“I don’t get no respect.” 

Whether you’re the late, great Rodney Dangerfield, or (far more likely) a B2B CMO, odds are you can empathize with those five little words. And for good reason: a CMO’s life is more complicated than ever before, and marketing too often does not command the respect it deserves. Regularly reduced to an “arts and crafts” function or—keeping with the comedy trope—the naïve open mic comic to Sales’ arena headliner status.

The reason for this misconception is simple: most marketers cannot justify expenditures because they lack insight into performance across the buyers’ journey. Because of this, increased pressure from boards and exec teams to more effectively prove marketing ROI has most marketers scrambling. If this is you, don’t fret—you’re not alone.

HubSpot’s recently released “State of Inbound 2014” report reveals that proving the ROI of marketing activities is still the #1 challenge faced by marketers. In this post, we’ll review the HubSpot report; highlighting new B2B marketing trends to help you win back the respect you deserve and, hopefully, prevent you from getting laughed out of your next board meeting.

Place Your Bets: Inbound vs. Outbound

Coined in 2006, HubSpot defined inbound marketing as “creating quality content that pulls people toward your company or product.” For B2B marketers, inbound has become an invaluable tool in the marketing arsenal, and an 85% of marketers state they are practicing inbound this year (vs. 60% in 2013).

BrightFunnel recommends a high velocity marketing approach—combining inbound with outbound demand gen—but the breakdown of inbound vs. outbound tactics requires careful analysis when deciding where to invest. In 2014, more than twice as many respondents cited inbound (45%) as their primary source of leads versus outbound demand gen (22%). 

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Inbound tactics like blogging, SEO, social media, and content distribution/amplification, were all cited as the most valuable marketing levers in the past year. Furthermore, while B2B and B2C companies tend to prioritize the same tactics, B2B companies generally place a higher value on educational formats (e.g. webinars):

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Managing this groundswell of new inbound tactics—many which did not exist 10 years ago—and making sense of the copious amounts of data that support them is enough to make any CMO’s head spin. Thankfully, we can all agree that data can facilitate smarter measurement, planning, and prediction when supported by the right people, tools, and processes. But, as a CMO, how should you prioritize relative to other organizational needs?

Prioritizing Measurement: A Fatal Disconnect

Proving ROI is the biggest hurdle cited by marketers today, and strong alignment exists between both marketing leadership (director and above) and practitioners (manager and below) on this point-of-view:

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Despite this shared perspective, it’s surprising to find that proving the ROI of marketing activities it’s incongruously ranked low relative to other priorities.

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Regardless of team size or budget, no marketer can afford to be inefficient, and when marketers blindly spend time and money on flawed programs, they’re effectively stealing from their companies. Without the ability to interpret the efficacy of campaigns and make data-driven decisions, inefficiency is inevitable and you will waste money.

Establishing accurate measurement procedures (people + technology) must be priority #1 for CMOs. Those select few who’re able to understand the impact of campaigns and predict future outcomes, will have an instant leg up on the competition.

Prove Inbound ROI; Unlock Budget

According to HubSpot, marketers who effectively measure ROI are 12X more likely to be generating a greater year-over-year return.  Understanding the revenue impact of each and every marketing decision helps marketing leaders attribute, plan, and predict future campaign outcomes.

On the same note, the ability to prove the success of your marketing campaigns directly correlates with a positive impact on marketing budget. In the HubSpot report, no single factor had a greater impact on budget—positive or negative—than did “past success with inbound.”

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In Conclusion

How can you defend your marketing budget? Which campaigns drive the most revenue? Where should you invest next? When will you finally get some respect!? 

To be successful, marketers must prioritize ROI over all. As HubSpot puts it, “If inbound marketing were a sports team, data would be the coach.” In this scenario, a CMO must act as General Manager—understanding the bigger picture, interpreting the coach’s (data’s) performance, and serving as a visionary to guide future actions.

The complexity of measuring and analyzing performance data is by no means trivial. There is simply too much at stake to rely on a combination of Salesforce, Excel, and/or basic automation tools—that offer only basic, single-touch reporting—when deciding to invest for the future of your organization.

CMOs must evolve to be increasingly ROI-focused, with full insight into the buyers’ journey and the confidence to make big, data-backed decisions quickly. Those that succeed will be able to reestablish their role as a critical part of the organization, win the respect of their peers, and drive substantial, ongoing revenues. With the ability to prove ROI and predict future outcomes, even if they’re laughing on their way out of the boardroom—now you know they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

To download HubSpot’s “State of Inbound 2014-2015” report, click here.

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