Does marketing even matter? (and proving it does)

March 10, 2016

I mean you probably do right, hopefully your career hasn’t been a total waste of time. And you brighten the place up with your trendy tattoos, folky-electro music, beards and endless vaping.

But seriously – does marketing really matter like it thinks it does? Especially as we all obsess about proving our value, showing demonstrable ROI and whatever? Crikey do we really even make a damned difference?

So let me just say I’m talking B2B here. Endlessly long buying cycles, multiple stakeholders to juggle, a zillion omni-womni-channel touchpoints – all very murky, long-winded, techy and complex.

We’re working with a few clients at the moment who are trying to tackle this very topic, answer this holiest of Holy Grail questions (and show a nice report to the board):

how much did our marketing efforts help win deals?

Or ‘campaign influence’, ‘marketing contribution’, ‘marketing influenced pipeline’, ‘honestly we’re really good report’ – call it whatever you like.

Existentially the question in itself is a bit of a moot one, as the lines between sales and marketing blur in favour of the combined and holistic ‘demand centre’. Alas, most companies still have discreet marketing teams that need to prove their chops to the boss. Who’s probably still banging on about ROI *rolls eyes*, *lol*, *teotwawki*. Anyhoo.

To be clear – we’re not asking ‘how many leads did marketing generate?’ or ‘how much return on investment did we get from our £3bn campaign?’, just the simple question of ‘how many of the deals we closed did marketing have an important role to play?’


Hate to break it to you, but no we can’t – well not with 100% accuracy. Oh stop giving me funny looks, you know it already – I just said it. Think about it:

  1. For B2B, the sales teams still generate and close most of the won deals.
    I know, I know – slap in the face for marketers. Don’t give up though, you’re still important and we love you (even if sales don’t). Whilst marketing teams now have MQL targets the more important measure is how effectively did marketing engage, educate and convince the buyer to buy. Funnel nudging (phnar). Oftentimes this might be sales kicking across a stale lead to marketing for a bit of extra love to warm them up. It’s often up to sales to click a lead status button and re-engage marketing.
  2. Most lead scoring models (developed by marketers in marketing automation platforms) are inherently flawed. Yuh. They attempt to proxy meaningful interactions in the real world but rarely and accurately capture true buying signals. Or they are so loose that so much as a mis-timed sneeze makes a prospect MQL. And they can’t capture all the real-world decision points anyway (see point 3 below). Harsh but true. Ergo sales people reject many of the ‘marketing generated’ leads or don’t bother following them up, or generally just bitch and whine about crappy marketing leads because most of the time the leads from marketing are, well a bit … meh.
  3. We can’t measure every influential touch-point anyway.
    Yeah we can! Oh no you can’t. But we have Marketing Automation and CRM! You still can’t. No matter how many cookies, bits of source data, embedded subcutaneous nano-chips you have implemented – you will never truly know the psychology or decision points that made Joey pick your product over the competition. Whether he heard an endorsement from a mate in a pub to choose you, or a mention in a Gartner report, LinkedIn post or tweet, or preso he downloaded from slideshare. Or a business case deck the sales guy ‘borrowed’ from marketing, changed some bits around and emailed across in Outlook to the punter. Or the 32 visits to your company website on his (non-cookied/identified) tablet computer. You will never know. You can’t measure it. Your MAP ain’t that good (despite what the brochure said).

the only way we’d know marketing’s true value would be to turn everything for a few months. (and see if the SHTF)

And of course it would, and sales would freak out.

Let’s remind ourselves of the question we are trying to answer:

how much did our marketing efforts help win deals?

Well the first thing is to acknowledge that we can’t actually measure everything, the utopian vision of an end-to-end funnel report, with full attribution modelling, touch-point influence etc… is a myth. A lie those pesky marketing people at software companies sold us – and it was so convincing.

But we can measure, bits – the bits we can see and hopefully draw some meaningful conclusions from them.

So go figure out what you can track and measure – and then look to weight the significance based on content type and consumption time-frame (how close to the deal being secured) and maybe look to rate that on some sort of scale. Then produce a report like this:


*=positive interactions such as consumption of key content
**=either digitally tagged and tracked content or recorded attendance at marketing events etc
***=meaningful timeframe aligned to your typical sales cycle, e.g. 9 months
Note: We are ignoring the Influence Report here as attribution is given to all touches.

Weighting content and interactions
As with Lead Scoring you could look to become more sophisticated with engagements or interactions. Should you weight an early discovery piece newsletter as an interaction or true buying signal? Maybe, maybe not.
Should a late-stage piece of content comparing your product to the competition (with full online form completion) be weighted higher? Possibly. We think the tracking and scoring of content types is more real-world than simply applying blanket scores to activities such as ’email opens’ or random web page visits.

Does timing matter?
Yes we think it does. We know that content type lead scoring with time-critical routing and follow-ups leads to higher conversion rates. Many lead score models miss this opportunity – or worse ignore subsequent visits.

Average Sales Cycle (days) / Lead Velocity
This is looking at the time in days between the record being created and being converted to a win – essentially Lead Velocity, how quickly is the lead becoming a sale (and how is marketing having an influence on it).

So where to start?
To do this right needs a lot of thinking. It may mean you need to change scoring models, tagging models, content, form governance – maybe even your lead taxonomy and field definitions.

The first basic steps are for sales and marketing to sit down and agree what significant contributions look like, and what time frames are important.
Secondly – look to track and tag everything. Marketing should be doing this anyway, but you need to think about all those other real-world interactions that could be logged on your CRM and shared with your MAP platform.

Get some help in programming and developing your Marketing Influenced Pipeline Dashboards (whether its done in your CRM, MAP or offline in Excel).
Most importantly, set expectations – share the rationale and meaning behind these reports – be honest about what they can and can’t tell us.

Yell if you need a hand,

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