Last year, Bob Evans of Oracle wrote a list of marketing challenge and opportunity predictions for Forbes. He began with a strong message: "Fortified with unprecedented analytical tools and deep insights into customer behavior, charge-leading, business-model-upending CMOs in 2016 will claim new responsibilities for revenue, seize ownership of the end-to-end customer experience, and take leading roles in the digital transformations of their organizations."
Evans was on point. With claiming responsibility, seizing ownership and taking new leading roles came the challenges he foresaw. Facing those challenges became an organizational theme in 2016. In 2017, it's time to overcome them.
Clearing the Reporting Hurdle Together
One of the most challenging aspects of marketing in 2016 was reporting. Specifically, detailing marketing contribution to pipeline and revenue became an expectation you can't afford not to meet.
There are two main categories of reports that should interest you:
• Executive level
• Leading indicator
An executive-level report should detail overall contribution to the organization's growth. In the past, marketers detailed information about leading indicators in their executive-level reports — numbers like site traffic, lead count or engagement. But executives don't need those numbers. Those numbers should be saved for leading indicator reports, allowing you to make in-period strategy changes based on how things are trending. Even marketing contribution to pipeline is a leading indicator; it's not closed/won yet.
For executive-level reporting, it's more important than ever to show marketing contribution to revenue. If you've invested in systems to take you past the lead-measuring stage and into closed loop reporting, you've opened those systems up to criticism — just by the nature of making an investment. (They're supposed to pay off, after all!) The whole organization knows what the systems are supposed to do, so now the leadership team, and primarily the finance team, is looking for real visibility to justify spend.
Your tool has promised your teams that you can show marketing contribution to organizational growth. (see example below). Other teams might be doing this well by now, having overcome this challenge in 2016 and showing that it's possible. So if you still need to work on accurate reports, it's not the lack of resources or tools holding you back anymore. It's tool configuration and team alignment.
The configuration and the level of adoption through your sales organization go hand in hand. You need to be able to see the whole flow, from first entry as a lead to deal close, if you're going to correctly nail down attribution. But if, for example, your sales team isn't properly associating a deal to a contact, the reports won't be correct.
Another possible problem: What if your sales reps are not connecting a contact to an opportunity? Or if they're not associating all the contacts in the buying group with the opportunity? Consider, too, what happens when an offline lead is entered incorrectly. A referral lead should be entered as an SQL and tagged as an offline lead. If the process isn't being followed, that lead could later be recorded as a marketing lead, (if it converts on some marketing content) — even if the sales rep had the first conversation. That's problematic for the accuracy of your reports.
Some of the most common reporting challenges come from lack of alignment and/or poor configuration. Perhaps there is just a delay on CRM entry, or the leads are added but with no source selected. These are process, people and platform problems. So, how do you fix them?
Better Reporting Requires Marketing and Sales Alignment
As we mentioned, all of the technology is available for you to get this right. Your first order of business is to clean up your Salesforce. It needs to be configured (or reconfigured) to use the correct tracking fields.
Then, you all need training. Sales team members need to know, for example, how to enter the correct source. That's because funnels aren't linear, and the same lead that was a sales lead will interact with marketing later and vice versa. That's a good thing. But if the original source wasn't generated in marketing, it shouldn't be included in marketing's contribution to revenue. Your sales team needs to be on board with getting it right, and to do that, they need to know the platform and the process well. Training is crucial.
Third, focus on visibility and error tracking. Deals need to be error free. In order to understand which information should be in your report, but isn't, it's important to track negatives and not just positives. Find out what's going wrong.
If you have a Salesforce admin on your team, this type of tracking isn't likely to be in your skillset. Maybe you've never had to do this before at all, and attribution hasn't been on top of your priority list. But it's 2017, so it's time to get on board! To get attribution and those executive-level reports right, you'll want to understand not only which metrics you need to report on, but also your holistic process for tracking a lead to a result.
Good executive-level reports require you all to straddle the marketing-sales divide. If you were to only create reports for marketing, you'll miss things you'd see if you created the full attribution report with awareness of what's happening on the sales end. The same is true when the roles are flipped. To achieve your reporting objectives and tackle that 2016 challenge head on in 2017, marketing and sales leaders need to encourage company-wide understanding: these KPIs should measure success for both marketing and sales, not one or the other.
As Alexis Geltscher writes for Bizible, "Attribution makes it possible to see which marketing pieces have the most impact on the bottom line. To do this, it connects sales and marketing data which comes with a common side effect of sales and marketing alignment. The 2015 State of Pipeline Marketing Report showed that 86.7% of marketers with a multi-touch attribution model in place said that they have a well-aligned relationship with their sales team."
Attribution contributes to alignment, and alignment contributes to accurate attribution. Aim for people, process and platform alignment and get started on configuration, training and visibility. 2017 is the year!