8 Data Demons Blocking CMOs’ Path to Marketing ROI

8 Data Demons Blocking CMOs’ Path to Marketing ROI

As a CMO, are you fully satisfied with the marketing performance metrics you’re able to report to the Board?

As a senior B2B marketer, are able to report all the ROI metrics that the Executive team is asking for?

For most B2B marketers, the answers to both of the above questions is a resounding “No.” In fact, according to John Neeson, Co-Founder and Managing Director of SiriusDecisions, four years ago, the #1 CMO priority was “the need for greater ROI.” Not much has changed in four years. In their 2016 CMO Study, Sirius Decisions found that CMOs still wanted to “improve their competencies through measurement.” But this time, it’s supported by a parallel organizational goal to create a marketing operations competency (I’ve previously written about the Rise of Marketing Ops).

CMOs have become aware that to achieve the promise of closed-loop reporting, they must build the marketing operations muscle required to align people, process, and technology to deliver marketing ROI metrics.

As they embark on this journey, CMOs will keep asking their teams, “Are we there yet?” And they will hear a common refrain as to why the answer is “not yet”: Bad Data.

But just what is bad data anyway? The answers from your team can be confusing, and not always internally consistent. So, as a former CMO, I’ve categorized 8 distinct types of bad data to help you understand the obstacles your team is facing on the road to Marketing ROI.

1. Account Hierarchy and Duplicates

Challenge: With the rise of Account-Based Marketing, accounts — always the primary focus of sales organizations — are making a bid to get more of marketers’ attention. But you may hear from your team that your accounts are a mess, and you have a lot of work to do to get anywhere near ready to do account-based ROI measurement.

The most common problem is that you have many duplicate accounts. A related problem is that if you’re going after large enterprise companies — like IBM or GE — you will have to make a decision about how to structure parent-child account hierarchies.

Solution: This is an area where you want to aim for good enough and not perfect. Account duplication is a problem you can — and should — tackle with a variety of tools on the market. On the other hand, I’ve often seen people fixate on edge cases regarding account hierarchy. GE and IBM are Fortune #8 and #31, respectively. Yes, they’re complicated organizations. But most Fortune 500 companies aren’t that complicated. If the Fortune 50 isn’t your primary focus, you may not want to get rat-holed on this particular challenge.

Summary: Get to good enough — not perfect — with respect to the quality of your account data.

2. Opportunity Segmentation

Challenge: In CRM systems, the Opportunity object represents a particular sales pursuit, and thus carries the pipeline and revenue dollars with it. In order to do any kind of marketing ROI reporting, you need to leverage this information. The problem arises when there are multiple opportunities per account, or when certain marketing efforts should not be credited for certain opportunities. For example, excluding renewals and upsells from being credited to marketing campaigns is common.

Solution: This data obstacle is primarily a mythical one. Yes, it requires some work to sit down with your team, Sales, and Finance and agree upon a set of rules that make sense for crediting marketing influence. But that is the work you have to do anyway if you want to have credible metrics.

For example, you may decide to exclude renewals and upsells altogether. Or perhaps you have multiple product lines, with very distinct target customers, and specific campaigns geared towards them. If it’s relatively easy to do, you can decide that only certain campaigns may influence certain types of opportunities. But an attempt at perfection here may betray your own team’s lack of comfort with ambiguity. With respect to marketing ROI reporting, most people are flying completely blind. So you’re probably aiming for a v1 — with directional accuracy — that will likely result in millions of dollars as a result of incrementally better decisions. Why wait?

Summary: You probably shouldn’t sweat this one too much. While you want your reporting set-up to be configured to your business, you can address all manner of special attribution rules after your initial reporting process gets going.

3. Orphaned Leads (Lead-to-Account matching)

Challenge: Most CRM systems were designed in an earlier era, before the rise of content marketing. They assume that a small number of leads will linearly flow into Opportunities. The reality is that most B2B businesses are generating large volumes of lead conversions relative to their Opportunity counts. What often happens is that Marketing works hard to generate 10 leads at Microsoft, let’s say, who are expressing interest in your solution. This reveals to your sales team that there is strong interest at Microsoft in your offerings, and that they should be prioritized. The Account Executive cherry picks the most promising lead, and converts that one into an opportunity. That leaves 9 “Orphan” Leads — the right people at the right target account with past responses to your campaigns, left hanging with no associated account.

Solution: This is indeed a real problem. In fact, our own benchmark research shows that for every 1 Contact associated with an account, there are another 1.6 Orphan leads (BrightFunnel, 2016). There are several different ways to solve this problem. One approach is to programmatically convert Leads into Contact-on-Accounts in your CRM, based on some sort of fuzzy logic. There are several solutions on the market that do just this.

However, I have to caution that changing core CRM data just for the benefit of better marketing reporting is a slippery slope. There is a reason your Sales team left those leads unconverted. If they want to convert them so they have the info on the Account, they probably would have done that already. An alternative approach is to simply do the fuzzy matching as you are creating your marketing ROI reports. This is more expedient in most cases. You can always send the list to your Sales Ops counterpart to make their own decision.

Summary: Use fuzzy matching to associate leads to accounts, instead of universally converting all leads.

4. Missing Contact Roles on Opportunities

Challenge: We have all been trained by CRM systems — Salesforce Sales Cloud in particular — to believe that people (Contacts) need to be manually entered onto an Opportunity by a sales rep. When using native Salesforce reporting, if there are no Contacts on the opportunity, there is no marketing attribution, period. So many companies enforce the requirement for at least one Contact attached to an opportunity — as surely, the AE is selling to someone. But it gets more complicated. On average, sales reps attach 1.2 Contact Roles per Opportunity (BrightFunnel, 2016). But those same opportunities have an average of 5 influential Contacts and another 8 Orphan Leads, for a total of 13 people. Marketing, by definition, is your company’s air cover, attempting to reach those 13 people. Sales, by definition, is trying to develop a Champion, and who will reach those 13 people from the inside. So even if a good sales rep attaches one Contact Role, it is highly unlikely they will attach 13, let alone even know who all 13 are in many cases.

Solution: Some marketers go on the warpath, trying to change sales reps’ behavior to do more data entry. This is a losing proposition, and likely a career-limiting move on any B2B marketer’s part. Trying to redirect sales efforts is like trying to redirect a river. It can work temporarily, but it takes a lot of resources to keep up. What I recommend is to let your closers follow the path of least resistance. Instead of badgering them to attach Contact Roles, simply ignore that concept altogether. Instead, what makes sense for most people is to attribute campaign influences at the Account level. This was true long before the rise of ABM, but it is especially true now. This can be done through some fancy spreadsheet work, or a dedicated analytical platform.

Summary: You do not want to “solve” the problem of AE’s attaching Contact Roles. It’s reasonable to come up with a process to attach at least one, but don’t rely on this data entry for marketing ROI reporting. Instead, report at the Account level.

5. Lack of Campaign Data

Challenge: Some organizations are so new to adopting marketing automation tools that they have not gotten to a point where they have sufficient campaign data. The marketing team itself most likely hasn’t started assiduously creating campaigns for every marketing effort across all channels. Or if they have, they haven’t yet synced the data over to their CRM system, where it can be associated with revenue and pipeline.

Solution: This is likely a hump you will have to get over before getting meaningful marketing ROI. The promise of the last wave of marketing tools — led by Eloqua and Marketo — was that we would digitally be able to track every online and offline campaign interaction. To do so, you must first adopt such a tool (there are many more alternatives as well, such as Salesforce’s own Pardot), and ensure that your entire team gets into the habit of tracking their data appropriately. This is second nature to email and digital marketers, but for field marketers, it requires some extra legwork, so that may be an area where you allocate additional resources and training for healthy marketing operations practices.

Summary: Simply put, you’ve got to have campaign data to have marketing ROI reporting. If you’re using a marketing automation platform, you’re halfway there.

6. Lack of consistent Campaign “success” definitions

Challenge: Some organizations achieve initial success with rolling out their marketing stack, but find out a year or two into the journey that their definitions of “success” aren’t consistent across time or various channels. This can lead to some serious hand-wringing as to whether to go back and re-engineer the whole thing before doing any kind of marketing ROI reporting.

Solution: Rather than re-doing everything, the better approach is to create different definitions of success after the fact. For example, perhaps your webinar signups and attendees are both marked as responses, but going forward, you only want to count the attendees as being influenced by that campaign type. That’s a perfectly reasonable judgment call to make, and a very common one. But it makes more sense to apply that rule after the fact. But if you must, you can go back and fix all your old data as well. I’d recommend you do that after starting to report on marketing ROI.

Summary: This is a common problem with a fairly simple solution: create and apply campaign success rules after the fact rather than wishing for a time machine to take you back to your initial MAP implementation. Do not let this be an obstacle to measuring marketing performance.

7. Changing funnel stages

Challenge: Many B2B marketers have adopted a multi-stage approach to demand generation. For example, they may have several lead stages identifying degrees of engagement, such as Inquiry, MQL, SQL. This helps align Sales and Marketing efforts more closely, working off of a common definition of various stages of lead engagement, just as there are various stages of opportunity engagement.

However, organizations, especially rapidly growing ones, often evolve their stage definitions as they grow. Moreover, while the average Opportunity-to-Revenue cycle is 108 days, for high growth tech companies, the average Lead-to-Revenue cycle is 512 days (BrightFunnel, 2016). So from the time Marketing initially engages with someone at an account to that account generating revenue is 17 months. A lot can change in that timeframe, including what you deem to be a qualified lead.

Solution: Many organizations are tempted to change all their historical data to the new definitions so that they can have accurate marketing ROI reporting. I would caution you against doing this, as generally any data changed in your sales system of record — purely to benefit marketing — will raise some concerns. You’re potentially taking up scarce cycles related to your CRM to benefit marketing. Most mid-sized to large companies have some sort of governance process related to CRM systems, and limited Sales Ops bandwidth to implement changes.

The alternative, non-invasive approach is to apply those stage definitions retroactively, for reporting purposes — when comparing previous cohorts with more recent ones, you define those stages to match the current ones. You can accomplish this with an intrepid analyst and Excel, or through a dedicated marketing performance measurement platform.

Summary: Everyone has this problem, given that it takes 512 days from Lead to Revenue, and your business — and funnel stages — will change in that time period. Optimize for the future, but don’t let past definitions get in the way of accurate analysis.

