“There is a science to advertising. Experienced advertisers have watched and recorded, tested and logged, and left records of countless campaigns. In these conditions the advertising and merchandising becomes a science. Principles are learned and proven by repeated tests” (Scientific Advertising).

This was written in 1923. And this was the beginning of the accountable marketing mindset.

In the 1920’s the careful attention to costs measurement of marketing effectiveness began. This mindset is alive and well today and we call it pipeline marketing.

While the goal and mindset were set in places decades ago, marketers dealt with technological challenges in closing the loop between initial impression and sales. Let’s take a look at how far we’ve come in order to get a grip on where we are today with pipeline marketing.

Let’s Go Back In Time, Time, Time….

The 1970’s were the pre-teen years of marketing operations — there were new ideas and experimentation (with new technology).

Before point of sales systems and databases, marketers used “bingo cards” (i.e. reader service cards) in magazines to track which ad readers saw and which publication they saw it in. It’s much like today’s UTM parameters.

Ads had a phone number printed at the bottom that corresponded with an identifier number on the bingo card. The publisher would forward these inquiries to the advertiser, proudly asserting that it was this publication that was responsible for generating these valuable sales leads.

This is still being used today, although it is diminishing in usage in favor of tracking incoming leads by establishing unique websites / landing pages and phone numbers specific to campaigns.


This technology has flaws. Before database marketing and CRM software, marketers miscounted leads, double counting or not giving enough credit to those channels responsible for brand discovery.

Closing the loop would take several more decades.

The driving force for such innovations in advertising rested on the marketer’s desire for predictability and a clearer understanding of where to spend their budget.

The Birth of Marketing Technology

In the 1980’s database marketing and barcode readers kicked off the information age. Marketers could now segment their audiences and track sales. Marketers experimented and pushed boundaries. Call this the teen years for marketing operations. From direct mail to the email in the 1990’s, marketers could segment and target their audiences based on purchase history and demographic factors. They experimented with tailored messaging and marketing mix modeling.

They arrived a step closer to understanding how their marketing efforts related to the relevant indicators and trends that affected their companies as a whole. This was before KPIs.

In the 1980’s the marketing dashboard was wholly unreliable. It wasn’t even called a marketing dashboard. It was called the “executive information system.”  Its purpose was to support senior executive information and decision-making needs. It didn’t do that.

Marketers couldn’t provide the information for decision-making needs. Early marketing dashboards suffered from slow refresh rates, bad data handling, incompleteness, and disconnected, spread across too many different sources. Marketing data was not usable.

There were no KPIs or marketing dashboards that could accurately help marketers understand the health and performance of their campaigns. Marketing operations was dazed and confused during the teen years.


Rise of the Revenue Marketer and the Tracking Pixel

Marketers driven by the need for rigorous and accountable marketing reached young adulthood in the 2000’s. With the publication of Rise of the Revenue Marketer, Debbie Quaqish outlines the playbook for marketing ops and revenue marketing.

This includes connecting marketing automation to the CRM to track revenue generated from marketing activities.

Technologies like the tracking pixel allowed marketers to measure the performance of their online marketing campaigns. Creating an actionable marketing dashboard was no longer a futile exercise.

Today marketers can seemingly track everything. They’ve conquered the web.

But, like all stages in life, different questions and problems arise during transitions. And we’re in the midst of a transition right now.

While the introduction of the tracking pixel allowed marketers to map the customer journey with a high level of detail, without a connection to customer and revenue data, marketing is still seen as a cost center, unable to connect their efforts to values of profitability.

When marketers rely on marketing automation or Google Analytics alone, they still all too easily double-count leads and begin optimizing based on CPL, rather than revenue-per-lead.


Meet the Pipeline Marketers

Pipeline marketing is defined by a complete focus on the ultimate outcome of marketing: revenue and business impact. For companies with a sales team, pipeline marketing helps marketers understand the long customer journey and accurately report on where marketing spend is most effective.

Right now, there is a shift in thinking as CMOs and marketers turn their attention to getting the most accurate picture of the customer journey. They’re shifting their thinking from using tracking pixel and cookies, to connecting their marketing platforms to the CRM.

Pipeline marketing requires the following actions:

  • Connecting marketing activities to the same metrics used by sales: opportunities and revenue.
  • Enabling multi-touch modeling through advanced attribution solutions
  • Identifying the channels that drive revenue, rather than vanity marketing metrics

Pipeline marketing is how marketers think about their goals. While the job role may differ, all marketers are accountable for driving results that are connected to business value. Whether it’s marketing operations or demand generation, any marketer who chooses the right metrics and can measure their impact on the organization, and the bottom line, is a pipeline marketer.