How to Convert Marketing From A Cost Center To A Business EngineActionable Marketing Podcast
The MBA marketing playbook is growing increasingly ineffective by the day. How to convert marketing from a cost center to a business engine when activities that comprise many marketing plans have changed and no longer work. Such as:
✔️ Build a funnel.
✔️ Create and nurture MQLs.
✔️ Convert leads into SQLs.
✔️ Pass SQLs to Sales.
✔️ Close in 90 days.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the traditional marketing funnel doesn’t work with today’s fragmented buyer journey.
Let me paint a picture for you:
You’re the latest CMO to join a growth-stage SaaS company. You entered the position after a wildly successful stint with your former employer. You’ve knocked the marketing ball out of the proverbial park and now you’re ready to do the same with your newest venture.
You and your team are doing good work.
You’re winning marketing awards.
But despite implementing a proven marketing strategy, the business isn’t moving forward.
It feels like any day now the CEO or board will run you out the door. You’re always looking over your shoulder, wondering, Is this the day I’m going to get the call? You fear you’ll become yet another CMO to contribute to the shocking tenure statistics filling your LinkedIn feed.
It may not surface until after a beer or two at happy hour, but most CMOs can relate to the fear and stress of the volatility within the C-suite for marketing professionals.
But here’s the secret: It doesn’t have to be this way, and it’s pretty easy to fix.
You already have the marketing tools to execute a strategy successfully; there’s no need to go to another marketing seminar. Instead, it’s all about spending your efforts on learning the business and becoming a strategic player, not just a cost center.
On an episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast, I discuss why the funnel is on a trajectory to extinction and how marketers can contribute to a business’s strategic engine. I also share essential first steps for CMOs ready to begin thinking creatively and strategically about their business.
- B2B companies are experiencing a shorter and shorter window of opportunity to close deals. These days, most buyers would rather shop solo and engage a salesperson only when necessary.
- As a result of shifting buyer behaviors, marketers must start thinking more strategically about campaigns. Sales, Product, and Marketing are becoming increasingly entwined.
- Stop paying attention to the latest marketing trends and start deepening your understanding of the business behind your business. CMOs who understand revenue and strategic planning are better positioned for success.
The funnel is yesterday’s news.
The buyer’s journey is no longer linear; it’s fragmented. According to Gartner, the average B2B buyer is 57% of the way through their purchasing journey before they even contact a vendor. Let that sink in for a minute as you think about your time trying to “fill the top of the funnel.” By the time customers reach out, they’ve already created a short list. The good old days of warming up the prospect simply don’t exist anymore.
Buyers prefer to do it themselves these days.
This means marketers can’t nurture leads and pass them off to sales as they did in the go-go lead gen marketing days. Buyers no longer need Sales. The information’s already out there!
Websites can’t consist of high-level fluff with catchy little slogans. Instead, they must convey useful information with actionable insights.
But how can a CMO know what a company needs to convey if they don’t have a firm grasp of the business’s objectives?
“Now more than ever, CMOs must have a command of the industry ecosystem in order to implement successful, targeted marketing tactics.”
Are you fishing in the wrong hole? Are you going after the wrong ICP?
If you don’t know the business, you’ll never be able to answer the question.
Get over attribution turf wars and, instead, embrace revenue.
When things aren’t going well, it’s easy to point fingers. Most of us have done it. And most of us have also been on the receiving end.
But these days, Sales, Product, and Marketing are so intertwined it’s hard to untangle the web and identify a single offender.
Stop blaming one another and dodging responsibility. Instead, start learning from each other.
It’s time for CMOs to talk about revenue.
Ask questions. Strike up conversations that the CMOs before you would never discuss.
Restructure your weekly one on ones with your CEO.
Instead of focusing 100% on reporting, spend 30% of your time asking your CEO about the bigger picture.
For example, ask about the planned acquisition or the new product rollout.
Explain that by gaining a more profound knowledge of the business strategy, you can frame marketing efforts to drive forward company initiatives.
Not only will it help you be a better marketer, but it’s also the surest way to gain the deepest respect from your CEO as a core business driver versus the manager of a cost center (marketing).
Two magical things happen when you commit to understanding the business beyond your CMO role:
1. The wars over attribution and ROI disappear.
In the last 10 years, I’ve had few serious conversations where a CEO or CFO has challenged the ROI of my work. Of course, I’m not saying we haven’t had discussions around whether or not something is a good investment, but my commitment to understanding the business strategy allowed the rest of the C-suite to see the marketing team’s value as essential to driving revenue.
2. The Sales team becomes your friends and allies.
When you stop finger-pointing, the fog clears. The measurable (and immeasurable) aspects of your team’s contributions rise to the surface. Those in Revenue start to pay attention to how your work is part of the bigger strategy.
A common scenario:
Your CRO approaches you and says: Look, I can’t quite quantify it, but now when my salespeople are making calls, people know us. When we pick up the phone, it’s not as hard as it use to be.
They continue, “Maybe it’s the podcast. Maybe it’s the latest thought leadership piece… “
Your CRO doesn’t know what, but they can feel that what marketing is doing makes it easier (faster) to close deals.
Shift the narrative and become a strategic engine, not a cost center.
Asking about the bigger picture doesn’t just earn you brownie points. It earns you a seat at the strategy table.
When you commit to understanding your company’s strategy and embrace your responsibilities beyond being “the creative” on the executive team, your fellow C-suiters will see you as an important piece of the business engine.
It’s going to take some self-education (more on that later), but it can transform your team’s effectiveness and the perception of the value your team delivers.
Let me be clear: This shift from working in a silo to a business strategist doesn’t absolve you of your other responsibilities. For example, you still have to develop and manage content, build marketing campaigns, preserve the brand and participate in trade shows.
But the difference is that when you need to spend $150 thousand on an upcoming event, you’re labeled not as a cost center but as a strategic engine.
Just because something’s been done in the past doesn’t mean it should always continue.
If the trade show isn’t effective anymore, cut it. And then replace it with something that will bring more value to the company.
Your spending should always move the needle.
When you understand the business strategy, your marketing efforts are clearly aligned to drive revenue. You’re no longer a thorn in the CFOs general ledger; you’re a valuable part of growth.
Ready to change with the B2B times? Take the first steps.
- Revenue is the oxygen of a business. So if you’re running out of air, put on your oxygen mask.
- Identify key players within your organization and get to know them. This may be your counterpart in another department, or it may be the CEO. Find an appropriate colleague based on your role within the company, and start talking to them.
- Ask to tag along on some sales calls. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn just by sitting in the room. You must learn sales to become an effective marketer.
- Read — a lot. Start teaching yourself as much as you can about business strategy. Bypass (yet another) book on the latest marketing craze and instead start selecting books that will make you well-rounded. Two of my favorites are:
“The Qualified Sales Leader: Proven Lessons from a Five Time CRO” by John McMahon
So what are you waiting for? There is zero downside to this strategy.
By understanding the business behind your business, you’ll advance your career by leaps and bounds.
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