B2B Marketing Metrics to Impress the C-Suite

Interview with Bonnie Crater, President & CEO, Full Circle Insights
Hosts: Dave Green & Jonathan Greene, LeadCrunch

In this episode of the Green & Greene Show, the LeadCrunch B2B podcast, seasoned marketing experts discuss B2B marketing metrics with Bonnie Crater.

Podcast Transcript

Jonathan Greene:          Well, anyway, we got Bonnie Crater today. She is the president and CEO Full Circle Insights. I’m stoked, frankly, ma’am.

Jonathan Greene:          And we’ve got my buddy here. He’s the priest, the prophet. He’s the rabbi of ROI. He’s the reverend of run rate. It’s our own David Green. Always a pleasure to have you on the show, sir.

Dave Green:                 Yeah. Bonnie, welcome.

Bonnie Crater:              Hey, thanks.

Jonathan Greene:          All right. So you’re building software for marketers. You’ve been a vice president of like everything on God’s earth. You’ve been an executive at Oracle and Salesforce, and probably somehow involved in the formation of Google, if I had to guess. What else? What have you not done, might be the easiest question to start with.

Bonnie Crater:              Well, I did miss the formation of Google. I was at Netscape at the time.

Jonathan Greene:          Oh, close enough. Close enough. So tell us what you’re doing over there at Full Circle and let’s start there.

Bonnie Crater:              Well, when we started the company … I am a former five-time VP of marketing and I really wanted to measure my marketing and I didn’t have the right tools in order to do that. What I really wanted was to be able to work really well with sales and create a funnel. A simple funnel so I could track volume and velocity and conversion rates and actually have all the data in one place so I could really analyze it. And so that was the kind of the formation of a Full Circle.

Bonnie Crater:              And then shortly after that, we got this idea. And at the time, this is six, seven years ago, people didn’t really know what the word attribution meant. Now it’s a commonly used term, but at the time we also wanted to, to create an offering that allowed our customers to be able to track the impact of every campaign on pipeline and revenue. And so we also built a set of models and attribution software that can be easily deployed

Jonathan Greene:          Right on. When you say easily deployed, you mean laid atop something like Salesforce?

Bonnie Crater:              Yeah. So our strategy was, since we really wanted sales and marketing people to work together well, the idea was let’s put all the data inside Salesforce and let’s do it in a really efficient way because Salesforce charges money for storage. So you don’t want to put everything in there. But put the most important information inside Salesforce that allows you to track the most important metrics around campaign impact on pipeline and revenue.

Jonathan Greene:          I don’t know, Dave, sales and marketing working together, it sounds like a scam. What do you think?

Dave Green:                 I’ve heard about it, but it doesn’t happen too often.

Bonnie Crater:              Yeah, so our idea was that because marketing is working in these different marketing systems and sales was working in Salesforce, that was the start of the big problem. And so we thought, “Oh, well what if we just get marketing and sales to have the same information that they’re working from?” That’s a good place to start to have a meeting. Then you’re not arguing about all the data. Who’s got the right data, who’s got the wrong data? That was a silly argument.

Dave Green:                 So I think Jonathan and I understand why marketers should measure stuff and you understand that there’s a lot of people in the audience that maybe are newer at this and it’s not just why, but also how. How to go about it in a way that yields the kind of results they’re looking for. Can you speak to that just a little bit, Bonnie?

Bonnie Crater:              Yeah. In the battle days we used to just measure how many leads we generated.

Dave Green:                 Yeah.

Bonnie Crater:              So that was the measurement. “I generated 6 million leads.” And then you’d give them to the sales people and then they would say, “Those 6 million leads are terrible.” And then your feelings were hurt. And then you would find out that they never followed up on the 6 million leads and then your feelings were even worse hurt.

Bonnie Crater:              So anyway, this is the start of the issue. So we decided that, in order for marketing and sales to have a good conversation, marketing needs to talk like sales. It needs to talk about results. Because those people are under huge amount of pressure to get results. And your poor CMO or VP of marketing that’s sitting with the CEO at the weekly meeting doesn’t have any data to work with, any good data to have a reasonable conversation with the VP of sales or the CFO who is all about the data. So we wanted to arm the marketing people to have really, really good engaging conversations with sales. To say, “Yeah, maybe that program didn’t actually work. But this other one is really performing well,” and “Oh, yeah. Your mid-market group, not following up on the leads. What’s going on there? Can we dig into that a little bit?”

