Marketers Getting Back to Business

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When did marketing become a niche department, responsible for nothing more than lead generation? Historically, marketing sat at the core of everything:

  • Product: What will we make?
  • Promotion: How will we deliver?
  • Price: What’s our business model?
  • Place: How and where do we sell?

I speak with hundreds of marketing leaders every year. Until quite recently, few felt empowered by their CEOs to attack the biggest problems. Many (if not most) marketers have lamented the reductive, corporate-wide obsession for leads. Leads are important—critical even—but a lead is a only single step in the revenue lifecycle.
When Marketo and Eloqua showed marketers they could use reporting to prove marketing’s contribution to revenue, marketers finally had proof of their material involvement in sales. This new capability—to track the value of marketing activities through the generation of sales leads—quickly became the most appreciated and, therefore, most visible marketing activity. The easily justified ROI has, however, become empty calories for marketing departments that now find themselves driven by an obsession for leads while more important activities such as strategic work and content creation have been abandoned or starved.
Today, buyers delay direct engagement with sales teams until they have internal consensus around requirements, scope, and budget for their initiatives. Yes, leads still matter because they give sales teams a chance to compete, but when industry averages show as little as 1% of leads turn into sales, it’s clearly time for marketing to return to its roots. This is already happening.
Marketing is being asked to show contribution through new metrics—“engagement” for example—and new digital approaches are now available that not only help marketers focus their time and resources better, but also help them calculate and share their contribution from early, anonymous activity through closed deals, implementations, service and support, renewals, and growth.
The push for marketers to demonstrate the value of their efforts was an important milestone in the evolution of the marketing discipline, but the limitations of industry’s analytical tools left marketing professionals fixated on a single metric. New marketing technology has opened new doors, meaning marketers can now demonstrate value through a set of metrics more reflective of the realities of their businesses—and get back to the real work of marketing.

Written by Meredith Bell.

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