Getting Smarter About Pipeline Marketing
Should marketers be compensated like the sales team? Aaron Bird, CEO of Bizible, suggests that marketers should adopt a pipeline marketing philosophy and focus on what truly matters ― revenue and pipeline ― rather than leads, which are really just a proxy for what matters.
In this episode of the Rethink Podcast, Act-On CMO Michelle Huff interviews Bird for his insights on how to better understand marketing revenue attribution. They discuss a range of topics, such as the importance of measuring what you can, understanding attribution, and the concept of pipeline marketing.
Enjoy the conversation, and we hope you can get one or two helpful takeaways to bring to your business.
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This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.
Michelle Huff: Aaron, can you tell us more about yourself and Bizible?
Aaron Bird: Bizible helps marketing teams measure what’s working, so that they can make better decisions about marketing investments, really focusing on what matters to the business. So, revenue, lifetime value, pipeline, that kind of thing. We help marketers distill down their marketing activity, their campaigns, their investments, and really figure out what’s the ROI and where they should be spending more time and effort.
Michelle: What does the landscape look like for reporting and attribution? Are most marketers using it today?
Aaron: In the broader landscape, marketing measurement, obviously every marketing team does some sort of measurement. From that perspective, it’s 100 percent. Every marketing team is measuring how many leads they generated, or how many people they reached, or something like that. But what we really focus on is looking more down the funnel and more around the metrics that sales and the business care about, so [that means] revenue. And if you think about how many B2B marketing teams are really measuring their impact on revenue across the different channels that they’re investing in, today it’s probably 400 or 500 companies out there doing that and growing really fast.
What to Measure
Michelle: What’s your advice to marketers to better understand their revenue drivers?
Aaron: First off, ideally you measure to revenue. But if you can’t, or if you have a very long sales cycle, from the first marketing touch to closed-won revenue is 18 months, and if you’re starting today, waiting 18 months to get the feedback loop going is obviously not going to work. There can be some limitations that are either just limitations in your data and what data you have access to, or even just structural things like the business model that you can’t change around the sales and marketing cycle.
Ideally you go to revenue. But if not, then back up the funnel. Maybe the opportunity is created within four months. And then it’s 14 months of the field sales team going out. So then measure opportunities at least. Or measure pipeline. Or pick a stage of opportunity that’s relevant, that if you get into the negotiation state or something like that, that once you get there you have a 90 percent win rate or something. Look at your funnel from top- of-the-funnel awareness all the way down to closed-won deals, and pick where you want to measure to.
And you can take assumptions. If your average win rate is 15 percent and your deal size is $100,000, then an opportunity is worth X amount of money to you. So, you should be able to spend Y amount of money to get it.
And then on the data side, there are two dimensions where it’s really critical to measure marketing. First is that you’re measuring all of your channels. And this is the biggest problem we see when customers come to us for the first time. You need a system that’s measuring field’s impact alongside digital’s or demand gen, so that you can see that full buying journey and understand how they influence each other. That’s the first dimension.
And then the second is just that it’s the full funnel. So, you don’t just measure the very top of the funnel, or the very bottom of the funnel, or the beginning or the end of the buying journey, depending on how you think about it. You want to make sure you get the whole story. Maybe the field is working at the end of the buying journey, and the digital team is working at the top or the beginning of the buying journey. You want to make sure both of those teams are getting credit for their contribution to that whole story.
Full funnel and all channels are critical when you’re bringing the data together, so the CMO has a holistic story to talk to the board and the CEO about. And everybody on the marketing team then has a stake in their participation and revenue, which is what we know they do. And you just want to make sure that the data supports that.
Michelle: Could you explain single-touch and multi-touch attribution and why marketers would be using one over the other?
Aaron: The goal is to make better marketing decisions. It’s to make the right investments that take the right prospects and get them into the hands of the sales team so the sales team can then close them. And, in some cases, maybe even help the sales team accelerate or increase win rates on those deals.
Attribution is the tool you use to get the benefit of making better marketing investments. But doing the perfect attribution, or pointing fingers on who gets credit, I think sometimes misses the forest for the trees. It’s really about doing more marketing that gets the right people to buy and being a real partner with sales.
You asked about single-touch and multi-touch. Ideally, marketers should be using a multi-touch model. And that goes back to the idea of making sure you’re understanding the entire buying journey and marketing’s influence on the entire buying journey. Multi-touch attribution is kind of a buzzword, but that’s really what that means. It’s not just, “Let’s focus on what got somebody in the door at the very beginning of the journey,” it’s “Let’s focus on all of the marketing that helps move them through the journey.”
Michelle: What’s pipeline marketing to you?
Aaron: I’ll contrast pipeline marketing with just lead generation. I hate the phrase “lead gen” or “lead generation.” It’s everywhere, like every resume, every LinkedIn skill, people talk about it. And in the end, it’s eyeball generation. Or page-view generation. Because it doesn’t matter how many leads you generate. It really matters how much relevant pipeline and revenue you have. Pipeline marketing is about focusing on the thing that we know matters and not a proxy for what matters.
I think it’s pushing marketers to think further down the funnel or the buying journey, and not thinking about MQLs and leads, but really about how marketing teams generate revenue, how marketing teams generate pipeline. And how sales teams service revenue and service pipeline.
One of the goals we have at Bizible is that marketing teams are measured and compensated on the exact same metrics as the sales team. I’d like to see a day where every marketer has a 50/50 variable base comp just like the sales team. When we hire marketers here at Bizible, we tell them that and they get a little scared.
Michelle: Well, Aaron, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us today! We hope to talk to you again soon.