Chapter 3: Defining What Success Will Look Like

For a smaller marketing department, it is even more crucial to create and implement a plan quickly to inspire confidence, expand your budget, and grow your marketing investments and success for the company. You can’t hide behind much when it’s just you. Amazingly, I have discovered that in marketing groups of all sizes, one of the fundamental weaknesses has been clearly defining what success will look like for marketing, for sales, and for the company.

What gets in the way of defining what success will look like?

The primary obstacle in defining success for marketing is, well, what marketing usually blames on the sales team. And sales likes to blame marketing. So, it’s clear that what usually gets in the way is a predictable disconnect between how marketing and sales define success.

In today’s B2B marketplace, the BIG Kahuna of how your company is going to define and measure success for marketing is related directly to how you, as marketing, deliver leads to sales that result in new customers and new revenue for the company. This is where the disconnect exists and the real focus of this chapter.

Root causes of the predictable disconnect?

This disconnect is probably as old as any book written about sales or marketing. It is not a disconnect that comes from modern marketing; however, the nature of today’s marketing and the integrated nature of today’s tools likely just highlight the disconnect more quickly.

Sales Perception of Leads

The average sales person wants to talk to people that are ready to buy what they are selling or are already customers wanting to talk about future needs. Whether you are delivering them leads from a trade show, a webinar, your website inquiries, your nurture program, or some digital media campaign (e.g., white paper download), the first reaction of sales is to only want those where there is a clear intent to “speak with sales,” and even then, they get irritated if the person wants to talk to them about something other than buying (like support). So, in the mind of average sales people, the only good leads are sales-ready leads.

Marketing Intention for Leads

Marketing should approach leads differently. Marketing should be delivering to sales the opportunity to interact with various leads along the different stages of the buyer journey. This is especially true for companies that have longer sales cycles and are not commodity-oriented (For commodities and short sales cycle products, your marketing is much closer to the B2C model, which is not covered here). In the B2B world, buyers have taken control.

Before the widespread access to the web, buyers actually contacted sales much earlier to rely on high-value sales people for education, exploration of needs/fit, and to put together requirements. Today, buyers do more and more of those tasks on their own and are hesitant to engage sales until much further down the buyer journey (see this CEB blog post: Two Numbers You Should Care About).

This means that one of the primary functions of marketing today, is to reach those buyers as they search out information and get them engaged in a relationship with your sales team to impact their search and requirements before it just turns into an RFP. You don’t want sales just answering RFPs blindly to people they don’t know!

Your definition of a lead is going to be quite different than what the average sales person calls a lead (from above). You are trying to set up some first dates as well as those ready to marry – and sales is just wanting those ready to walk the aisle!

How do you define what success will look like?

Enough of the problem, let’s get to the answer. How can you overcome this disconnect so marketing, sales, and your company leadership as a whole can agree on the definition of WINNING?

To overcome the disconnect and define success, you first need to involve sales leadership as mutual stakeholders in defining and achieving success. Through some of the particular processes we discuss below, you are going to need to demonstrate leadership and a collaborative spirit that will engage key sales leaders. Start at the top (or if that person is not receptive, find someone close to the top that is receptive that can be a voice for marketing in sales) and engage them to work with you on the following steps to define success:

Understand sales goals and define support required from marketing

Before you do any marketing or begin defining marketing success, it helps to know concrete end-game goals. Outline the following with the sales team:

  • What are your sales goals for each initiative, product, or for the year?
  • What is the average closing deal size for each type of initiative you are supporting or average deal size in general per sale?
  • For every qualified opportunity sales encounters (through marketing or on their own), how many does your team successfully close (this is their effective close rate on qualified opportunities – e.g., 25%, 10%, 50%)?
  • How long is the usual sales cycle from qualified opportunity to close for those you win?
  • How do you currently define a lead as a qualified opportunity?
  • What sales are you expecting from direct sales vs. channel sales to meet your goals?
  • What are you expecting marketing to deliver to you to help you reach your goals?
  • How many opportunities will you find organically outside of our marketing (leads) efforts (sales finding opportunities, etc.)?