Bonnie Crater:              So in terms of why, there’s many reasons. One is in order for marketing to really participate in a company, really, really participate, marketing is always viewed as a source of driving sales. But to be able to actually prove that, prove what’s working, what’s not working, is very valuable to a company. In fact, we invented this method and we call it the Full Circle method, And this is a set of best practices that are our customers use. And when they actually do this method, they uncover all the campaigns that are working great, ones that are working so-so, and then ones that are working not so well at all. Because the dirty little secret is that there’s a lot of campaigns that actually don’t really work that great. So just knowing what they are, you can redeploy all of that money to campaigns that are working well. And then you can get a big lift on your marketing budget.

Dave Green:                 Yeah. It helps. It helps to be able to actually talk about the economics of the spend as opposed to just the cost.

Bonnie Crater:              Oh, yeah.

Dave Green:                 That gets you a seat at the executive table, ultimately, if you’re good at it.

Bonnie Crater:              Yeah. And, and the CFO loves this information.

Jonathan Greene:          We actually wrote a paper where we portrayed CFOs as fire-breathing dragons in a cave.

Bonnie Crater:              You feed the dragons some data and the fire goes away.

Jonathan Greene:          Yeah.

Dave Green:                 So what have you learned about measurement through this journey, both as a VP of marketing and as a company trying to productize it and make it easier for people to do? What have you learned are some of the common pitfalls and things that people should do and should be thinking about?

Bonnie Crater:              Yeah, so the first thing is exactly what to measure. I do this advertisement for SiriusDecisions because I’m a huge fan of them. And they invented this thing called the waterfall. And a lot of B2B marketers are really familiar with this. But anyway, the simple ones, which are great to start off with, are identify as a set of stages in a funnel that provides a common language for both sales and marketing to you.

Bonnie Crater:              So the first thing is common language. Making sure that everybody understands. What is a marketing qualified lead? What is the definition of that exactly and what are you supposed to do with it when you … And then what is the process? And everyone having agreement on the process. That’s sort of table stakes.

Bonnie Crater:              Once you have that, making sure that you have a good set of data. So if your marketing data is in one system and your sales data is in another system, that is trouble, just off the bat. You got to get all your information into one system. We advocate putting it all on Salesforce because that’s where all of the salespeople are living anyway. And so marketing just puts their information in there too. Then everybody’s looking at the same dashboard and report and it’s all cool.

Bonnie Crater:              Then the third thing is communication. Marketing people are often afraid to talk to these sales people because they’re afraid of the feedback on their leads. But the best customers that we see, the best marketers that we see, have a weekly meeting to discuss all of this information. And then they identify opportunities. That’s where things aren’t going so well. That’s an opportunity to make things better. And then they identify areas where things are going really well and it makes sense to recommend it more investments in those areas. So those are the basically the three things that we would recommend.

Dave Green:                 Yeah. I’ve always found that the … And you kind of alluded to it. This handoff is the critical part. If you don’t get anything else off, at least start there and see what happens from the time that you hand a lead over to, whether it’s an SDR team or a salesperson, what happens? And does it look like a lead to them? And they’ll have a point of view about that. And then, are they putting reasonable due diligence around those that do meet whatever the agreement is between those two teams. I can’t believe how much revenue leaks as a direct result of those handoff stages and people not really looking at them. And especially when you start them off. Because you do your best, that’s how it should work, and then you find out all the things you didn’t think about and to try to go from there and optimize.

Bonnie Crater:              Yeah. And that really goes back to definition. What are the sales people expecting in terms of a lead? What is a marketing qualified lead? And once you have that profile, that definition, a lot of problems are solved. And that’s really table stakes in order to make this all work well.

Dave Green:                 Yeah. We actually have a service level agreement here where we talk that stuff through. And we’ll be revisiting it. So I think that’s one of those things you just have to do. And I agree with you about serious decisions. I think we should all be really grateful that they came up with this demand waterfall framework years ago. A little bit peeved that they made it so darn complicated, but their heart was in the right place.

Bonnie Crater:              That was because people complained. The original waterfall that everybody understood was too simple and it didn’t include any sales people. And I laughed when I first saw it because it was all marketing in the funnel. And sales had like one line, one stage, like nothing happened, that the sales people weren’t doing anything. Anyway. So they needed to beef that up and add the sales components. And then once they did that, that color-coding that was really complicated. And then there’s all those variations now of whether you’re a response space, have response-based marketing, or you have account-based marketing, and how that all works in it. So it gets complicated pretty fast, but it does provide a lot of platform for some good intellectual discussions, and a platform before just general discussion about how you optimize your business using these frameworks.

Dave Green:                 So one of the things I really learned .. It takes a while to get there depending on the buying cycle, but is the … I call them baselines. How many leads did I generate and how many SQLs and MQLs and so on at different points in time. And what is that trending like and what are the conversions like, so that you can kind of see whether you’re getting better than you used to be. Can you talk a little bit about how you go about that and what you need to be setting the expectations for with leadership in terms of these metrics?