8. Missing Cost Information

Challenge: To have the “I” in ROI you need to track the cost of your marketing efforts. However, most mid-sized to large marketing organizations have poor data completeness with respect to cost. There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, you likely have hundreds of campaigns, each needing an associated cost. In a 50-person marketing org, this might be spread across 30+ campaign owners and 5+ directors. Finally, not only are the responsibilities diffuse, the return (if you’ll pardon the pun) is unclear. What good is calculating detailed cost figures if no one ever looks at marketing ROI? There is a chicken and egg problem.

Solution: Don’t overcomplicate your cost calculations for marketing ROI purposes. Come up with a simple policy that ensures that the total sums up to your marketing budget. Decide if and how to allocate your payroll costs. Ensure that campaign managers include things like travel costs for trade shows. Ideally, you’ll want to run what you’re doing by the Finance team. Chances are, they may even enjoy helping solve the tricky cost accounting issues associated with marketing spend. Lastly, ask every director and campaign owner to report on marketing ROI. Cost numbers will magically start getting entered in the right places. (Warning: Do NOT attempt to sync with your financial backend. No good can come from this — certainly not in Phase 1).

Summary: Cost is very important to track, but its allocation can be a seemingly subjective exercise. That’s why you get paid the big bucks. Make a judgment call on a consistent policy. Does it really matter if that show cost $30K or $35K? Probably not. It’s more important that you show that you’re tracking costs and holding people accountable to do so.

These are the 8 demons you will encounter on the path to Marketing ROI. Be careful which you choose to engage directly, and which you choose to deftly bypass.

Remember: the length of your tenure as CMO can be highly correlated to how long it takes you to produce credible, meaningful marketing ROI metrics. And there will be no end to data problems. That’s simply the era we live in. Instead, aim to understand the potential data limitations, and get your whole team — and the executive team — comfortable with those limitations. Present the problem as choosing between putting your head in the sand while waiting for data perfection, and choosing to make probabilistic, 80/20 decisions, which requires comfort with ambiguity.

By tackling the problem of marketing ROI in an iterative, agile manner, CMOs can quickly show the value of their efforts, optimize their campaign execution, and align with their sales counterparts by minimizing data entry and CRM change requests.

BrightFunnel Salesforce App Now Available

BrightFunnel Salesforce App Now Available

I’m excited to announce that the same BrightFunnel experience that you know and love is now also available directly in Salesforce.com.

As many of you know, we started BrightFunnel to solve some really hairy analytical problems related to attribution and forecasting. The right way to solve these problems is to build a world-class analytical platform outside of Salesforce. A dedicated source of truth, unconstrained by CRM data models, for marketers who didn’t want to (or couldn’t) add hundreds of custom fields and make a mess out of their CRM. We delivered that, and it’s used by the most cutting edge data-driven marketers, such as Cloudera, New Relic and Nimble Storage.

We also realized that sometimes our Marketing customers (and their Sales counterparts) want quick access to an insight within Salesforce. That’s why, today, I’m excited to announce that we now offer the the same powerful marketing attribution and forecasting functionality directly in Salesforce.com. Don’t worry, we kept our good looks. Take a peek:




Interested? Email us at sales@brightfunnel.com. We’re happy to chat and tell you a little bit more about how leading marketing teams are using the platform. Oh, and by the way…  new customers get up and running in weeks—not months.

BrightFunnel Raises $6 Million from Crosslink and Salesforce to Power Data-Driven Marketing

BrightFunnel Raises $6 Million from Crosslink and Salesforce to Power Data-Driven Marketing

I’m delighted to announce that BrightFunnel has raised a $6 Million Series A, led by Crosslink Capital, with participation from Salesforce Ventures. This is an important milestone for the company, and I’d like to share my thoughts on what this means for us, for our customers and the market.

But first, the facts:

  • This funding milestone comes on the heels of an incredible year, growing 14-15% month-over-month (500%+ CAGR), and more importantly, adding incredible validation from having the most demanding data-driven marketers, such as Cloudera, Invoca, New Relic and Five9, as our customers.
  • The round was oversubscribed, and all of our previous institutional seed investors also participated: Bloomberg Beta, Karlin Ventures, Resolute Ventures and Tekton Ventures. Thank you for your support!
  • David Silverman of Crosslink joins our Board of Directors. Besides the obvious benefits of David being an incredibly nice and intelligent person, he brings a lot of domain expertise to the table. In fact, there are very few people with David’s depth of marketing tech and ad tech experience. He was a pre-IPO investor in Omniture (Adobe), and more recently, Bizo (LinkedIn), two of the most significant companies in the history of data-driven marketing.
  • With this new capital, we will do one of two things. Either we will buy a superyacht, if today’s holiday party progresses as I expect, or we will use the new capital to accelerate our growth, and to continue aggressively investing in our platform. To do this, we will need to hire exceptionally talented people at an even faster pace. (We’re hiring for a variety of positions in  sales, engineering, and everything in between).

What this means for the BrightFunnel team

I have to admit, before I’d raised money myself, I was somewhat cynical about funding announcements. (“Come back when you’ve turned a profit!” I’d yell silently at Twitter feed, in my best get-off-my-lawn voice, while shaking my first). But I’ve come to realize early stage fundraising and company-building is incredibly hard. Yes, it’s true that what really matters is how much value we create from the $6 million. As perspective, Tableau went public on $15 million raised (compared to the $9 million we’ve raised to date), and is now worth $7 billion. No pressure. My point is that of course, we shouldn’t be gaudily celebrating the money itself. But I’ve also come to realize that it’s equally true that a funding event be understood as an important public milestone that reflects a cluster of almost-impossible-to-achieve private milestones before it. And those tangible outcomes — in terms of product and customer success — only result when you combine incredible talent, hard work and grit. So heck yes, let’s give ourselves a big pat on the back, BrightFunnel team! Aeron chairs and motorized standing desks for everyone!! (Just kidding. those are really expensive. The build-your-own IKEA standing desk program will continue until morale improves).

What this means for our Customers

What I’d like to say to our customers is: you should be incredibly proud of what you’ve accomplished. You’re at the forefront, with us, of an incredibly powerful shift towards data-driven marketing. Together, we’re still one of the crazy ones, thinking about marketing performance measurement in new terms like “account-based, multi-touch attribution” and “marketing forecasting.” You’ve had the courage to go to your CFO and have the awkward conversation, “uh, no, actually, CRM and marketing automation didn’t solve that problem.” But what’s at stake is very real — your company’s financial performance and your team’s success and satisfaction. To achieve those goals, you had to push your organization towards the cutting edge of data-driven marketing. We hope to reward that courage with continued rapid innovation on our platform (and definitely more free food and wine for customers). We have ambitions far broader than what you see and use today, and I ask that you continue pushing us to be the very best, to shape the future of marketing together.

What this means for the Market

Finally, I want to reflect on what this milestone means for the market. I believe that our success is just one more datapoint indicating a much larger trend. The way that people buy is changing dramatically. We’ve all seen this in e-commerce, over the last decade and a half, and we’re more recently seeing these changes in B2B, as buyers change the way they buy, and businesses reach them in new ways. The combination of an always-on, mobile buyer and the emergence of new channels, such as social, has meant that a lot more of the buying cycle happens through interactions with various marketing campaigns — many of which are automated — vs. humans. In other words, Marketing is eating Sales. (Just think of what will happen when your chat-happy Gen Z relative becomes an enterprise IT buyer).

So as marketers, we have to shoulder a much greater burden than our predecessors for generating revenue. And we have to measure and be held accountable for our activities in entirely new ways. Consider a few of the benchmarks we published today: it takes an average of 17.6 campaign touches from lead to close. Half of those touches occur during the sales cycle. And while those sales cycles are 108 days on average, the total revenue cycle is 512 days, which is 32% longer than it was last year. I don’t know if that pace of change will continue, but these trends are very real. As you reflect on your own year ahead, I believe it’s worth asking what this means for your organization (and what your own metrics are). As for BrightFunnel, I believe our mission has never been more important: to connect marketing to revenue.

A Simple Framework for Unlocking Full-Funnel Marketing Attribution Intelligence

A Simple Framework for Unlocking Full-Funnel Marketing Attribution Intelligence

In my previous two posts in this series, I’ve talked about why marketers have historically struggled with multi-touch attribution and why the conditions are finally ripe for them to achieve full sales cycle visibility. In both of those posts, the singular theme was this: For marketers to succeed going forward, they need to roll up their sleeves and take the steps necessary to understand every campaign’s impact on revenue generation.

Which brings me to this post. If we are indeed entering the era of multi-touch attribution (and I obviously believe we are), then this will also usher in the need for specialized, marketing-optimized analytics platforms — or, what I like to call multi-touch revenue attribution. The good news is that these platforms already exist and I have no doubt that many more will spring up as the market for the technology matures.

But what explicit purpose do these solutions serve?

Very simply, they’re designed to help CMOs and their teams gain better visibility into marketing’s impact on sales. Similar to BI tools, this technology can process large amounts of data. But unlike BI tools, MRI platforms specialize in the analysis of data between core marketing technologies (CRM, MAS, etc.), which allows them to use only data that is relevant to marketers — namely, the campaign and revenue data sources from CRM and MAS technologies.

4 Steps to Get Started with Multi-Touch Revenue Attribution

The level of knowledge you generate from this level of revenue attribution can be significant, but the biggest immediate benefit might be your ability to defend and increase marketing budget. After all, if you can show your board how, why, where, and when specific campaigns are contributing to revenue creation, then it becomes significantly easier to justify (and expand) investment. In turn, that enables you to do more of your most effective programs.

Seems like a no brainer, right?

Agreed. But before you jump into multi-touch attribution and invest in an MRI solution, there are a few steps you should take to ensure your business is ready to take the leap:

1) Get your lead and opportunity stages right

Be sure that your whole team (both sales and marketing) have agreed upon definitions of the differences between an SQL, SAL, and what makes an opportunity. Pick stages that match your sales process and test them out. If you find your process changes a lot, I’d recommend relying even more heavily on the data to help organize your funnel (e.g., identify process gaps or bottlenecks).

Note: Don’t get stuck trying to get this absolutely precise. Agree on a point where you’re close enough and move on to the next step. Done is better than perfect.

2) Use Salesforce Campaigns

It’s not enough to just run programs in Eloqua or Marketo and record them there. Sync your campaigns to Salesforce and be sure to use the Sent and Responded flags consistently (perfection across channels isn’t the goal, but consistency within a channel/campaign type is useful).

Your reps should not need to log into your marketing automation tool to follow the nurture path of any given lead. It should be spelled out in the Campaign History on the lead view. This step is critical to readying your company for multi-touch revenue attribution, which will enable you to go much further (i.e., aggregating optimal buyers’ journeys for your wins).

