What is a Marketing Campaign’s “Influence” on Deals?

How do you apportion marketing effort to sales results?

I remember my first one-on-one meeting with the head of major account sales at Xerox.  For a bit of perspective, this gentleman ran the team responsible for over a billion dollars in document outsourcing services revenue.  I presented a carefully prepared summary of the industry marketing team results from the current year and plans for the next period. Included in this review was my analysis of the number and types of deals influenced by industry marketing activity and the size of the pipeline resulting.

Upon seeing those figures, he turned to me and said:

I would be careful about showing numbers like those around.  It’s easy for people to question the impact marketing has on sales.”

Like it or not, this attitude prevails within many enterprise sales organizations. It presents both a challenge and opportunity B2B marketers face at large companies like Xerox and small ones as well — how do you demonstrate the impact of marketing activity on the health of the sales pipeline?

Every sales opportunity or closed deal should have at least one marketing campaign, program, or activity associated with it.  If not, your company is missing an opportunity to drive the cost of sales down. Why?  Because business buyers get most of the information about products and services they might want to buy from sources other than the direct sales force.

When the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) published key research showing that buyers have completed 57% of the purchase process BEFORE they call a supplier, they quantified something we know intuitively — B2B purchasers use the Web, peers, colleagues, online recommendations, and so on to determine needs and buying criteria. They call in the vendors when it’s time to compete on price.

How do you impact that part of the purchase process that represents almost 60% of the time your reps aren’t in touch with the buyer? With marketing.

Communications, messages, and content that you send to prospects — or that they find when researching issues online — affect the purchase process.  Prospects and clients see this information, and may pay attention to it long enough to shape buying decisions. The difficulty is how to measure this impact and allocate the influence of marketing activity appropriately across pipeline and deals. And use this influence information to understand which campaigns played the greatest role in creating an opportunity or closing a deal.

Most marketing automation gives CMOs and their staff the false impression that they can use technology to figure this out easily.  However, most tools can’t factor in subjective criteria — like what to measure and how to determine the impact of any particular element on buying — that affect the equation.  Frequently marketers give all the influence credit to either the first or last touch before the deal closes, but this doesn’t help to understand which activities help to move opportunities from stage to stage or play a significant role in the overall process.

Luckily, I think the good folks at FullCircleCRM are on the hunt for a solution to this problem.  Take a break and listen as Andrea Wildt, VP of Products and Marketing, and I talk about the need to allocate influence, why it is difficult to do and the pros/cons of different allocation strategies. I think you will conclude that a weighted allocation works best for those with the analytics and tools to support this analysis.  However, most other B2B marketers should start simple and increase their sophistication as sales becomes more comfortable with talking to marketing about the pipeline and their mutual advantage in making it stronger.

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