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.