Which Tools Do You Use?

One of the subtexts to the marketing automation explosion is analytics. Having a CRM system might make you wonder why marketing automation is needed at all, but the reasons boil down to analysis and improved data collection.

Let me share some information with you from a new marketing study I did this summer. First, the data: We asked marketers if they used CRM, marketing automation and business intelligence to process marketing data. The big dog was CRM, with a 54 percent share. Next came marketing automation with a full third, and last was business intelligence with 22 percent. So far, so good.

Beginning of a Revolution

I also asked what kind of data marketers collected and got some typical responses. From that data, we get measures like cost per lead, cost per program, cost per revenue dollar, total leads and similar things — heavy on controlling costs.

Only single-digit responses came in for time-stamping marketing events, measuring deal velocity, and average lead time in a marketing stage. To me, these are all critical measures that still too few people are using — and it’s sad, because these things separate monitoring marketing performance from managing it.

When you put the two things together — whether they’re using analytics and what kind of data companies are collecting, analyzing and reporting on — you see there’s some work to do. I’d say from this data and some other stuff I am tracking, that we are squarely at the monitoring and not the management stage of the marketing revolution.

In other words it’s still early days. That’s not to say that there are no companies out there doing the right thing the right way — just not enough to move the needle much.

New Insights

What would it look like if the needle were moving? Good question. I think we’d be moving away from monitoring marketing as a cost, and more companies would be managing it as a strategic weapon.

When you can collect the data we’re collecting — which is pretty good, though not perfect, as we still need more of a sense of time — and use analytics rather than simple report writers, you will be able to cross-tabulate seemingly unrelated data to derive new insights.

For example, suppose you were half way through the reporting period, and it was clear you were going to miss your number. What would you do to rectify the situation? Obviously, you’d have to put more deals in the pipeline, but — and this is critical — do you know how to generate leads with relatively short fuses so that the marketing spend will have an influence on the current quarter?

You can depend on sales to beat the bushes to see what happens, and you can always try to find some low-hanging fruit in the customer base for upsells or cross-sells. That’s rather random, though, and it has a 50/50 chance of working. In the end, everyone would look heroic for trying, and some heads might roll — but that isn’t the same as making the number.

Eye on the Prize

That’s a tough assignment, but it’s one that analytics is suited to undertake. If you time- stamp marketing events, chances are good that you can figure this out without breaking a sweat, because you could figure out close time by program.

If you had two marketing programs — one with a close time for leads that’s less than the 45 days or so that you have or one with a 90-day rate — which one you’d use would be a no-brainer. However, many marketing organizations don’t yet slice and dice their data to provide these results.

While it’s good to be able to tell the CFO what you spent and the VP of sales the number of marketing-qualified leads you generated and how many of them were accepted by sales, none of that really talks the talk of the boardroom, which is much more along the lines of winning and not simply doing your job.

Some of my other data also shows that sales is still not providing enough feedback to marketing on the leads it develops, and that’s too bad. I suspect it’s because the two organizations — in too many instances — have not come to agreement on what a lead is or what an opportunity is and why it’s important to give feedback. It also suggests that there isn’t enough agreement on the marketing-sales process and handoff.

What happens when a sales person rejects a marketing qualified lead? It should go back to nurture in many cases, but too often marketing doesn’t have visibility into the sales pipe, and rejected MQLs just evaporate rather than going back into the hopper.

So, to net it out, we’re making progress, there’s more to do, and these are classic signs, to me, of an early market in marketing — and the tools you use determine the kind of results you can imagine. Funny how that works.

Denis Pombriant

Denis Pombriant is the managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm and consultancy. Pombriant's research concentrates on evolving product ideas and emerging companies in the sales, marketing and call center disciplines. His research is freely distributed through a blog and Web site. He is the author of Hello, Ladies! Dispatches from the Social CRM Frontier and can be reached at [email protected].

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