3) Record program spend in your Salesforce campaigns

It’s an easy thing to forget, but get in the habit of putting your spend in the “Actual Cost” field on every Salesforce campaign. For ongoing campaigns, you will need to update this monthly or quarterly. The number is cumulative, so be sure to add your recent spend to the number already there.

It’s not a perfect solution, but since cost is required to determine ROI, it’s a necessary one. Some companies create new campaigns every quarter for ongoing initiatives such as PPC or the website.

4) Select the technology that’s right for your company

For small businesses and early-stage start-ups, you may be able to get away with clever spreadsheets to calculate attributed campaign ROI. Once your database approaches 20,000 leads and contacts, spreadsheets become a nightmare and automating attribution becomes critical.

Similarly, as your marketing team expands, and as board and executive-level reporting becomes a priority, having a platform that you can use to clearly communicate, collaborate and make data-driven decisions becomes a must have.

Stop Guessing About How Marketing Investments Impact Revenue

Ultimately, the true data-driven CMO understands the impact of spend on revenue.

These types of executives are no longer making guesses on what’s working and what’s not. They can defend their budget — and, ideally, ask for more — and confidently report to their Board on the ROI of marketing programs. All of this is critically important because it allows data-driven CMOs to finally dispel the notion that marketing is a cost center and make informed decisions that direct and shorten buyers’ journeys.

While that all might sound complicated and resource-draining, the reality is that it’s not. As I wrote in my previous post, it just takes the right mix of data, technology, and process, and a commitment to the kind of transparency that will re-shape how, why, when, and where marketing dollars are spent.

Did you miss the first two posts in this series?


* This post originally appeared on OpenView Labs.

Why Marketing Is Eating Sales

Why Marketing Is Eating Sales

If you’ve been in the tech or startup world for any longer than a few years, you’ve probably read (or heard countless people quote) Marc Andreessen’s 2011 Wall Street Journal essay, “Why Software is Eating the World.” It’s a brilliant piece and few would argue that Andreessen’s core theory hasn’t proven true. Software has taken over — and will continue to take over — virtually all significant aspect of our lives.

Along those lines, there’s a related — and equally disruptive — shift that’s happening: old, human-powered sales processes are being devoured by automated, machine-powered marketing platforms. Or, to put this trend in Andreessen parlance, Marketing is eating Sales.

Consider these numbers:

  • By 2020, Gartner predicts customers will self-manage 85% of their relationships with companies without ever directly engaging a human (hello, Marketing…).
  • In the next 3–5 years, more than 50% of respondents to an Economist survey said Marketing will own the customer buying experience. By comparison, less than 20% of respondents said sales will own that experience.
  • As of January 2015, there were nearly 2,000 vendors of marketing technology services. Even Accel Partners’ highly vetted and carefully curated list contains 600 entries.

And that’s just the beginning.

As adoption of technology and automation continues to expand, Marketing will become an even more dominant part of the buyer journey. In fact, as buyers grow accustomed to getting personalized information on-demand without the help of a human sales rep, they’ll demand more of those types of hyper-relevant automated experiences, and much less human interaction. (After all, none of us long for the days of human toll collectors on the Golden Gate Bridge, do we?).


Three Key Drivers of Marketing’s Rise

Today, the Marketing and Sales funnel is changing rapidly. There are more channels than ever before and more interactions within each channel. As a result, marketers must assume responsibility for a greater portion of the sales process. But it does come with a new challenge: with the explosion of marketing channels and data, the complexity of marketing has increased geometrically.

In this new world, there are three key drivers that will continue to influence Marketing’s rise up the food chain:

  1. The evolution of the Internet and mobile. It’s easy to overlook how much has changed in just 10 years. In 2005, the world hit a milestone with 1 billion Internet users. Ten years later, that number has tripled to more than 3 billion. And by 2020, that number is expected to exceed 4 billion. But even those numbers underestimate the pervasiveness of the web. Thanks to the explosion of mobile (and, in the future, wearables), people are always online. This changes how Sales and Marketing operate in very fundamental ways.
  2. More channels = More complex buyer’s journeyAs I mentioned above, the modern buyer’s journey — whether it’s for a consumer or business product — traverses a complex path through multiple channels and platforms en route to a sale. Whether it’s social media, email, user reviews, or the good old-fashioned telephone, there are countless ways to connect with customers (and them to us). This has turned Marketing into a bi-directional, social operation that requires the constant delivery of highly personal — and contextually relevant — campaigns.
  3. The adaptation of human behavior. In tandem with our connectedness and the complex nature of the modern buyer’s journey, human behavior is changing, as well. For proof of that, just look at millennials — a group that comprises one-fourth of the U.S. population and boasts $200B in buying power. In this generation, word of mouth, authentic user reviews, and social media play an increasingly important part in driving sales. According to one study, 91 percent of millennials say they’d consider buying a product if a friend recommended it. This trend is another big win for Marketing, which has long been responsible for brand awareness and customer advocacy.

How These Trends Impact the Future of Marketing

Each of these trends increases the burden on Marketing, and requires more involvement from various disciplines under the modern marketing umbrella — which now includes nine unique roles, according to Slack’s CMO, Bill Macaitis.

Ultimately, more automation and connectedness means that the humans — whether B2B customers or B2C consumers — win. The more marketers (and their machines) deliver intelligent, authentic, personalized experiences that address consumers’ unique interests, the easier it will be to make the best decisions about products and solutions.

In many companies, Marketing’s impact on revenue generation is finallybeing acknowledged — a once unimaginable goal for marketers who were saddled with the “cost center” label. As a former VP of Marketing myself, and now as the CEO of a company that serves some of the best marketing teams in the world, I can’t wait for a day when all marketers see their hard work tied to revenue.

So, to my fellow marketers, I say: Bon Appétit!

ROI: 4 Reasons Now is (Finally) the Time for B2B Multi-Touch Attribution

ROI: 4 Reasons Now is (Finally) the Time for B2B Multi-Touch Attribution

For most B2B marketers, multi-touch attribution (the process of evaluating the value and influence of every marketing interaction throughout the buyer’s journey) has always been a pipe dream — an item on their wish list, but one they recognized was unlikely to come true. In place of that full-funnel attribution, B2B marketers turn to complex, automated nurturing programs designed to educate and strengthen relationships with prospects mid-funnel (for more on that, click here read my first post in this series).

The problem? Those nurturing programs aren’t capable of precisely determining the right mix to cost-effectively advance leads through the funnel. And they certainly can’t tell you which campaigns are actually impacting the bottom line. Sure, most tools in the marketing automation stack offer some form of attribution, but that attribution is still driven by a single-touch approach.

This is the year that changes.

Why now? Frankly, B2B companies have always wanted to perform multi-touch attribution. They just haven’t had the inputs or the tools to do it. Thanks to these four trends, that will no longer be the case.

1) We finally have the data (and the tools)

When marketing automation tools came to market a decade or so ago, B2B marketers were finally able to break down the walls to data digitization and access buyer insights they’d only dreamed of. The problem with those tools, however, is that they only paint part of the analytics picture. In fact, until recently, marketers had very little visibility into the complete range of buyer interactions throughout their funnel.

Thankfully, new marketing tools (like BrightFunnel) are filling that gap and generating deeper attribution intelligence.

2) Marketers are remembering the middle of the funnel

When intent-based advertising was all the rage, B2B organizations began throwing all of their energy at first- and last-touch campaigns. In the process, they forgot about everything that happens in the middle of the funnel to influence revenue.

Today, there’s a bit of a backlash against that old-school philosophy as more marketers begin to focus on the entirety of the buyer’s journey. This, of course, has created demand for — and solutions around — mid-funnel multi-touch attribution.

3) Marketing is eating more of the sales cycle

Multiple studies have shown that more than 70 percent of a B2B buyer’s journey happens before they ever engage a sales rep. Translation: marketing is owning more of the sales cycle and, as a result, playing a more significant role in revenue generation.

Given this reality, B2B organizations are placing greater emphasis on attribution throughout the funnel — rather than just first or last touches.

4) Marketing is becoming more quantitative

The flood of talent pouring into B2B marketing is data-driven. In fact, the new generation of VPs of marketing are increasingly coming from quantitative practice areas like demand gen and marketing ops. As that trend continues, multi-touch attribution will become less of a “nice to have” and more of a “must have.” Going forward, metrics against initiatives — at all stages of the buyer’s journey — will be critical.

2015 is the Year of Multi-Touch Attribution: Now What?

Some of those trends have already happened, some are happening now, and some will reach a fever pitch in the very near future. But, collectively, they will all come to a head in 2015 to usher in the year of multi-touch attribution. I genuinely believe we’ll continue to see the value of quantitative, multi-touch marketing analysis go up.

Some organizations will try to meet those needs through brute force — by manipulating Business Intelligence tools to do unnatural things or pushing Excel to the limits with a full-time bean counter. But the real potential lies in new platforms that streamline the attribution process — through machine-learning and intelligent modeling — to tap into insight that was once viewed as a B2B marketing analytics myth.

In my final post in this series, I’ll talk about four steps senior B2B marketers need to take to embrace multi-touch attribution, and share a simple checklist CMOs can use to choose the right technology to gather full-funnel marketing revenue intelligence.


* This post originally appeared on OpenView Labs. It’s the second installment of a three-part series on multi-touch attribution for B2B Marketing. Stay tuned for the third part next week or click here to read the first post.

The Problem with Marketing Analytics (and Why Traditional Tools Aren’t the Answer)

The Problem with Marketing Analytics (and Why Traditional Tools Aren’t the Answer)

If you’ve been in marketing as long as I have (going on 15 years now), it probably doesn’t seem like long ago that marketing was primarily viewed as a creative discipline. In those days, marketing departments were filled with writers, designers, and market researchers — and the function’s primary responsibility, with the exception of sales enablement, centered on building the brand and owning top-of-funnel activity.

Pretty amazing how things have changed.

Today, marketing’s ownership of the buyer’s journey is increasing rapidly. We no longer create content and campaigns only for the sake of generating awareness. We do those things to contribute to organization-wide objectives and to help prospects self-educate until the very end of their buyers’ journeys.

For CMOs, this bump in responsibility and accountability has proven to be a double-edged sword. On the plus side, they’re being given larger budgets than ever before. On the downside, they’re also now being asked to track and attribute exactly how those increased investments are contributing to revenue growth — much like a VP Sales is held accountable for an incremental rep.

Trying to Answer Important Questions with Imprecise Marketing Analytics

As a former CMO, I feel that pain. In fact, in 2011, I remember standing in front of the Board of Directors of the late-stage SaaS company that had recently hired me, preparing to address questions I wasn’t really confident I knew the answers to.