Bonnie Crater:              Yeah. It’s very important to set a baseline, as you say. And typically the baseline is, when you start, when you decide, “Okay, I’m going to start measuring my marketing.” And so you have to establish what those with those baselines are. So, with regard to a funnel, the length of your sales cycle has a huge effect on how you can actually do this. So if you have a sales cycle that’s a year and a half long, it’s going to take a long time to get a complete funnel going. But you can get some early indicators and actually use more top of the funnel metrics to actually get impact immediately. But if your sales cycle’s nice and short, a few days long, a few weeks long, those companies have an advantage because they can actually see more immediate impact. So they make a change and then you know, literally several weeks later or several days later, they can actually see if it actually had an impact. So that’s setting your baseline metrics. So being able to measure a full funnel is very helpful in that. Being able to get information on what your current top campaigns for revenue impact and pipeline impact. That’s very important. Just getting the baselines and starting off with that.

Bonnie Crater:              But setting expectations with management that this is what you’re doing first. It’s hard for us to set goals without actually knowing how the marketing is working. But when you have that information, it’s super valuable.

Dave Green:                 And then over time … I don’t know how many marketers understand this, but that data becomes a framework for forecasting what you’re going to do in the future. You can go back, look at your conversion rates and your average deal size and project out, “All right, if I pour this many marketing inquiries into the top, here’s what’s going to come out at the other end.”

Bonnie Crater:              Yeah, you can do that. But as we all know, the world changes every day. Your customers are changing, your products are changing, your salespeople are changing, your programs are changing, everything is changing. And so, while you can use that as a guideline, as a good starting place. It’s not a firm …. There’s no terra firma that’s what I’m trying to say.

Dave Green:                 Yeah, absolutely.

Bonnie Crater:              It’s a guideline and a baseline.

Dave Green:                 It’s better than making it up though.

Bonnie Crater:              It is a whole lot better than making it up. And the CEO totally appreciates that you’re not making it up.

Dave Green:                 Yeah. Point well taken. You have to go in there with your caveats and all of that so that people understand that the past is a, is only a little bit of a guide to the future. The future is its own thing.

Bonnie Crater:              Yeah.

Dave Green:                 What other thoughts would you have for marketers about their measurement journey of the funnel and of attribution?

Bonnie Crater:              So two thoughts here. One is the topic of attribution from our point of view is actually different than the topic of funnel metrics. And the purpose of these of these measurements is different. So the purpose of funnel metrics is really to understand how your marketing is working. And it’s largely about the process. How well is your process working? Because if you have a well-oiled machine and the handoffs are working well and you can see that your conversion rates trending better or your velocity is trending better and you can look to see which campaigns are actually driving those things.

Bonnie Crater:              That’s different than seeing the overall impact of a set of campaigns on sales. And so with these two metrics, they actually work hand in hand. Attribution is something that you typically would look at after a period of time has passed. So then you can see the marketing mix and what that marketing mix is that’s driving pipeline and revenue. Whereas funnel metrics is because these conversions happen on a frequent basis rather than totally to the close one deal, typically for most companies. That’s something that you can review on a more regular basis. And that’s what our best customers do is they literally have a weekly meeting looking at this data, seeing which campaigns are converting better than others, and then coming up with ideas for generating new opportunities for their companies.

Dave Green:                 Very good. Jonathan, I know attribution is a topic you’re passionate about. Do you have any questions or comments or?

Jonathan Greene:          Why do you feel like more people don’t do this? What do you feel like are the barriers to entry that the average marketer’s running up against when they’re trying to implement attribution?

Bonnie Crater:              Well, I think there’s a range of issues. So if you’re a smaller company, you have to have someone, a champion who’s really passionate about the data. And in a small company, being able to pay attention to that data can be challenging if you don’t have a champion, if you don’t make it a priority. I guess you could say the same thing for a big company, but typically in a larger company, if measurement has been thought of at all, there’ll be someone’s job it is to collect the data, review the data, analyze the data. And so those jobs are typically in place.

Bonnie Crater:              The job of marketing operations is a relatively new job. I think it’s probably a maybe a 10 year old job, I would say. And it has become a very, very important role in many companies, but many companies still don’t have someone whose job it is to do marketing operations. And the job of marketing operations is to own the lead management process and to be able to report on the results of all the campaigns. And if you have someone who’s doing that role, who loves living in the data and who loves reporting on the data and loves all the complexity that’s associated with that, that can be super valuable and companies will get a return on investment in spades just having someone whose job it is to focus on all of that.

Jonathan Greene:          Yeah, we have a guy who’s probably … I just locked him in the closet with a bunch of Red Bull and Doritos. He’s probably nerding out on data right now.

