Five ways marketing can be more like sales

Aden Forrest, ANZ managing director, Marketo, suggests how marketing can have more influence on business outcomes and change its reputation as a mere cost centre.


In most B2B companies the sales department owns the revenue pipeline. Marketing is often seen as a necessary cost centre, not a strategic asset that drives growth. It’s particularly the case here in Australia, where product development and marketing campaigns are often developed at an overseas head office – marketing is centralised, with minor local adaptions, while sales, which is built on relationships, enjoys local autonomy and expense accounts.

How will this change? How can marketing have more influence on outcomes in the business? The answer is simple: focus more on revenue. A recent study of senior marketers by Marketo and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) showed that 60% of marketers believe their company views their department as a cost centre. Little wonder, then, that they don’t share the same respect as the sales team, who bring money in and help pay their salaries.

Marketers can turn the problem around, by following some of the principles of sales, speak their language and use technology and analytics to demonstrate the impact they are having on the business. Here are five key pointers top help manage that transition”


1. Forecast results, not spending

Marketers must forecast and predict leads, pipeline, and revenue with confidence. This means having a clear understand of how many new qualified leads will move through the marketing funnel, and how many of them will become ‘sales-ready’ in any given quarter. By understanding conversion rates based on a contacts source and behaviour through the nurturing process marketing can help sales to forecast how many of those leads will be closed and converted to revenue.


2. Make hard business cases for spending

Marketing will continually be frozen out of the budgeted cycle if it’s seen as a cost centre. But a marketer who can demonstrate what it takes – in money, time, and effort – to acquire and nurture qualified leads, is one far safer ground. When the CEO wants to cut marketing spending by 10%, the CMO can specify the exact impact that will have on next quarter’s revenue. (The reverse is true as well. By understanding the marginal return of incremental spending, the CMO can justify a larger budget and know exactly where to put the extra funds).


3. Use metrics that matter

Soft metrics like brand awareness, impressions, organic search rankings, satisfaction, and quality are all important – but only to the extent that they eventually connect in a quantifiable way to hard metrics like pipeline, revenue, and profit. The marketing dashboard must measure the impact off all marketing activities, whether hard or soft. But keep all but the most critical metrics internal to marketing. The CEO and CFO are more interested in the hard figures – you can always argue the influence of the soft metrics down the track, when you’ve got their attention.


4. Employ best-practice methodologies

Sales people are big on methodologies. There are heaps of books about it. Marketing needs to apply the same kind of rigorous process to ensure reliable roll-ups and forecasts, and for accurate comparisons of value between different leads and opportunities. For too long, marketing has been seen as an art and not a science – in fact, it is both. Implementing a consistent best-practice marketing methodology will go a long way towards changing that perception.


5. Deploy B2B marketing automation technology

Sales force automation technology has become a ‘no-brainer’ for most companies. It helped the sales team to implement those best practice methodologies and roll-up forecasts with some degree of accuracy. Now it’s time for marketers to do the same, for almost identical reasons: they provide the automation and support that marketing needs to predict results, plan spending, measure impact, and improve performance. When they work hand-in-hand with sales force automation the technologies can facilitate that utopian ideal where sales and marketing work hand-in-hand, in mutual collaboration. Imagine.


The wrap

Marketing can (and must) earn a seat at the revenue table. Earning that seat means acting like those departments that are already there and that involves working with hard business metrics. Fortunately, most marketers recognise the opportunity to change – the Marketo EUI study showed that 80% of marketers expect their departments to be seen as a revenue driver within three to five years.

In a B2B environment that recognition will come from delivering extra, better quality leads to sales. What’s more, sales will learn a lot about marketing in the process. They’ll understand that it’s not all pretty pictures and glossy brochures, it’s about forming a dialogue with customers, just like they do in sales. Some laggards in the sales team might be slow to accept it – or understand it – but marketing automation and nurturing software will make marketing an equal partner with sales, able to demonstrate the revenue they deliver. For those that want it, it’s a change that could happen in a matter of months. Those that wait, could lose out to competitors who embrace the change.