Why is the companys revenue fluctuating? Whats causing pipeline surges and dips, and what can be done to make it more consistent? How effective are the campaigns were executing, and which ones should we be investing more into? How will what youre doing impact revenue growth next quarter?

I knew the only thing worse than giving the wrong answer was not having one at all. So, I answered them as best I could — with presumptive responses that were largely based on hunches and loose interpretations of available data. Thankfully, it worked. The data told enough of a story that the board let me live. Deep down, however, I wasn’t sure I’d really said much of anything.

Sound familiar?

The truth is, data can be incredibly powerful and it can help paint a picture of how marketing campaigns are influencing revenue results. In fact, according to a recent Forbes article, data-driven marketing leaders are almost three times more likely to have increased revenues.

The issue, however, is that even for the savviest marketer, acquiring the right data and analyzing it in the right context can be incredibly difficult — particularly as marketing becomes more and more involved in the middle and later stages of the buyer’s journey.

The Challenge: Full Sales Cycle Visibility

Many marketing technologies (e.g. CRM, marketing automation systems, content curation tools, etc.) offer plenty of top of funnel reporting, but that insight typically only provides very basic campaign influence metrics — and it does nothing to explain what’s happening in the middle 80% of the customer lifecycle.

To combat this, marketers typically lean on one (or several) other attribution models to supplement first and last touch, and create multi-touch attribution:

  • Evenly-weighted (linear) attributionAn improvement over single-touch, linear attribution makes it easy to apply credit to the middle stages of the funnel. The problem: While this approach does apply credit to all touches along the buyer’s journey, it runs the risk of overvaluing lower impact touches, which can lead to faulty assumptions about the effectiveness of a campaign.
  • Time decay attributionThe core premise of the time decay model is that the closer a touch point is to conversion, the more credit it should receive. While that’s fine in theory, this model on its own sometimes fails to capture critical contextual information that might allow for better campaign assessments.
  • Position-based attribution: In this model, greater revenue credit is given to specific touches in the cycle (typically the first and last touches), while the remainder of the credit is divided among mid-funnel activities. This model effectively gives credit where it’s due (first and last touch) and factors in the influence of mid-funnel campaigns.
  • Interaction-based attribution: A custom interaction-based attribution model relies on historical analysis to apply different weights to varying interactions. The challenge with relying only on interaction-based models is that they’re often subjective, and marketers must put considerable thought into which types of user behaviors are most valuable.

While each of those models can provide CMOs better visibility into campaign performance on their own, they’re most powerful when combined into an all-encompassing attribution model. This aggregate approach allows CMOs to gather deeper insight into their buyer’s journey, attribute revenue impact with greater precision, and shed light on the ideal sequence of campaigns to most efficiently — and cost-effectively — convert a lead into a closed sale.

Welcome to the Era of Multi-Touch Attribution

What I’m describing above is multi-touch revenue attribution — a model that incorporates both campaign and revenue data to help marketers evaluate performance across every touch point in the buying process, calculate true ROI, identify what’s working, and immediately make quantifiable decisions for their organization. While that’s not necessarily a new concept, for most senior marketers it’s an approach that’s always proven far too complex or costly to tackle.

The good news? This is the year that changes. Seriously.


* This post originally appeared on OpenView Labs. It’s the first installment of a series that we’ll run in coming weeks. Stay tuned!

BrightFunnel — We’re Crushing It, and We’re Hiring: Join Us!

BrightFunnel — We’re Crushing It, and We’re Hiring: Join Us!

There comes a time in every successful startup’s trajectory that things seem to fall in place. It’s often described as “achieving Product-Market fit.” We seem to be in that place right now—but I’m not sure I’m crazy about that expression, as it sounds very absolute, binary, and clinical. We’re an enterprise SaaS company, not a hit-driven consumer app. So instead of celebrating the reaching of a mountain-top, it feels more like we’ve earned an entry into playoffs. Now it’s up to us to make it to the Super Bowl.

And that’s where you come in. Over the next 12 months, we will need to make many key hires. Most of those will come after we become profitable (most likely in Q4 of this year), but a few are immediate needs. This is a unique opportunity to join a startup that has achieved product-market fit, but still has the upside associated with a seed-stage startup.

Immediate Needs

  • Full Stack Marketer / Head of Marketing — We are hiring a mid-level full-stack marketer, who is data driven, an SEM and demand generation wizard, proficient in GA and Marketo, but also has a flair for putting together effective messaging and programs. This person also has to be able to be a thought leader and model best practice demand gen and use of BrightFunnel.
  • Enterprise Sales — We are currently a sales team of two, a head of sales, and one account executive. And we’re looking to bring on one more enterprise sales executive immediately, to help us handle our pipeline. We are aiming for a mid to senior level person. Competitiveness and hustle is an absolute must. As is the ability to sell to senior executives.

Medium Term Needs (3-6 mos)

  • Enterprise Customer Success
  • Front-End Developer
  • Full Stack Engineer 
  • Sales Development Representative (SDR)
  • Product Marketing Manager / Director

While those are our immediate needs we are always looking for great talent.  So we want to hear from you! If you want to learn more, or feel that you or someone you know may be a good fit for any of the above, email us today (with resume) at jobs [at] brightfunnel [dot] com!

The Data-Driven Marketer’s Guide to 2015 Marketo Summit

The Data-Driven Marketer’s Guide to 2015 Marketo Summit

If you work in B2B marketing (and consider yourself a data-driven marketer), you’ll probably be one of the 6,000+ attendees at Marketo’s The Marketing Nation summit, which kicks off in San Francisco today. I’ll be there because, as the CEO of a marketing technology company, it’s a fantastic networking event. But I’m also attending because, as a former data-driven VP of Marketing, I think the event is a great opportunity to learn from some of the brightest minds in B2B marketing, including many people with expertise in analytics.

The challenge, of course, is that there are more than 100 sessions offered at this year’s Marketo Summit — and not every one of them will be worth your time. In fact, like any college course, most conference sessions are only as good as the speakers leading them and the content being discussed.

Need some help deciding which sessions to attend this week? As the CEO of a B2B marketing analytics company, and a former VP of Marketing, here’s a sampling of sessions I’ll be attending that I think could be interesting and thought-provoking for other data-driven marketers. I don’t always expect to agree with each one of these speakers, but I fully expect them to provoke discussion:

1. Tips and Tricks to Accelerate Pipeline Growth

Speakers: Janelle Donovan (@janelletnoble), former Sr Director of Marketing @ ServiceMax (and a happy BrightFunnel user!); Paul Albirght (@paulalbright), founder/CEO @ Captora; Tushar Patel (@tushar_m_patel), VP of Marketing @ Innotas

Summary: Marketing (and marketing technology) might be in its renaissance, but many B2B marketing executives are still struggling to show results and fuel faster growth. This session features a fantastic panel of B2B marketing executives who will highlight breakthrough techniques, tips, and templates for increasing marketing growth and productivity. The panel will also deliver insight into how to get the most from today’s marketing technology stack. In my opinion, this is a can’t-miss session for data-driven marketers.

Time/Place: Tuesday, April 14 @ 2 p.m. Location: 3022

2. Data Quality Bootcamp or Why Dirty Data = Low Marketing ROI

Speaker: Inga Romanoff (@ingaroma), marketing executive and consultant

Summary: Data quality is an issue on the mind of every data-driven marketer. Unfortunately, it’s often perceived as an obstacle to analytics and attribution, but my view (and what I think Inga will convey) is that while data quality is critical, one must not lose sight of its purpose — marketing ROI. As such, rather than obsessing — and beating oneself up — over data, one should be focused on making sure it’s good enough, not perfect. A lot can be done at the analytics layer, algorithmically, to make up for data quality issues (e.g. solving for Lead/Contact to Account associations).

Time/Place: Tuesday, April 14 @ 3 p.m. Location: 2022/2024

Bonus tip: One thing to consider if you do attend this event is that if you’re having issues with Contact Roles being attached to Opptys (or Leads remaining unconverted, and thus losing attribution), you should consider trying BrightFunnel’s automated Account-Based Attribution and Orphan Lead Finder capabilities. Both will help you considerably when it comes to data quality. Also, don’t hesitate to come check out BrightFunnel’s booth (#318) and get our free attribution health check!

3. Boosting Engagement and Conversion with Creative Storytelling and Strategic Video Marketing

Speakers: Joe Hyland (@mojoehyland), CMO @ Taulia; Michael Litt (@MichaelLitt), CEO @ Vidyard

Summary: I think video marketing is an interesting opportunity for B2B marketers, and Joe and Michael are two of the more knowledgeable experts on the topic. Like Events and Webinars, video can be a fantastic middle of the funnel tactic (“MOFU” for the geeks out there). Often times, ROI for those types of tactics gets undercounted, largely because they’re not first or last touch; not to mention, the person they impact might be different than the opportunity contact role. At BrightFunnel, we recommend you try video in your B2B buyers’ journey if you have a product or service that has a longer than 30-day lead-to-deal cycle, and that requires some level of buyer education or selling to multiple stakeholders.

Time/Place: Tuesday, April 14 @ 4:30 p.m.; 2010/2012

Bonus tip: If your organization uses MOFU tactics like videos and webinars, and you want to accurately attribute marketing performance, use BrightFunnel to measure how exactly video is impacting your customers’ multi-touch journey.

4. Using Marketing Analytics to Deliver the RIGHT Metrics

Speakers: Adam New-Waterson (@AdamInBloom), DemandGen @ BloomReach; Jason Seeba (@JSeeba), Marketing Technologist @ BloomReach.

Summary: This was billed as the best marketing analytics session by quite a few people last year and I expect that to be the case this year, too. While this session will specifically cover Marketo Analytics, I highly recommend it for all data-driven marketers, even if they aren’t big users of Marketo RCA/RCE. Adam and Jason are super-advanced quantitative analytics experts and I suspect they’ll give attendees a deep understanding of how to use first-touch and multi-touch attribution to better understand impact, regardless of your marketing technology stack.

Time/Place: Wednesday, April 15 @ 8:15 a.m.; 2010/2012

Bonus tip: If you find that your organization is looking to complement Marketo Analytics (Marketo RCA/RCE) with more advanced capabilities, BrightFunnel can be a good logical next step. If you want to better understand who we are and what we do, stop by our booth!

