Best in Class Marketing: How to become a Business Value Creator

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B2B marketers face an increasingly skeptical audience in the C-level suite. Long considered a cost center and burdened by the perception it cannot measure its impact on business results, marketers need a way to prove their actions align to business results. Despite this general impression, some marketers remain very successful at demonstrating their connection to the bottom line. During MarTech 2016, Laura Patterson, president, Vision Edge Marketing, presented results of a benchmarking study as to how best-in-class marketers do things differently from the rest of the business communications pack.

The first thing all B2B marketers must realize is that the C-level suite expects marketing to serve as members of the business team. That means marketers must make data and metrics relevant to the business team and show the relationship between marketing activities and business results. In other words, how does marketing create value?

“The next logical evolution of marketing technology will provide actionable analytics across the entire ecosystem,” says Michael Torcasso, vice president of sales, SproutLoud, a channel marketing automation platform for local business sales channels. “You cannot market to build your business. You need to strategically and tactically use the right combination of traditional and digital channel marketing.”

Elite, middle-of-the-pack and laggard marketers

In fact, only a few elite marketers (i.e., value creators) can prove their value, contribution and impact on business results, according to Patterson. Her industry research shows that less than 30 percent of marketing departments get a grade of “A” with a supermajority getting a middling “B” or “C.”

These less-than-elite marketers fall into two camps, according to Patterson: sales enablers (i.e., middle-of-the-pack) and campaign producers (i.e., laggards). At least sales enablers service the salesforce and can improve and manage marketing performance whereas campaign producers simply track activities and outputs. On the other hand, value creators contribute to the business outcomes at their enterprises, according to Patterson.

“The clear takeaway is to start with a strong marketing strategy and then scale initiatives,” says Shari Johnston, senior vice president of marketing, Radius, a B2B predictive marketing technology company. “The right marketing talent (is) needed to implement these strategies: someone proactive, analytical, connected and empathetic.”

Elite marketers can improve key business results of revenue growth, pipeline and customer acquisition by up to 79 percent, according to Vision Edge Marketing research. With these types of results, C-level execs give value creators an 8.1 on a credibility scale of 1 to 10. In contrast, sales enablers and campaign producers only achieve 6.0 and 4.5 marks on the credibility scale, according to Vision Edge Marketing.

Aligning marketing for business outcome accountability

The secret to moving marketing from a hanger-on department within the enterprise to a strategic center of excellence lies in the ability of the marketer to know the industry and her company. She must develop business acumen as it pertains to the ability to quickly assimilate information from many sources and use it to quickly make good business decisions.

In order to acquire acumen, a marketer needs to be in the loop. She needs to know how the company operates and what’s at the top of mind for her leadership team. She needs to become the consummate collaborator by cultivating internal relationships and establishing alliances with other teams in sales, finance and IT. Figure out how to work together to serve the business better.

Looking externally, the would-be elite marketer must educate herself on the market her company plays in, customers, products, competitors and overall industry trends. This will give her context on a macro level, according to Patterson.

“What’s missing from the conversation (is) how to put all that data in context,” says Thao Ngo, vice president, marketing, Vision Critical, maker of software for engaging and understanding customers. “This missing piece, ‘small data,’ (is the) ongoing conversation with thousands of customers that helps separate the signal from the noise and gets to the core of what motivates customers to buy.”

Overall, the successful B2B marketer must manage from the perspective of the business and not her particular department. Patterson calls this maintaining line-of-sight, which starts with organizational alignment.

Once the acumen ability exists, the elite marketer can proceed to select the correct metrics that the C-level cares about. If she has identified these metrics, she can establish accountability with the upper echelon.

Three questions marketing has to ask

Before marketing attempts to take any particular course of action, the practitioner must ask three very pertinent questions:

  1. What specific measurable business outcomes will this program impact?
  2. How will this program contribute to moving the needle and how far?
  3. How should this program be measured to know if its objectives were achieved?

Value creators select the correct metrics for aligning activities with accountability 61 percent of the time, according to Vision Edge Marketing research. On the other hand, sales enablers and campaign producers only pick the right measurements 29 percent and 23 percent of the time, respectively.

All marketers have a lot of data to which they can refer. But it’s just not used, according to Patterson. However, best-in-class marketers can derive data that provides insight into customer buying patterns. These metrics focus on outcomes. With an actionable dashboard of these metrics, the marketer can make herself relevant to the business team. Thus, with acumen plus credibility and relevance, the marketer can turn into an influencer on the business team.

For additional coverage of MarTech 2016, click here.

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Derek Handova

Derek Handova

Derek Handova is a veteran journalist writing on various B2B vertical beats. He started out as associate editor of Micro Publishing News, a pioneer in coverage of the desktop publishing space and more recently as a freelance writer for Digital Journal, Economy Lead (finance and IR beats) and Intelligent Utility (electrical transmission and distribution beats).