an excel sheet. If you are looking to create an infographic I would suggest using Venngage. Venngage is a free infographic maker that I’ve used before with great success. It is much like Canva in that you can simply “drag and drop” items onto the page to create your infographic.

Infographic Visual

Infographic Visual (Source)

2) Gif

Gif stands for graphic interchange format. That sounds a lot fancier than it really is, as a gif really just an extension for a document much like .csv or .pdf. Having said that gif’s are a great way to stop and grab a viewer’s attention. Instead of a still image, a gif places stim images one after another in a repeating loop. This action is aimed at grabbing a viewer’s attention and getting them to stop and look.

 via GIPHY

3) Charts/Graphs

It is important to display information in an appealing way. The way in which you present information can lead to a better understanding. As mentioned with infographics, charts and graphs can help viewers have a better understanding of what the numbers are trying to say than if you were to present them in writing or an excel sheet. It is a lot easier to see a correlation between two numbers when they are presented in a chart then if you are shifting through an excel sheet with many different variables on it. When making a chart or graph keep make sure you are not presenting too much information so that the eye can get lost. Include only the essential information. Also, it is important to keep in mind a color scheme that fits with the graphic and flows easily throughout. This is generally done by combining warm and cool colors (back to our high school art classes) to the graphic to make it aesthetically pleasing.

B2B Marketing Chart Visual

B2B Marketing Chart Visual (Source)

4) Video

Video is already a big part of modern marketing and it will only continue to grow. Video allows for copious amounts of information to be consumed in a relatively quick timeframe. Rather than reading a 100-page book; you might be able to consume that information in about 15 minutes. The way the human mind works is that it can process images and sound much faster than it can process words from a page. If you have a piece of content such as an e-book, or long form blog, consider making it into a webinar or demo on the overall topic. This can take the overbearing feeling out of people who might fear that your 100-page e-book is not worth reading.

Top 10 Ways to Make a Great Video (watchmojo.com)

I am a strong believer that you can take good content and make it great. One of the best ways to do this is by attaching visuals to it. Doing more to enhance the experience of your viewers is always a good idea. Yes, it is going to take more time to create your content, but if you are already creating content why not make it great and get the most out of it by adding visuals to it? Don’t waste your time and effort by making boring content that doesn’t keep a reader’s attention, spice it up with some visuals!

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