5. 5 Use Cases for Predictive Marketing

Speakers: Jessica Cross (@JFayeSF), Director of Marketing @ Fliptop; Jeffrey Canada (@LikeThe_Country), Revenue Marketing @ The Pedowitz Group

Summary: This one is a little bit more personal for me because Jessica and I are former colleagues, and in fact, she ran demand gen for me! I can objectively say it’s a worthwhile session for data-driven marketers. Jessica is a super sharp, data-driven marketer, I’ve also spoken with Jeffrey, who has a great mind for revenue marketing and marketing automation. To extend the college metaphor, these are are up-and-coming associate professors with high student ratings. Check them out!

Time/Place: Wednesday, April 15 @ 4:30 p.m.; 2010/2012

6. The Best of Both Worlds: Using Fit + Behavior Signals to Predict Top Prospects

Speakers: Jamie Grenney (@JamieGrenney), VP of Marketing @ Infer; Ash Alhashim (@ashalhashim), Director of Sales and Marketing Development @ Optimizely; T. Baxter Denney (@TBDenney), Director of Marketing Operations @ New Relic

Summary: There’s no question that predictive analytics can deliver critical insight and provide competitive differentiation for B2B businesses in competitive markets, but some marketers are struggling to make the leap from being data-driven to being predictive-driven. In this session, Infer VP of Marketing Jamie Grenney, Optimizely Director of Sales and Marketing Development Ash Alhashim, and New Relic Director of Marketing Operations T. Baxter Denney will share how they combine fit and behavioral scoring to decide which prospects most deserve their time, energy, and resources. This is one of several sessions on predictive marketing, led by a predictive lead scoring speaker.

Time/Place: Tuesday, April 14 @ 3:00 p.m./3022

Bonus tip: If you’re already using, or evaluating lead scoring tools, BrightFunnel’s multi-touch attribution and forecasting capabilities can be a great complement, to optimize the buyer’s journey after the initial lead scoring.

Struggling with Marketing Attribution?

One of the biggest benefits of conferences like Marketo’s Summit is the opportunity to better gauge what your company is doing well and where it can improve. To find out if your business is getting marketing attribution right, come by BrightFunnel’s booth (#318) to get an attribution health check through our free Salesforce health check app.

Instead of presenting a session, we’ve invested all of our resources into this helpful tool and I’m incredibly pleased with the results. We will tell you, within a few minutes, how your organization scores in terms of attribution, specifically: what percentage of your opportunities are missing contacts, how much pipeline you’re losing credit for, as well as showing you specific buyers’ journeys for those opportunities that BrightFunnel uncovers, but Salesforce reporting does not. If you’re using Salesforce CRM, checking out this free tool is a no-brainer.

The CMO’s Guide to Crushing Sales Kickoff

The CMO’s Guide to Crushing Sales Kickoff

Around this time every year, sales leaders begin to dream up ways to motivate their sales teams and supercharge their revenue targets. Typically, these efforts take the form of formal “sales kickoff” events — team-wide rallies (often off-site) that are designed to inspire and energize reps to blow out their sales goals. Speakers are sometimes hired for these events, and copious amounts of high-end food and drinks are typically served.

While that might sound like one big party, the truth is that sales kickoffs can actually be highly effective team-building, expectation-setting events. Done right, these forums offer reps, managers, and senior executives the opportunity to step away from the daily grind, learn from peers and experts, establish actionable goals, and create a plan for more effective execution.

And all of that is true for chief marketing officers and their marketing organizations, as well.

Yes, sales kickoffs aren’t just for sales teams. In fact, these events often provide a critical opportunity for CMOs and their teams to build better relationships with individual sales reps, illustrate the impact marketing can have (and is having) on the bottom line, and ultimately, to advance the CMO’s key strategic themes for the year.

Maybe it’s the free food and drinks or casual nature of sales kickoffs, but the disarming environment of these events also seems to tear down the metaphorical walls that often divide sales and marketing. With the freedom and opportunity to widen their focus, sales reps are generally more receptive to understanding what marketing does, why they do it, and how those activities directly impact their bank account.

A simple framework for opening a sales kickoff

The easiest way for CMOs to influence revenue is to ensure that the sales organization believes in — and buys into — what marketing does. And the easiest way for CMOs to do that is to very clearly illustrate that they care about revenue, and that sales and marketing’s mutual success depends on collective execution.

With that in mind, I always recommend CMOs open a sales kickoff event by presenting what their team did in the previous year, why they did it, and why those activities were (or weren’t) successful.

For example, let’s say you’re the CMO of a tech company that sponsored Dreamforce in 2014 and co-hosted a party at the event at a total cost of $300,000. Without any explanation for why that initiative was purposeful or successful, a sales team may simply view that spend as an excuse to throw a huge party and look good, without tangible sales benefits.

If, however, you stood up in front of the sales organization during sales kickoff and said, “We spent $300,000 at Dreamforce. As a result, we generated $3 million in new pipeline, of which $1 million has closed so far in Q4 and Q1. More importantly, it accelerated our existing pipeline by an average of 21 days for accounts we interacted with at Dreamforce. Unfortunately, the results were limited to our North America mid-market business. So this year, while we’re maintaining our investment, we are excited to announce some new initiatives that will serve our EMEA and APAC regions, as well as our Enterprise business.”

Kind of difficult to be skeptical now, isn’t it?

Being specific about results—including failures — will result in your organization’s sales reps valuing these leads more.

Closing with a plan of action for the year

That simple framework (here’s what we did, here’s why we did it, and here’s why it makes sense) can be leveraged to explain every initiative, strategy, or channel, and provide explicit evidence for why it helped the sales organization move the needle. Once you’ve clearly communicated what you did and why you did it, it’s important to tie that information to what you’re planning to do.

For instance, if investing $500,000 in syndicated content in 2014 helped you generate 1,000 incremental MQLs per month, $3 million of pipeline, and $1 million of revenue, then it will be significantly easier to convey why you’re doubling down on that channel in 2015. Conversely, if a particular marketing initiative was a failure, you can use historical metrics to explain why you’re scaling back on it.

(Bonus tip: If you’re a high growth business with a significant multiple on your valuation, get your CEO to stress the impact on value to shareholders of a higher growth rate).

Following up regularly on your plan

Of course, it’s one thing to declare the value and purpose of a strategy, and to promise certain results. It’s quite another to actually deliver them.

The best way to maintain credibility with sales post-kickoff is to regularly follow up with updates on your plan.

How are you tracking against the goals you presented at sales kickoff? How many leads have you actually created? Are specific marketing channels or activities delivering the results you expected?

By Q2, you should plan to give sales an update on how 2015 initiatives are performing, as well as how leads generated from 2014 are maturing into revenue. And don’t be afraid to be transparent. If the aforementioned Dreamforce investment hasn’t panned out like you expected, be upfront about it and communicate how that might change your strategy.

With that context, sales will better understand the logic behind each investment (and the value of those leads relative to revenue), and they’ll be more likely to support marketing efforts with greater attention and efficiency.

Ultimately, that will create better sales and marketing alignment through a “rising tide lifts all boats” scenario in which sales more ardently follows-up on MQLs, and marketing’s contribution to bottom-line revenue is more directly felt. At the end of the day, that’s a win-win for everyone involved.

This post was originally posted on Venture Beat and has been reposted with permission.

The 6 Strategic Themes That B2B CMOs Must Address

The 6 Strategic Themes That B2B CMOs Must Address

Since starting BrightFunnel two years ago, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to hundreds of B2B CMOs and marketing executives. From those discussions, I’ve noticed that the issues over which CMOs were losing sleep tended to cluster into six strategic themes. What’s interesting is that all six themes are related to marketing ROI and performance measurement. While this is by no means a scientific study, I think that by itself is a testament to the data-rich and insight-poor times we live in.

These findings are based on the 373 conversations with B2B marketers for which I took notes. The sample set is not representative of all B2B companies, and it’s heavily biased towards data-driven B2B marketers—particularly Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendors and other high tech companies. But it’s more broadly relevant, as those are the folks that tend to be the early adopters and trendsetters in the marketing technology landscape.

My goals in sharing these findings broadly are simple: I hope that they may help other B2B marketers to anticipate strategic challenges before they arise, and that they foster discussion about these topics:

1. Campaign Effectiveness – Know what’s working

Which campaigns were most effective in sourcing MQLs?

Which campaigns were effective in influencing Opportunities?

Which efforts produce the fastest velocity results?

What types of campaigns perform best?

This first theme is the most basic building block of marketing performance measurement. At the most basic level—even for companies with long sales cycles where marketing plays a significant role in the middle and bottom of the funnel—marketing should be bringing potential new business into the top of the funnel. The top is often measured by metrics such as sourced Inquiries or MQLs. While stopping at such metrics leaves a lot to be desired, it is certainly a good place to start, and where smaller companies (< 50 people) typically remain. But surprisingly, many larger companies feel that they don’t have a handle on these basic questions.

2. Revenue Waterfall – Track progress across stages

How are MQLs generated last quarter performing today?

Where are my leads getting stuck?

What are the buyers’ journeys that work best?

It seems that every modern B2B marketer these days has adopted a multi-stage sales and marketing framework, such as the Sirius Decisions Demand Waterfall framework. That is a good thing. Yet paradoxically, when it comes to measurement, many of these same companies only track initial creation of Inquiries or MQLs. If you’re trying to measure demand generation performance, clearly, what matters is the eventual outcome of the leads created, and where they’re falling off or slowing down.

3. Multi-Touch Attribution – Accurately measure revenue impact

How much revenue and pipeline did past campaigns source?

How can I move to an advanced, multi-touch model that makes sense for our buyers’ journey?

How can I measure results at an account level?

The simplest way to think about multi-touch attribution in a B2B context is that it is an attempt to accurately model and measure the buyers’ journey taken by your customers. Often times, this translates to dozens or even hundreds of touches. Let’s say there are 10 people involved in a buying process, with 5 touches each, across several months. You have 50 distinct marketing interactions to keep track of. While that idea might give you a headache, consider the alternative: instead of making a full account of how you drove the prospect through the 75% of buying cycle that you own, you rely on your lazy busy sales team to do data entry, to attach Contacts to Opportunities, and arbitrarily pick a single touch to get all the glory. Smart CMOs understand this, and that is why it is a recurring theme (nightmare?) that keeps them up at night.

4. Plan & Predict – Plan against future goals

What investments should I make now to achieve my goals?

How much revenue will marketing generate next quarter?

Across all our efforts, what do we expect to mature into revenue in a given period?

CMOs increasingly understand that to be strategic to the Board of Directors, they must not just offer insights about the past, but also about how they can help achieve future goals. Conveniently, those future goals are also where sales and marketing are most aligned, because marketing can uniquely have an impact today, on the future several quarters out. We must sow the seeds today that our Sales brethren can reap tomorrow. But too often, we make those decisions in a vacuum, without an understanding of the likely future outcomes. That will no longer be acceptable in 2015. 

