What Marketing Metrics Make an Impact

That email got 9,230 clicks! <high five>

We generated 5,467 MQLs last month, which is our highest MQL number in company history! <fist bump>

Did you see how many folks retweeted our post? It was over 500! <chocolate cake celebration (because why not?)>

At the Marketing Nation Summit, I had the pleasure of listening to Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing, discuss a very real marketing problem: we talk about MQLs (marketing qualified leads), tweets, impressions, and other marketing metrics but, let’s be honest, you can’t buy a beer (or anything else) with any of those! Matt established the notion of profit center marketing, which isn’t meant to be literal. What it means is that we shouldn’t measure ourselves based on activities and inputs. In other words, if we don’t want marketing to be viewed as the arts and crafts department, we need to speak the language that business executives crave, which revolves around business outcomes like pipeline generated and revenue won.

So how is that done? How does an entire marketing organization move toward profit center marketing? Follow these three steps…

Step 1: Know Your Audience

There are basically two types of scorecards in marketing: 1) operational scorecards, and 2) revenue scorecards. As marketers, can we all just agree that seeing sky-high marketing metrics, like record-high tweets or email clicks, is incredibly exciting? Personally, I get more joy out of seeing an email campaign with stupendous engagement than getting pulled on stage at an Adele concert (the bar is high, I know). But our lives cannot revolve around the marketing metrics that make us so fired up to come to work. Clicks, impressions, tweets, conversions, and any other metrics you can think of are simply operational metrics. They help us evaluate the health and efficiency of our programs but do not give us the complete picture. The revenue scorecard is what matters most to the CEO, who likely cares much more about pipeline generated, target accounts closed in new business, customer retention/adoption, and revenue won. Learn to speak transition the metrics you highlight to match your audience—speak CEO language, not your own, in front of an executive audience and marketing will be regarded as the revenue powerhouse of your organization.

Step 2: Embrace Revenue Responsibility

Marketers love reporting MQLs because they are completely within our control. Some marketers are so dialed-in to lead flow, they can control it like water exiting a fire hydrant. The truth is that we need to be responsible for closed pipeline as well, which, admittedly, is scary because we aren’t sitting in sales meetings or cold calling target account lists. But if we do not adopt a “we’re all one team,” or “we’re all in this together” attitude, we lose sight of the end goal: making money for the business, and doing it as a synchronized team.

Let’s make a crazy statement, shall we? Marketing is a sales development team. It is our job to develop sales opportunities. A whitepaper download doesn’t generate a closed deal. 4% of folks in any given market are actively looking for solutions. 46% are poised to buy, but they have a variety of other things to do and focus on. It is the marketer’s job to move folks from the 46% to the 4%. It’s a long-term goal and we need to be aligned to sales metrics like contribution to pipeline to be successful. Work with sales to identify the right metrics to focus on and hold yourself accountable. If marketing and sales are tightly aligned on goals and metrics, together they’ll start to move in the right direction.

Step 3: Embrace a Culture of Failure

Sharing pipeline and revenue responsibility with your sales team will likely come with a few hiccups. Yes, I mean you’ll hear the regular sales complaint of “marketing gave us bad leads” or regular marketing complaint of “sales doesn’t call our leads” more often. But in sharing responsibility, you’ll work more collaboratively to develop the right types of content that resonate at very specific points of the deal cycle. You’ll better understand the nuances of the full sales process and where the marketing programs fall short. And with more tightly aligned sales and marketing teams, you will undoubtedly cover areas for improvement.

Do not be afraid to work together and fail together. People often don’t want to be associated with programs that didn’t work, but we want that to be okay! Heck, it took you accidentally sending an email to 300,000 email addresses in Latin to know to always check for Latin in the future. We learn and grow from our mistakes as an organization. Try new marketing programs that map to the sales/buying process. Think about the path of the customer from a sales perspective. Decide together what the perfect customer profile looks like and then create programs together to attract them. Teams that fail together win together. Go out there, try new ideas, and report on the business metrics that matter most to executives!

What other ideas do you have for moving your marketing organization towards a profit center? How have you increased alignment between sales and marketing? Please share your thoughts and ideas below!