This generates a positive conversation with sales and provides you with vital information you can plug into what I call “sales math,” which is basically calculating backwards from their goals to determine how many leads  are required (by sales and marketing as a whole) to actually achieve the sales goal. Not only does that get numbers out in the open for discussion but will impact the budget needed to generate enough leads to make these goals a real possibility.

Define what leads will be valued by both marketing and sales

Defining a “lead” is undoubtedly the most contentious issue for marketing and sales. For as long as marketing has been delivering leads to sales, there has been the “why is sales failing to work/convert the leads?” and “why is marketing giving us these bad leads?” questions from each side. There are a couple of fundamental misconceptions that fuel this disconnected view of leads:

Misconception #1 – that there is only ONE definition of a “lead.”

Misconception #2 – that every lead should be handled the same way.

You need to lead a conversation with sales leadership that addresses these misconceptions and then collaborate with sales in defining the types of leads that are desirable and then handling each type of lead appropriately and effectively.

Here are some parameters for that discussion with sales about defining a lead:

  • Understanding that a lead is first a “response” of some type by a person (response to email, downloading white paper, attended webinar, came to booth at trade show, etc.).
  • Defining and agreeing on the minimum information required to evaluate the context and quality of a lead (contextual information would be source and source details relating to the response activity – e.g., specific white paper, specific trade show, specific answers to unique questions related to offer).
  • Deciding together what contact data (e.g., industry, geography, title/role) makes a lead profile valid and which should be rejected (or handled in a specific way).
  • Defining who will own the lead based on specific lead response details:
    • Which leads will marketing still own (to continue to nurture because, for example, they might fit the profile but are early in buyer journey or have unknown interest level)?
    • Which leads would direct sales own?
    • Which leads would go to the channel?
  • Understanding and agreeing on the different lead response details that determine how marketing and/or sales will process and handle the lead:
    • Which lead responses require immediate action (e.g., requests for quotes, more information, tsor a response all indicate they are late in the buyer journey)?
    • Which lead responses should get a less-urgent follow-up so that sales can nurture a personal relationship (e.g., certain content responses, webinar attendance, certain amount of meaningful engagement with marketing efforts).
    • Which lead responses are identifying new potential companies/contacts that are important to sales and warrant a follow-up introduction (e.g., brand new contacts in system that interacted with content offers or engaged in another meaningful way)?
    • Which lead responses should only be nurtured by marketing in one of their lead nurture programs to continue to give them opportunity along the buyer journey?

As you can glean from the various points of the discussion, this is about marketing and sales collaborating to agree on (a) what leads are going to look like, and (b) the proper follow-up response that is appropriate. Nowhere in this discussion should you or sales management accept that sales just wants “one” kind of lead.

Define what accountability looks like for marketing and sales leadership

The last piece in collaborating with sales on what success is going to look like is to mutually decide how both can be accountable for ensuring success.

What is marketing committed to delivering? How is marketing going to measure the progress of delivering on their commitment to sales?

How is sales leadership going to create accountability within the direct and channel sales teams to actively follow up on leads? How will sales measure and report back  on that activity for each lead delivered?

Fill in what’s needed to create that success

In light of this collaborative definition of success for both marketing and sales, go back and examine all of the fundamental marketing task areas (priorities, budgets, metrics, etc.) to fill in the gaps in your knowledge.

Whether you are updating branding, working on messaging, re-launching the web site, or getting PR out the door, you can now align that work around supporting the ultimate goal of delivering on that newly-defined success.

The Next Chapter

In the next chapter, I will cover the stuff you can’t skip over just because you are a small staff. If you are going to create your success, you will have to pay attention to these tasks.

To talk about how we can assist you in marketing, contact Growthpoint here.