5. Strategy – Identify the messages that work

What marketing themes should we bet the company on?

What are the patterns in efficacy of themes/messages across audiences/products/regions?

High growth companies often face bet-the-company decisions, such as focusing on one customer segment over another. And CMOs care deeply about identifying signals from that sometimes-noisy data. The answers are often right there in your own data. Yet for a majority of B2B CMOs, this is a completely missed opportunity. Too often they aren’t even aware that rich strategic insights on segmentation and focus can be mined from everyday demand generation activity captured in CRM and marketing automation systems.

6. Data & Process – Ensure clean data and process

How can I identify potential gaps in my data?

What measures can I take to overcome bad historical data, without having to change all of it?

How can I handle ongoing process gaps, such a sales rep not entering the right info?

How can we find insights across a complex web of account and campaign hierarchies globally? 

It seems that every CMO thinks their data is bad. And there are legions of service providers who prey on that low data self-esteem, like so many diet book writers. But what’s often missed is that the solution isn’t relentless cleaning and scraping the data, but it is to intelligently analyze the data in a way that takes into account its limitations. CMOs are rightfully worried about bad data, but they often wrongly prescribe a solution that only focuses on cleanup, not intelligent analysis.

So those are the 6 strategic themes that I’ve heard over and over, though I’m sure there are some that I’m missing. I’d welcome your input: what questions are you trying to answer? Where have you struggled?

At BrightFunnel, we’re working to address these themes and help data-driven marketers connect marketing to revenue, prove ROI, and make more intelligent marketing decisions. To learn more about how we can help you take control of marketing in the coming year, schedule a demo today.

Congratulations to InsightSquared on Raising a $13.5M Series C to Deliver BI for Sales Teams

For sales organizations, today’s announcement that InsightSquared has raised a $13.5 million Series C round is very exciting. With the Salesforce Analytics Cloud likely to focus on platform capabilities, and with the possibility of delays, it’s welcome news that InsightSquared is making a big commitment to easy-to-use sales analytics. This is especially true for their core audience of small businesses, which have never been served by BI (Business Intelligence) companies, such as Domo, Birst, Good Data, Tableau and others.

But the news from Cambridge is also reason for us to celebrate here at BrightFunnel headquarters in San Francisco. Just as InsightSquared is filling a very large niche in BI for sales organizations, BrightFunnel is helping modern, B2B marketing organizations become more data-driven and predictable. With the marketing technology landscape now settling, and the marketing ops function emerging, we believe it’s time for someone to focus on the analytical needs of B2B marketers. Their challenges are no less important than those of sales teams, and they are inadequately addressed by BI solutions.

So if you’re a rapidly growing business and you’re finding that most of your B2B buying cycle (and revenue generation) is happening before the sales team even gets involved, we’d encourage you to consider BrightFunnel. An easy test for fit is the 5-50-500 rule: you’ve built an initial marketing and market development team (5+ people), your company is no longer a small business (50+ employees), and you’re making sizable investments in marketing ($500k+ annual spend). Customers who fit that profile, such as ServiceMax, are seeing great success.

Here’s how BrightFunnel focuses on the unique needs of B2B marketers:

We cover the entire B2B buyers’ journey.

The B2B buyers’ journey involves multiple touchpoints, across many people in a customer organization. It can span months, even years. What you care about is not whether some arbitrary campaign or lead source was the first or last, but about the overall journey, and the appropriate, stage-specific marketing mix to take a prospect and turn them into a happy customer. We do this by taking an account-based, multi-touch attribution approach that looks at all touches across stages of your demand waterfall, even that surreptitious, late-night whitepaper-reading by your prospect’s CFO.

revenue waterfall

We help you forecast and plan marketing results.

It isn’t enough to measure the past. To be strategic, marketers must have a view of likely performance against Board-level priorities. But the key difference with Sales is that sales forecasting often involves gleefully pointing at fast-approaching iceberg, with little recourse. Our bag-carrying brethren can be awarded such latitude, given their proximity to the close. B2B marketers cannot afford such leeway. If today’s efforts are likely to result in insufficient pipeline and revenue over two quarters, we need to know that, and react to that information by adjusting our plans. BrightFunnel’s scenario analysis not only helps you plot the best course of action, but helps you do it in a way that brings along your CEO, CFO and VP Sales, by speaking to their future plans.

revenue prediction

We identify themes that resonate.

Revenue-centric marketing is a team sport. Marketing ops and demand gen professionals rely on product marketers and content-creators to appropriately position their offerings and create the right content for the right audience. But too often, the feedback loop isn’t closing. We have precise granularity on hundreds or thousands of campaigns tracked in Marketo, but often can’t tell the product team whether, say, CIOs prefer the security-oriented messaging, and Directors of IT like the innovation themes. And by the way, the pattern in EMEA is reversed (so those guys are complaining for a reason). Such insights can only come from drilling down into revenue outcomes, and connecting marketing — including themes and audiences — directly to revenue.

path to sale

We make it easy to collaborate.

Whether you’re prepping your Board slides, or making key decisions on your weekly team meeting, you need a way to simplify the process of uncovering insights from data. You can then make decisions from those insights. But that process invariably involves influencing multiple people, at various levels of seniority, expertise and attention span. While you think your pivot table is beautiful, no one else does; so you need ways to communicate insights in a way that’s shareable, easy to understand, and I daresay, beautiful.

Velocity vs Conversion Rate

We can “clean up” your messy data.

Finally, we know that you’re ashamed of your data. But you probably shouldn’t be. What you see as unattractive inconsistency in process and data, we see as rich testament to your rapid growth and evolution. And the data must often remain messy for another reason: Salesforce is primarily for the sales organization, and must be optimized as such; marketing automation systems (MAS), such as Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, HubSpot and Act-On, must serve the needs of front-line campaign managers who need a granular rules engine, reliable delivery and a path to speedy execution. Where does it leave the CMO or Director of Marketing Operations seeking decision insights? To make any sense of the data from CRM and MAS, they must first clean their data, right? Not quite. With BrightFunnel, we virtually “clean” your data by applying intelligent, policy-based rules and filters so that your data is accurate and manageable. This produces attribution, forecasts and plans that you can be proud of.

So as you see above, the next generation of intelligence companies will look and perform very differently from BI companies of old. We are delighted to join InsightSquared as one such emerging company upending traditional BI.

Find out how BrightFunnel can help you gain full visibility into your funnel →

Nadim Hossain is co-founder and CEO of BrightFunnel. You can follow him on Twitter @nadimhossain.

The Importance of “Why:” How Predictive Revenue Insights Help Boards Gain Visibility and Control

The Importance of “Why:” How Predictive Revenue Insights Help Boards Gain Visibility and Control

Q&A with Former DocuSign CEO Steve King

Throughout Steve King’s career as a successful CEO — including stops as the head of Zantaz (sold for $345 million in 2007) and DocuSign (recently valued at a reported $1.6 billion) — the tech veteran says he’s always been an ardent believer in the importance of investing in marketing.

“Some CEOs and board members aren’t big believers in the role marketing plays in scale, but I’ve always believed investing in marketing is one of the smartest things a growing company can do,” explains King (disclosure: a BrightFunnel advisor). “Ultimately, if you do it right and possess the intelligence necessary to pull the right levers, marketing is the kindling that helps you fuel a very powerful fire.”

The problem, of course, is that King – like many CEOs and board members – has also sometimes struggled to justify marketing investment without believable proof that those dollars will actually create positive revenue impact.

“Frankly, that’s a big pain point for a lot of senior leaders,” King says. “Even if you’re a big marketing supporter, it’s difficult to make big financial investments on pure gut feeling. There needs to be some convincing analytics that tell you your marketing investment will drive revenue, and that technology just didn’t exist when I was a CEO.”

Recently, I sat down with Steve to talk about that challenge, the importance of answering “why” when executives make marketing decisions, and how emerging technology is helping address this decision-making conundrum.

Nadim Hossain: We’ve talked before about the importance of being to answer “why” instead of just “what” in board meetings. Can you explain?

Steve King: Absolutely. So, answering “what” is relatively simple and it’s what most board meetings focus on. What are we doing? What are our goals? What are we forecasting for the next quarter? But answering only those types of questions fails to provide full context.

To really understand business performance, you need to be able to answer “why.” Why is what you’re doing working? Why are you investing in certain initiatives? Why are you trying to accomplish specific goals? Why do you want to invest more in marketing? If you can’t answer those questions, then you’re flying blind to a degree.

Nadim Hossain: That continues to be a challenge for most senior marketing executives, right?

Steve: Absolutely. And the other big hurdle preventing marketers from getting CEO or board-level buy-in is forecasting accuracy. That issue is tied to the “why/what” problem, but without forecasting accuracy it’s very difficult for a company to intelligently plan its investments – whether those investments are in marketing or another part of the organization.

I’m on four boards right now and each company is facing that challenge. It’s very difficult to tell if you’re going to hit your numbers until the end of the quarter, and by then you’re a little bit behind the eight ball. Obviously, various sales and marketing tools have made forecasting a little bit more predictable, but even those tools fail to fully bridge the gap between marketing activities and revenue results.

That’s a big frustration point for many board members. You have these forecasts, but the company is consistently missing its number and you don’t know why. The solution is to acquire more insight into opportunity flow throughout the sales process and determine which levers can be pulled to improve revenue results. Unfortunately, most board members don’t have access to that information.

Nadim: That’s a perfect segue into the need for marketing intelligence in modern businesses. Can you talk about how that information can help board members make better decisions?

Steve: If you’re able to collect marketing intelligence and analytics that are more closely tied to opportunities and revenue, then you’re on your way to solving each of the challenges I talked about above. Until recently, that intelligence was extremely difficult to come by, but it’s now very accessible if you’re using the right tools.

That last part – the right tools – is very important. Too many marketing technologies today are just addressing the “what” types of questions I mentioned above. They deliver endless volumes of data, but the problem with that data is that it doesn’t answer “why” on its own. You need powerful and contextually appropriate analytics to gain true insight into revenue performance, and most legacy sales and marketing technologies can’t offer that.

Nadim: So, how can CMOs provide greater predictability and more actionable revenue insights to their boards?

Steve: It’s a great question and, as a board member and former CEO, that predictability is so critically important. If you’re a high-growth company or have plans to go public, nothing will cause investors to lose faith in your business faster than repeatedly missed forecasts. It makes it seem like the company’s growth is stagnating, even if it isn’t.

