It has been fun watching the rapid improvement of the marketing function over the last decade. The advance was in no small part due to the advances in marketing automation, and the marketing revolution is not over by a long shot.
However, I think we're bumping up against a ceiling, and the improvements we can expect that make marketing faster will plateau. Our next steps should involve refining marketing quality, and many businesses have already embarked on this effort.
Quantity vs. Quality
It's not unusual for marketing students to learn about the field as a numbers game today, but the framing is important. Very often the most important number involves the quantity of leads produced, but improvements in marketing involve generating better quality leads. We're in the position of needing to quantify lead quality.
Counting raw lead quantity is a good strategy for business-to-consumer marketing in which vendors may seek the broadest market coverage while attempting to generate demand for relatively inexpensive or low-margin products and services. Most organizations can't afford to deploy salespeople in these situations, so coverage measured as a raw lead number is important.
However, applying this logic in a business-to-business situation where salespeople are routinely dispatched to sell higher-value items results in many of the common problems that adversely affect the marketing and sales relationship in many businesses.
We all know the drill: Sales reps reject leads as inadequate, sometimes not even bothering to follow up, which frustrates marketers who are trying very hard to generate demand.
A solution to this perennial problem involves employing different measurements of marketing activity to drive better outcomes.
All marketing activities, especially automated ones, leave data trails that marketers can collect and analyze, and many marketing automation approaches leverage this data. Also, companies like SiriusDecisions have made a science of identifying metrics that deliver more qualified leads.
Indeed, a marketing automation suite is almost a necessity if you intend to capture and analyze all the data churned up by marketing activities. There are at least three areas that marketers need to focus on when analyzing marketing activity: within the marketing process, at the individual level, and at the program level.
Within a marketing process, we need to be concerned about velocity, or how quickly a lead matures from earliest contact to ripe for hand-off to sales.
These days, such leads are described as "marketing qualified," but that doesn't mean the sales rep agrees. When the rep concurs, the hand-off can be said to be accomplished, and the status is "sales qualified."
This is difficult because there will be a lot of variability between leads, and two that start out together can easily diverge. One might transition through the qualifying process relatively quickly, while the other might be slower.
That is something to track but not necessarily to worry about. Some customers just have greater urgency. Certainly you want to meet that urgency, but you also don't want to ignore someone with average urgency.
At the Program Level
All marketing programs are not created equal, but you won't know which are best until you do some retrospective analysis that includes calculating costs and revenues by program. That's why an automation system -- especially one that can capture won/lost status from sales force automation -- is so important.
It's also possible that one program will generate leads that just close faster than those from another program, and that's also something you will discover with time and analysis.
Now look at what all this gives us. A marketing group that's been at it for a while will know a lot about how its programs perform, and that will provide great agility when the team is called on to do some magic to goose revenue. It's still not a perfect system, but it's light-years away from spray-and-pray direct mail and raw response counts.
Lastly, as others, like Debbie Qaqish have noted, this approach to marketing also gives marketers new things to talk about, things that are much more germane to the revenue discussion taking place elsewhere in the business. Being able to discuss marketing's impact on revenue is huge and nicely points out the need for automation. While marketing automation is a hot topic, it isn't universally applied yet, but that's something that is rapidly changing. -30-