Jonathan Greene:          Well, listen. You’re an executive, but you’re also a marketer. So usually I’ve found in smaller companies when they try to go to attribution modeling, it’s because somebody at the executive level read an article and now understands that this sort of visibility is possible and where they want yesterday. And you mentioned the length of the sales cycle and all those things. What if I’m a practitioner level marketer, let’s say VP level and below, and I’m getting that pressure from the C suite to have analytics and attribution modeling stood up yesterday. How do I intelligently explain to people that, “Hey, this is going to take a little while. So ease off the beatings until …”

Bonnie Crater:              Yeah. So while the funnel metrics, the length of time that’s required in order to actually get a full set of metrics in place is basically based on your sales cycle length. Attribution modeling actually can happen immediately. So you can deploy a system that actually measures attribution and has immediate impact. So you can see that immediately.

Bonnie Crater:              You can also see top of the funnel metrics for companies that have longer sales cycles. So you can see what a marketing-qualified lead, how it converts to a sales-accepted lead, for example. And you can see that conversion relatively quickly. And so we’ve had companies that have had long sales cycles and so they take what they can get. So they do attribution right away and they can see well what the results are for the programs that they’ve had. And then they can make some adjustments based on that historical profile. And then they also will look at conversion rates at the top of the funnel. And even that, even making adjustments to get better conversion rates from an MQL to SAL, so marketing-qualified lead to sales-accepted lead, can be super helpful as well.

Jonathan Greene:          Right on. Dave, last question goes to you I think.

Dave Green:                 Yeah, I wanted to just touch on the, you can do attribution rapidly because I guess it all depends on your definition. Don’t you want to be able to tie revenue back to the attribution model that you have? I get that you can see who’s active at the top of the funnel and where you’re getting clicks and which call to action is working and which media channel is working the best and things like that from a top of the funnel standpoint. But there’s a lot of false positives up there. So I just wanted to understand your point of view about the rapidness of attribution.

Bonnie Crater:              Yeah. So if you implement a system like Full Circle … There may be some other ones out there. But if you implement a system like Full Circle, you can just lay it on top of your Salesforce instance and it will calculate which campaigns have been impacting sales. Within 24 hours you’ll have it. So …

Jonathan Greene:          As long as you had your campaign set up beforehand, right?

Bonnie Crater:              Yeah. So there are some requirements. So you need to be using campaigns inside Salesforce, but as long as you’re using campaigns inside Salesforce, and most people do because when the marking automation system is hooked up to Salesforce, it pushes leads into Salesforce. And typically they’re assigned to a sister campaign inside Salesforce. So most people have that set up correctly.

Bonnie Crater:              So again, you can get this type of information very, very rapidly. Yeah. And we also recommend starting off with some simple out of the box models so you can get a feel for how the data’s going to lay out. And when you’re looking at attribution and how you want to model your data, that over time, you’re going to want to make the models more specific to the goals, to the marketing goals, based on what your goals are so that you get a distribution and essentially it’s a score. But it’s a dollar amount assigned to campaigns that reflects the goals of your marketing organization.

Dave Green:                 Very good. Funny, very, very insightful about a tremendously important topic and one that ties directly to the level of funding commitment you’ll ultimately get from your company. Can you measure what you’ve done and show a return and are you making it a little better over time?

Bonnie Crater:              We have success story after success story about this, so. One of our customers runs an event and the CEO is skeptical about the success of the event. They can actually tie specifically what sales they got from that event. This year, this customer, they were able to quadruple the budget for that particular event just because they could really tie the result to the actual activity.

Dave Green:                 Very good. Well, thank you very much. Jonathan, any final comments or questions?

Jonathan Greene:          Man, this is the greatest B2B marketing show in all the land. In all the land. It’s just celebrity after celebrity after CEO after CEO. It’s like we’re sitting on the bench, Dave. We don’t really play.

Dave Green:                 I love that. You get other people on and then you walk to work and you just get to joke around. Bonnie, thank you so much.

Bonnie Crater:              It was really fun to talk with you guys.

Jonathan Greene:          Hey, t’s our pleasure and we’d love to have you back. And this has been the Green & Greene Show. I’m going to the play that funky music. Let’s go.

Speaker 1:                    Thank you for tuning in to the Green & Greene Show by LeadCrunch. Green and Greene think differently about B2B and our starting a movement to transform demand gen. If you have ideas for topics or would like to be a guest, send an email to david.green@leadcrunch.ai. If you’d like to find more customers, visit our website to talk to one of our demand gen guides, leapcrunch.com.

Speaker 2:                    Never going to grow up, never growing up, no.

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