EXPERT ADVICE

Want Credibility, Marketers? You’ve Got to Earn It

Let’s be honest: Marketing has always been considered a little “soft” in the business world. That may be why CMOs have one of the shortest average tenures — about two years — of any corporate board member.

Marketing’s reputation comes from reporting on metrics like “impressions” and “brand awareness” — things that CEOs and CFOs simply do not understand because they can’t see the impact on their financial statements. If marketing is to start building credibility within the organization, they need to start playing a bigger role in driving revenue.

We all know that marketing departments are not increasing their resources, especially now. Marketers must not only do more with less, but also take on additional responsibilities to help facilitate more quality leads sent to sales. Sales and marketing goals have been misaligned for some time. However, with the limited ability of most companies these days to throw money into lead generation or into hiring more sales reps, the cost of this misalignment is steeper now than ever before.

Therefore, it’s time for marketing’s role to evolve. This role must include more than just outbound lead generation; it must also include some responsibility for the lead lifecycle (and of course we’re not touching on all the projects that marketing is responsible for in this piece).

A lead’s lifecycle starts at the stage of inquiry, which is some kind of interaction with the company — a Web visit, download, tradeshow visit, etc. Traditionally, this is the point at which marketing sends over the “leads” to sales, never to see or hear about them again. It’s precisely in this area where marketing must evolve. It must begin to take more responsibility for providing not just leads, but “sales ready” leads. And for marketers to gain the credibility they deserve, they need to take some responsibility for revenue and profit as well.

Below are five ways marketing can gain credibility by impacting the bottom line.

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  1. Revise the lead management process.

    How can marketing accomplish the above and gain credibility within the company? What tools, processes, content and metrics must be implemented? In order for marketing to track and drive leads through the lifecycle, it must be equipped with the tools and visibility to allow it to deliver on objectives. It must also consider how it wants the lead management process to be — not just continue on with whatever legacy steps have evolved over time.

    Many companies have fallen into a process — something that just simply evolved over time. No one sat down and mapped out the lead lifecycle or lead management process in the company, which is the precursor to the sales process. Companies are usually fairly sophisticated about the sales process and the stages within it. In this manner, marketers should not just go with what currently exists, but instead consider what the optimum lead management process for their company might be.

    In other words, what best fits their specific product and services buy cycle, their prospects and organization? Importantly, this includes learning what they need to do to drive more revenue, reduce sales costs, etc.

  2. Drive revenue.

    • Marketing can have a direct impact on revenue if it spends the time and effort to implement a lead management process that drives better qualified leads to sales. This means that marketing needs to start accumulating data (digital behaviors) about the prospect and driving interaction with the prospect. This gives marketers the ability to pass leads through to sales that have shown some level of interest in the products or services offered.
    • Marketing must also take on the responsibility to nurture those leads that are not quite yet ready to buy. Instead of passing over all inquirers and suspects straight from a website or tradeshow — many of which sales teams will ignore or refuse to waste time with — marketers can provide value and keep not-yet-ready prospects interested (and the company’s name at the top of their minds) until they are ready to buy.

  3. Reduce sales costs.

    • Maximizing sales resources or, more specifically, maximizing revenue per sales rep and revenue per employee are two important metrics for any company. Marketing can directly help drive these numbers higher by enabling salespeople to focus their efforts on those prospects that are more likely to buy, rather than spending their time calling inquiries and suspects that are either not qualified or not ready to talk to a salesperson.

      In today’s Internet-driven society, most prospects gain some amount of information online without the “help” of a salesperson. With this digital behavior now accessible, marketers must take the responsibility of tracking those insights and interpreting them as best as possible. Such digital behavior, coupled with additional data about the prospect, will help sales reps determine when the time is right to call on prospects.

    • As part of this, sales teams now also have added intelligence available about the prospect to use when they make their outbound calls. This should make for a “warmer” call, helping engage the prospect initially.

  4. Maximize marketing budgets.

    It’s often difficult for marketers to get the budget they believe they need because they can’t quantify the return on their marketing dollars. Therefore, marketing needs to start gaining visibility to additional metrics that go beyond traditional opens and clicks.

    They need to start tracking the number of qualified leads passed to sales, where those leads flow through the funnel, and which leads turn into opportunities and sales. Marketers are often unable to gain that visibility due to a lack of systems and processes. Tracking and measuring campaign success should be an essential validating component in any lead management process. Fortunately, it’s something that’s now enabled through marketing automation and CRM systems.

  5. New tracking and metrics.

    Once marketers determine what the lead management process should be and how a lead will move through the lifecycle within their company, they need to implement the supporting tools and metrics. Marketers must map out their needs at a campaign level for all the campaigns they do — tradeshows, AdWords, email, etc.

    Next, they need to determine what they need to understand about a lead. Do they want to track/understand the lead’s demographics, their behaviors as they interact with the company and its materials, their answers to questions? How much is reasonable to track for a target audience? How is it best to obtain that information?

    All of these items must be thought through and decided. How will they determine when a lead has grown into a sales-ready lead? At the beginning, much of this will be trial and error. But marketers will quickly see patterns and trends.

To put all this in perspective, after marketers have decided what they need to track and how to track it, they must decide how they will continue to move a lead through its lifecycle to get it to a “sales-ready” state. They must then determine how to gain quick visibility to all leads and their progress until they are passed to sales and then, through to close.

While all this additional work, process and tracking sounds “big,” it can actually be done in bite-sized pieces so that it’s manageable for marketing teams. We certainly suggest starting simple. Don’t complicate the process; don’t try to apply this against all leads and all campaigns at the same time. Begin with something small, implement the concepts, tracking, technology, process and metrics, and then measure. Then go back and tweak and continue to expand.

Marketing needs to take the lead now and start gaining credibility within their companies by having a direct impact on revenue and other key metrics that drive a company’s bottom line. Such an evolution is a very attainable goal for marketing departments when they use the new tools, processes and expert assistance now available.

Lisa Cramer is president and cofounder of LeadLife Solutions, a provider of an on-demand lead management solution.

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