Demonstrate the contribution made by marketing (5 step plan)

Setting marketing objectives is tough – certainly in business-to-business. Marketing is not an exact science and B2B sales cycles tend to be very long. This makes it harder to demonstrate the contribution made by marketing. But with no measurable outcomes, why would your management team want to talk with you? High time for a change...

Setting marketing objectives is tough – certainly in business-to-business. Marketing is not an exact science and B2B sales cycles tend to be very long. This makes it harder to demonstrate the contribution made by marketing. But with no measurable outcomes, why would your management team want to talk with you? High time for a change! The following five steps will help you set objectives to impress at the next board meeting.

1. Link marketing objectives to business objectives

You’re almost definitely already doing this. But are you literally doing it? As in: are you actually speaking the same language? Making connections at C-level starts by using the same terms. For instance, by clearly describing how your marketing actions will contribute to a specific business objective.

Does a certain marketing initiative no longer fit? Perhaps you should reconsider its purpose. If your campaign is misaligned with company goals, how likely is the business to support its implementation?

Have no business objectives been defined (oh dear 😬)? Sales targets will be a good guide. How much does the company want to grow? And where? Base your marketing initiatives on those objectives for growth.

Pro tip: as a company, set objectives for one, three and ten years. This automatically  frames your thinking in terms of growth.

2. Set five to ten marketing KPIs

Ultimately only one KPI really matters: revenue. But when sales cycles are long, it’s also helpful to measure KPIs that enable you to ‘predict’ the revenue. Choose a limited set of KPIs to help you maintain oversight. The marketing KPIs used most often are:

  • Website traffic: aggregated number of sessions/visits to all of your websites.
  • Leads: new individuals in your database who left their contact details for a particular reason (e.g. white paper downloads or visits to your trade fair stand).
  • Marketing qualified leads (MQLs): leads that marketing has offered to sales, for one-to-one follow-up.
  • Sales qualified leads (SQLs): MQLs that sales has accepted for follow-up.
  • Influenced opportunities: number of open opportunities involving a contact who also interacted with a marketing campaign.
  • Influenced revenue: revenue in euros from influenced opportunities that were won.

Pro tip: handovers are often bottlenecks. At each handover, be sure to measure how many contacts were offered and how many accepted. For marketing-sales handovers, that means MQLs and SQLs – although you may have multiple handovers within your commercial process.

3. Benchmark or measure your current results

Benchmarks can work well. But past performance is still the best way to predict the future. Your first source for comparison should therefore be your own data. Even if you plan to set new KPIs, existing data can take you quite a long way. For example, take the number of conversions as an indicator of how many leads you expect to bring in within a particular period of time. Or take the number of contact, demo or quote requests as an indicator of SQLs.

Should you still want to benchmark (perhaps if too little data is available), a number of metrics can guide you. According to research carried out by HubSpot, 1% of website visitors convert to leads. After that, much depends on your definitions of MQL and SQL.

Pro tip: Google Analytics often provides a rich history of sessions, conversions and contact/demo/quote requests.

4. Set marketing targets based on your KPIs

Traditionally, it was often only sales that had targets to meet – not marketing. Quite odd, really, for two disciplines with joint responsibility for netting new revenue. This situation means that sales is taken more seriously than marketing. And it sometimes results in sales doing their own lead generation.

So, be sure to set marketing targets as well as sales targets. This may sound scary but it’s the best way to exceed your own limits. See it as setting the bar. You may find it difficult to estimate targets correctly, especially first time round. To offer some reassurance: it’s not a disaster if you fail to reach a target. One thing is sure, though – you can’t hit target if no target has been set.

Pro tip: 10-20% growth across all KPIs compared to the previous year is usually a good starting point. Unless your market is already growing by 20% of course 😉

5. Build a marketing dashboard

Now your ambitions are clear, you'll want to monitor the results. The easiest way to do this is by creating a marketing dashboard. A good B2B marketing dashboard shows your KPIs by month (new leads, MQLs, SQLs, etc.). In inbound marketing, we often split these into total KPIs and online KPIs. The latter are just those leads, MQLs, etc. whose first touch was online.

HubSpot offers excellent dashboard functionality for this. A note of caution though! Data and graphs can be misleading. You need to know precisely what the data means, to avoid drawing the wrong conclusions. Or worse, you end up reporting results to management that you’re obliged to retract later.

And if you haven’t completely mastered the dashboard tool yet, no worries. Get in touch and we’ll be happy to keep you on track. How? Request a HubSpot demo and we can walk you through everything.

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Picture of Ruud Verstraeten
Ruud Verstraeten

Business Growth Consultant