Now, maybe those missed forecasts are anomalies or short-term execution mistakes, but if you can’t explain why those missed forecasts are happening then you’re in serious trouble.

So, what’s the solution? Obviously, products like BrightFunnel are great because they give you instant pipeline insight and allow you to get out in front of problems or forecasting hiccups before they become really destructive problems. That’s so critical. No sales or marketing technology will magically fix your company’s sales and marketing problems, but they can provide the intelligence you need to act more quickly, confidently, and intelligently.

Nadim: Great point, Steve. Last question from me – How important is it for sales and marketing technology to use a shared language for decision-making across multiple departments?

Steve: That’s a great question. From a board perspective, there are varying degrees of expertise with marketing systems. You might have some tech experts, but the board could also include folks who don’t have a marketing background and haven’t used those technologies.

With all of the systems being used today, there are numerous ways each tool describes certain processes, analytics, etc., and that makes it harder for boards to get to the “why” as quickly as possible. We don’t want to be overwhelmed with data or buzzwords – we just want to boil things down and make smarter decisions. Having one platform that does that would go a long way toward improving operational efficiency and decision-making effectiveness.


Big Data for B2B Marketers: How to Make Faster, More Actionable Decisions

Big Data for B2B Marketers: How to Make Faster, More Actionable Decisions

Q&A with David Gutelius, Founder, Data Guild and former Chief Social Scientist, Jive Software

When the concept of Big Data first began to gain traction in the mid-2000s, it was declared a boon for B2B marketers and sales organizations — promising access to a seemingly limitless vault of real-time customer intelligence, buyer behavior insight, and critical operations analyses.

To some degree, Big Data has delivered on some of those promises. But it’s also created a new problem. Namely, marketers are now inundated with endless streams of information and, as a result, are struggling to make sense of (and act on) the incredible volume and velocity of data at their fingertips.

Making matters worse, existing marketing tools are designed to produce more data, rather than to help make smarter, faster, and more confident decisions from existing data sources. In fact, most legacy business intelligence and analytics tools are simply overwhelmed by the sheer volume of marketing data being pumped into them.

So, where does that leave us?

According to David Gutelius, principal and co-founder of The Data Guild, marketers must adopt new processes and a new way of thinking if they’re ever going to fully leverage the potential benefits of the Big Data revolution.

To build on that point, I recently asked David (disclosure: a BrightFunnel advisor) to join me for a brief conversation about that issue and several others:


Exploring the Holes of Modern Marketing Technology: Q&A with Fliptop Director of Marketing Jessica Cross

Exploring the Holes of Modern Marketing Technology: Q&A with Fliptop Director of Marketing Jessica Cross

In the last 10 years, the variety of technology that’s been made available to B2B marketers has been incredible. It’s allowed us to gather greater insight into prospect engagement and buyer behavior, better understand how, why, and where purchasing decisions are made, and pass more qualified leads on to our sales counterparts.

Yet, even with all of that development, sales and marketing technology still falls woefully short in some areas.

To bring some ground-level perspective to the table, I reached out to Jessica Cross, the Director of Marketing for Fliptop, a San Francisco-based predictive lead scoring solution. In the interest of full disclosure, Jessica worked for me as a marketing coordinator when I was the VP of Marketing for PowerReviews in 2011/2012. Since then, she’s become an expert B2B data-driven marketer (and a multi-time Marketo and Salesforce user).

Simply put, if anyone understands the pain points that modern data-driven marketers face in designing and executing campaigns, it’s Jessica. So, without further ado, here’s a transcript of our conversation.

Nadim: How has data-driven marketing evolved and why does it continue to be a challenge?

Jessica: Honestly, the bevy of technology available to marketers has made our job both easier and harder as it’s changed a lot of the ways in which marketing teams handle their business. In many organizations, marketing is no longer viewed as a soft, fluffy branding team. Instead, our role is more concrete — it’s more closely tied to revenue and results, and we can use that technology to help accomplish those objectives.

The problem, however, is that even with the technology available today, it can still be incredibly difficult to tie all of the systems we use together — Marketo, Salesforce, etc. — to create a closed-loop system that clearly communicates results at the end of the quarter. Often times, things like attribution and forecasting don’t happen unless you have a person on your team dedicated to those operations.

Nadim: Specifically, what is Salesforce good (and bad) at?

Jessica: By the nature of its name, Salesforce is very good at managing the sales process and it’s an excellent tool for sales teams. When it comes to managing campaigns, content, and customer touchpoints, however, it’s not the best. Yes, it’s a good record holder and executives can easily produce reports that show how much money the company’s made. But it falls woefully short in helping marketers decide which campaign or product message you should send out next.

With Salesforce, it really boils down to your ability to input good, clean data into the system. If you have workflows and processes that ensure people insert the data you need to show results at the end of the month, it can be an incredibly powerful tool. But most businesses don’t have the capacity or capability to put those systems in place, and that can make building a clean report very difficult.

Nadim: What about Marketo? A lot of marketers rely on it as a critical campaign management tool, but are there certain aspects of it that could be improved?

Jessica: Marketo is a very powerful tool that is constantly releasing new technology to support modern marketers. It allows us to distribute webinars, emails, and social content, and it’s a particularly effective technology for nurturing prospects. But again, if you don’t have good systems or processes in place, then you end up with garbage reports.

To get the most out of the system, marketing teams need to sit down together and map out a prospect’s journey to becoming a customer, and model that in Marketo. It’s all about building the system the right way from the start so that you can generate the dashboards and reports that executives really want to see.

Nadim: What’s missing from modern marketing technology, and why do those shortcomings force marketers to rely on older technology like Excel spreadsheets and pivot tables?

Jessica: That’s the funny thing. Businesses spend so much money on Salesforce and Marketo, but at every company I’ve been at we still used Excel to build dashboards and reports to show the health of the company. The fact that it’s 2014 and we’re still using software that was released in the mid-1980s suggests that there are some things still missing from the marketing technology stack.

For instance, when my executive team at Fliptop wants to see a full waterfall of our marketing campaigns — how many website impressions we’ve driven, how many leads that’s yielded, how many of those leads turned into opportunities, and what our conversion rate is on those opportunities — I have to pull information from multiple systems and hope they translate. Often times, they don’t and that’s a big pain point.

Nadim: Obviously, that’s a big source of attribution difficulties, too.

Jessica: Yes, definitely. Typically, marketing has to beg, borrow, and steal to get things changed in Salesforce. We want the sales team to enter all sorts of info on opportunities so that we get credit for the sales we’re creating. Unfortunately, salespeople aren’t generally good at data entry. Data entry is not part of any sales person’s job description. So, that’s a constant struggle.

You could hire a Salesforce operations manager whose only job is to perfect those workflows and build systems inside of Salesforce, but that person would cost you $120,000+ per year. Most companies can’t afford that expense.

Nadim: Can you talk about some of the specific pain points that executives and board members face relative to the current state of sales and marketing technology?

Jessica: I think one of the biggest issues is generating the reports needed for quarterly board meetings. At most companies, it’s a fire drill the day before those meetings. Executives are scrambling to break down the pipeline and build forecasts, and board members are wondering whether the business is going to make its number. The problem, of course, is that reporting is difficult when you’re using tools that don’t speak the same language or communicate well with each other.

Ultimately, executives and board members want to show consistent numbers so that investors and stakeholders have confidence in the company’s direction. For execs to do that, however, they need to be able to show pipeline with some regularity and predictability, and share forecasts that illustrate historically accurate – and achievable – numbers.

Nadim: Where do you see sales and marketing technology going in the future?

Jessica: Thankfully, technology is already starting to sprout up that’s addressing these issues. The perfect tool will be one that makes it easier for sales and marketing teams to work collaboratively to track the customer lifecycle – from lead to customer – and identify the right buttons to push to drive revenue results.

Revenue isn’t just a sales responsibility anymore, so any technology that can help a business better understand the impact of their decisions on revenue is huge. That would certainly make the process of benchmarking performance and aligning marketing campaigns to revenue objectives much simpler. Consequently, it would also allow executives to generate more accurate and insightful forecasts and reports. And every function in the business – not just sales and marketing – would benefit from that.

The Rise of Marketing Operations

The Rise of Marketing Operations

When you envision the future of marketing, what do you see?

Undoubtedly, it will be a function that’s greatly influenced by technology, and is becoming increasingly data-driven. And there’s certainly evidence to suggest that marketing’s traditional role will evolve significantly as the B2B buying cycle continues to evolve.

But there’s another shift I see happening, and I think it has the potential to take the business world by storm: the rise of the marketing operations function within marketing organizations.

Parallels with Sales Operations

For much of the last decade, sales operations has been a critical function in most enterprise organizations. It’s a role that’s responsible for a variety of tasks, including sales analytics and forecasting, territory design, CRM implementation and optimization, sales compensation and sales training – among many others.

Naturally, the growth of that function has coincided with the evolution of sales automation technologies, with many businesses now relying on those tools to approach their sales processes more analytically.

Now, as marketing departments are increasingly embracing technologies that offer similar benefits to their organizations, and marketing contributes more and more to the revenue cycle, many organizations are recognizing the value of building out a marketing operations function, as well.

Marketing Operations v1.0

Of course, marketing ops is still in its infancy and its parameters are still very much in the process of being defined. Generally, marketing operations is responsible for managing various marketing technologies and related processes. Marketing automation platforms – such as Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot and HubSpot – are the most prominent of those technologies. These are the workhorses of the B2B marketing technology stack – we rely on them to architect our marketing programs, build our mailing lists and landing pages, and of course, send our emails.

But the emerging marketing technology stack, now goes well beyond just marketing automation. As marketing eats more and more of the sales cycle, these technologies are at the center. And this means that marketing operations becomes an increasingly strategic role — slotting itself at the intersection of marketing analytics and decision-making and revenue generation tactics. In many ways, marketing operations has the potential to have a far bigger impact on revenue than sales operations.

The Marketing Ops Role and Profile

I’ve noticed that in small businesses with less than 100 or so employees, marketing ops is a function performed by the demand generation team, while larger organizations carve out a separate role for it. Interestingly, in many instances, traditional marketing folks aren’t populating these marketing ops roles, either.

It’s a role being filled by an impressive group of people, with varied backgrounds:

  • The Director of Marketing Operations at ExactTarget (now Salesforce Marketing Cloud), Benham Roberts, previously commanded a US Army infantry company (he probably knows a thing or two about decision-making under pressure and with limited data!).
  • Inbound marketing software provider HubSpot’s own marketing operations manager, Melissa Miller, has degrees from Cornell (in mathematics!) and MIT’s Sloan School.
  • Leading e-signature provider DocuSign’s Director of Marketing Systems and Operations, Ryan Schwartz, previously held roles as a systems engineer, web technologist, and network technician.

