There's a huge amount of discussion lately about measuring marketing based on ROI. And there seem to be two camps—Hard and Soft.
The Hard Marketing Camp wants to tie everything to sales metrics saying anything that doesn't result in a revenue measurement doesn't count.
The Soft Marketing Camp is focused on initiatives that drive engagement, conversations, interactions, awareness and brand.
Some of this distinction is tied to getting the respect of the executive team which translates into higher budgets.
However, I can't understand the dichotomy. In my opinion, you need both. In a B2B complex sale, [actually any sale] you can't get to revenue without Soft Camp initiatives. In fact, the more "social" marketing becomes, the higher a degree of Soft will be needed to generate Hard results.
This is why I'm such a big fan of marketing automation technology and the ability to score behavior and demographics, as well as shine a light on how prospects turn into buyers. What marketing ultimately needs are progressive metrics that help them prove Soft initiatives drive Hard results. That's what creates solid ROI.
What matters is being able to show, measure and evaluate how each outcome you track feeds into the sales process and, ultimately, impacts the generation of downstream revenues.
In fact, I'd say that proving exactly how marketing is driving demand and displaying that you have the knowledge to consistently move the needle holds more merit than just pointing to the end result without being able to definitively prove how you got there.
With marketing measurement becoming more sophisticated, imagine the ability for marketers to know the factors that cause buyers in specific segments to become sales ready. With integration into CRM, those metrics can be extended to show what happens on the other side of the funnel, as well.
The more visibility marketers have, the less focus will be spent on quantity and the more on quality. The Soft initiatives are what help determine quality—as long as you can measure them. The Hard revenue metrics are what tells you that the quality equation is correct.
For example, what if marketing could prove that Persona A has a 70% probability of buying after exhibiting these behaviors within their activity history (not necessarily in this order):
- specific white paper downloaded
- 3 personal interactions (comments left on blog and responded to, Twitter exchanges, replies to email sends of thought leadership content, etc.)
- opt in for related subject matter email program and they click through on 60% or greater of the sends.
- viewed on-demand demo for their vertical
By discovering specific patterns of behavior, marketers can tweak scoring to measure for their occurrence. In fact, they could even drive those actions to occur once the pattern has been discovered. Think about the improvement to pipeline forecast accuracy and what that could mean for your company.
Now, all that said, I believe the Hard and the Soft is all one big Combo Camp. Ultimately, if the Soft Camp can't get to related revenue metrics, there's a problem. In a complex sale environment with a longer selling cycle, you've got to measure all the progressive steps to revenue. There are a lot of places along the way that could impact the end result you're after.
Without establishing buying process measurements that track from lead generation throughout sales activities, you'll have a really hard time figuring out just where those gaps exist. Let alone be able to close them.
Being able to show progressive behavior across the pipeline holds merit. In fact, if you can prove marketing is increasing the number of conversations and interactions during each stage—and that those activities lead to active demand—then your revenue numbers will follow suit.