How Marketers Can Claim a Seat at the Strategy Table

Here’s an understatement: People who have been marketers for 15 or more years have seen their profession utterly transformed.

The pace of change has been positively dizzying: We’ve had to learn to use new tools. We’ve had to become fluent in a new professional language. And we’ve had to embrace new responsibilities.

That last change is the most salient, and while the downside is scary — become a full-fledged link in value chain or lose relevance — the upside is exhilarating.

Behind all the changes is one overarching idea: Gorgeous creative and compelling copy aren’t enough anymore.

Today’s marketers need to be able to not only drive revenue but demonstrate their contributions using credible data. The evolution of tools and language illustrate this point: When I started out in marketing, the purchasing journey was said to progress from “awareness” to “consideration” to “preference” to “purchase.” Our campaigns reflected that straight line.

The wholesale shift to digital marketing upended previous notions about the purchasing journey, which has become much less linear. Leads move in and out of trackable status over lengthy purchasing cycles and more collaborative decision-making processes, particularly in the B2B space.

This makes it more difficult for marketing and sales teams to attribute revenue to campaigns without tools designed specifically for that purpose. But the saving grace is that everything in digital is much more measurable, and the tools are available.

A new lingo has evolved to describe these measurable consumer activities: The leads that used to meet marketing’s “awareness” standard are now called “marketing qualified leads,” or MQLs.

The leads once called “prospects” by sales are now commonly referred to as “sales accepted leads,” or SALs.

Process components have also been renamed, with the “top of the funnel” now called TOFU and the old “consideration” and “preferences” categories merged into the “middle of the funnel,” or MOFU.

The “purchase” phase is now BOFU, or “bottom of the funnel.”

In the old days, marketing’s primary role was seen as enriching the top of the funnel to raise awareness.

Back then, it was mainly salespeople who embraced the funnel concept since they were accountable for transforming prospects into customers. The digital revolution changed all that: As Forrester Research shows, 90 percent of the buying journey may be completed before a salesperson ever hears from a prospect.

That means marketing is now responsible for creating campaigns that measurably attract and nurture leads all the way through the funnel.

Unfortunately, too many marketers have missed this shift and are still focused squarely on the top of the funnel (TOFU), which means they’re missing the lion’s share of the revenue generation process.

As tasty as tofu can be, it’s not a good idea to try to live entirely on a tofu diet.

Similarly, marketers should avoid consuming TOFU only as well: Ignoring MOFU and BOFU means losing the opportunity to guide potential customers through the funnel.

Unmistakably, this enormous yet remarkably unheralded shift in responsibility is a huge opportunity for the marketers who embrace full funnel marketing. But it will require shifts in thinking as well, not just a new vocabulary and technology tools.

The first step is to realize that the rules of the game have changed fundamentally and change strategy accordingly by taking ownership of activities below the surface of the marketing funnel.

Another necessary step is to align activities more closely with sales. There’s no denying that there’s a long-running rivalry between sales and marketing at many organizations, but the fact is, both groups are on the same team — their organization’s — and they need to collaborate more effectively.

One important step is to create a single source of data that both teams regard as credible so they can agree on current status and jointly develop measurable objectives.

Sales-marketing collaboration is often stymied by the fact that salespeople (and often the larger organization) typically rely on a CRM platform whereas marketers use various marketing automation platforms to generate data and reports.

This needn’t be an insurmountable obstacle.

Thanks to technology advances, it is now possible for marketers to integrate data from popular automation tools into leading CRM platforms, which allows the two teams to work together seamlessly and share common data points and analysis.

Armed with bullet-proof data that everyone agrees is credible, marketing leaders can take the final step toward mastering the new game: claiming a seat at the strategy table.

By using technology that enables them to work within the same platforms sales and operations use and analysis tools that allow them to accurately attribute revenue to specific campaign touches, marketing leaders can finally own their place in the organization’s value chain.

About the Author: Bonnie Crater is the CEO of Full Circle Insights, a company run by former Salesforce executives, product managers, and marketing automation specialists who design and build products that deliver reliable marketing data inside Salesforce.