Not exactly the typical background for a marketer, is it?

Why “Marketing Ops” > “Plastics”

Frankly, if I had a recently graduated, 22-year-old cousin who was trying to figure out which career path to take, I’d push them to look into marketing ops.

The reason? Opportunity.

Very simply, marketing operations represents an incredible intersection of marketing, technology, and business process. It takes things like demand generation, content marketing, and revenue optimization – as well as the systems and technology that drive those functions – and sews them all together.

Need further proof that marketing ops has risen into a key business function? There’s an entire conference dedicated to the topic: on March 17, the second annual Marketing Operations Executive Summit will be hosted in San Diego. As marketing’s role in the revenue cycle becomes more significant, marketing ops – and conferences like the one above – will only become more relevant, too.

The reality is that marketing ops has arrived. The question that remains, however, is what it will evolve into in the near future and how much more responsibility it will take on.

Will marketing ops will eclipse its elder sibling, sales ops, and ultimately take ownership of revenue cycle operations and analytics? Only time will tell, but I’ve got a hunch that might be the case.

Disclosure: ExactTarget is a customer of BrightFunnel.

The CMO Identity Crisis: 3 “Aha” Moments that Led to BrightFunnel’s Founding

The CMO Identity Crisis: 3 “Aha” Moments that Led to BrightFunnel’s Founding

In May 2011, I found myself standing in front of the Board of Directors of PowerReviews, the social commerce SaaS company that had recently hired me as its VP of Marketing, preparing to answer questions that I wasn’t really confident I knew the answers to.

How much do we have to spend in marketing to achieve our revenue goals? How many leads do we need to generate to achieve our new customer targets? How of many of those would be enterprise vs. mid-market customers? How could we ensure the fastest possible lead-to-sale velocity? And how effective are the campaigns we’re executing, anyway, and which ones should we be doubling down on?

As an experienced marketing executive, I answered those questions as I always had — by delivering the best information and judgment I could provide. The reality was that, at the time, it was extremely difficult to run any kind of decent analysis on all of those questions, and even then there were certain things that required me to rely on hunches.

The good news is that the Board bought it. The bad news is that I knew some of my responses were little more than educated guesses. And the Board was okay with it, because they had been trained, over many years, to have very low expectations for their CMOs’ ability to look into the future. (The awful and outdated “half of my marketing dollars are wasted” quote comes to mind).

“Ah-Ha” Moment #1: The Reliance on Gut Feeling

Now, I’m not suggesting that I purposefully fudged the numbers. I am saying that, at the time, there was little way of saying with certainty that the numbers I presented to the board were sufficiently reliable, given the magnitude of the decisions we faced.

Also, I’m not talking about basic metrics like number of leads produced, or cost-per-lead. Most marketing executives have some handle on the basics. The metrics I lacked were the ones that truly mattered — metrics that painted a picture about the future, not the past. Decisions we had yet to make. Course-corrections we could have made with confidence.

I had none of that.

That bothered me, I now realize, because it conflicted with my self-identity. I saw myself as a highly analytical person. In college, I had proudly completed a thesis in econometrics (since you ask: “The Decline of Intercity Rail Travel, 1945-1966: An Econometric Investigation”) and my first full-time job was at Bain & Company, as a junior consultant proficient at modeling leveraged buy-out scenarios. And though I loved marketing’s creative side — it was my first love, and I spent two summers in advertising — I had ultimately come up through the more left-brained product marketing ranks.

As I reflected on that Board meeting  — my first ever, by the way, so there was some reflecting to do  — I knew that data existed that would have allowed me to validate my hunches on those topics with concrete evidence. But there was no time for that. We were a small company with limited resources and big ambitions. I had to move on to the next project, the next analysis, and the next big decision.

Looking back, however, that experience was actually the first “ah-ha” moment that led me to found BrightFunnel.

“Ah-Ha” Moment #2: Marketing’s Lost Opportunity to Lead

A few months after that Board meeting, I participated in a series of executive offsites that were designed to determine the future direction of the company’s strategy and products. A key fork in the road was to decide if we were going to be big elephant hunters or focused on small and mid-sized retailers.

Seemingly, that should have been a relatively straightforward, fact-based process. In trying to understand, what size of customer was best suited for our solutions, for example, what we needed was conceptually simple: an understanding of conversion rates, velocities, and average selling prices by segment, from lead to close, and some actionable insight into what marketing campaigns and channels brought us that business.

Instead, the numbers were hard to come by. What’s more, even though questions of segmentation and go-to-market strategy are marketing’s home turf, I wasn’t able to play the leadership role that I could have, in driving us to a common understanding of the truth. Instead, despite our best intentions, we had multiple sets of numbers and opinions. And though the project was ultimately completed, a full two months later, I couldn’t shake the feeling that we should’ve been able to reach our conclusion faster and smarter. And by the time we reached the conclusions, we were relying on months-old data, with no ability to project the future.

There had to be a better way. I knew that the right analysis would have allowed us to reach the right decisions faster. But my team, nor I, simply hadn’t had the time to sit and analyze. There was content to create, campaigns to develop, and customers to acquire. And despite their best intentions, our sales operations and finance teams would often stop short of answering critical questions for marketing, such as through cohort analysis. After all, they too had day jobs.

“Ah-Ha” Moment #3: I’m Not Alone?

Despite the previous two experiences, I still hadn’t connected the dots that would eventually lead to BrightFunnel.

Then, on June 12th, 2012, Bazaarvoice acquired PowerReviews for $168 million.

Frankly, I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment. As a first-time CMO, I’d taken a 200-lead-per-month company and turned it one that consistently generated 3,000 leads per month. More importantly, we’d nearly tripled revenue (from a $6M run rate to $15M) in a year and a half.

Soon after that, a few VCs reached out to me, and I ended up having a few conversations both with those investors and their portfolio CEOs. Surprisingly, each confessed that they regularly dealt with the same lack of insights I had faced at a smaller company.

Ultimately, that led to my proverbial “I see dead people” moment.

I’m not alone? And this issue isn’t exclusive to smaller companies with limited resources?

Mind you, the folks I’d spoken with worked for leading SaaS companies (one of which, HootSuite, later became a customer) with much bigger, richer, and stronger teams than the one we had. And they were facing the same challenge?

At that point, I knew I had to tackle this problem that I had experienced, and that I now knew I wasn’t alone in. Though I didn’t yet know what shape that solution would take, I knew (and felt) that I had uncovered an issue I was both passionate about, and uniquely qualified to address. (Had I known Russell Wilson, I might have asked myself: “why not me?”).

Why I Felt Compelled to Found BrightFunnel

Deep down, I am — in the words of a former boss — a “truth seeker.” And I think many marketers (especially product marketing and demand gen types) are wired the same way. We love marketing for its unique combination of challenges requiring both the right and left brains. We’re creative, but we want to use data to validate our assumptions and turn them into actions with predictable results. But we lack the insights necessary to do so.

Yes, our teams have access to incredible marketing automation tools like Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot, Act-On and Hubspot. Sending emails and nurture campaigns through such platforms has never been easier. And our teams have systems to manage everything from online ads to webinars to A/B testing. But paradoxically, “seeing the whole elephant” has never been harder. As CMOs, many of our team members each have technology they rely on, but we are left flying blind.

And the key obstacle remains: How can we process all of this data and meld it into something that yields predictive, actionable revenue insight? How can we measure ourselves against meaningful external benchmarks?

In October of 2012, I decided to answer that question by foregoing enticing CMO job opportunities to found BrightFunnel. It was around that same time that my wife and I received the happy news that we were expecting our first child. So, foregoing a steady path in an already-established company for the uncertain one of starting a company was not an easy choice.

But then the five conversations I had with CMOs turned into 20, and then to 50. The patterns and problems everyone was facing were clear to me, and the way the future would unfold — had to unfold — was evident. CMOs needed to move into the same realm as their peers in executive suite. They needed to be able to make decisions that mattered. They needed to be able to get answers to their burning questions about how their activities and decisions tied to revenue outcomes.

Marketing needed to finally become a revenue function. Marketing needed to look forward, instead of being stuck neurotically glancing at a hazy rearview mirror.

At this point, our journey has really just begun. But I’m proud to say that a solution finally exists that can help CMOs address the oft-uncomfortable quagmire of determining the future revenue impact of each decision they make.

I just wish I’d thought of it before that board meeting in 2011…

Why CMOs Don’t Have Insights

Why CMOs Don’t Have Insights

Chief marketing officers (CMOs), unlike other line-of-business executives, are in a unique quandary. Their responsibilities span across the customer journey–from awareness to engagement to sales–which makes it difficult to obtain C-level insights. Unlike sales, finance or HR functions, for example, marketing has no natural “atomic unit” which can easily roll up from individual to team to division and eventually up to the whole enterprise. As a result, even the most basic, existential questions–such as “how did we do last month?”–are often difficult to answer. And paradoxically, the massive wave of new marketing applications only makes the problem worse.

No Atomic Unit

Marketing, by necessity is a diverse function, encompassing artists and quants under the same roof. But ultimately, its mission is to drive future revenues. Unfortunately, the only metrics readily available to marketers are interim ones — such as traffic, leads, awareness, followers and attendees. This lack of visibility into the true impact of marketing spend frustrates both CMOs and their executive peers.

CIO Parallels

Ironically, this makes CMOs more similar to CIOs than it does to their line-of-business peers. CIOs have long dealt with disparate metrics such as cost, speed, innovation and security. Where the similarities end is that CIOs have many tools at their disposal to measure and manage their universe, whereas CMOs do not.

An Eight Billion Dollar Gorilla Has Yet to Emerge

Software vendors have emerged to provide CxO insights to sales, finance, HR and IT executives. But the same cannot be said for CMOs. The market simply wasn’t mature enough 5 or 10 years ago, and the CMO IT stack had yet to emerge.

The New CMO IT Stack Only Makes Things Worse

The good news is that we are now seeing a massive wave of new marketing applications emerge. This helps sub-functions within marketing–such as the demand generation team or the social media team–do their jobs better. The bad news is that it only makes the CMO’s job harder, as they now have even more data to track.

The Marketing Cloud Wars Will Sort This Out

As companies like Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle battle for the hearts and minds of the CMO, it will be interesting to watch what solutions emerge to solve this pressing problem. In the meantime, go to your local CMO, give them a big hug and say “I understand now. You’re flying completely blind.”