You have lots of data, but can you attribute revenue to your marketing campaigns using numbers that are credible to everyone? If not, you’ve got a proof gap. Find out how to close this gap and increase your job security, shares Bonnie Crater, CEO of Full Circle Insights.

Marketers have plenty of data. Say, you run a marketing department with a growing number of point solutions that automate outreach, streamline processes and capture information. Each solution generates its own volumes of data via dashboards and reporting tools. You might even say you’re drowning in data.

The problem is, while the data your point solutions produce is useful and necessary for tactical purposes, it’s not strategic. It measures activities instead of ROI. This creates a “proof gap”, which can leave you unable to demonstrate your contribution to revenue — and vulnerable on the job.

This is especially true for B2B marketing, where the sales cycle tends to be longer, more decision-makers are involved in purchasing and products are usually more expensive and complex. The longer the cycle, the harder it is to measure the path to a purchase.

In the past, CEOs may have accepted the proof gap because conventional wisdom held that marketing’s impact is just “too difficult to measure”. But now, CFOs and CEOs are demanding proof of ROI. In effect, they’re saying, “I gave you $X last year; how did that investment pay off?” This leaves marketing teams scrambling to close the proof gap.

Flying Blind: Limited Visibility into the Buyer Journey

B2B buyer groups are changing, as Gartner recently noted. More millennials are taking part in purchasing decisions, and they tend to be more skeptical about marketing and sales pitches. Gartner also noted that the buyer journey is less linear than it used to be — it “follows anything but a straight line from beginning to end”. Decision makers have more access to information, and younger buyers especially tend to prefer researching products on their own over asking sales reps for information.

This creates challenges for B2B marketing groups that rely solely on tactical metrics. Like a pilot flying in a cloud, their visibility is limited. They can’t see the buyer journey clearly, and that can lead to breakdowns in the marketing-to-sales handoff, like false positives in lead generation. Say, if a potential buyer downloads a whitepaper or watches a video on a B2B company’s site, creating a lead, but then priorities shift or budgets fall short, making the prospect less receptive to contact. With limited visibility into the buyer journey, an activity metric from a point solution might trigger an aggressive sales effort that has the opposite of the intended effect and drives the prospect away.

Limited visibility is also a problem when point solutions fail to provide insight into buyer roles. This can result in counter-productive engagement with the wrong messaging. For example, software developers are famously allergic to marketing and sales pitches, so marketing develops specific content to reach that audience. But if the team has difficulty identifying which audience interacts with the company at specific stages of the buyer journey, they risk alienating prospects with the wrong message. It’s like a pilot without instrument rating flying blind — a good outcome is unlikely.

Who Gets Credit: Data Over Time

Limited visibility into the buyer journey isn’t the only problem with point solutions. The data they generate also falls short in placing interactions in context over time. By their nature, point solutions measure specific types of activity. If you use an automated email tool, you know how many emails were opened. Your online advertising platform reports the number of impressions and clicks. And you measure responses to offline programs like trade shows.

All of this information is useful, but in a complex B2B sales cycle, marketing has to find a way to stitch all the data together over time to reveal a complete picture. For example, say the sales team makes a great presentation at a trade show, and an attendee picks up marketing collateral and encourages colleagues to check it out. After other members of the buyer team gather information in their own way and at their own pace, they make a decision, reach out to sales and complete a purchase. That’s great, right?

But if you’re relying on point solutions to document that process, reconstructing the path to that purchase will probably prove impossible. You need a way to stitch the data from the various point solutions together in a single repository that both your sales and marketing teams trust. You need a method to accurately attribute revenue to various touches (trade show, webinar, whitepaper, etc.) along the way to understand which marketing investments contributed to revenue.

Bringing the Proof of Marketing’s Contributions

Point solutions keep proliferating — as Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape has documented over the years, a sector that offered about 150 solutions in 2011 has grown to more than 7,000 solutions in 2019. New automation tools and more choices can be a great thing for marketers, and the data those solutions produce can be invaluable if interpreted and applied correctly.

But to demonstrate ROI (and keep your job), you have to generate strategic data — information that provides a clear view of the buyer journey and an accurate account of touches over time. By understanding the path buyers’ take toward purchases, marketing and sales can optimize interactions, nurturing leads at the top of the funnel and providing the right messages to the right audiences at every stage of the buyer journey. With a single source of data truth that encompasses information from marketing and sales, marketing can attribute revenue to campaigns, from initial touch to purchase.

So, if you want to close the proof gap, find a way to bring all of your point solution data onto a single platform, and build strategic reporting capabilities using the tactical data flowing in from multiple sources. When you can attribute revenue to campaigns using data that is credible to everyone, you can answer the ROI question, proving that marketing is the revenue engine you know it is. That capability generates dividends for marketing in the form of more investments — and greater job security.

Originally posted on MarTech Advisor.

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